I miss doing comedy

I am really starting to miss doing stand-up comedy. It is something that I do wish I could do more.

I would imagine I would have to start from scratch again and hit the open mic circuit. I could do that during the week. Pick a day the wife works late and go and tell some jokes.

That what I need though. Jokes. There is no point in going at it if there are no jokes.

So maybe I need to write jokes.

When you pray on Facebook the reward is the likes

It seems like every day someone posts, as their Facebook status, a prayer to God and whenever I see such a status I feel sad. For them.

I think to myself, "man, it's a shame that you just bartered a conversation with God for Facebook likes."

Cause that's what happens when one prays on Facebook. The reward is not an answer from God. The reward is the number of likes one gets.

The New Testament Matthew 5-7 tells of the lessons Jesus taught upon the mountain and verse 6:5 is very clear about prayer.

"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full."

Believers in Jesus are taught by Jesus that praying that the reward for public prayer is the being seen. Period. One does not receive the reward from God but rather from the people for whom they are praying in the first place.

Matthew 6:6 Jesus continues by giving with instructions on prayer.

"But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."

The implication here is that proper prayer in done in private and in secret. And when prayer is done in private and in secret, God gives the reward.

So, public prayer gets reward from men. Private prayer gets reward from God.

And this is why when I see public prayer on Facebook, I feel bad for the author. They could have gone in their room and offered the same prayer to their Father in private and received a reward from the Father.

Instead, they chose to do it in public and instead of getting a reward from the Father, they got likes from Facebook friends.

I just hope that the intention behind these Facebook prayers is the reception of Facebook likes because then they actually got what they wanted.

Looking forward to the college playoffs

I am looking forward to the college playoffs. I think the winner should be a team that wins multiple teams. It's going to be great to watch.

I don't have a dog in the fight. I am not a fan of any of the teams in the running but I love the competition.

I do think the BCS should be used to determine the seedlings. But that's just me thinking a committee made up of humans can't completely detach from how they feel about teams, games, coaches, etc.

But whatever. The playoffs are gonna be great.

The Great Trombone Rule or how I snuck into the band in college

The Great Trombone rule got me into college.

About two weeks before school was scheduled to start I received two letters in the mail from Clark Atlanta University.

The first letter was from the band director inviting me to audition for the CAU Marching Panther band. While the idea of a "full or partial scholarship" was alluring, the idea of marching in a band again was not. I had not marched in a band since my departure from Buddhism like six years prior and I had no plans of returning.

Besides, my financial aid was fine. I tossed the letter to the side and moved on to the second letter.

The second letter was from the financial aid office. This letter was sent to me to inform me that based upon my grandmother's income (I was twenty-two when I arrived at CAU. Thought I had been on my own for like five years at the time, I could not apply for financial aid as an independent. I was not twenty-four, I was not in the military and I was not a ward of the state. I was my Grandmother's baby trying to go to college so Grandmother claimed me on her taxes so I could use her info for financial aid.), I did not qualify for one of the grants for which I applied and as a result I was twelve hundred dollars short for the year.

I returned to the band letter.

The letter gave a basic overview of the program, a contact number, audition dates and the date of the first day of band camp. I guess the proper thing to have done was call the number, set up an audition, audition and, if selected, show up on the first day of band camp. A date provided in the letter.

I was not auditioning. I didn't own a trombone. I had not touched a trombone in over six years. I haven't even looked at one. While I could still read music and I was halfway familiar with the slide positions, there was absolutely no way I was going to survive an audition for a college band. I didn't have the chops.

What I did have was band experience.

Mother was a Buddhist and an active member of an organization which I think is called SGI-USA now but was NSA back then. The organization had programs for the youth members and as I was raised as a youth member, I was a part of one of those programs. The Brass Band.

I joined The Brass Band when I was four and spent the first six years of my membership carrying stuff. I never performed. I never marched. I just watched.

When I was ten, I decided that I wanted to be in the drum section and I told the band director. He laughed and sent me over to a group of other teens and preteens that play drums and trumpet that also wanted to be in the band. I spent two years in this group.
My faith in my ability as a drummer was created by my being in the school band. I was a drummer and I was advancing every year, seat wise, and I imagined this was the natural order of all bands including The Brass Band.

What I failed to realize then was that my steady progress in the school band had less to do with my talent and more to do with school band members graduating from high school. Brass band members don't graduate from Buddhism. This was their way of life. They would be in the band forever.
When I was twelve, I approached the band director again about marching.

"I have enough drummers," said my band director. "too many drums over power the band. I have enough drums, enough trumpets and more than enough saxophones."

Then he said the words that would change my life forever.

"It's too bad you don't play trombone. You can never have enough trombones."

The Great Trombone rule. You can never have enough trombones.

The next semester in school, I quit the drums and took the beginner's low brass class. Next semester I was in the school band as a trombone player and that summer I was marching in The Brass Band.
I marched with The Brass Band until I left home. When I left Mother, I left her Buddhism and it's band with her.

I was done with the trombone. I never even considered playing it again until I got the letter from the financial aid office. But now it was clear that my ability to play trombone was my way into college. I devised a plan. I was going to show up on the first day of band camp and get in the band on the hopes that the CAU Marching Band director was also a believer in The Great Trombone rule.

The next day, after hours of random calls, I found a pawn shop with a "dried up horn" for "cheap". I took a hundred bucks from my rent money and bought the dried up horn, slide grease, slide oil and trombone Christmas carol sheet music.

I remembered "whole step, whole step, half, whole step, whole step, whole step, half" so I was able to practice my major scales. My road back to the band was a regiment of major scales and Christmas songs. I practiced every day until the first day of band camp.

I arrived at the grassy area next to CAU's gym with no idea where to go or what to do. A random flute player guided me towards a trailer where another band member was checking in new and returning members. When I entered the trailer, I was greeted by a girl sitting at a table with a list of names.

"Name."

"Yusef."

She checks the list. "You are not on the list, Yusef."

"I know."

"Maybe they forgot to add you name. When did you audition?"

"I didn't."

"I don't understand, Yusef."

"Listen," I said, "I didn't audition because if I had auditioned I wouldn't get into the band and I really need to be in the band. So, can you just do me a huge favor and go tell the band director there's a guy trying to get into the band. Just tell him I need to talk to him. Please."

The girl looked at me for a minute and then smiled. I know now that the smile was because she knew how verbally abusive the band director was and she was already reveling in the tongue lashing I was about to receive.

She got up, disappeared into an office then returned with a tall, older man who looked bothered. I caught my self chanting a Buddhist phrase of prayer under my breath.

"May I help you, young man," barked the Band Director. The girl was standing behind him smiling.

"I'm here to join the band."

"You're not already in the band?"

"No, sir."

"So, you auditioned and we did not accept you?"

"No, sir. I never auditioned."

At this point, the girl laughed out loud. The Band Director spun around, shot the girl a look (she got quiet) then spun back to me.

"Young man, this is a university and this is a university band. The majority of the bad members are music majors and minors who take playing music seriously. They take band seriously. I take band seriously. And I...what make you think you can skip my auditions and just walk up and join my band?"

"I play trombone. Sir."

The Band Director closed his eyes and shook his head and I knew he was a believer in The Great Trombone rule.

"I only need six hundred dollars a semester."

"That's it?" he asked.

"That's it," I said. "Oh, and a trombone. Mine is a piece of crap."

"Don't make me regret this."

"I won't."

He smiled then he turned to the girl and told her to sign me up.

And that's how The Great Trombone rule got me into college.

I love my new Quran

The new Quran translation by Tarif Khalidi is amazing. Almost all the Arabic culture that could be removed is removed and what it left is a text that speaks to everyone the way the text was designed to be.
I do believe that the Quran is part three to the holy trilogy of revelation. Torah, New Testament, The Quran. There is none like them.
I have always believed the presence of Arabic culture in the Qur'an was what made the text so hard to be received by those for whom it is designed.
There is nothing wrong with Arabic culture however no culture should be interwoven with revelation for it skews the message.
There is a difference between keeping one's head covered and keeping one's head covered with a particular garment from a region in Saudi Arabia.
This new text is free of all that.
I love that I still get excited about books.

IT

I've sat for hours with dictionary in hand
Searching for a word to reveal in depth
Feelings that I do not fully understand
Yet dwell inside of myself

Love is way too much
And at this time premature
Like is not quite enough
Plus it doesn't sound as sure

Adore, cherish, dote and revere
Come close but do not quite fit
So since a word is not clear
I'll simply call it IT

IT is why I think so strong
Of you all day and all night
IT is why when things are all wrong
I try to make things all right

IT is why I stay on the phone
When neither you nor I speak
IT is why I feel so alone
When you leave for only one week

IT is everything I say
And everything I feel
IT is everything that I display
And all of IT is real

There is no concise way to  convey
The true meaning of IT to you
But every day I hope and pray
That you feel IT too

I am NOT Mike Brown

It is a damn shame that Mike Brown lost his life. I feel for his family - for they lost a family - and I feel for Officer Wilson. He has to live with the fact that he killed a man.

I know people who have killed people and they say it haunts them daily. I would never wish that on anyone.

I don't believe that Mike Brown deserved to die. I believe that he should have been wounded and/or maimed, arrested, tried and sent to jail for robbery. Alive.

I am not blind to racism. I know it exists. But I also know that it exists in the minds of humans and bullets, bombs and other random acts of violence don't change beliefs.

There will always be someone who believes that humans should be categorized. And there will always be a system of division. And there will always be a division that thinks it is superior than the others. And there will always be humans in that division that will express their belief with violence. That's just how it is.

The key is and always will be tolerance. And until tolerance is embraced, there will always be a war between rejection and acceptance because everyone wants one and not the other. Well, not everyone. Some are tolerant. But I digress.

So, on Facebook and Twitter and other social media, there is this whole "I am Mike Brown" thing happening. It is a battle cry of Americans of African descent (maybe. It could have been created by an American of other descent) to get people to identify with Brown and make the statement that all of us could be killed by a police officer.

I get that. It is not impossible that every single one of us could die at the hands of police officer. But it's not probable. As dispictable as some police officers may be, there isn't one riveting band of cops indiscriminately killing Americans of African descent. Not one.

Even the worst hate mongering, racist murderous, police officer determined to rid the United States of all Americans of African descent must hide behind the law.

For him to carry out his plan he must discriminate. He can only kill Americans of African descent that he encounters in a situation in which he feels like his life is in danger AND be able to prove that his life was in danger post killing so that he can exit the process - there is always a process - a free man.

He has to wait for the opportunity to be in a situation in which he can kill someone.

And that's why I am not Mike Brown. I don't give cops and opportunity to kill me.
I don't commit crimes. Anymore.

And that's what's funny to me about the whole thing. I don't know about your Facebook, but on mine, the cats talking the most craps - at 18 years old - were at a prestigious Historically Black College - with me - and the most criminal activity they ever participated in was smoking weed.

I got to college at 22. At 18, I was already out on my own and quite the young criminal. I was selling weed; I was the person who acquired credit card numbers for a racket at Thrifty that got a dozen  people fired and four people arrested - myself not included; I was writing bad checks; I stole a car or two (can't remember) and on occasion I made some change removing the metallic security strip from Series 1990 hundred dollar bills for paranoid dealers.

And I'm still alive. Because I never gave the police and opportunity to kill me. I always assumed every cop would kill me if I gave him the chance so I stayed far away from them and when our paths crossed, I was quite respectful.

Well, I can't say never. One time there were about five or six cops in my apartment and one was talking mad shit so I asked for his name and badge number. When he said ok, I reached for a pen that was near a full dish rack. Another cop yelled, "he's going for a knife!" Immediately, the cop closest to me slapped my wrist then pinned me to the fridge with his hand on my throat.

I guess he could have shot me. I guess I got lucky. Or maybe, his life wasn't threatened.

Oh, and why we're the police in my apartment? The homies and I robbed a pizza man. We didn't hurt him or take his money. We ordered several pizzas to an address around the corner and when he showed up, we took the pies. (The flaw in our plan was that we thought *67 meant the call couldn't be traced. We were wrong). They were there for a legitimate reason. I have the police opportunity. Luckily, I guess, none of the hate mongering, racist, murderous, police officers determined to rid the United States of all Americans of African descent, answered the call for the stolen pizzas.

I didn't give the police opportunity when I was a  criminal and I damn sure don't now that I am not. And I don't think anyone talking that "we are all Mike Brown" stuff does either.

They are just a bunch of keyboard warriors who get as obedient as a border collie at the first sight of a boy in blue.

They aren't Mike Brown and neither am I.

Associate Well-spoken with things that make sense

I am not a racist. I don't believe a particular race is superior. I am not a bigot. I don't hold prejudice against racial or religious groups. I am associative. I associate people with things. Tall men...basketball. Short women...shoes. People of Asian descent...Asia. I admit it. I do it. I think others do it. And I don't mind when they do. Except when the association is "speaking well" and White. Or Gay. Then I mind.

These associations seem ridiculous. Yet, I have come face-to-face with both. From the same man. This man, whom I associate with one of the twelve tribes of Egypt, first asked if I was mixed, then asked if I was gay. Upon receiving two no's, he exclaimed, "but you speak so well."

"Speaking well" or being well-spoken - according to freedictionary.com - is having a clear, articulate and socially acceptable accent and way of speaking. There is nothing racial or sexual about this definition. But for some reason my way of speaking made this man believe that I have a White parent or that I romantically love men.

I can kind of see the White part. Dr. John Baugh, the researcher who coined the term "linguistic profiling," said in the PBS special Do You Speak American, "It is often assumed by Blacks as well as Whites that African-Americans speak bad or lazy English." If my guy holds this same assumption, then my good and active English must have meant a heavy White influence.

Dr. Baugh went on to say, "Black English has roots as deep and a grammar as consistent as Scottish, Irish or any of the other Englishes spoken around the world." I associate this statement with the opening number of the musical My Fair Lady. Professor Higgins sings, "Oh, why can't the English learn to set a good example to people whose English is painful to your ears? The Scotch and the Irish leave you close to tears. There are places where English completely disappears. In America, they haven't used it for years." It would seem bad English is a non discriminatory equal opportunity practice.

I don't get the gay association at all. I don't even know how to begin to connect those dots. I chalk that association up to the unfortunate fact that we live in a society where anything and everything can be labeled gay. I'm sure someone will associate me with gay for referencing a musical in the previous paragraph. The association between well-spoken and gay is ignorant. And I'm willing to bet that there are thousands of homosexual men and women nationwide brutalizing English.

I am an American and I embrace English because it is the language of my home. I practice pronunciation and articulation because verbal communication is a large part of my daily life. I have found that life is more enjoyable when I'm understood. And I believe the same is true for everyone. Life is better when you are understood.

So, associate on, good people. It's natural. Just do me a solid and associate well-spoken with things that make sense like reading, dictionaries or Pappy The Cat. Just not race or orientation.

I got trapped in a stripper's bathroom

So…the year was 1994. Summer. Atlanta, Georgia. My best friend and I had discovered a strip joint off Old National highway called the Playboy Palace. It was open seven days a week and on Tuesday nights – a pretty slow night for strip clubs - they had what was called “Sports Night.” On Sports Night the ladies were allowed to ditch the stilettos and fancy under garments and wear tennis shoes and tennis skirts and tank tops and whatever. While our first few encounters were Friday and Saturday nights, we swiftly became regulars at Sports Night. For one, the bouncer – who was former Public Enemy member Professor Griff – was more lenient, which was perfect since my best friend was packing a fake ID from Five Points. Moreover, the drinks were cheaper and, because the crowd was small, table dances were also cheaper and lasted a lot longer. It was on Sports Night that I met Blondie. 

Blondie – the name referring to the color in which she dyed her hair – had danced for us many times. One particular time while she was dancing she jumped into our conversation – god knows what we were talking about – and corrected me. I was intrigued. I invited her to join our conversation and she held her own. It was an added bonus to the entertainment. After that, as we became regulars to the Playboy Palace, Blondie became a regular at our table. Every Tuesday night, Blondie, my best friend and I solved the world’s problems while Blondie danced in her birthday suit and we drank cheap liquor. It was a lovely time. I’m not exactly sure how it happened, but somehow Blondie got my pager number.

She paged me one Monday morning. I know it was a Monday because she wasn't working that day. Anyway, I called and after all the pleasantries there was a dead silence. I asked her was something wrong and that when she unloaded. Blondie was not stripper, she was an accountant. Or at least she wanted to be one. She had come to Atlanta to go to school and a year after her arrival, the money dried up. Her mom had remarried and was now concerned with her new family and was unwilling to provide for Blondie. After the money dried up, she lost her place and was bunking with some of the other girls at the club. One night, distraught, she had mentioned her money woes to this married cab driver, who was a regular customer, and he offered to put her in an apartment and pay the rent in exchange for “private dances.” She accepted the offer and soon after became his mistress. This was her life. She danced at night to save money and she sat in her apartment all day studying the accounting books she bought hoping that the Cabbie stayed home with his wife and kids. Despite the horror of the tale she shared, I managed to inject some humor into the conversation so that several times throughout the conversation she said, “you’re funny.” I guess this was the most amusement she had experienced in a while because a hour after our conversation ended she called again and invited me over. I asked about the Cabbie and she said it was he was on his way to Florida with his wife and kids. So, I went to see Blondie.

The apartment was one of many in a large apartment complex. Blondie’s apartment was on the ground level. It was a one bedroom with a living room/dining room, kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom that you had to go through the bedroom to enter. The living room had two large windows that were across from the front door and the bedroom had two medium sized window that looked out over the parking space right in front of the apartment. Blondie had hardly any furniture. In the living room were a matching couch and love seat set and nothing else. In her bedroom, was a pallet made of several blankets and nothing else. Blondie sat down on the pallet, invited me to sit down, and with nothing else to do, we talked. We talked for hours. She was very smart and witty and the time seemed to fly. I was so engulfed in the conversation that I didn’t hear the key in the door and I would have totally missed that someone was entering the apartment if Blondie hadn't yelled, “Oh shit! He’s here!”

We jumped up and ran around in circles for a minute. I couldn’t go out the front door because the Cabbie was coming in that way. I could not go out the windows because one set was in the living room – across from the front door – and the other set was in the bedroom – next to the front door. With no other options, Blondie pushed me into the bathroom and told me to lock the door.

I sat down on the toilet and waited. I heard Cabbie enter. I heard some dialogue between him and Blondie. Then they entered her bedroom. There was silence and then the Cabbie yelled, “Who’s here?” Blondie told him no one was there but I could hear him stomping around the apartment looking for me. Finally, he came to the bathroom and upon finding it locked, he yelled again. “Who’s in there?” Again, Blondie denied my presence. “Then why is the door locked?” Blondie's answer was unconvincing. Cabbie pounded on the door and tussled with the door knob. When he received no response, Cabbie stormed out of the room and returned with a butter knife and began to pick at the door determined to enter.

At this point it was clear that Cabbie was going to get in. He was going to see me. I thought about hiding in the shower but then he would find me and I’d be pressed against a wall. I figured my only way out was to walk out and the only way I was going to walk out of there was if Cabbie believed I was there for a reason other than Blondie. I quickly dropped my pants, raised the toilet seat and sat back down like I was actually using the toilet. Just as I sat down, the lock gave and Cabbie entered the bathroom. I yelled, “HEY!” Cabbie yelled, “OH!” stepped out of the bathroom closing the door behind him and from the other side yelled, “sorry.”

I sat there for another minute or two, flushed the toilet, washed my hands, and walked out of the bathroom at a very hurried pace. Completely ignoring Cabbie, I thanked Blondie for letting me use the bathroom and then I made for the front door. Cabbie followed asking, “Who are you?” and I responded with, “I’m really in a hurry, sir. Ask her.” I made it out the front door, ran to my car, and drove away. Once I was out of the complex, I burst into a fit of laughter fueled by pure fear.

About ten minutes later, Blondie paged me. When I called she told me that Cabbie bought the "neighbor's brother that needed to use the bathroom" story and all was good. then she told me that Cabbie was on his way to Florida for real and that I should come back and see her.

I hung up the phone.

I went to see Blondie.

The End