NON-FICTION

 

 

WHAT FEELS RIGHT INSIDE

My mother came of age in Portland, Oregon during the 1960’s and 70’s with a nuclear, non-religious upbringing. She was a tomboy, ready to compete with any of the neighborhood boys at everything. She never thought about God or religion, but was baffled as to why other people couldn’t just act right and get along. Nancy blossomed into a beautiful and independent free-thinker, unbiased and unafraid of life. After birthing me at 23, she would coax me as a youngster to explore the head-high thickets behind the creek teeming with chiggers and lizards so that I could discover how and why they were there. Mother instigated my obsession with careful observation by answering every question with another question. I was a dark-skinned, dark-eyed, white kid that everyone thought was Mexican with a single mother and not enough money to keep up with the latest things most of my friends were playing with in school. My mother didn’t raise me to know much about religion or spirituality, but I did adhere to some sort of unspoken code motivated by the effects that my actions would have on others and the world around me. How did she teach me this code? Where did it come from? Was this spirituality, religion, or both?

 

I didn’t attend any church as a kid with either parents, but I was given the opportunity to explore organized religion if I felt it necessary. I remember attending mass with a schoolmate one black-clouded Sunday in Dallas, lingering in the cool tickle of the Holy Water on my head upon entering the massive arching cathedral and wondering if I would be blessed by its magic. I sat on the hard pews, zoning out while the Latin hymnals stroked my inner ear. I thought of being baptized, but my logical mind couldn’t grasp how people could get away with anything just by apologizing in private. That meant they could act however they wanted, as long as they felt remorse, which just didn’t compute. I made plenty of mistakes, but murder and rape felt unforgivable inside.

 

My mother always got up in the morning exhausted from working late and keeping tabs on my activities, then made me breakfast and took me to school before work, even if she didn’t feel well. If my mom said she would be there to pick me up from after-school daycare, she always was. When a lady at work she hardly knew confessed that she was cheating on her husband and needed an alibi, my mother told her that her business was her business, but she would take no part in it. My mother always maintained niceties and eye contact when interacting with people, regardless of their station or how dark their skin was. My mother always said to be the “bigger” person and let other’s faults slide. It was hard for me to let people call me names and not call them names back, but it did feel right. My mother was such a good person.

 

After prodding her for how she managed it to no avail, I decided to explore religions to find answers. I wandered with the bald-headed Hare Krishna to his temple for meditation and free vegetarian buffets, emanating curry and coriander. I went to a local mosque, perched on my knees and bowed my head to Allah. He seemed a lot like the Krishna guy, powerful, but benevolent. I examined closely the story of Siddhartha, in which he sacrificed himself and his comforts for the benefit of others. Inside, this felt just like the story of Jesus. The courage of Haile Selassie standing up for his people in Ethiopia enthralled me. I was intrigued by the curious birthmarks he had on the palm side of each wrist. Was there a connection with some other cultural martyr?

 

I remember serving kosher food wearing a Yamulke in a synagogue for an Israeli chef that employed me, marinating on the idea that I looked pretty snazzy in the hat. It just didn’t feel quite right. Inside, religion felt like a barrier from having a true spiritual connection with everyone and everything. I felt like I would be joining a clique, and inside it didn’t feel right for me. I finally figured out what my mom’s religion was. She did what felt right inside and that was all I needed to do. Will she ever admit to being religious or spiritual? Probably not, but what one does always is more effective than what one says.

 

Copyright 2010

MAYNE MANNISH: A STARTER FOR THE TEAM

Through the window of the booth, Mayne Mannish’s natty dreads peek out of a camouflage fitted cap that says “Mother F’er” while he rips bars into the mic in a nonchalant yet exuberant flow of simple verbiage and witty quips. The young yet experienced rapper from Berkeley, California slides out after laying his verse down to answer a few questions about his trek to downtown Los Angeles and into the realm of rap circa 2011.

 

Young Mannish wears pressed fitted jeans over squeaky clean Nikes that reflect his overall dapper demeanor and calm countenance. It is hard to miss one of his many trademark smiles that produce above-average wattage as he muses on his craft. “I’m trying to bring fun back to music,” he lets out as he makes some adjustments on the mixing board. “I’m trying to elaborate on emotions. You know. It’s all good.” When Mayne is around, everything is grins, giggles and wiggles. The flows, the fortitude and the flair are all a part of this well-constructed wordsmith.

 

The little guy with the big swag wasn’t even thinking about rapping while at Berkeley High, also known as B High. He grew up listening to Luke, Too Short, NWA, Eazy-E, and Ice Cube often via his older cousins, simmering in the party atmosphere and political prose. Clyde Carson, a Bay behemoth, pushed him to begin putting his panache on the sound tracks, so his style could leave a bigger mark and last like the smell of a good Cuban cigar lingering in a crowded club among imitations.

 

Mayne began turning his playful rhymes into scintillating recordings as part of the Bay Area trio known as The Team alongside Carson and Kaz Kyzah, two of his partners from around The Town. Mannish makes his best music spontaneously with a knack for creating catchy rhymes out of thin air like a modern-day Houdini. His bars force listeners to shake it to the beat and smile about the good times to come. His songs capture the pure joy of simple moments in a world where struggle and strife are always lurking close by. After producing numerous tracks and videos with his brodies, it became apparent that a solo project was the necessary next step.

 

Mannish is now compiling tracks for his soon-to-be released pre-album entitled, “Guilty Pleasures,” which he promises will “give people positive energy, encouraging them to be themselves while still having fun.” In a world like Los Angeles where many choose to fake it until they make it, Mayne is telling everyone through his unique and saturating sound that, “if you can be yourself and have fun, it will be a great look for you.” His rhetoric is hard to dismiss unless faking the funk is a part of your daily routine. The flows come out with ease, intellect, and sophistication on top of slapping beats that force any passerby to shake it a little and enjoy life’s many simple pleasures.

 

Mayne magnetizes talented producers, cinematographers, rappers, and ladies all looking to catch a draft from his cool breeze and intoxicating enthusiasm, which is inherent in everything he does. Look for his solo album and others on his record label, “Tape Vault,” which will be stacked with hit records by the end of his run. Young Mannish may keep his composure, but he is serious about his work and won’t stop until he is standing at the top of the music mosaic of this budding 21st century.

 

Copyright 2011

MOTHER NURTURE 

Whether it’s the death of heat in Dallas or the wind-blown summer in So Cal, Nancy Kaye is always at her game of do this and do that. The holiday of freedom celebrated every July was the scene for this day of duty. My mother, like her mother, loves to take care of her family and a holiday was the perfect excuse to bring together brethren for time well spent.

 

I came from the humidity of Dallas that boxes you in and traps you—mosquitoes hit you like torpedoes and the street burns your feet. I landed in Los Angeles a few days prior to this one. Of course, my mother was waiting at LAX with a smile and the promise of a meal. We lunched at Patty’s Diner, in Toluca Lake, which had been serving up bacon and eggs to studio personnel since the 1950’s. I chose a tuna melt and my mother ate the classic BLT. This lead to that and I’m sitting on the sofa with her merle Australian Shepherd, Wyly, who was a mirror reflection of myself--smart, obedient to a point, talkative, and unabashedly affectionate, almost to a fault.

 

My mother rose at 8:30 to begin her fastidious process of care and control. She woke to spray her balcony overlooking Universal Studios with a hose and watered her collection of cacti. The whole time I had been asleep in her studio on the air mattress, or at least tried to appear dormant. My mind takes a while to wake, and in the meantime I would not be disturbed. I heard the hose move through the sliding door and into the house, dragging all the way through the front door. Then, I heard the high-pitched voice of her thirteen-year old neighbor, asking for the dog shampoo. Monica was a cute little lady with blackened hair and piercing eyes to accompany her glistening white teeth that were a bit crooked. She was a tiny lady, an almost teenager with a gigantic amicability. She didn’t have her mother around, but she had mine.

 

“Miss Nancy, first I’ll hose the breezeway, then we’ll do Wily.”

 

“Okay, Monica,” my mother replied. “I’ll help you whenever you’re ready.”

 

“Miss Nancy,” Monica beamed back. “I think we should spray off the barred doors too.”

 

“Whatever you want to do is great,” my mother said with an inner pleasure only I could recognize.

 

Wyly followed my mother this whole while, as he rarely left her side. Every other sentence was directed towards him, which he took in stride. She often called me Wyly in passing conversation, which should illuminate the extent of his elevated status and meticulous maintenance schedule. Her day was always concerned with caring for those closest to her, one of which was a canine and the few others, human.

 

She provided for us through her design business, in which she continues to make spaces attractive, comfortable, and eclectic depending on the clientele. Regardless of the style, there is always class and artistic innovation inspired from the greats of yore. Her schedule was busy, yet she still found time to call her brothers and attend shows of her boyfriend’s band.

 

Nancy Kaye has been going since she came out of the womb, and has been gone since. Her quirky sense of humor and well-equipped intellect come from years of caring for those who cared for her--not from a classical education. She worked and worked. This day is no different.

 

Wyly was washed clean by Monica leaving only the paws and butt for my mom. Another neighbor accompanied them--Katie, a twenty-six-year-old, striking art director from Liverpool with extra virgin olive oil skin and endearing features. She related to my mother because they both prettified things--my mother in the real world and her in the cinematic realm. Monica’s miniature white poodle, Tia, kept Wyly comforted with licks and yips of understanding. Three generations of women joined together to complete the process by drying the sixty-five pound doggie.

 

I was now showered and dressed, drinking coffee from a French press and eating oatmeal, all of which my mother prepared with care. My mother returned to the cubicle-like kitchen and mixed the key-lime juice with condensed milk for the pie.

 

“So, Joe,” my mother inserted. “Do you want to go watch fireworks tonight on Mulholland with some of Brant’s friends?”

 

“Sure, after I get some reading in,” I answered.

 

“Well, we won’t be going until around 8:00 or 8:30.”

 

“I’ll let you know by then how I’m feeling,” I said, “I just don’t want to get caught up in a crowd. I’m not much for throngs of people.”

 

“I’m not either, so I’ll talk to Brant and make sure that we’ll be up for it.”

 

My mother continued her preparations for the afternoon meal commemorating our country’s independence for another year--washing and cutting all the vegetables for the sizable salad that would pair with our t-bone steaks. Vine-ripe tomatoes, slender cucumbers, sweet yellow bell peppers, complementary green onions, tender crisp hearts of romaine, baby spinach leaves, buttery avocado, protein-rich garbanzo beans, and savory black olives were thrown into the mix. Later, she topped the vegetation off with balsamic vinaigrette, lots of freshly ground black pepper, and a little cayenne that added an extra bite to instigate a thorough sinus clearance.

 

When the salad was finished, she retreated to her room for a bit of relaxation before the meal commenced. I was finally afforded the silence necessary to read at a rapid and focused pace. I dove back into the six-hundred-page epic of Dostoevsky, The Possessed, which offered a realistic fantasy world filled with a whole array of characters and perspectives. The young generation of breakthrough, radical politics versus the old bourgeoisie were still alive on the translated pages of Russian. I couldn’t help but become involved with their struggle to balance a necessary dose of rebellion with conformity for the betterment of society in its entirety. I was enthralled with the ability of the Russian literary icon to create an abundance of tangible characters that all interconnected in a way that was true to social reality. It was amazing how cold high society was towards everyone around them, even their own family, while the lower classes clung to their kin for salving the wounds inflicted by the vastly disproportionate incomes between the two classes. The story took place in the late 19th century and the less fortunate had just been released from the constraints of feudalism-- a fancy word for slavery.

 

After I was completely absorbed by the novel, my mother came strolling out of the room and seasoned the t-bone steaks for grilling. She evaluated the key-lime pie to make sure that it had set and proceeded to top it off with Cool Whip. Once the steaks were rubbedwith olive oil and fully peppered, she placed them on the propane grill that sat on her patio overlooking the tall buildings of Studio City. As I kept reading, I could hear them sizzling on the fiery grill that sat atop the city like a temple of sacrifice.

 

“Joe, you forgot the asparagus,” my mother said as she poked her head inside.

 

“Oh, yeah,” I replied as I hopped up from the sofa to retrieve the green spears from the icebox.

 

I thrust the stalks under the water to cleanse the unwanted additives and placed them on the cutting board for chopping. I cut them into small sections because I had decided to sauté them in extra virgin olive oil rather than steam them. I put the olive oil in the skillet to heat it up for a moment before adding the asparagus. Then I placed some of the left over chives in the oil to add to the garlic, black pepper, and dash of salt that would bring these green bits to the pinnacle of pleasure. A few seconds later, I tossed in the greenery and used a spatula to keep everything moving towards completion. My mother let me know that everything was about 4 minutes from being ready, and I assured her that the greens should be done right on time. My mind withdrew as the task became monotonous.

 

Only after my mother came into the kitchen with the beefsteaks did I exit my trance. I tasted a piece of asparagus and concluded that they were perfect. After removing them from the heat, I divvied out a few onto two of the three plates, as my mother’s boyfriend, Brant, was not a big fan of anything green that couldn’t be smoked.

 

Copyright 2009

 

 

 

SLOW DOWN FOR CLYDE CARSON

Clyde Carson is comfortable wherever he goes, whether he’s on stage or in the studio recording. When I walk in his downtown LA loft/studio, he wears Jordans, pressed Levis and a snap-back cap. A serious demeanor is exemplified in his tall, muscled, and clean-cut physique. Each detail of his appearance and behavior reflect a professional mindset-- all business with no margins for mistake.

 

He produces music that provides consistency in the form of certified street-speak, which attributes to his diverse fan base from New York to the A and back to the Bay. Born in East Oakland, California, and then migrating to Berkley for high school at B High, Carson was influenced by an eclectic array of cultural elements that resonate in his smooth and calculating sound.

 

After immersing himself in basketball at an early age and then a short stint testing the waters at a pro-run playing on the team at Solano Junior College, Carson decided to really make his push into the rap realm. He moved to New York in 2001. “I was out there when it was really poppin,” he says. Like 50 Cent, Carson laced mix tapes with his rhymes over popular beats, which at that time was an innovative, fresh approach to self-promotion using the Internet as a vehicle for long-range coverage.

 

Pounding pavement all over the five boroughs and crashing at different friends cribs in Brooklyn, he finally received radio play on KMEL by hand-delivering his mix tape to one of the DJ’s. His group, The Team, debuted with Beyond the Glory, which featured Nas, Nate Dogg, B-Legit and Keek da Sneak. His records began to penetrate the public hemisphere with daily spins on the radio.

 

Carson is a regular Johnny-on-the-spot--throw a microphone at him and lead him to a recording booth. Within minutes, he will be threading rhymes into intricate percussions infused with enrapturing melodies. His most recent efforts elicit smart, insightful glimpses of the modern urban world, where competition is tougher and one must go all-out to leave a lasting imprint on the planet. His upcoming album, Something to Speak About, promises to give all the hungry heads something to spur some dialogue, causing plenty of chitter-chatter around the boulevards and the world-wide-web.

 

Clyde has updated his program. When I ask him what people should expect from his next release, he tells me, “Something fresh and new.” Carson thinks about everything before he opens his mouth. The music and storytelling he emits mirrors an architect’s model prior to construction. Each component is arranged with exacto knife precision to represent a stable and efficient construction that will last for years to come.

 

Copyright 2012

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© 2014 by Joseph Michael Iraggi