Home: Alone

In his song Still In Love, Luther tells us that “a house is not a home if there’s no one there to hold you tight”. I often think about this wordplay, that involving the terms “house” and “home”, and whether it actually has significance.

Today, the 23rd of September, marks the time when, two years ago, I moved back into what I guess I still call home for the last time. Well barring any unforeseen circumstances, of course. In contrast to this one, that Sunday was still dripping with the refuse of summer as we squeezed what remained of my belongings into my family’s car and trundled off for the small town of Pinebluff, North Carolina.

I lived there for almost exactly four months, departing on an icy late January day for my current residence. To me, “home” came to mean a place where I no longer had to worry about what I was going to eat, or making sure that the meaningful bills were paid. I did have to maintain my cell phone bill, but otherwise all of that was back out of my hands. It was a bit of a welcome reprieve, and one which I now wish I had allowed myself to enjoy more than I did.

Instead, I spent much of that time kind of to myself, and pondering how I would get back into the larger world. Granted, I shouldn’t have wanted to remain there forever, but I just think I should have slipped into the role of “brother” and “Uncle” more thoroughly, as I don’t really know if I’ll experience these roles in as profound and constant a way again, or at least anytime soon.

I have my own apartment now, of course, and had one before that September day two years ago. Yet I don’t think I ever really called those rentals home. Is this because they both have had an air of draftiness? I guess industrial, like a giant space that isn’t really meant to absorb all of the memories, emotions, etc that make up a life.

Or is it because I have occupied these units by myself. Waking up on major holidays, which I haven’t done as much since relocating to Durham but certainly did in Carrboro, with no one around brings with it an attendant sadness and distance, reminiscent of the room with “Nothing there but gloom” that Luther refers to later in his song.

Well, I had stayed with my cousin in a unit that also had that somewhat unhomely feeling from 2003 till 2009, but perhaps because he was there most of the time also, it did at least seem to hold more of a sentimental value when I prepared to depart. I do recall spending one of those weird holidays, the first time we woke to a quiet Christmas in that same 2003 year that we arrived, with store-bought burgers and a plate that arrived later in the night. It still wasn’t as tough as some of those days in 09/10.

So I say all that to ask: what makes “home” to you? Do you still refer to your parent(s) place in this way exclusively? Does it become different once or if you have children. I suspect home is a place where you really have those family roots laink regardless of what role you actually play in said family. Just some thoughts as we begin the seasons where such bonds become more profound and important: cold, drippy, less ideal for meeting people outside of the household. Chime in!

Summer Wrap: Stream of Consciousness

Even writing those words makes me want to cry buckets of tears. Already, we have reached the last weekend of official summer. I’m taking it all in though, enjoying a stiff breeze outside as I type and planning to remain out here nearly all day.

Hey, at least I had fun. This summer was characterized by more travel than I’ve been able to do in a long time: highlighted by trips to Las Vegas, Atlanta, and the usual repeated visits to Charlotte. I didn’t really finish my Atlanta story, but think I can still remember it well enough to capture the rest. I may do that tomorrow. I just went through a particularly bad period where I hadn’t really felt motivated, but one thing I can say for the Fall is it does fill me with the idea that things may turn the corner. That has rarely actually happened, but one has to think that eventually it will.

One thing I especially enjoyed during the month of August, though it seems to have quieted down lately, is making a new friend in the area. She is the kind of person who reminds me of others in my family, such as my Aunt who sadly is no longer living, as she loves to walk.

We took a stroll to the Sarah P. Duke Gardens, a couple miles away from here maybe, and listened to the animals and kids waddle by while taking in the aromas of almost every kind of plant imaginable.

Then we went to a wine tasting at our local grocery store, where I drank enough to feel it a bit but not anymore. It doesn’t take much for this lightweight, of course.

With her, I learned where our pool is, as she’s a huge fan of swimming, more about the bus system, and that there are even a couple more places around here that I need to visit for their menus. Plus, she helped me to acquire and consume my requisite summer watermelon, MMM! I guess it wasn’t as good as it could have been, but one should expect that from grocery store fruit in my opinion.

That kind of serendipitous encounter can bring so much richness to a person’s life, for sure. I appreciated the patience she had not only in assisting me, but doing so while managing her two young children as well.

And now, I must go back into a post-summer savings mode, to try and recover from the wild financial flins I took this year. Well hey, I worked all summer too, so had to have a bit of fun! The last big thing I’ve done is upgrade to the iPhone 6, because my 4S is giving me all kinds of trouble lately and it’s just time to move on from that thing anyway. The 6 won’t get here for probably another couple of weeks though, as it’s being shipped and they’re probably backed up all the way to the Pacific in orders. I think I can make it till then, though.

So, what was the most interesting thing you did this summer? Meet any new people?

And finally, I want to thank the owner of this blog for publishing a few of my older posts. It got me some recognition, which is cool. More soon, and go Panthers! Off to a 2-0 start, and we have a nationally televised game against the Pittsburgh Steelers tomorrow night. Football is one of the only things I do like about colder times.

A Birthday, The Middle

Happy Saturday! And a big birthday milestone reached for me, my 35th. (I almost typed 354th, but that would be something entirely different for sure).

The somewhat morbid side of me became curious: what might my life expectancy be. According to this chart in Wikipedia, which I’ll admit I don’t entirely understand, the US is 34th in national life expectancy rates, at about 78 years? My grandparents lived at least until their 80s, so presumably if I start to eat healthier than I do now I shouldn’t even be halfway to the end. In any event, 35 just sounds like a nice round number, and a good place from which to evaluate and take stock of one’s outcome thus far.

Things are certainly getting better for me. It was at this point last year really that I suddenly became much more familiar with my surrounding neighborhood. Probably since then, I’ve only been to Chapel Hill a handful of times. I’ve already written many times though about my treks to the strip of restaurants that contain Dunkin Donuts, most notably my Regulars post. I love this area, feel quite attached to it, and will remain here if I find desirable employment nearby. I think that may happen within my next year. Optimistic? Maybe, but so much momentum seems to be building.

For some time, I’d wanted to explore a local restaurant here in Durham. While I rail against the “chain”edness of everything, I still too often end up spending my money in such establishments. I must admit that this is because chains tend to be cheaper, and I have a pretty good idea of what I’m going to get.

Today though, I opted to finally venture over to Geer Street Garden. Located at 636 Foster Street, which I find odd as it is named after the street on whose corner it sits, its main claim to fame is “real, downhome food”.

Before departing, I attempt to look up the menu on the iPhone as I usually like to. It seems though that Google Maps is losing some of its accessibility, as loading it now causes my phone to act eradically at best. I get to where I can tap on the menu, but give up on trying to read it after it refreshes and throws me back to refreshes and throws me back to back to the beginning of the line ugh! I finally just opt to call and check on how crowded things are, as I usually like to do, then I summon my Uber ride.

(Wanna use my Uber code? Please? johnm1014.)

I arrive at the restaurant, and am asked if I wish to go to the outdoor patio. Of course! The night is nearly windless, and drier than I’d expected given the forecast of all rain. I’d also gotten lots of sun earlier therein, too. This of course improves my mood.

I sit at a small table, the loner table I guess, and listen to the people as they filter in. Kids running around the porch and screaming. Music playing. Me sitting there, attempting to play with my iPhone in the data dead zone.

The server comes over, and I quickly decide to have the lasagna plate special, with garlic bread and a side salad. For my initial drink, I have lemonade.

The salad is covered in balsamic dressing. This non-foodie thinks that’s a vinegrette? Whatever it is, it tastes like vinegar. There was mostly lettuce, carrots, and tomatoes.

The lasagna reminds me of what real lasagna tastes like. Piping hot, delicious cheese and sauce, and nice, real chunks of ground beef. I even enjoy the crunchy stuff on the side of the bowl.

And the bread? Oh, man. It has little peppers therein, and real garlic that somehow tops any garlic bread I’ve ever had. I savor each bite, mixing it with the last of that yummy dish.

Ah, I don’t like that their online menu is image-based, so I can’t review the kind of drink I had. I ask the server for something local, especially a beer.

“Do you like cider”

Um, I think so” I reply.

I think he tells me I am drinking something called Cristin’s Hard Cider? It tastes delicious, but more like a wine than anything. I am not really sure if it has much of an effect on me either.

Finally, I decide for dessert to have Keylime pie. I get that to go though, and as of the writing of this entry, I haven’t consumed it. I hope it will be good.

Another server, a woman, helps me back out front and waits with me while I summon my return Uber ride. We chat amiably for the few minutes it takes for the vehicle to arrive, and I am off home. After getting a bit lost in this sometimes confusing complex, I come back inside and call it a day.

This was a fun birthday, about as much as I could ask for as an adult. I like that I heard from so many old friends via Facebook and Twitter, and managed to make a couple of new ones. Very interested to see what year 36 will bring.

Going On A Coaster Ride

As this summer is ending far more quickly than I would like, I thought it would be fun to continue reflecting on reasons why I enjoy the season so much. The only experiences I’ve really written about thus far are attending summer camps and old-time traditions of ice cream and car-cruising with the family. For the next few entries, I will talk about my trips to amusement parks, public pool jaunts, and standing beside the awe-inspiring Atlantic Ocean.

Have you ever been to an amusement park? It’s hard for me to imagine that one hasn’t, especially in the US and I guess most European countries. With that line of thought, I wonder exactly how many amusement parks there are.

In my hometown of Charlotte, we have Carowinds. I think I saw in an article that someone wrote about his experiences with the Thunder Road and White Lightning roller coasters that this park opened in 1976? It is built right on the North Carolina/South Carolina line, which creates a fun photo opportunity of shooting oneself while standing in both states. I think many of the coasters traverse the line as riders hurtle along as well.

The first time I can remember going, I was probably 7 or so. I think back then, they’d give out vouchers to attend the park for kids who had achieved perfect attendance at school. This is likely the only way our family of seven, including my cousin; my mom, dad, and Aunt could have gotten into the park at the same time.

We would stop by Bojangle’s to procure giant boxes of chicken and biscuits that we would leave the park to consume around lunch time, in lieu of the expensive fare provided inside. Better make sure the stamps on our hands could clearly be seen!

Back in those days, we had a big hatchback, and so a lot of us kids would squeeze in back with the trunk flung wide open, trying not to be sucked out by the roaring wind. I wonder if that sort of thing could even be done today? Probably a bit crazy, but fun.

Man, was I ever the cry baby back then. And it didn’t help that my biological father would pick on me constantly about it, calling me “sissy” in particular. He kept urging me to try riding Thunder Road, even though I was probably too short to do so then anyway. Not to mention terrified just by the sound and screaming people! Back in those days, I enjoyed smaller stuff like the Octopus, Metiorite (“Enjoy your flight, on the Metiorite!”) and swings that more like sucked you high into the air and spun faster and faster while doing so.

I eventually did try the coasters though, probably at age 10 or so. All that anticipation builds while standing in line, and I nearly got sick before getting on.

It’s probably more of an adventure for blind folks, as we can’t see what’s going to come beyond that hill. I was always amused by the clicking sound it makes as we slowly work our way up.

“Ah, I don’t think this is gonna be too bad.” I thought.

Till we leveled out, and woosh! Down we flew, with screeching metal and the shrill roar of voices reverberating off of the tunnel walls until those sounds became indistinguishable from one another. I felt the bar press toward my lap as I rose a bit from the seat and pulled the bar down towards me. There would be a few seconds of reprieve, allowing me to think it was over, then off we shot again! After that, I couldn’t get enough.

On that day, I rode Thunder Road, the Carolina Cyclone, (first time I’d even gone upside down on a ride,) and the Carolina Gold Rush. I was never brave enough to ride White Lightning, because I’d heard about it jumping the tracks and getting stuck a few times. I think they eventually shut that one down, if I’m not mistaken.

The ones that really terrified me though were the water rides! See my previously mentioned fear of water. There was one called the Waterlog, which would bump ominously against the side of its enclosure as we raced downhill toward the pool there. The sides were so low that I feared losing an arm or plain being thrown from the boat. In retrospect though, I suppose I enjoyed it.

At both Carowinds and Six Flags over Georgia in Atlanta, I rode what is basically the same stand-up coaster. At our park, it’s known as the Vortex, while down there they called it BatMan. A sighted person showed me how frighteningly close we come to the ground on one of the big turns on that thing.

Probably the most unnerving experience I know of someone having on that ride happened to my sister. She squeezed on the bars as the ride sped around the bend, and the bar came up as if unlocked! This caused her to hang in the air for the remainder of the ride, hoping she’d have enough strength to hold on until it stopped. Thinking of that makes me feel queasy. I think stuff like that may be why they’ve installed belts on most of those rides nowadays to offer additional security.

So which parks have you visited? What were the names of your favorite coasters? Do you know if they still exist?

Post-Convention: Writer’s Block and Finding Me

So, I’ve been back from my fun trip to Las Vegas for a bit over two weeks now, and I’ve not been able to think of anything particularly interesting to write about. I feel a bit dry, just trying to keep going from day to day. But my goal is to make at least one entry per week, so let’s see if I can just capture a hodge podge of my thoughts.

One of the things that has made this period better is spending two consecutive weekends with my cousin: the previous down in Charlotte and this one here in Durham. This was especially nice, as I opted, after asking my supervisor if I had enough time to do so, to take off of work on Friday and chill at home. My cousin had arrived on Thursday night.

We just did a lot of talking, harkening back to long ago days when we would often stay awake into the early morning hours, watching sports and gnawing on pizza slices. As far as baseball goes, I guess I’m an Atlanta Braves fan, as much as I’m a fan of any team. I like the sport, but wish we could get our own major league team somewhere in North Carolina. This isn’t likely to happen anytime soon though, given the many minor league franchises we have speckled throughout the state. Anyway, we listened to the Braves lose to the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-1. They seemed unable to do much of anything.

On Friday, I figured we might want to get out of the apartment for a bit. So, I used Uber, the service I mentioned a few entries ago, to take us over to the Waffle House on Hillsboro Road, about 1.5 miles away. I’m starting to use this service more and more frequently, finding that it is regularly cheaper than cabs and probably more reliable as well. I had them take me over to the DMV to get that expired ID card renewed, and going straight from work it was probably about $7 less than I would have paid otherwise. I also took them back to the Amtrak station when leaving Charlotte last weekend, and sent my cousin to the Durham Amtrak when he left yesterday via Uber. This last after there was some miscommunication that occurred when my favorite cabbie hadn’t let me know she wouldn’t be available to pick him up and was sending another cab. When that cab arrived and told me I’d called for a cab, I insisted that I hadn’t. I mean, it’s a strange thing to have happen when one isn’t expecting it. My cousin had planned to catch the 2:33 train out, but because of that snafu he ended up having to wait for the 7:48 train.

If you’d like to try Uber, and it’s available in your area, why not get us both free rides by using my code at sign-up: johnm1014 . Thanks.

And, not much else. I hear tell that we may get at least one final burst of summer. I sure hope so! Right now, it doesn’t seem as if the sun has shone since at least Wednesday. Anyone who knows me knows I begin to feel deprived after such a long time without that warmth. On Friday, we had to brave heavy rains and gusts, and were lucky to emerge with our hearing aids in tact. It was definitely fun.

I am doing a lot of reading and acquiring books with the Amazon gift card I was given for my participation in the Braille study at ACB. So far, I’ve gotten Earthbound, by my good online friend Elaine Calloway, the third in her Elemental Clan series. I also got one that sounds fascinating to me called Fasten Your Seatbelts: A Flight Attendant’s Adventures 36, 000 Feet and Below, by Christine Churchill. I read Heather Poole, another famous flight attendant’s book Cruising Attitude at about this time last year, and feel that it will help me continue my travels, if only in my mind.

Not that I have any idea when I’ll have time to read these books, on top of the stuff I’m already reading from Audible and/or the NLS, but we shall see. Certainly the iPhone does make that easier.

Let’s hope I have more fun stuff to write about in the near future. Till then, I’m off to enjoy what remains of my weekend, and perhaps catch a bit of tonight’s preseason NFL opener between the New York Giants and Buffalo Bills. That’s right, it’s already time for American football again. Too fast does time go.

A Crazy Workday’s End

This post is kind of an extension of what I’ve already put in my Facebook status. Monday fun day? It had been a pretty good one until…

It’s about 2:25. I’m keeping myself awake with the many thoughts buzzing through my head regarding preparation for my coming trip, plans once I get out of there today, and the like. And keeping myself awake is an effort, as I’ve managed only about two hours of sleep the night before. I still get wound up like a kid when pondering travel!

Eventually, maybe five minutes later, I start to smell something. Because of my 2007 experience with a fairly significant fire, it takes no time at all for my nose to identify it as the first toxic whiffs of something burning.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if the fire alarm starts chirping shortly,” I think to myself. If only I’d had the good sense to sling my bag onto my shoulders and place cane in lap while I continued working, which I could have done.

Sure enough, “deet, deet, deet”.

Naturally, one’s first instinct in that situation, even if one thinks it is a drill, is to just jump out of the chair and make a beeline for the nearest exit. This gut reaction is tripled when there is already an acrid smell in the air. Part of my mind, the asleep part, says don’t worry about taking a half second to grab your stuff. It’ll probably just be a drill anyway.

It wasn’t.

I grab an arm as it hurtles by, and we shoot a good ways across the factory floor, into another vestibule, and finally outside. This is why they suggest that totally blind individuals get assistance in a fire situation, because we don’t use the routes we’re used to. Given that, I left not only my trusty, much-needed cane, but also my bag behind.

Out into the blazing sun, where everyone milled about chattering and awaiting that eventual all-clear that usually comes. 2:45, 2:53, 3:00, and 3:15 pass. Quitting time is 3:20.

“Ok,” one of the supervisors pipes up as we draw near to that time, “they’re not letting us back in because the smoke is too thick. Anyone who can still leave, please consult with a supervisor to get a ride to the other side of the plant where all buses will gather. If your stuff is inside, you’ll have to wait. I’m in the same position, as I’ve left my keys in there!”

I and a couple others groaned, knowing we would miss the 3:30 departure of the 700 bus to Durham Station. It was even worse for the individuals who needed to meet paratransit. I think the supervisors agreed to take them home.

Fortunately, I suppose, not much else happens. I guess the fire folks just gathered up all of the items we wanted and brought them out to be reclaimed by about 4. They inform us that the smoke is so thick we may not be able to go in tomorrow either, and so I’ll have to check that before attempting to catch the bus. The biggest issue while waiting is the intense sunshine, causing every part of me to go bone dry.

All things considered though, it could have been a lot worse. I don’t know what may have caused the fire, and wonder also why it took a good 5-8 minutes after I smelled it for the alarms to kick in. Perhaps we’re gonna need to speed that time up a bit. And despite the inconvenience caused by doing it, I still believed I made the correct decision to skidaddle rather than gathering my things, especially as I hadn’t done so when I first noticed something amiss. I can replace those, but I can’t replace me!

Definitely not the plan I had for today, but that’s how life works sometimes. Now I’ll suck down this pizza and not feel guilty about it, and then it’s outside to read. I guess I can say never take a moment, a thought, a breath, for granted. For things can change before you even know it.

Random Rambles, and Monkeying with Site

So at this moment, I don’t have a good topic to write about. However, I feel like pounding on the keyboard anyway, so this is what you’ll get.

I now officially own this patio in front of Dunkin Donuts. I’m here again, for the 200th time, so often that people in every business along this strip know my name. Someone even randomly gave me a $10 gift card, which helped to fund my delicious, traditional ice cream sundae on July 4th. This sundae consisted of vanilla ice cream, hot fudge, and chopped nuts.

As I told someone else via Twitter, the tradition has its roots in middle childhood, when my mom would load her seven kids (including my cousin) into the family minivan, roll through a McDonald’s drive through, and get us all either sundaes or cones. I’ve always favored sundaes, because they tend to be a lot less messy. Plus, some cones taste like eating cardboard. I do kinda like the flavored ones, though they make the already sweet ice cream perhaps a bit too sweet.

Anyway, we would speed down the highway heading out of Charlotte for nearly 2 hours sometimes. Music from the Quiet Storm (remember that concept?) would finally lull us into a state of sleep that mom would have difficulty rousing us from once we finally turned back into our driveway. I know she’d be relieved though, as we would then drop straight into our beds. I’m guessing for her, this also served as good thinking time, a chance to just let everything float away on the cool, country-scented wind.

Speaking of which, there’s a fairly brisk breeze blowing out here as I sit and listen, with an umbrella flapping noisily overhead. Today and tomorrow are to be mid 80s, but then on Tuesday we’re gonna suddenly shoot up to 99! Hello, full-on summer.

In celebration of that, I activated the Beach theme on this page. I actually have no idea how that looked or if it worked, so eyes can tell me what they see. I just thought it sounded cool, and like something I’d like to be thinking about right now.

And finally, just six more days till my trip out west! Las Vegas Nevada, or as the flight attendant in The Goldfinch called it as they landed: “lost wages”. I certainly won’t be losing much of my wages there, as I plan to play the slots only once or twice, mostly so I can tell you what it’s like.

I find it somewhat amusing that I’d chosen to read this book without checking the reviews, and thus not knowing that a significant part of it takes place in Vegas. It confirms what happens to me every time I go somewhere, that area suddenly seems to become prominent in the news. Well area, object, person, whatever I’m noticing at the moment. I know, I’m important! Haha. Other instances of Vegas can be found in this NPR story on lack of youth employment opportunities there, and an article from the travel site Skift about how Vegas is marketing itself as a more welcoming summer tourism destination.

More sometime soon, maybe not till I get out there or back. I’m trying to decide if I wanna bring my laptop with me, though I fear that’d have to be checked and could thus be damaged, or just stick with the iPhone. I’ve blogged from the iPhone before, but we’ll see if I feel like doing that while on the go. Truthfully, I’ll probably be on the move too much to do it anyway. I have at least twelve people to meet. In any event, you’ll still hear about the fun. I also hope you’ll see some pictures, again if I find eyes to snap them with my iPhone. And there’ll be plenty of audio for us blind folk who thoroughly enjoy it. I’m all inclusive! To those who will be out there with me, have fun, and I can’t wait to hook up.

The Caged Bird, and Other Reflections

I’m guessing by now that you know of the passing of Maya Angelou, one of the gratest and most inspiring writers/poets of all time. It’s funny, but to me she seemed like one who could go on and on for many more years. She certainly didn’t sound different in the last NPR interview I heard with her, though I grant that happened over a year ago. In any event, I guess all of our stories must at some point come to its end.

In an attempt to learn more about her, I read the first of her autobiographies entitled I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings. It’s a powerful story, with the feel of fiction but accompanied by the heavy weight of many injustices. We watch as she navigates and tries to learn the confusing roles of “black person” and “female” in the deep south.

On the former, this is one of the first books that really got me to understand a bit of why there was, and sadly still is in some cases, so much mistrust between individuals of different racial/ethnic backgrounds. Maya, (real name Marguerite) and her brother Bailey to whom she was very close, are called all sorts of names by the few whites that visit them. They also are forced to watch as some of the visitors attempt to disrespect their grandmother, because social norms dictate that she can do little or nothing about this treatment.

Meanwhile, they also grow up seeing white people as not human, primarily due to the infrequent and charged interactions among and between them. I find this very sad on all counts, and hope that we as members of this great but sometimes misled species jostle to survive and thrive on this planet.

As to the latter role of female, I’m sure most have heard the part of the story where she stops talking after having been sexually abused by her mother’s boyfriend, who was subsequently killed by the family. She feels as if she has caused this killing by what she uttered, and thus refuses to talk with anyone but her brother for a long time.

This event was definitely awful, but what makes it worse for the reader is that Angelou manages to view it through childlike eyes again: not really able to understand what is happening or its meaning.

I think it is her ability to assume this perspective that makes her entire bio more poignant. If you’ve not read it, I’d recommend. For along with the sadness, there are rather humorous stories speckled in. It also gave me much to reflect on regarding my own life and its happenings.

It especially gave me cause to recall my own project on the lives and societal standing of African American males that I completed as a Ronald E. McNair Summer Research Internship Scholar. This program was created to honor Dr. McNair, one of the astronauts who lost his life in the Challenger explosion, and I believe the first black astronaut. Its aim was to improve the attendance rates of graduate school for minority/underrepresented students. I still remember that summer of 2001 as being one of the best I’ve ever experienced, especially from a social standpoint.

As I benefited both academically and financially from that program, I’m still hoping to, if not attend grad school, find some way to carry out enough of its mission to be more successful than I currently am. I’m wondering if, by extension, it might work for me to advise others on a college campus on how to strengthen their good points and maybe avoid pitfalls. It’s definitely something about which I’ve thought for years.

RELATED: Thinking of Attending Grad School? Some Advice

I know it isn’t the only path to such a career or maybe even the one I’ll end up taking, but one of my Twitter followers suggested I look into a master’s-level program in Student Affairs at the University of South Florida. From what I’ve seen of that program, it looks pretty good. They take seriously placing individuals who complete it, requiring also that one work while studying the theories and other classroom stuff. So I’d feel pretty confident about my chances upon completing it.

I think the primary issue here is that I need to somehow make sure that I’m cut out for this sort of thing. Perhaps the most feasible way to do this would be to mentor an incoming first-year student and just see how well I can make suggestions that might actually be helpful. I would also like to get a taste of my potential leadership skills.

So I think this is one of the reasons I keep reading these days, looking for that one piece of information that will set me on the right path. Does such a thing even exist? I intend to keep trying to find out.

Writing 101-4: Trust

Write about a loss: something (or someone) that was part of your life, and isn’t any more.

Over the last few months, I’m really making an effort to become less of an antisocial and hopefully more of a prosocial person. I figured one of the first areas I needed to work on in accomplishing this is to decrease my level of sself-centeredness. I don’t think, at least I hope, I’m not a horrible person. But I can admit to a tendency toward having a hard time seeing things beyond my perspective. I think this shortcoming, if not at least brought down a few notches, will mean that I will not get close to many if anyone.

So, I met someone in this neighborhood, a seemingly nice individual who had been spending time chatting with me and buttering me up as I sat outside. This person comes from a different, more aggressive region of the country, and as such may have been more primed to noticed my attempts at kindness and position herself to take advantage of them.

Remember how I wrote in a recent entry about the difficulties inherent in a blind person really trusting another in extracting cash from an ATM? Well, I certainly have more fotter to worry after this incident.

She asked me if she could borrow $20, because she had some emergency payment or other to make.

“Sure,” I said: “we can just run up to this gas station and I can get some cash I need as well.”

So, we did that. I had told her repeatedly that I could check the statement, and would feel wary if her stated amount differed even slightly from what I heard when calling in. Unfortunately, when I checked, it appeared that she had indeed taken out an extra $10. Not much, of course, but then that’s how someone who wishes to get away with such a thing would operate.

But wait, there’s more! Shortly after she tottered off to make her purchase, she returned saying that she’d lost the money I’d just given her and needed it replaced. Clearly I wasn’t silly enough to fall into this trap.

“Well I’m sorry,” I replied “but I can’t help you with that. Plus, I indicated that my trust in this sort of endeavor is very fragile and could not easily be restored if shattered.”

She continued to beg, becoming more insistent until I had to tell her that if she didn’t leave me be immediately I was going to have to call the law. Finally, she relented.

I know what anyone who reads this will say. “O, how gullible you are.” “You just can’t be that way with people!” And perhaps they would be correct. But it is and always has been hard for me not to initially believe that a person will be as good as her word. I’m not sure if this ability is completely lost as a result of the noted occurrence, but it’s pretty doggon close! I might be kind of stupid sometimes, but my stupidity meter can only be pushed so far before it breaks.

I was just trying to be helpful, as one who has fallen on hard times myself and been helped by people who were willing to lend a hand to me as well. I sure hope I’ve never come across as trying to take advantage of their generosity though, and think that if I ever do I should be called on it as anyone else should.

Writing 101-3: Off Da Top!

Write about the three most important songs in your life — what do they mean to you?

Hmmm, I’m not entirely sure about three important songs. I would say though that it isn’;t a stretch to think that all of my favorite stuff came during the best musical decade ever, the 1990s. And one of my favorite things about the Internet is that it allows me to live in that decade continuously, the same way that adults listened to their oldies stations as I grew up.

I can think of at least one song that defined my life for a stretch: In The Still of the Night, by Boyz II Men. This is because its random singing led my two cousins and I to create a singing group. Remember that concept? I don’t think many of those exist these days, as most are solo artists. But, I suspect that history will bring it back in eventually.

I’d told this story in my other blog, the one that has since met its end, on the day Soul Train’s Don Cornelius passed. Perhaps it’s appropriate to try capturing it again on the day we lose another major music icon: Casey Kasem. If you didn’t grow up listening to his distinct voice deal out the top 40 songs of each week, well you missed a treat. I always looked forward to either his countdowns or Walt Babylove on the R&B side, which he did until deciding to emphasize gospel more.

Anyway, back to the formation of our little group. My cousins and I had just completed a rousing game of basketball with an adult, one of my cousin’s fathers in fact. How appropriate for Father’s Day? We then piled into his car to go and find some delicious, refreshing ice cream, probably at Dairy Queen.

Said song came onto the radio, and for some reason we don’t entirely recall we just began singing it. My youngest cousin took the lead vocal, I sang bass and my other cousin did the “shoo-wops”.

“Hey, that was fun!” we said once the song concluded.

It really surprised me that I was even able to do this. All of my life, I’d been told by many that I couldn’t really sing, or play instruments, (have tried to learn the piano from time to time and had gotten decent at the trumpet when in elementary band) so I’d largely become discouraged from even trying. My cousins told me more than once to stick with it though, and working with some fantastic choral instructors and singing in a couple church choirs, I began to expand my range.

RELATED: Sang With The Choir!

Due to our group’s origins, my dad suggested that we should’ve called ourselves the Backseat Boys. Lawsuit, anyone? We instead went with the name Off Da Top, because of course we wrote songs off da top of our heads! My Aunt chided us for the less-than-professional spelling, but hey why can’t we have a little fun. Like Musiq. Or Xscape.

Over the years, we continued to develop. Naturally, many of our initial favorites were Boyz II Men tunes. I especially remember singing It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye to Yesterday onboard the Catawba Queen as we cruised Lake Norman while at a summer camp sponsored by the Metrolina Association for the Blind (MAB). The restaurant area was staffed by college-age women, and one each came to rub on our backs as we sang. I nearly lost the ability to stay on the correct notes. Haha. They also shut down the PA music, so that everyone onboard could hear.

There was another time at a Raleigh ice skating rink. My cousins and I weren’t particularly big fans of this recreational activity, so we sat at the table with drinks in front of us and worked on Chi’s Baby I’m Yours. We’d made an error, and as we stopped to retry that spot we suddenly heard a loud burst of clapping. There had appeared a rather large contingent of young women, traveling with some kind of youth center. They opted to join us in singing Kirk Franklin’s Stomp. The preacher and leader of God’s Property? I think many members of that group came from Charlotte’s Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, our family’s original home church.

Our dream, like anyone who would have been doing such a thing, was to achieve stardom. I think in retrospect that it is quite fortunate we did not, as we had no idea what that would have actually entailed. The great memories we do have though, like winning a talent show at UNC Charlotte, performing to an incredibly excited congregation at First Missionary Baptist in Southern Pines with our own rendition of We Shall Overcome in celebration of Black History Month, and the like may in fact never be surpassed.

Even as my disorder continues to take away my hearing and make singing more of a chore than a joy, I will always continue to enjoy music. So, if I’m a bit flat or sharp or slightly off rhythm, try not to be too harsh! Off Da Top hasn’t performed in many years, but we have floated the idea of giving it a shot again someday. Who knows.

What about you? Can you sing, at least as we define it? Heck, to me anyone who sings just to feel that passion flow is good enough in my book.