Against All Odds

I was a fan of Phil Collins as a teenager in a way that was so easy and seamless for any teen in the 90s, that I didn’t really notice it, if that makes any sense. For me he was one of many successful artists who broke through with solo albums at the time.  I was floored by his emotional hit singles, bounced off the walls to his up tempo dance hits, but I never really sought to know more about him as a person. In the 90s, I didn’t dig below the surface of the musical artists I loved. I just loved and lived in their song without ever really knowing what they were about or what was behind them. Phil Collins was also one of those white artists who was heavily inspired by Motown and in so doing, worked his way into the hearts of Black audiences along with Brits like Rick Astley and George Michael.

Lately, all of our favorite artists have become more mortal in the public eye than ever and in the age of celebrity, social media makes the wall of privacy grow thinner and thinner, controversy and scandal popping up more frequently as we discover that our idols are as vulnerable as any human being.

I’m always careful about wanting to know too much about my sentimental faves because I’m afraid the truth will ruin the romance, the idealism of what makes them popular and beloved to millions. Music is such a deeply personal art. It’s hard sometimes to discover all the flaws, imperfection, ugliness and abuse that often lay just behind it. But as I get older, I realize to love anything and anyone is to love it warts and all.

And there are always warts. Just as there is always beauty.

Not dead yet Screenshot

I think I must have almost missed my train stop three different times (once I did) while reading Phil Collins autobiography during my work commute. I finished it this morning on the way to work and got emotional, the way I do when I finish up any book I like.

To summarize, Phil Collins is a cocky, ambitious, musical genius workaholic, someone who experienced a success that was just as big and far reaching as it seemed in the 90s. His music was fucking everywhere and even if you were a fan it did reach levels of annoyance. His personal life was a hot mess and later on his health was just as much of a wreck after years of touring for hundreds and hundreds of days at a time. If nothing else came across in this book (and a lot came across) it’s how we never truly understand how physically demanding it is for successfully performers to have their shit together night after night. Pain killers, cortisone shots and various other drugs become inevitable to keep their bodies, their vocal chords going and soon it all takes a toll. I understand now why Michael Jackson and Prince finally succumbed to these occupational hazards. They want nothing more than to please their audiences to the degree that they push their bodies beyond a point that is healthy for anyone. They sacrifice their personal relationships, their families for their music and for their fans.

 

Funnily (well not that funny) Collins’ autobiography is titled “Not Dead Yet” which I have to say really encompasses so much that I love about him, although he truly and repeatedly made some shitty mistakes over the span of his career. He is the guy that laughs at his pain and pushes on and gets you to laugh at it is well, which is not to day he isn’t also crying. But it’s true, he’s not dead yet, though just barely not dead. It took him until his late 50s to finally break down and nearly kill himself and then after his body truly began to fall apart he came to a full stop and was finally able to slow down and be a father to his kids by three different women.

…sigh

I thought maybe after reading his autobiography, I might not feel the same about his music. But I do. I think all the pain, the love, the complicated emotions he failed to communicate to the right people at the right time are there in that perfect way that only exists in melody, in soul, in rhythm and in feeling. That’s one of the things I love most about good music. It alchemizes pain and joy into something we all can share and process and connect through. It’s actually not perfection at all. It is a uniquely channeled and inspired vulnerability which is what makes it so heart wrenching and timeless.

 

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New Moon in Virgo

Virgo is the sign that governs health, habits & routines, making this an optimal time to consider practical ways we can implement healthy habits for increased well-being.

I started this morning by writing a 3 page letter to a close friend of mine who now lives in Oakland. There are a lot of things I’ve needed to get off my chest that don’t need to be shared on social media.

You know how long it’s been since I’ve written a letter?? I’d been wanting write a letter for a while. I’m starting to feel more like doing things I think about rather than just think about doing them. I feel has a lot to with this New Moon in Virgo energy coming in on Sunday.

I attended to gathering I helped put together to honor Khalilah on her birthday a few weeks ago. It was in Prospect Park near a tree she used to love to sit by on the odd occasion that she had or made time to sit and relax. I loved sitting out there with her. I loved relaxing with her in general because she was always so busy and being busy is not my natural habitat. So whenever we were able to slow down, I was super excited to hang out, talk, laugh, plan and learn with her. And nature being my favorite place to feel connected to spirit, it was always quality time for us.

Hawk

The gathering was really a beautiful and magical evening with exactly 7 of us ladies to start. When I arrived at Grand Army Plaza, I zeroed in immediately on a fluffy red tailed hawk at the top of a tall tree near the path to where we were going to gather. I just felt that this was part of Khalilah’s spirit.

The woman who lead the circle was someone who knew Khalilah a from Black woman’s leadership group that she was a part of and she lead with grace, playfulness, femininity, passion, reverence and an honor that I felt was absolutely befitting.

Guides

At one point she handed around a deck of cards for us to choose from and let us know beforehand that the message on the other side would be from Khalilah to each of us individually. I had to wait a few minutes before I read mine aloud because all I did was cry when I looked at it.

Since then I have felt a kind of building peace as I’ve worked on releasing and processing my grief and I’ve dedicated myself to self care in active ways because quite frankly, I’ve been falling the f&*k apart. LOL!

I’ve been talking things days by day, step by step, beating up on myself a bit less, rushing less and enjoying life for what it is. Precious.

This coming New Moon in Virgo which was the sign Khalilah was born under will be a powerful one for those of us who are dedicated to focusing on self-care and developing healthy routines in order to best serve ourselves and others. I’m actually excited about going back to the gym! LOL! But that’s because I know exactly what I need to focus on. It’s also because I’m fully aware that she loves me as she loves so many of us and still wants me to work on truly love myself.

Ashe’

 

Happy Birthday MJ!

Once many years ago when MJ was still with us, I remember being in one of my favorite music stores on Times Square. Virgin Mega Record Store. They had listening stations on the mail floor where you could listen to entire albums (if the headphones worked) before you decided whether or not to buy the CD. I loved it so much. I would go there and just listen to music and lose myself in a store full of hundreds of people. I would move down the line, listening to one album after the next. I remember on one particular day I was there wandering around when I began to notice that everyone in the store was facing the same direction, looking up at the large screens inside the store where they would play music videos. Like everyone! I looked up at the screen and a Michael Jackson video was on. I don’t remember which one. I don’t remember if it was new. All I knew was that I had never experienced anything like that before. Witnessing the attention and energy of such a large crowd of people be drawn to one direction was something I never forgot. At that time I probably felt that I had long since been flooded with Michael Jackson music and memories and as he was still alive at the time, whatever was playing on the screen at Virgin that day wasn’t that big a deal to me. But seeing all those people stop everything to look up at him was something to behold.

There are songs by MJ that move me in indescribable ways and sometimes I avoid digging back into the past because music can grab me and send me into a nostalgic wormhole for hours if I let it. But today I will allow myself to indulge in all the beauty that Michael blessed us with. I was so excited to hear Drake; track with MJ, “It don’t matter to me” off of Scorpion. It’s a beautiful tribute to all that MJ continues to contribute to music to this day. His work is universal, timeless, and unlike anything that ever came before it.

I remember seeing him moonwalk for the first time on TV and I think that I’ve never stopped feeling like he was this strange and beautiful and somewhat lonely human being (though he was often surrounded) who was never really understood but who made other people feel understood with his music.

Man, I am so blessed to have come up in the age of Michael Jackson. Yup, I’m starting to talk like an old person. LOL! As my physical therapist told me yesterday, aging is a beautiful thing.

My First Ulta Beauty Visit!

I visited my first Ulta Beauty this weekend on the Upper East Side in Manhattan. This is only special because I’d started to feel like Ulta Beauty was only the province of those who live upstate, out of State or in Queens. LOL! I did peep one when I was in Philly but I was in the car with my husband and I know if I had asked him to double back so I could go to Ulta, he would have just given me a blank stare and kept driving. LOL!

I didn’t even know there was one in Manhattan until I Googled it last week. It is literally one door down from a Sephora in a neighborhood I used to frequent when I was in high school.

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It is huge. It is bright. And it has brands I have only ever seen before online, like Morphe, Colourpop, Flesh, Skinfood, Dose of Colors and more. But I didn’t really go crazy. I got a stick foundation I’ve been curious about, an eye shadow, a skincare item and like three sheet masks. Truthfully, I’ve been more skincare obsessed than ever lately, particularly since my skin has been experiencing the worst hormonal acne ever. I’ve just been applying Bentonite clay masks, toning, moisturizing and trying to cut down on too much make-up, which has been a struggle because I love putting on make-up.

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Jessica Pettway one of my favorite Beauty Youtubers!

It is good to know there’s an Ulta Beauty I can go to if I need to check out a new brand that only gets released there. But overall I sometimes feel like the beauty market is flooded with hundreds of products from a multitude of brands, both new and established that all claim to do the same thing and I’m like, how do you know what really works? All the brand reps are gonna tell you that their product is better than the next. I’m a packaging junkie so I get pulled in easily by color, and lettering and shiny, sexy containers. But I also read and watch reviews voraciously because it’s the only way I can narrow things down for myself.

I also have a pretty good idea what I need and don’t need. I don’t need any more lipsticks or glosses at the moment. I’m presently sheet mask obsessed and sheet masks are relatively cheap so I can stock up without too much guilt.

My haul was modest, though still pricey but I’m happy with it because it’s stuff I love as well as new stuff I’ve wanted to try for a while. So some Youtube reviews are on the way. Check out my latest video on three of my favorite Black owned bath and body care products.

Order & Space

I’m starting to feel really guilty about not having written on here in ages. I feel like I’m letting myself down by not doing what comes naturally to me because I’ve been processing multiple levels of grief. I’m still processing it.

But I’ve been doing other things as well. I’ve been on staycation for some time and managed to get some things done, practical as well as recreational. I think I’m starting to gain more respect for the staycation. It really has allowed me to focus on making my living space more livable by deep cleaning, dusting and most of all decluttering.

I get such a good feeling from getting rid of stuff. Clothes, make-up, DVDs and especially paper! OOOH PAPER! The bane of our modern existence! It also makes me look around and realize how quickly things accumulate and question whether or not we could be living more simpler than we do. I’m not talking about a forcefully restrictive or measured minimalist life, though I do respect those who subscribe successfully to minimalism. I know I’m not a staunch minimalist at heart. I like things. I have collections. What I do appreciate in a living space is order and space.

Order and space.

Minimal

I don’t believe myself to be inherently organized. But as I get older what I know is that when I have order, things are easier. You’re actively creating a situation wherein you are less likely to drive your own self crazy.

As for space, I’ve always loved space. I like there to be space in a room or home that is just elegantly dedicated to space itself, which is not to say that there shouldn’t be something in that room. Space is accentuated by objects. Without objects we would not appreciate space. It’s about the purpose and placement of those objects.

Sorry. I’m getting carried away in my own Feng Shui fantasy.

Space

Anyway, in addition to catching some great films, spending a weekend with my BFF and her family in Philly which I truly loved and creating some videos on my Youtube channel, we’ve been able to get rid of some stuff to make some space and also put things in order and dust places that have not been dusted in a while. It feels good. Never thought I would ever say this kind of cleaning gives me energy. But it does.

I will try to write more often before my staycation ends because I know right now I’m in kind of a bubble. I haven’t had to deal directly with people I don’t like in a while and well, that’s just not realistic. LOL!

But I’m on vacation damn it. I don’t have to be realistic.

Like Home

When I think of home,

I think of a place where there’s love everflowing.

I wish I was home.

I wish I was back there with the things I been knowing…

 

It started with “Love is the message,” episode 6 of Pose. I was crying through Billy Porter’s rendition of “Home,” which he sang to his lover who was dying of AIDs. That entire episode slayed my fucking life. Please stop reading this now and go watch it. I’m serious. It’s On Demand. I binge watched all the episodes until I was caught up.

The  episode after that ended with Electra Abundance and Angel being turned out by their respective sugar daddy/boyfriends and dancing in the peephole cages to Tina Turners “Private Dancer.”

Now,

I think I must have been like 10, 11 when that album came out? Remember, the one of Tina Turner sitting in a regular degular metal chair with a black cat superimposed at her feet?

Tina_Turner_Private_Dancer_US_CD_cover_art_1984_original

I-loved-that-song. “Private Dancer” just paints the whole scene like Mama Tina did her research! LOL! It’s a haunting and seductive and lonely but beautiful song. After that episode of Pose, I went and created a playlist of all my favorite Tina Turner songs on Tidal. Then I remembered Annie Lennox. Oh God, Annie Lennox. Man, did she get me through some times.

Whitney BW

Cut to last weekend when I went to see Whitney with my mom and dad and my God. All the feelings of what it was like to love Whitney Houston as a teenager just washed over me like monsoon. I remembered everything. I remembered singing her hit songs to my white wall covered with posters in my room. I remember singing songs about heartache I never even experienced yet. It was just that Whitney’s voice could do that, could take you there, could make you want to experience such heartache just so you have to this beautiful voice to lift in song to show for it.

Nothing will ever make me feel like “How Will I Know.” “I Get So Emotional” will always make me think of my very first boyfriend. “I Will Always Love You” and the entire The Bodyguard soundtrack will always go straight to my heart. I don’t care how much Cardi B, Drake (well Drake is different LOL!) or Migos I love and listen too. My music will always be the music of the 80s. “One Moment in Time” will always bring me to my knees. I think sometimes that this is the reason why I avoid the music of the 80s, because I know that just one note and I will be taken back in time, and I may never get anything else done that day. I’m dead serious. I can get shit done with Future and Big Sean or Kendrick Lamar on. But when Tina Turner sings “Beyond the Thunderdome” don’t you know I gotta close my eyes and belt it out? I never in my life even saw that damn Mad Max movie and never intend to, not it’s sequels, remakes, cousins or step-children. But when I listen to that song I feel like I understand all I need to know about it. Tina brought it the fuck on.

I guess I’m starting to age out of caring about keeping up with what’s cool. Who needs that shit when you came up at a time of artists who were legitimate megastars because they were talented as fuck with voices that, as Jackie Morena, the music producer on “The Get Down” were literally were a “public service,” performed actual factual miracles and changed lives?

Sigh…

Man, I can’t think of anyone who could ever step in their shoes, let alone walk in them.

Yikes, I really am sounding like an OG.

Well…I am.

I love singers. I always have. And frankly I miss them. Not the auto tuned, synthesized, sound engineered sound alike singers, but just a Mariah Carey ass diva and a mic with music, some back up singers, a band or orchestra and nothing else, just the power, the mastery, the heart and soul of a ballad that lives on forever.

Oh it’s definitely going to be a memory lane night.

 

Urban Eve

I’m Black and I like Korean Skincare

I was resistant to Korean skincare for a while because I felt like, how can a people so fair have skincare rituals that would benefit melanated skin? But after visiting the Korean Spa so many times, I started to notice that Korean skincare is onto something. I mean do you ever look at Korean women’s skin? They be on their skincare game! And it’s not that complicated. It’s just that they do what they do on the regular. They treat it like a job. And I really like that. I mean just the fact that Korean Spas are such a thing tells you that they dedicate more time to being purposefully pampering to their whole bodies in the East than we do here.

Sheet masks are a craze for a reason. They are a very superficial version of a more involved process of skincare that Korean women do every day. But there are some sheet masks that I absolutely love for my skin, particularly those made my Dr. Jart, Boscia and It’s Skin and I Dew Care. I generally go for the ones with hydrating, pore minimizing and detoxifying benefits.

In America, we’re so preoccupied with obsessions and crazes and instant gratification. A lot of the time, I want something to treat whatever is bothering me immediately, otherwise I’m like, this shit don’t work! But in my skincare routine, which borrows from Korean skincare, I’ve learned that you have to stick with something for a while before you see results and whatever works overnight may not be the best thing for your skin in the long run.

Blk Skin

I try to use products with the most natural ingredients I can find, though I will say that even natural things can harm you, so I no longer place all my faith in that something has to all natural ingredients in it in order for it to be beneficial.

There are a couple of books I want to read on Korean skincare this summer and then I just want to look into understanding the skin as an organ in general. I met a man recently who explained to me that collagen, a protein that our bodies naturally produce, and a skincare ingredient most of us are familiar with, is the underlying foundation which acts as a scaffolding to maintain the condition of our skin. The nerd in me was fascinated. Also the vain narcissist.  LOL! So I need to learn more about collagen production as well.

As an American born woman, I don’t know if I can ever completely curb my desire for fast results but I do know that when I try something for a while and see it working, I’m more likely to keep doing it without fail. And the thing is, I really enjoy it. And if you can do anything purposefully and religiously in a joyful way, you’re already benefiting greatly.

Dear Khalilah, It’s been weird…

My feelings are complicated. This whole thing has been surreal.

To say that I lost a friend is a glaring understatement. To say I believe it is even more of a stretch.

I haven’t been counting days or moments since Khalilah’s home going. There are other methods of measurement.

Text messages. Voice messages, Pictures. Email accounts. Social media.

Music…

Drake, The Carters, Nas, so many things I know she would love, that I would want to hear her thoughts about or get her feedback and approval on.

I worked for her. We worked together. Our things were close together. We did Soul Sistah Series together. Sometimes things were too close. It was what it was. We learned as we went.

She wasn’t an easy person and she knew it but her hard won approval was worth  everything. She pushed because she loved.

“Iron sharpens iron” she would say a lot. Arguments weren’t a big deal to her. She wasn’t scared of confrontation. She welcolmed it. It was the only way to grow she would say.

I’ve had so much other stuff going on. Heavy, grown, complicated stuff. Still going on. And all I can do is take everything as it comes and be thankful for everything, the pain, the uncertainty, the regret, the way that light affects my mood, morning showers that cleanse and rebirth me, keeping myself hydrated, taking in things that touch me and stretch my heart, know when to stop holding on to what no longer serves me.

It’s not easy.

Occasionally I will wake up angry, looking for a fight, clenched fists, impatient, ready to push. Sometimes I’m numb, on automatic pilot, didn’t even notice where the day went. Other times I hear the voice inside. I stay connected to what makes me smile, laugh, cry, feel anything. But it’s strange, painful, inconceivable to think that you won’t be around in my future. Not the way you were.

When I’m stalking you across time I stop short at a cliff looking over into infinity. Where did you go? Did you fall? Did you fly? What’s out there? Will you report back? You always shared so much. I honestly expect you to let me know what it’s like wherever you are. But I’m also scared. So maybe I won’t hear. You know me. Perpetually torn.

You know me.

Perpetually seeking…

5:32

 

All I’ve been doing is texting and taking calls and making calls and then sleeping. Just passing out from sheer mental and emotional exhaustion. Going through motions, not really in my body. And then sleeping. It’s 5:32. T. texted me. I had a strange dream that I can feel but not quite remember in detail but it was a far out one. It was in Brooklyn. There was music and a lot of Black people, dancing. And floating.

It’s only Monday. One day since I called your mom and she told me you were gone, suffered cardiac arrest. My body aches. I can’t put my feelings into words. I have not engaged with social media because I can’t. Every time I think I’ve called everyone I know you would have wanted me to, everyone that you connected me to while you were here on this plain, there’s one more. My heart aches. My chest is tight. There is a hole in me.

My eyes are wet.

I get up to write this. It’s all I know how to do right now.

I saw you on Friday at a beautiful event where you were both the host and the guest of honor. So many beautiful Black people, friends and educators gathered on a beautiful Friday evening to hear you speak. You moved around the room, networking, laughing, connecting, doing what no one else can do the way you do, a force of love sweeping through, fierce and full of integrity.

I saw you on Saturday at Mamajuanas, which is right by my apt. You texted me that afternoon to say you were having lunch with a colleague. I was on my way downtown with my husband but I came out and popped down to see you and we spoke briefly about a great visit you had to a school in the Bronx that morning. I had watched a video you made about it on IG and I remember thinking, wow she don’t stop. She don’t stop ever. I remember looking at your face and just feeling that energy of yours that seemed to come right through across the screen and into me as you talked about how Bronx schools always seem to be neglected. I remember what a huge response people had to the content we put up from the Friday event. Someone who taught in the Bronx said they needed this to happen there. You were like bet, let’s make it happen.

You made things happen. You made things happen all the time.

And I still don’t understand how this happened. I keep wanting you to call me, text me, send me something from wherever you are to explain. Explain yourself. I think I even know what you might say. That you didn’t plan for this. That you didn’t mean to leave in this way, that you wish you could be here to help us cope.

No one understands. No one can believe you are gone. A part of me feels you, ever present. A part of me waits for you to tell me, what to do next, how I should do it, what are we working on next? What do you need me to create, to edit, to put together, to send. I cannot conceive that you will not ever give me something to do again. I can’t.

It’s 5:50pm. I’m in bed with my husband as I write this. He has been the perfect supporting counterbalance to my grief. I don’t know what I would do without him and I don’t know what I’m going to do without you. But I don’t intend to ever be without you. In many ways, you are more alive than ever, and yet still, I cannot bare the thought, I will never hear your voice, your laughter, your Ago, Ame, or see your face, dip into hot spa pools with you, talk waist beads, coconut oil, shea butter and ancestors and Black liberation with you again. I cannot believe it.

It’s 5:54.

I didn’t go to work today and I don’t know how I’m going to be able to go in tomorrow. I’m afraid for emotions that I don’t have control over. I need to see the rest of the CREAD team soon. I need to see so many people who knew and loved you as I did. I need to be around people who understood how dedicated and passionate and unyieldingly loving you were. I need that and I need rest.

And I need you. I don’t think I ever expressed to you how much.

What I’ve been Reading

Women Code by Alisa Vitti

Woman Code

It’s lead me to have the fullest understanding so far of how my cycle works and to realize that my cycle is happening all the time in four very specific phases (Menstrual, Folicular, Ovular and Luteal) not just when I’m bleeding which is the only phase of a woman’s cycle that education usually focuses on after she begins seeing her period. The MyFlo app designed by Vitti is also like an advanced Period Tracker in that it notifies you of which phase you’re on once you enter your own period dates and of how you should be eating, exercising, loving, caring for yourself, working and planning during those times. It’s very much a game changer.

The Beautiful Struggle by Ta-Nehisi Coates

The Beautiful Struggle

A few nights ago, I got in bed and found absolutely nothing I wanted to watch on television or the internet. Nothing. So I did something I haven’t done in a long time. I pulled a book off the shelf (The Beautiful Struggle by Ta-Nehisi Coates) got under the cover and  continued reading where I left off nearly a month ago before things got really busy.  I sat and I read and I read a few beautiful paragraphs aloud to myself which I also haven’t done in ages because Coates just writes some dope beautiful shit that has to be heard aloud.  Shit like:

Ma would arrange us into a giggling pyramid , with Menelik up top. Dad would flick away until Kelly, John, or Kris–someone at the bottom–would get restless and shook the core. We’d tumble to the grass like clowns out of a rainbow colored car, then shove, stumble and laugh. Ma would step back and pull Menelik close. Dad just flicked away, until these moments were encased in Amber.

That whole scene plays in my mind as if I was there. Makes me remember why reading was first obsession.