The Change Over

I don’t know the exact moment of the change-over. Not even the year. I just know I was never happy about it.

Growing up in Detroit in the sixties I lived within walking distance of two major Detroit landmarks. The Hitsville Building (Motown) and the General Motors Building. A group of neighborhood kids would make the trek in September to check out the new models a few days before the nationwide rollout. As long as we didn’t have ice cream or candy on us, we were allowed to sit in the cars and pretend to steer.

The cars not equipped with power steering were more fun because you could turn wider. The first thing I always checked out were the tail lights. I wondered if they would be like the ones I imagined in my head. Then, I’d dash to the front to see the headlights’ expression. It was usually some form of a smile, nothing like the aggressive look of today’s cars. I was intrigued by the Impala. I loved to see what they did with the Bel Air and Biscayne, stripped down versions of the great Impala. No power nothing and they were just butt ugly. For me it was the black wall tires that turned me off. What a difference a white stripe made.

The first time I noticed the black wall tire as standard equipment was during a week long gig at the Borgata in Atlantic City with Vic Henley. I hit a $2,500.00 payout and decided to rent a Caddy and drive back to NYC on a night off. Well, Vic rented it and I gave him the money. We had the new Outcast double CD with Hey Ya on it so we were in groovus maximus to and fro. But when I saw the pretty Caddy in the light of the next day with black wall tires, I felt…like when you wake up next to a woman who looked much finer the night before.

William Stephenson

Detroit River

Untitled Fiction – Chapter 9

 

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Relaxing at home, Sharon walks around her condo living room, appreciating the view of the Detroit River and Windsor, Canada. She pours a glass of Viognier while listening to the velvety voice of Sachal Vasandani singing Storybook Fiction. Sharon places her wine glass on the side table next to the chaise lounge and prepares to make a call. She lies back on the chaise and dials William.

She takes a sip of wine while the phone rings. He answers during the third ring.
“Hello?” Sharon says.
“Hello,” says William.
“Well, how are you? This is Sharon. Café Noir Sharon.”
“No, you’re Sharon Sharon bo baron banna fanna mo maron.”
They both laugh.
“How’s your week so far?” Sharon asks.
“Just great and you?” William replies.
“Work and more work, Sharon answers.”
Beats of silence. Sharon stands up. Walks over to the window again.

“I’m calling not only to say hello, but to see if you’d be interested in going to dinner with me tomorrow night at the Rattlesnake?” “Then, thought we might take an after dinner stroll along the Riverwalk. I’m going to be out of the country next week and definitely would like to spend some time with you before I leave.”
Sharon holds her breath, hoping the proposal sounds appealing.

+++

“Look who’s here this evening. You’ve been deserting us.” Greg says as he bends down, picks up Sharon’s hand to hold while kissing her cheek without acknowledging William’s presence. Sharon blushes as Greg holds onto her hand. William watches and feels some type of energy between them.

“Greg, this is William. William – Greg.
Do you remember each other from Café Noir?
“Sorry, I don’t remember you,” Greg says sarcastically.
William, always one with a sharp tongue, refrains from lashing the guy because he is too easy. “Same here my man.”
William keeps his eyes on Sharon shooting her a look to suggest she take care of the interruption post haste.

“Um, Greg is there something you want?” Greg wants to climb the stairway to heaven with Sharon but he settles for requesting a phone call.
“Sure, I’ll give you a call soon Greg. Give the gang my love.”
Greg takes the sting of the dismissal well, leaving behind his scent like a lion on the Serengeti.

“Comedy, poker and blue.” Sharon’s quizzical look turns into an appreciative smile as she realizes William is answering the questions she asked just before the interruption.

“Say man, you need to take that shit outside!” Now, there’s a scuffle by the front door.

POP, POP, POP!

The couple look toward the commotion, but can’t see what is going on. Then gasps of horrors follow a loud crash.

“Call 911!”

William reaches over and grabs Sharon’s hand. Let’s just stay back here until whatever is going on out there is taken care of. He knew from experience that running toward a situation isn’t the thing to do unless you are prepared to help.

“Look out!”

The unmistakable sound of glass breaking signals something is still going on. Most of the club patrons flee through available exit doors as the sound of sirens get closer.

“Damn, don’t look like this dude gonna make it, looks like he’s bled out already.” William avoided the sight of blood and he didn’t get excitement from violence either.
“Listen, I have no medical skills whatsoever. I could pass out at the sight of blood,” William explains.

Sharon calculates the time between Greg leaving and the glass breaking and feels a horrible blow to her gut by the possibility the hurt guy may be Greg.

Sharon! I’m saying we should hang back here until that situation plays out. She says nothing aloud but thinks to herself, “Okay…I guess so…but what if….I mean it may be…no..he was probably gone by the time…damn…I don’t know.

William Stephenson and Rayne Showers

57 Thoughts

57 Thoughts

It turns out 2014 is a special year for me. I was born in 1957, so this is the year I turn fifty seven. I had not thought of this occurrence until a week ago. The last time I did any real calculating I was a teenager figuring out how old I’d be in the year 2000. At the time, 43 seemed ancient of course, but I didn’t imagine living that long. Coming up in Detroit and DC, I figured I’d be murdered just because I was in a wrong place, wrong time scenario.

When I hit 57 on March 11, I may begin to accept the fact that I’m getting to be an older dude. Perhaps this date in time will jar me enough to stop believing I’ve got a shot with 20 and 30 somethings for a life partner. Lately, I have been paying attention to those AARP ads on TV. I actually almost wrote down the number from one of those insurance ads. (Who will pay my final expenses?). I now have a greater understanding of the quote attributed to early jazz great Eubie Blake, “If I had known I would live this long, I would have taken better care of myself.” Since turning 50, I eat a little better and for a few months at a time, walk for an hour in the morning. If laughter truly is the best medicine I am in pretty good shape. Retirement is the furthest thing from my mind. Even after 30 plus years in the stand up comedy world getting up on stage still excites me.

For the most part, longevity runs in my family. My maternal grandmother lived to be 104, and other relatives are making it into their 80’s; it blows my mind that I’ve already outlived my dad, who passed away when he was not quite 50. My namesake used his time on the planet fairly well as he graduated college, married, became a Tuskegee Airman, had 4 kids, and taught high school Black history for more than 10 years. I went to a community college for 20 minutes, never married, and have no kids.

My chances of getting married began to recede in 1968 at the age of 11 when my parents divorced. At that time, I had two sets of grands that were still together, so my hope was still alive, though barely. In my 30’s whenever I was asked why I was still single I had the same response. “I never want to get divorced, and the only way to get divorced is to get married.” I have since dabbled with online dating with no results. Nowadays not even the “second chance” sites hold any interest. If I fall into a permanent hookup it will be the old fashioned way, face-to-face. Online chemistry is as real as a genius crackhead. I’m about to be 57, I was born in 1957, and I am a principal at the old school.

I have never thought of life in sections- infancy, youth, teen, adult, old. For me, they have all combined into one big thrill ride, filled with adventure and discovery at every stage. If I could write the final page of my life script, the last line would read “I think I might have time for one last joke…or not.”

William Stephenson

The Honorable Nelson Mandela: A Detroit Memory

The Honorable Nelson Mandela: A Detroit Memory

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” — Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela

December 5, 2013. Another day of loss that I will never forget. The Honorable Nelson Mandela passed from this life to hopefully a world of pure love not tainted by racism, discrimination, poverty, greed, or injustice of any kind. Many know his backstory, unless they have been completely missing from the landscape for decades only recently to reemerge, or are too young to know about world history that includes the strength and power of a man who helped change South Africa. Today, Mr. Mandela’s persona seems more like heroic folklore than twentieth century reality.

One can learn much about him from the many stories people tell—personal accountings from those who knew him well, in and out of prison. We learn about him from those who joined the fight against apartheid, and from others who were fortunate to meet him after spending 27 years in prison. Then, there are stories from people like me who waited, in a packed stadium, to get a glimpse of the man in hopes that an inkling of his power would become a part of me through osmosis.

In June 1990, while visiting U. S. cities after his release from prison, Mr. Mandela stopped in Detroit. His visit culminated in a huge celebration at Tiger Stadium, the home of the Detroit Tigers baseball team, at the time. I had never been in a crowd before that instilled in me such a feeling of euphoria and pride. The faces were diverse not only in ethnicity, but also age. From babies to people in wheelchairs, and those using canes and walkers, we all wanted to be a part of something we knew would probably never happen again in our lifetime.

Local heroes such as Rosa Parks, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, and Mayor Coleman A. Young shared in our excitement. I felt lucky. I marveled at how many people peacefully came together without negative incident, and wondered why we could not seem to accomplish the same feat for other purposes. There was a sense of togetherness and belonging that I have not experienced since that day. We were all there, waiting to save the magic of surreal moments in our minds, hearts, and souls.

Throughout the years, I have carried that experience with me and recall the power of those moments anytime I need to get through a life challenge, or simply to reflect upon the joy of the event. Even now I close my eyes, and transport myself back to Tiger Stadium. I can feel the cohesiveness of the crowd wrap around me like a nurturing hug. In my mind’s eye, I see Mr. Mandela step to the podium and hear him speak from his heart…a heart big enough to change a country for the better. That’s true power.

Thank you Mr. Mandela for showing us the value of…in the words of Mr. Sidney Poitier’s book title, the true measure of a man.

Reference

Ferdman, R. A. And King, R. (December 5, 2013). The wisdom of Nelson Mandela: quotes from the most inspiring leader of the 20th century. Retrieved from http://qz.com/93070.

His Name Is Danny

His Name Is Danny

Eccentric, hyper, exciting, goofy―all words that can be used to describe Danny Brown. The thirty-two year-old rapper from Detroit, Michigan has become quite a big name over the past couple years, and his popularity seems to be growing. From his wild hairstyle, to his missing teeth, and his incredibly energetic music, Danny Brown has become known as one of the unique figures in the world of hip hop. Although it may seem to most that he just appeared out of nowhere, Danny has been in the rap game for a while, but not until recently did he really catch a break.

Similar to many rappers from Detroit, Danny Brown grew up in a pretty rough area. He wasn’t always collecting big paychecks from playing shows. Danny explains in some of his songs how he grew up around poverty, drugs, and violence. By the time he was in his late teens Danny was selling drugs. Eventually, the path lead to some run-ins with the law, and after missing court dates, and essentially being on the run for a while, Brown was caught and spent 8 months in jail. Once he was released his passion for hip hop music began to take priority over selling drugs. Danny went on to release numerous mix tapes, play shows all around Detroit and developed a local following.

Spending years underground, still struggling to make ends meet, Danny Brown’s music finally started to catch on in a major way. His mixtape known as “The Hybrid” seemed to be a hit, and gained the rapper a lot more attention than his previous releases. Shortly thereafter, he released “XXX,” which really put him on the map. He signed a deal with New York based record label “Fools Gold” and his name began spreading like wild fire throughout the hip hop community.

After a lot of struggling, and a lot of persistence, Danny Brown became far more than a local Detroit rapper. His unique EDM influenced brand of hip hop music began to spread across the globe. Brown is playing high profile shows all over the country, and overseas. Even though his career may have taken longer than a lot of rappers, and being over thirty, some might consider him “Old” compared to many rappers. However, Danny Brown is a prime example of what willpower can do for an up-and-coming music artist.

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