When Manhood was a Myth

 

And then sometimes I want to go back to the days when manhood was just a myth. When we used to sell wolf tickets about the girls we had been with to try to conceal the fact that we were still pure. When we used to pay local drug addicts to buy us cheap liquor from the Arab stores and drink until we threw up. When we used to have cap sessions for hours. I talked about his fat bottom lip because he tried to clown me about my wide nostrils. Then he talked about my old shoes so I got on him about his black ass mama. That’s when he started getting serious which meant that I had won.

 

This was before Sean got shot to death and before he went to San Quentin and even before juvenile hall. This was before H.G. lost his mind and started living on the streets and before his girlfriend had his baby and didn’t let him see his own son. This was before Kamari went to prison for life. Before he violated those women and told us that he didn’t do it but the newspaper down in San Jose said otherwise and so did the jury.

 

This was when we all played junior varsity football and we all wanted to play in the NFL and be millionaires and have all the women and pull up to the club in an old school Mustang or a brand new Lamborghini like Latrell Sprewell, C&H, and The Luniz. When we used to get on the bus all musty after practice and see a girl from school and argue over which one of us should go and try to get her number.

 

This was before I lost touch and shut down. Before my daughter was born. Before I got arrested for the first time but was never charged and started having daily fantasies about killing the police officers who harassed me and sneaking out-of-town never to return again and being a ghetto folk hero like Frank Matthews.

 

These were the days when I used to fall in love everyday with some beautiful girl that I couldn’t have as opposed to this day where I have a beautiful women that I don’t know how to love. When we believed in our future success like we believed in the words of Tupac. When we used to roam the halls of our high schools together acting way harder than we ever were. Before I had to write them letters in prison and before I had to visit them in the cemetery and before they came to my house in unkempt clothes and disheveled hair asking for a dollar, we were all friends.

 

We all wanted to be men. We all wanted to be somebody.

-YB

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Notes on Jovan Belcher

 

 

It’s been less than a week since Jovan Belcher of the Kansas City Chiefs killed his girlfriend and himself with a gun and it’s been a little over a year since someone broke into my home while I wasn’t here and left the place completely disheveled. They stole my laptop, a safe (which was completely empty), and my digital camera, among several other things. In the moments right after I discovered that my home had been burglarized, I couldn’t help but to wonder what if I was at home with my gun when those cowards broke in? Would I have enough rage in my heart to shoot them all dead?
Now of course all of this is deeply hypothetical because in actuality I don’t own a gun. Unlike both of my parents I am not from the rural south and therefore I never went hunting for diner. In urban California guns represent human death. Their prevalence played a major role in the murders of several of my childhood friends. In short, I really hate guns. I believe that guns make it too easy to kill. One must ask if Belcher did not have access to a gun would he have actually carried out those gruesome murders?

 

Obviously there were multiple factors that played into Belcher’s actions. He had to be under severe emotional distress, and from listening to other people’s accounts of him it sounds like he must have suffered from multiple personality disorder as well. But now he as well as his girlfriend is gone, and the weapon used to carry out the deed was a gun.

 

About once a year I seriously contemplate buying a gun. Having a growing daughter to protect and living in a rough neighborhood are just two of the reasons that make me want to purchase a firearm. Another one is that I’m a man and men play for keeps. Meaning if I get into a physical confrontation with a guy and I come out victorious then chances are he may run to get his gun. In which case, since I don’t have a gun, I would just have to run.

 

What always keeps me out of the gun store is the other side of the equation. If I bought a gun then about a month later I woke up in the middle of the night and caught a person trying to steal my car, would I actually have what it takes to take another human beings life? Could I actually justify putting a gaping hole in the flesh of another man because he attempted to take one of my possessions? I don’t know that I could.

 


I’ve seen contorted bullet riddled bodies lying just beyond yellow caution tape on the concrete. I’ve seen a half-empty misshapen head propped up in a casket a week after a man had gotten his brains blown out. I’ve heard fatal shots, I’ve listened to horrible screams, I’ve seen the shell casings, I’ve heard mothers cry, and I’ve seen a once victimized kid stand prouder than Superman on the street corner once he got his hands on his first gun. I never wanted that.

 

I always wanted to move as far away from that world as possible, but alas, I have yet to do so. Those heartless savages kicked in my back door and stole my daughter’s piggy bank and took my camera with all of those beautiful family images that I had never gotten developed. They left boot prints on the very bed where my daughter lay and of course my neighbors saw nothing. They heard nothing. They knew nothing and in that moment that I discovered how wantonly I had been violated, so help me Jesus I felt like I could do it. I wanted to kill them all. No matter how young, how old, or how pitiable their lives were. Needless to say those feelings dissipated. At the end of the day I was grateful that I wasn’t hurt, nor was anyone in my family. I decided then, like I always do, that a gun wasn’t worth it. I don’t want to even have the option to do what Jovan Belcher did just because I’m having a hard time. I want to live freely without having a justifiable homicide on my conscious. But I also want to be prepared.

 

For there is always a time when a man must defend himself. People don’t fistfight anymore, everyone is toting steel and if I am to protect my house and my family I fear that one day I may have to adjust to the times. That day, however, is not today. Today I am thinking of another way out. Today I am still thinking about Jovan Belcher and his 22-year-old girlfriend. Today I am thinking about life.

 

-YB

Running

February 13, 2012

I’m an avid runner. On average I run about 5-6 times a week. I hit trails, run around Lake Merritt, or spend about an hour on the treadmill. Running is so second nature to me that it wasn’t until very recently that I began to ask myself what exactly am I running from. I mean of course I’m trying to stay in shape and speed up my metabolism a little, which at the age of 30 seems to want to stand still. But I feel like it’s deeper than that.

For example I write to express feelings that are impossible for me to verbalize and I box to blow off steam, however, my reasons for running 5-8 miles a day is something that I don’t have a complete answer to. Perhaps it’s a mixture of both. After all I do blow of a lot of steam when my feet are rhythmically pounding the pavement and I am outwardly expressing my desire to reach the finish line, but really why am I so compelled to run. I’m not training for a marathon and I’m not a slave.

Often times I’ll tell myself that I’m going to spend a whole day writing and the next thing I know I’m on some trail deep in the hills hoping local coyotes don’t smell my sweat and decide to attack me. I don’t know. It’s kind of bizarre. It’s like when I’m running with my I-pod blasting I feel like I’m floating through my own self-contrived galaxy.  It’s definitely a form of escapism; yet I wonder why I need to escape so often. Like this one story I’m working on. It’s very personal but instead of sitting down and cranking it out as soon as I look at it I put on my sweat pants and my sneakers and head out. Lately I’ve been feeling like a shot fighter who sees his opponent’s mistakes but can’t capitalize on them by letting his hands go and throwing a punch. I fear that I’ve become too guarded to be an effective writer. Instead of molding my issues into art I just want them to go away. It’s like I really want peace but I’m no longer willing to fight for it, or in my case I’m no longer willing to write for it. So I run.

When I was a boy I was led to believe that only the most cowardly of men publicly display their emotions. Now that I am a man I feel like a coward for not being able to express what makes me human.

I need to stop running.

-YB

The Fragile Man

January 1, 2012

I never loved her but I was smitten by her vulnerability. I became addicted to having her cling to me, overwhelm me, text me all throughout the day, and give me more attention than I could have ever anticipated. I pretended to be upset with her. I convinced myself that I could no longer put up with her insecurities. I told myself that she was too unstable and that I needed to move on, but how does a man move beyond himself without leaving this earth?

 

Doesn’t everyman want his woman to scream his name? Is there a man alive that would be morally opposed to being the center of his lady’s universe? Don’t we expect that? Isn’t it true that every obsessive text message and late night voice mail from an unloved woman can be considered the brick and mortar of a fragile man’s ego? The structure always falls down. Reciprocity is old and decrepit. We are living in the era of self-absorption.

 

I love to hate getting random text messages from that crazy woman. I love it even more when she refuses to let me go. A man doesn’t need flowers, jewelry, or compliments to make him feel special. All he really needs is a woman who won’t leave him alone so he can look down on her instead of addressing his own weaknesses.

 

-YB

She Got Game

 

November 9, 2011

                It’s funny to me when I think about how fragile the male ego is. Why is it that we need to have our worth constantly reinforced? Don’t ask me why but while I was running today I started to think about former hip-hop video vixen turned author Karrine “Superhead” Steffans. Well I wasn’t thinking about her as much as I was thinking about her enduring legacy. Karrine is a woman who has had relations with everyone ranging from Shaquille O’Neal to Jay-Z to Ice-T then wrote a New York Times bestselling book about it only to bounce back and hook up with the likes of Bill “Politically Incorrect” Maher and Little Wayne.

                I’m sure many men out there would disagree with me but I don’t think she is still able to carry on public relationships with high-profile celebrities because of her well documented skills in the art of fellatio. I am convinced that Ms. Steffans greatest asset is her ability to make extremely insecure celebrities feel like they rule the world. After all she is a highly intelligent woman (I’ve heard her speak on enough television and radio programs, including Oprah, to figure that out). But even more importantly Karrine just flat-out has game. She knows how internally weak most men actually are and she uses it to get whatever she wants. The most hilarious thing about it is I’m sure that until the book came out every man she had been with thought they were getting over on her. Yeah right. Karrine Steffans is something like a pimp. One would be a fool not to give her props.

                Just like one must ask how is it that Don King can continue to sign binding contracts to top quality fighters after he stole money from every great fighter of the last half-century, one must also ponder how is it that Ms. Steffans can continue to lure rising young stars into the bedroom. People rarely apply the term swagger to a woman but in this case I think it’s necessary. I doubt if anyone in the industry has more game than “Superhead.” I respect her for doing her thing very well and without shame.

-YB