Bleeding Gums

There are times when a vocalist tries too hard.

She stretches the word “tree” for 14 minutes.

He breaks a sentence into a million and one runs.

A choir drags a chorus until the words are unintelligible.

Whenever I encounter these moments,

Be it in the middle of an A and B selection or a jazz concert,

I think of one thing:

Bleeding Gums Murphy

This is one of the highlights from my childhood, watching Bleeding Gums’ uncontested rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner”:

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Insomnia

I must be the only person in the whole wide world who is awake.

I remember thinking that as my 7-year-old self imagined a world with clear streets, empty buildings, and no conscious people anywhere….except me. 

I laid face up in my bed and rubbed my red and blue plaid blanket across my knuckles for comfort.

I could hear my sister snoring lightly beneath me in the bottom bunk.

She could always fall asleep at the drop of a hat and never had any trouble dreaming til daylight.

Not me. The gene of unbroken rest didn’t pass to me.

Maybe that’s why night and I have never been the best of friends.

I was reminded of our friction this week.

I’d doze for a couple of hours and then would be awake for the rest of the night.

Or I’d slumber straight through morning but wake up still feeling tired.

Or better yet, I’d climb into bed and lay there for hours and hours until sleep decided to show up.

The experience mirrored my sleep life growing up.

My father would ask,

 “What are you thinking about?

You’re thinking too much.”

Maybe I was then.

Maybe I am now.

Maybe God’s trying to tell me something.

Either way, I pray for sweet relief.

Mardi Gras

Nancy’s red curls bounced as she arranged the cakes on the table.

“You have two choices,” she said cheerfully. “Raspberry and cinnamon.”

We were nowhere near New Orleans but that didn’t mean we couldn’t celebrate Mardi Gras. On a gray Tuesday morning, Nancy decided to brighten up our work day with a sugary breakfast of King Cake.

As I cut a slice of the cinnamon, Nancy told me the history of the office king cake and the recipients of the storied plastic baby.

“Rona got it last year and she ended up getting married. The year before last, Clarice got it and ended up pregnant. Ernest got it the year before that and his wife got pregnant.”

I giggled and began to walk to my desk with my slice in hand. “Well, let’s hope I don’t get it!”

The next morning when I got to my desk, sitting in a jumbled nest of violet and turquoise beads, was a tiny smiling baby.

For sure, I know I’m not  and won’t be expecting. So let’s see what else the year brings… 🙂

Pain

As a child, I suffered from severe stomach cramps. My stomach would wrinkle and crunch like an accordion and then stretch out like a rubber band about to pop. The pain would radiate from my belly to my thighs to my belly and then wash all over me, and I would lie motionless in a pool of nausea. 


Besides medicine,  I developed ways to deal with it. Curling up in a ball. Walking back and forth. But most of the time, I would gingerly sit down on our sofa and rock back and forth until the pain fled. In my mind, there could be no feeling worse than this. The stings and bangs and aches of the body were tiers above any other type of damage. 


But then I grew up and experienced pain that I didn’t even know existed. 

Bruised feelings. 

Broken hopes. 

A cracked heart. 

I remember one evening where my emotions were in complete disarray. I felt like I was suffocating.  Hurt and sorrow and joylessness were piled, one on top of the other. 

They were crushing me. 

On the phone was my sister, who was trying to lift them. She somehow made sense out of my breathless tear-laced phrases and said, 

“You are emotionally exhausted.

Take a shower and lie down.”

So I did. I laid in my bed with tears sliding down my skin, choking on this pain, praying that relief would come soon. 


I used to think that one was worse than the other. 


Not so.


In all its forms, pain hurts. 

Just Like Music

I was in elementary school when it started. My father arrived home from work with the gift I had been nagging him about for the past week. I tore open the sky blue J & R bag that held the CD and let out a high pitched squeal. She wore combat boots and chin-length box braids. The debut album of Brandy. That day triggered my captivation with R & B. 


I loved Brandy’s mellow dryness over bass beats. I bobbed my head to Aaliyah’s smooth crystalline vocals. I tried to imitate Monica’s rich runs. Mary J. Blige’s unadulterated husky alto ministered to my ears and soul. The three-part harmony of SWV was as sweet as candy. 

 I relived this great part of my childhood last weekend. My sister and I were talking, updating each other on our lives with YouTube music videos supplying the background music. But it was inevitable; the music won over the conversation. We abandoned our chat to search musical archives, digging up 90’s Whitney, Janet, Shai, and extreme one-hit wonder Imajin

Perhaps I’m biased as a 90’s tween/teen but music from that era is timeless. If R & B was born in the 60’s and 70’s, then it came of age in the 80’s and 90’s. Then, the genre was still young and open to experimentation, borrowing from faded classic hits to mix with hip-hop. The result was auditory ambrosia.  It’s great stuff. 

When the current reigning titans of R & B relinquish their crowns, I can’t imagine them having the same or greater effect on their listeners. I’m sure members of the younger generation would beg to differ.

Laura’s married :)

When I was growing up, the highlight of my week was catching ABC’s “TGIF” Friday night line-up. My favorite part was watching nerdy but loyal Steve Urkel pine after the love of his life, Laura Winslow on the sitcom, “Family Matters.”  Although Steve’s advances of romance were continually spurned by Laura, by the series’ end, the two wound up getting married. 


Last month, the actress who played Laura, Kellie Williams, found real life romance. The story brought a smile to my face and made me a little nostalgic for my childhood days in the 90’s. I may have to put some “Family Matters” DVDs in my Netflix queue.