Feb 14 2012

Where Do Broken Hearts Go?

“If I should die this very day, don’t cry, ’cause on Earth we wasn’t meant to stay…” -Whitney Houston (Your Love is My Love)

Forgive me for being blunt, but my grandmother died exactly the same way Whitney Houston did, alone in a hotel bathtub. Only, Grandma left a note. She was tired of feeling bad.

Though I was not yet born when Grandma Rita died, I can tell you that the trauma of such an event is like a tidal wave, leaving those directly in it’s path drowning in pain (and seeking an escape from that pain), and those of us further down the line wading through the ripples of the pain-induced choices made by the ones who only metaphorically drowned.

The toxicology results in Whitney’s death are not expected for weeks, but those closest to her are already discussing a combination of Xanex and alcohol as the probable cause.

In my grandmother’s day it was “tranquilizers” the doctors suggested to cure “melancholy” and “nerves”. Today, the pharmaceutical companies are pushing pushing pushing “mood stabilizers” and pain killers on the public like they are TicTacs.

I’d wager that while Bobbi Kristina was in the hospital for “extreme hysteria” (mourning) she was being “calmed down” with a drug similar to the one that likely killed her mom.

I realize medication is often a life-saver, but what has happened to our society that makes “popping a xanax or two” before or during a stressful situation “the cure?”

When will our alcohol-guzzling, pill-popping culture find healthier, non-chemical relief for the broken-hearted? Isn’t that really what depression and anxiety are? A desire to feel happy and fulfilled, with no idea what the steps are to get there, or even where the journey to bliss begins?

When my fiance died, a few people lovingly offered me anti-depressants, telling me I shouldn’t be ashamed of needing it. I wasn’t ashamed. I just figured the pain would still be there when the drug wore off and I would be looking for more drug instead of diving into the pain and dealing with it. The pain was so intense, there were days I wished I were dead, and though I’d never experienced pain like it, my intuition told me that if I could hang in there, with time my heart would heal (which, thank God, it did).

Perhaps there’s a place in me that knows the havoc wreaked by my grandmother’s substance addiction–and it kept me from ever stepping on that path to disaster.

I get that people are frightened for her, but it seems to me the last thing Bobbi Kristina needs is for someone to take her hand and lead her down the same path her mother struggled a lifetime to escape from.

I don’t mean to sound judgmental. And I’ll say it again–I realize medication is often a life-saver. I’m just angry and hurt at all these people dropping dead from LEGAL drugs and alcohol (while the war on illegal drugs rages on.) Prescription drugs kill 300% more people each year than ALL of the ILLEGAL ones (heroin, cocaine, meth, etc.) combined.

Really. Enough already.

“The cure for the pain is in the pain.” -Rumi


Jun 2 2011

Scott Heron’s Music ‘Reflected Black Anger’ (WTH ?!) I Can’t…

On Friday, May 27th, 2011, Gil Scott-Heron died, and it was up to the rest of us left here on Earth to decide whether that mattered much. Within hours, the Internet began buzzing about his life, his incredible talent, and the impression his words and music left on the minds and hearts of millions of us, of every ethnicity, around the globe.

I was one of the writers online that day, hurriedly putting together a post that might somehow reflect the impact this man had on me when I was first exposed to his music/heart/genius at a young age. Finding words to explain the emotional connection I feel to this poet/griot/brother I never even met is impossible, so I posted his words instead  and mourned his passing privately.

Two days later, after spending the weekend with his music, I thought I’d try again at a more in-depth tribute to Mr. Scott-Heron. I began a fact-finding mission by visiting Google to find details related to his life and death. I typed “Gil Scott-Heron” “died,” and at the top of the results list was this headline from a Washington Post obituary by Christian Salazar, a writer for the Associated Press:

Gil Scott-Heron, Whose Music Reflected Black Anger, Dies at 62


You’re a journalist for the AP. You are given the great honor of writing Gil Scott-Heron’s obituary.  That’s your headline?

I can’t…

The matter-of-fact obituary was sprinkled with bland tidbits about Scott-Heron’s life, but was mostly a commentary on his “battle with crack cocaine,”  “time in jail,”  and “living with HIV.”

It is beyond me to figure out how anyone who has investigated this incredible artist’s body of work could write 546 words about him without the terms “legend” “genius,” “soul,” “passion” or “intensity” ever coming to mind.

“His songs often had incendiary titles — ‘Home Is Where the Hatred Is,’ or ‘Whitey on the Moon,’ and through spoken word and song, he tapped the frustration of the masses.” -Christian Salazar

There was no mention of  Scott-Heron’s Pieces of a Man:

I saw my grandma sweeping
With her old straw broom
But she didn’t know what she was doing
She could hardly understand
That she was really sweeping up..
Pieces of a man

Save the Children:

“We got to do something yeah to save the children
Soon it will be their test to try and save the world
Right now they seem to play such a small part of
The things that they soon be right at the heart of

Rivers of My Fathers:

Looking for a way. Got to find a way out of this confusion
Looking for a sign point my way home
Let me lay down by a stream miles from everything
Rivers of my fathers. Rivers of my fathers
Carry me home. Please carry me home

or his rendition of Withers’ Grandma’s Hands:

Grandma’s hands clapped in church on Sunday mornings
Grandma’s hands played the tambourine so well
Grandma’s hands used to issue out a warning…

Grandma’s hands soothed the local unwed mothers
Grandma’s hands used to ache sometimes and swell
Grandma’s hands, well they really came in handy…

But I don’t have grandma anymore…
When I get to heaven I’ll look for grandma’s hands.

It feels sadly tragic to me that a person could focus so intently on the perceived deficits in Gil Scott-Heron’s life and character and miss the wealth of love, honesty and instruction with which he gifted us.

As with countless creative geniuses such as Jackson, Joplin, Gibran, Hemingway, etc. (who possessed an extraordinary ability to tap into the love, hopes, struggles, pain and anger of a people) Heron spent much of his life emotionally raw—it is an existence that often leads exceptional poets, authors, artists and musicians to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol.

It is interesting/frustrating/infuriating to peruse the Internet for obituaries of other infamous icons and find the legendary Johnny Cash, who fought drug and alcohol addiction and had several brushes with the law, but whose “angry music” is respectfully balanced against his entire body of work.

Yet, somehow the genius of Gil Scott Heron can so easily be reduced to “…black anger.”

Black anger.


I’m wondering what you might say about that today, Mr. Scott-Heron ?

A Prayer for Everybody to be Free
by Gil Scott-Heron

This is a prayer for everybody
In the world
‘Cause I need you and you need me
We need each other

This is a prayer for everybody
in the world
A prayer for you
A prayer for me
A prayer for love and harmony
A prayer for light for all to see
A prayer that someday we’ll all be free

There’s a lot that’s wrong
We must be strong
And not become bitter
If there’s a chance
That mankind will profit
Why should we scoff at something new
Or old – if it can make us better?

This is a prayer for everybody
In the world
‘Cause without you
And without me
Without love and harmony
Without courage and dignity
What would it mean
To be free?

Amen, Brother Gil.


Jan 2 2011

I Don’t Hate “Octomom”

If she’s not buying a ticket for this week’s  Mega Millions lottery, Nadya Suleman should pray for me to win.

If I did win that $290 million, I would gladly take 1% of my winnings and build a house for “Octomom” and her 14 children–not because I agree with her decision to ef around with nature and bring all those kids into the world with no partner to help her feed, house and parent them–but because now that the kids are here, who really wants them to end up homeless?

Nadya and 9 of her 14 children

I will probably receive hate mail for saying it, but I don’t hate Nadya at all. Yeah, so she cost us tax payers a few million dollars. On the list of people to be mad as hell at for the irresponsible decisions they’ve made that are costing me money, believe me, Ms. Suleman is waaaaaaaaay down at the bottom. I’m far too upset about:

$800 billion spent on Afghanistan war
$400 billion spent in Iraq
$1 trillion failed war on drugs
$700 billion bank bailout
$800 billion in tax cuts for the rich

I can’t even fathom the mindset of a person who would camp out in front of Nadya’s house or bust out her car windows to protest her irresponsibility. Please. Camp your ass out at the doors of Haliburton or AIG. Bust out some windows at one of the many million dollar homes of Martin Sullivan or Lloyd Blankfein if you’re deadset on taking your anger out on somebody who makes us pay for their dumb (greedy) choices.

After watching her interview with Oprah, I really do believe Nadya has been dealing with an untreated mental illness that makes her addicted to giving birth–like how people get addicted to tattoos (except birth is a lot more painful…and pretty much impossible to reverse.)

It’s not a great thing to be adding fourteen more to the millions of kids in the world who don’t have a father in their home, but at least these kids are fortunate to have a mother (arguably a tad off her rocker) who loves them. The upside of this whole thing is that Suleman is not a drug addict who sits around eating Dingdongs and watching soaps all day. She’s pretty intelligent and articulate, and she has a degree in child development. Most eye witnesses have said she has good parenting skills despite being so outnumbered by her offspring.

(Wouldn’t it just be beautifully ironic if one Sulemon’s kids grows up to cure cancer, or some other disease afflicting the children of the protesters who  despise them all so much?)

For those who can’t get past their hatred of her, I have a suggestion that might help shift your paradigm. Imagine Suleman is a sterile, childless woman who has opened an orphanage and volunteered to care for fourteen adopted children for the rest of her life. You would pin a medal on her.

I would buy her a house.

UPDATE: (1/3/11) I will not be approving any more comments, because to do that I have to read them and I’d rather not expose myself to the profanity, name calling and viciousness.

“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” -Buddha