FROM THE MAYOR’S DESK
Last time I had a get-together, I was 8, and the old man popped me in the lips for being flip. He didn’t want me wearing a tie to my living room birthday party. I boldly insisted I needed to wear it. As laconic as I am pleonastic, he settled it with a sharp slap to my mouth. My mother called me. I walked away angry. I remember Wally staring at me, wondering why I just didn’t fall down, dead, right then and there, for once again f****** with the old man. Our discussion wasn’t over in my mind, just because he could hit me after he made a point. Up until this past Saturday, I was still mad over it.
I didn’t have a tie on Saturday, either, when Allison Davis’s final step toward Sangelinohood was privately commemorated at Bronzeville. I, too, am a Sangelino, (San Franciscan Los Angeleno. Trademark D.Geez, All Rights Reserved by Miss Pickup, thank you very much,) as is Bronzeville Books, which was birthed at Miss Davis’s kitchen table, as a great many beautiful things have been, and will be. Unlike the brilliant and steady Allison Davis and the bright and inspiring Renee Pickup, I’m a high-functioning introvert with a very deep brooding instinct. “Don’t get all broody,” Renee says, in meetings, when I have my ass passed around for boning-up start-up shit. Oft, my shadow side’s disembodied voice, Lovecraftian in tone, calls to me:
“They all hate you, Danny. Come into the dark, with me. Bring your old stand-up comedy grudges. We’ll play miserably difficult Japanese video games together. You’ll be safe here.”
In a word, I’m possessed with an innate dourness. It’s likely why British humor, for me, is always piss-pants funny. My issue, I believe, is I’ve always found it hard having a life once I’d seen what death is, up close. To cope, I jumped straight into achievement, giving myself no time to look back and wonder if I needed to stop, heal, and be an actual person. No, I took that dead-parents-in-the-alley shit from grammar school all the way to Hollywood before I developed some social skills. Now, after causing all this ruckus in the genre, a party, at Bronzeville?? With Bronzeville folks?? After all the heat?? I remember discussing with Renee the sacrifices that would come with being a founder. When we shake our heads at the things required of us, we laugh and remind ourselves we don’t get to choose, just deliver. But this was too much. A good time?? I put it off. I tried to cancel it. I took each mishap as an excuse to call it off. I wanted to catch my death and have a hacking cough as an excuse.
No one saw this, mind you. On the inside, I felt like dying. Outside, it was all Mr. Rourke from Fantasy Island, which, in hindsight, feels like a whitewashed portrayal of a POC character, because once Ricardo Montalban got the part originally written for a white boy, the screenwriters should have changed the name to something appropriately Klingon. Anyhow.
So, I got this Christmas tree atop Black Betty, and I had to tie her down myself because of holiday shopping hassles. I’m tryin’ ta break out quick because Allison is at LAX, which, while you can see the United Airlines runway from Bronzeville’s front gate, that shit is still taking 3omin, in light traffic. I’m all tricked out like Jed Clampett. I got bags. I got boxes of booze. I got Jethro and Ellie Mae riding on the roof. Airport LAPD is out there writing tickets so Eric Garcetti’s kids can buy American Girl dolls from Rick Caruso’s shopping malls. Allison hops in the whip. She carries so many bags, y’all. She don’t need all them damned bags.
I’m speeding out of airport property ordering sushi over the phone. My ace boon Erika is bringing WANGS. We have chicken. I repeat, we have chicken from Koreatown, where they love chicken, and Crown Royal, like Negroidal Americans. My cleaning lady, Maria, spared me at the last minute and brought her niece, Alfred, and Jarvis. Bronzeville was so clean, I wish I could have company all this week, and then never again. I also wish I could ask her why the shit ain’t that clean no other time, but this is a happy Kwanza story.
Y’all, one of the Mayor’s Heirs called, just to say hi, and wish me luck, so someone should determine if hell froze over. I’m saying, a confederacy of friends and family and lovers and fighters and artists filed in and came together with cheer. All I had to do was buy a door. And then open it.
I couldn’t admit I was afraid, I’m saying. I’m pragmatic, see. I witness the old man as strong, and courageous, and well-dressed. If I dressed as he did, I’d be as strong as he was, and I could possibly withstand the sack of my mama’s living room by black, connected, brainiac kids who treat me as a blue-collar pretender who only got into the special schools because I tested well. No all-black ski trips for the Dodger. It was my brothers’ old clothes and paper grocery bags for book covers. It was all I could do to keep the Jack and Jill crowd and their light-skinned shit off the guest list. I needed that tie. They all hated me. I needed folks to see me as I wanted them to see me. I needed control. For nothing, obviously.
I know why Renee leaves the thorns on her roses of praise, and reassurance, which are abundant. I get why Allison allows me a moment to see what’s not working before she looks over the top of her glasses and says something really snarky to remind me I know better. I know why the old man said it with a slap. John Gardner, Jr. Dead 39 years. Most folks are dead wrong. Beau Gardner is dead right, and, apparently, still all up in my damned party business.
Yes, speaking of business, we three of the Bronzeville pantheon met together a lot this week. Our course is charted. We’re still funded. We’re still working. We’ve bought more books. We’ll print some, soon. If I owe you something, you’ll get it. Renee and Allison are firmly at the helm as I fly cover and stake out new positions for our role as a supplier.
I opened my door. I enjoyed it.