How Greg Got His Black Card

I’m white…in case you didn’t know.

Several years ago, while teaching in Atlanta, my friend Jerald gave me a Black card.  No really, he created and then gave me a Black card.  It said, “I’m Black,” and had his signature.  Later that month, Jerald made keys for all of us to access a storage room at the school where we worked.  He put colored plastic rings around each key.  Andrea, another Black teacher, asked Jerald, “Which key is Del Duca’s?” Immediately, Jerald responded, “Del Duca Black.”  She smiled and nodded in agreement.  “Right.”

So how is it that this soon-to-be-forty-two-year-old white guy gets a Black card?

It all starts in 1946.

I know, the math doesn’t work, does it?  Thing is, this story only continues with me.  It started with my Mom.

She was born and raised smack dab in the middle of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and she was into black music from the get go.  She loved doo-wop, then she loved Motown, then she loved funk, rhythm & blues.  She saw Sly and the Family Stone; Earth, Wind, and Fire; and she even grooved to brother James Brown’s, “Black and Proud.”

My Mom was, and is, Catholic…more hip to the new-testament and social-justice Jesus, the rise of the non-violent civil rights struggle, and the spiritual liberalism of the Kennedy clan and Martin Luther King, Junior.

She cared about fairness, judged a man by the content of his character, and  was, by all accounts, pretty fly for a white girl.

On September 16th, 1974, she gave birth to me.

That’s where her story continues and mine begins.

If nature and nurture predict anything, you can see straight away how I earned that Black card.  Really, I didn’t earn it.  Mom did, and I was fortunate enough to inherit it, cherish it and come of age at a point where I could wear a term like “Wigger” as a badge of…if not honor or pride, then at least simple reality; and neither as a scarlet letter nor a threat of bodily harm.

And then, in a simultaneously serendipitous and ironic turn of events my biological father (…who by all accounts had been a full-blooded Sicilian-American racist raised by full-blooded Sicilian-American racists…) married a Black woman.  He moved in with Angie, his new wife, and her teenage children in the Alequippa projects where he became the only white resident.  Except when I visited, which doubled the Caucasian population.

My biological Father was immature, debilitated by whatever experiences he had in Vietnam and, previous to that, his upbringing in a dysfunctional immigrant home.  Ultimately he proved not a good, not even a decent father.  But Angie and her children?  They were wonderful.  They welcomed me.  The enveloped me in love and they protected me from my Dad, particularly when he was behaving irrationally or overwhelming me with his unresolved emotional baggage.  Which was often.

I loved Angie.  I loved my step-siblings.  I loved the Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, and Hall & Oates constantly blasting from someone’s room.

I ate government cheese, stood in line for free lunches, and frolicked in sprinklers, not pools.  I felt like a little part of something; gained confidence.  I projected my inclusion into Angie’s family onto the entire community…and there…was the mistake that would sink my titanic confidence.

It was Summer. 1983.

I’d eaten my subsidized snack, splashed in a stagnant puddle, and began the walk back to our apartment.

I noticed four kids, a bit older than me, climbing the steep, rocky hill that formed a natural amphitheater looking down on the front façade of Building C.  I was intrigued.  They hit a flat spot and they started singing, “Under the Boardwalk.”

This was it.

I tore up the hill…as fast a fat-ass preteen can.

Now sweaty, curly hair stuck to my glistening forehead, shorts riding up my now-chafed inner thighs, nearly out of breath, I reached the flat.  There, next to the bass, was a spot.  For me.  I hit my mark, and I joined in.

And the singing stopped.

Not me, though.

“Un-derrrr the boh-whoa-oard walk…”

(Now I realize the quintet has become a solo)

And one of the Faux-Drifters stepped back and shoved me with all of the anger and frustration he could muster.

They say a rolling stone gathers no moss.

A fat kid, however, gathers all kinds of shit along the way.

As I neared the bottom, their laughing ceased and the chorus resumed.

I stood.  Angry.  Embarrassed.  Sad.  And in unbelievable bodily pain.  I stared back up, and at a distance that now seemed impossibly far the quartet performed to an audience of anybody but me.

I limped back to the apartment, my spirit crushed…and Angie wiped me off and built me back up.  And Shawn, her son closest in age to me, told me to forget about all that mess.  He referred to me as brother.  And William, the eldest, who had Colecovision…let me play uninterrupted until the tears dried and I licked the salty remnants from my cheeks and lips, “Sarah Smile” drifting down the hall from my half-sister Tanya’s room.

(If you feel like leavin’, you know you can go…)

You see…that experience could have pushed me in any number of directions.  But I had my Mom.  And I had the love and protection of one Black family.

I came to love soul food.  I heard Newcleus’, “Jam On It” and was a certified hip-hop head until…well, until this very moment.  I absorbed the art…through music, literature, spoken words, and other media…of numerous Black luminaries.  I served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Kenya and I helped found a KIPP charter school in East Point, Georgia.  I hit emotional rock bottom there in Atlanta and was enveloped in the love of a Black man and his Baptist church.  In 2004, Jerald, and Neriah Baptist Church saved me, just like Angie and her clan did twenty years earlier.

I got my Black card from my brother, Jerald.

And although I no longer have the actual artifact, those words remain in my soul…I’m Black…with Jerald’s signature, the songs of Neriah and the embrace of Pastor Lindsay, and the words of Angie and her family etched lovingly upon my heart; all wrapped in a bow of unconditional love from my Mom.

So if you need me…

…on a blanket with my baby is where I’ll be.

-G

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“A Life Restored” (Ernie Barnes)

To Pee or Not To Pee? (Chirdonathon, pt 6)

That…was…the question.

The answer?  I did not pee.

Other things we learn today:

  1. “Cumbersome,” by Seven Mary Three is, well, cumbersome.  Except when I’m singing it passionately.  Then it’s both annoying and cumbersome.
  2. Shadyside: 10,878 rich white people can’t be wrong.
  3. Greg gives Quincy Jones perhaps too much credit, which is all of the credit, for Michael Jackson’s early solo music (i.e. Off the Wall, Thriller).  This morning, a soberer, more contemplative Greg is feeling less…uh…you could say, histrionic.
  4. Pittsburgh Popcorn Company popcorn is, and I clear my throat in preparation for a pure yinzer compliment, “Ruhl good.”
  5. The Bronx and Mariachi El Bronx are the very same band.  (If you knew this, and again I clear my throat, this time to  provide a quintessential Christian Bale exclamation, “Good for you!”)  I didn’t know this.  It kind of blew my booze soaked mind.

This episode is brought to you by the letters P-R-I-N-C-E and the number (…are you really doing this, Del Duca?  Yes.  Yes, I am…) 69.  The music?  “Gett Off” and “Get On the Boat.”  (See what I did there?)

We present to you, “To Pee or Not To Pee? (Chirdonathon, pt 6)

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Life Isn’t

Death, they say, is inevitable.

Actually, it’s more profound than that.

Biologically, at least, it’s a constant.

Almost every cell in your body has died and been replaced. And will be again, many times if you’re healthy and lucky. Obviously, it doesn’t happen all at once, but rest assured…or lose sleep at night like me…your body is constantly dying and regenerating…but never quite as well as the time before. That’s aging. Remember when you used to make mix tapes, and each time you recorded from tape to tape you’d lose fidelity? By the fourth overdub of “Rymin’ and Stealin’,” The Beastie Boys sound like they actually delivered Colonel Sanders down to Davy Jones’ locker? Yeah, that.

Eventually, however, the whole biological factory shuts down…and death, systemic and absolute death, is inevitable.

There may be a soul. There may be a spirit. There may be some cosmic, universal Truth that is neither soul nor spirit. Perhaps both. Or maybe…none of the above is the right answer. If I had an extra $100 to wager and you gave me “all the shit we’ve ever come up with as a species” or “anything else,” I’d take anything else every time. And win.

I’ve heard it said, “Somebody’s got to be right.”

I’m not so sure. Thinking about things from a multiverse perspective (…there very well may be infinitely infinite universes…), what are the odds that somebody here on this tiny little planet has it right?

Worse…by far…than any earthly gamble you could imagine.

It’s most likely that nobody has the whole thing figured out. Life, the universe, and everything. 42 is just about as good, and simultaneously horrible, an answer as any. That’s what Douglas Adams meant, I think. (By the way, you owe it to yourself to read “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” if you haven’t already.) We know what is perceivable and conceivable to us, as humans. That’s what we know. That’s…ALL…we know. We don’t know anything that is imperceptible and inconceivable to us, as humans…and that’s just about everything.

When I think about this and allow my mind to travel as close as possible to the infinitesimally small or the infinitely large, I begin to hyperventilate and desire only a cold, hard floor on which to curl up in the fetal position and gently rock myself to sleep.

It is all just…too much.

So I watch Game of Thrones and Bob’s Burgers, I run on a treadmill like the cosmic rat I am, I consume copious amounts of, “Yeah, this lets me forget about death for a while,” I sleep on an extravagant mattress, I read and listen to the likes of Ram Dass and Alan Watts…because they seem to have figured something out.

Existential crisis. That’s what they call it. If I didn’t pursue those things that distract my wondering brain, along with steady doses of my wife and several friends with whom I feel completely okay, I believe I’d be one of the few people living in a state of perpetual existential crisis. Fetal position and all.

And this all comes from where?

I’m sitting in my car, nervous, sad, contemplating mortality, waiting to help my parents bury their dog. Sadie was a good girl. Now she’s a carcass in a trash bag. It brings me grief at a depth which requires SCUBA gear and triggers a blunt, unrelenting panic that I can taste.

Death is inevitable.

But you know what?

Life isn’t.

Dig that.

That I’m alive, on earth, at a time we call 2016, sitting here typing these words into this tiny machine that, when connected to the ubiquitous and invisible data streams we call “the internet,” knows everything…is so improbable that it should be regarded as a miracle.

Life is an improbable miracle.

But if we accept life, we must also accept and understand that death is her partner. We’ve fooled ourselves into dichotomizing everything, a ubiquitous competition of ON versus OFF, when everything, in fact, is synchronized. On…AND…off. Simultaneously. Like a wave. One part indistinguishable without the others. There is no peak without a trough, no angle without lines, no subject without an object, no life without death. We’d be better off calling it, “lifedeath.”

That’s the answer.

And this year, I’ll turn 42.

Forty-Two.

(Yes, I have my towel.)

-G

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Cards Against Humanity 1 (Chirdonathon, pt 5)

To make this all very clear. This is the fifth installment of the Chirdonathon. Additionally, this is the first installment of Greg’s inaugural game of Cards Against Humanity (CAH). Thus, the double number shenanigans in the title.

We good?  Good.

What is Cards Against Humanity? Well, if you are a grown-ass person who has not been living under the tedious log that apparently I have, here is an explanation as culled from the podcast banter:

  1. It’s essentially Apples to Apples for grown-ass, wrong-minded people who don’t offend easily…but who offend others often.
  2. You say you also don’t know what the hell Apples to Apples is?  Okay, well first you need to play more games.  Games are fun.  Fun is like happy medicine.  But I digress…CAH goes like this: a joke is played (which is the black card) on which the punchline is left blank…players provide punchlines (which are the white cards, of which 7 are carried at all times by each player) and attempt to “win” the round by constructing the funniest joke depending upon whomever is judging the round.

In today’s episode, Heather throws shade Greg’s way, and he doesn’t know quite how to handle it.

We also learn that, if the crowd is familiar and/or trusted, have similar senses of humor, and/or diverse shared context, and is quite inebriated, the game of Cards Against Humanity is super fun.

To close: Stand. Think. Pee. (And please, whatever you do in this world, think before giving commands to smartasses.)

Music: Lots of TLC!!  We begin with “Waterfalls” and end with “Friends.”  Thematic in multiple ways, as you’ll hear!

Have fun.  We present to you, “Cards Against Humanity 1 (Chirdonathon, pt 5).”

 

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Snow Globe (EDQ5)

Just when I feel I’m there, that I’ve overcome the clingy, anxious bits of my ego, settled into a groove of effortless internal peace, aligned with the universe, and touched the surface of Truth…just then, the snow globe of illusion encompassing my consciousness shatters and once again and I’m left gasping for air.  And there, in my hands, sits another snow globe in which stands another me holding another snow globe.  I begin to understand then…again. The prospect of seemingly unending nearly-enlightenment and the inevitable shedding of this earthly body brings an aching, palpable grief.  I crumble, prostrate at the feet of anyone or anything that will listen without judgement and love unconditionally.  I weep.  Wail. Eventually, quiet.  And the sediment settles, the waters clear, flecks of reflected sun piercing pupils and I can breathe again.  In through the nose.  Out from the mouth.  One, two, three, four… I return to the breath.  The present.  Here.  Now.  Sleep comes like a gentle midnight wave lapping at the sandy shore, carrying anything in its grasp to deeper, blacker depths.  And eventually, as always (always?), I awake and I walk the earth anew.  I rediscover the art of previous gurus who, through words, movements, songs, and all manner of abstract representation illuminate the otherwise impenetrable.  I am filled with the ecstasy of irreducible rascality. I dig and discover.  Being. Being meta. Metabeing.  And just when I feel I’m there, that I’ve overcome the clingy, anxious bits of my ego, settled into a groove of effortless internal peace, aligned with the universe, and touched the surface of Truth…just then, the snow globe of illusion encompassing my consciousness shatters once again and I’m left gasping for air.  But this time, I’m left with a fading phrase like a near-waking dream drifting away.  The waves.  The shore.  The opaque depth.  Death.  It will be gone soon, but for now it resonates, “One of these days the final globe will burst.  But you will forget that, too.  And after that?  And after that…”

snow globe

Jazz (EDQ4)

Being is jazz

is intentional improvisation is improvisational intention is

relationship

is listening is observing is participating is initiating is responding is

collaborating

is interdependence is dependence is independence is

illusion

is independence is depdendence is interdependence is

collaborating

is responding is initiating is participating is observing is listening is

relationship

is improvisational intention is intentional improvisation is

jazz is being.

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Breaking Deadpool (Chirdonathon, pt 4)

As of the night on which this podcast was recorded, Greg had not yet played Cards Against Humanity (CAH).  This recording was supposed to usher in a new era for Greg.  However, as of the end of the podcast Greg had STILL not played CAH.  This goes to prove the following, the combination of Greg plus Christopher plus Heather plus Jeff plus copious spirits equals a night of circuitous, tangential, humorous, improvisational-jazz-like circumlocution.  Do not worry, D2Dreeps, in the upcoming weeks you will have a front row seat to Greg’s inaugural CAH shenanigans.  For tonight?  We ask and discuss the following questions:

Have you seen Deadpool? (You should.)

Arrested Development?  (I haven’t. Should I? Jeff seems to think so.)

What’s your favorite Ben and Jerry’s flavor?  (Mine is Chocolate Therapy.)

Have you read The Walking Dead? Preacher?  Sandman?  Anything by Alan Moore? (Again, you should.)

Do you love Jared Leto or hate Jared Leto, or do you even give a shite?  (Also, is it Lee-toh? Or Leh-toh?)

Have you been excited or worried, or both (…or neither…) about the prospect of AMC, Seth Rogan, and Evan Goldberg bringing “Preacher” to television?  (As of the night on which this recording occurred, it had not been released.  As of the release of this recording, there have been two episodes.  I think it’s brilliant.  It seems to honor the canon.)

Speaking of, do you agree with Jeff that, in bringing any graphic novel or comic to screen, you must follow this golden rule: Don’t fuck with the canon? (Do you also agree that one should not fuck a cannon?)

Have you read Brett Easton Ellis (…and Lunar Park in particular, ‘cause it’s quite good…), Italo Calvino, Etgar Keret, and/or the short stories of Stephen King?  (Short stories, people…we like ‘em!)

Are you claustrophobic?  (If so, don’t visit the aforementioned Etgar Keret’s home, and don’t take the elevator up the Gateway Arch in St. Louis.)

Next week, Cards Against Humanity, I promise.

But for now, we present to you, “Breaking Deadpool (Chirdonathon, pt 3)”

P.S. Oh, and hey, if you shop on amazon and you want to support Driven 2 Drink just a little bit more, do us this favor…at the end of the URL of any item you purchase, just tag this on: /?tag=dritodri-20

When you add that tag, amazon knows we sent you and that you love us, and they give us a small percentage of whatever you spend on the dollar.  (It’s like 5%, but that adds up!)  So thanks again!

P.P.S. The music!  We’re giving you two gorgeous pieces of music by Ben Harper, the first, “You Found Another Lover (I Lost Another Friend),” with the incomparable Charlie Musselwhite, and the second, “In the Lord’s Arms,” which makes a man cry every time.

P.P.P.S. A man has no name.

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Profoundly Unapologetic (EDQ3)

I’ve chosen to live most of my life apologizing, unaware of that volition, worried I wasn’t good enough, that I couldn’t deliver the expectations of others who held me in high esteem, placed me on a pedestal and left me there, scared, naked, and alone atop an emotional funeral pyre.  I’ve always needed to be the person I feared I might not be, but that’s not a real person, you dig?  It’s a self-inflicted illusion of universal proportions.  A seed of deception sown and grown in synthetic turf sewn over a fearful heart, a seemingly impenetrable wall around me, shielding my vision from the Truth of universal interconnectedness…and thus I have required the definitions and accolades of others.

Tell me that I am good.  (You are bad.)  Tell me that I am attractive. (You are ugly.)  Tell me that I am smart.  (But not smart enough.)  Deem me worthy. (Okay, but you know deep down you’re not.)  Build me up so that I can tear it down. (YES!)  I love you and need you to tell me who I am but fuck you and goddammit I hate when you box me in.  (Which is precisely what I taught you to do.)  And so now I box you in, because an alibi requires corroboration.

What would happen if I relinquished this role, removed the costume, tore down the set, exposed the rafters and we all simultaneously opened our eyes?  Are you as afraid as I am?  (You are.)

On that pedestal.  Exposed.  I never acknowledged the ladder just under the platform.  It’s so much more comfortable up here.  Familiar.  The devil I know…even though I know it’s eroding my soul…which is the soul of the universe.

Interdependent.  Trans-existential.  An inseparable whole.

And the ladder?  Still unnecessary, because I never noticed these wings.

My wings.  Which are your wings.

Our glorious escape.

Now unfurled, we leap…

>>>

>>>

>>>

 

…profoundly unapologetic.

 

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Punk, Prince, & Peter Jackson (Chirdonathon, pt 3)

The title pretty much says everything that needs to be said, so let me ask you a few questions:

Have you ever broken into a friend’s house to watch B-Rated horror movies?

Have you ever red rocketed a dog to completion?

Have you ever watched Sex Trek III, the Wrath of Bob?

(Jim, you’re back!)

(Yes, and this is my front.)

Is your favorite Peter Jackson movie, “Dead Alive?”

Is your favorite Sam Raime movie, “Army of Darnkess?”

Have you ever worn the batteries out of a Blockbuster Video VHS copy of Frankenhooker which said, “Wanna date?!”

Have you ever considered the following: Which record before Nirvana’s, “Nevermind,” had a similar cultural impact?

Have you ever asked yourself, who, if anyone, is the heir apparent to Prince?

Yes?

No?

Have a listen folks, because you will learn a little bit more about all of this.

We present to you, “Punk, Prince, and Peter Jackson (Chirdonathon, pt 3).”

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Bill Murray approved. Sluts and Bolts. (heh-heh)

A Grid, Unconventionally Bound (EDQ2)

A grid, unconventionally bound.
Hidden, but intentionally found.

A mandala, conventionally round.
Silence, within cacophonous sound.

I am all of those things.
I am what you need me to be.
I am you…and you are me.

We are but one among infinite expressions of Truth.
We seek truth but cannot find it.  Why?
Silly rabbit, Truth is for kids.

Be like a kid.   A child, unbound by dogma; familial, societal, historical expectations.  Shed the name they gave you, the roles that enslave you.

You can’t find Truth because You are looking for You,
treading water in a shallow pool,
running desperately on a treadmill among ignorant fools.

There are no rules.
Step off.
Stand up.

Close your eyes.
Open your heart…

…and…

…look in the mirror.

 

It is you!

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