Seen It All

I joked with a friend of mine saying that after returning from Virginia “I feel like the realest nigga on the planet.” While such a statement may be hyperbole, a part of me does feel as if I am cut from a very rare cloth. I may not have visited Timile’s actual grave like I planned to; but I actually visited her parents and set foot in their house. The feeling of fearlessness and relative peace I have had is empowering.

For my first twenty-four hours back in New York all I could listen to while in a reflective state of mind was Jeezy’s “Seen It All.” It’s a dope song in which the track itself sounds like a song at the end of the movie where one can’t help but look back after the proverbial dust had settled.

I think what really drew me to this particular song was the story Jeezy told about Jay Z’s verse. Jizzle said that Jay Z had tears in his eyes as he recorded his verse.

I believe every verse Jay tells about his past. Coming home during my freshman year from college I sat next to an older man on the plane and read a XXL magazine with Hov on the cover. The man next to me with gray hair and glasses looked at it and said to me “Jay Z. I used to buy crack from him on the corner of Myrtle and Marcy Ave.” That moment put a face to the stories Jay told of “Selling snowflakes by the oz.”

I say that because for that to be one of the most personal tales Jay has ever told, the tone is his voice sounds no different than when he’s professing love for his wife, gushing over his daughter, or being a mysogenist fifteen years ago. For as casual as someone can tell you a tale-even if they have moved on-you have no idea what it feels like. All of the details can affect a listener-or in my case, the reader-and it’ll never do justice to the actual moments that defined them. There’s such an even keel about Jay Z that feels as if there is very little that rattles his cage because of his experience. Behind that nonchalant demeanor is someone still closes his eyes and sees these flashes of traumatic experiences that while he wishes he didn’t live them knows it has played a major role in his success. I know because it happens to me.

One of my close friends died last Monday. I wound up spending most of the day by myself reflecting on all of the times we talked about everything we had been through over the last five years. That night while Cydney was lying in bed she asked to look at pictures of Timile, herself, and me. She then asked to see pictures of the three of us and my friend together and I had to let her know those don’t exist. I did the best I could by showing pictures of her and us separately. She then wanted to see videos of Timile and her.

It was an interesting moment albeit one I wasn’t in the mood for. Cyd would look at them and at “I remember that,” even though the video would be of her as an infant.  The videos gradually progressed from Cydney being held by her mother, to following her mom around in a walker, to her toddling around with me, to a four year old who can juggle a soccer ball exceptionally well for her age. I looked at those videos and said “Aww, I kinda miss you being a baby like this.”

Somewhere between fighting sleep and being Cydney, she said “I miss being a baby, too,” and began to work herself into tears. She has a complex about missing things. She’ll say she misses the most insignificant thing, but in the moment it means the world to her and it makes her cry. It’s because she knows something is missing in her life. Cydney was articulating that she wished she could go back to the time when her mother was alive. She then rolled her face out of the pillow, laid her head on my shoulder, and said to me “I don’t have a mom,” in a very sad voice.

That was a crushing moment. Cydney has said this before. What made this time very different was that the person I would call and would joke with until I felt better died that morning. It was one of those moments I will always be able to close my eyes and see.


They Reminisce Over You Pt. 2

I went to bed this morning around 1:30 am. I woke up at 4:30 am and started my day and work week like many others. I got a call from my former roommate, Devin, informing me that our good friend Donnell passed away this morning from a heart attack.

I hate these phone calls.

Immediately my heart went out to his wife and three children. He was only thirty-one years old. I left my desk, called Devin back and the first thing I could say to him was “Fuck!” I couldn’t say that in my workspace; so I walked into the stairway and let that out because I had to. Donnell Tyler was my boy.

I’ve written about Donnell before. We became friends when I began to produce and manage he, Devin, and their friend, Dyquan’s gospel rap group. Once a month they would drive from Charleston, SC to Atlanta to record. It would be the four of us in Timile and my apartment for twelve hour studio sessions . Donnell and I clicked right away. As the married man, he was the only one of my friends who understood the arguments I would have with her. Many times my venting would end with Timile coming outside and in a confrontational tone exclaim “Are you talking about me?!” He would laugh and say “Go handle the breh.”

We really became friends after I moved from Atlanta and Timile passed away. We would talk two-to-three times a week because we had similar struggles. We were both minimally employed doing our best to take care of our families. A year ago to the week things changed. He finally found gainful employment and so did I. We both felt as if we had finally reached that light at the end of the tunnel that had seemed dim since 2010. We still spoke frequently.

Donnell was there for me through a lot. A lot of my relationship drama he would be the voice of reason to. There was a time when I didn’t have ten dollars to my name. My ex and I were starting to become friends again and she’d recently had surgery. He sent me $80 to buy her a decent get well soon gift and to take the train to see her. We spoke so much that his wife would say “That’s Chad again?!” We just understood each other.

Last Monday was the last time I spoke to Donnell. We had a running joke and our conversation ended with me saying in jest “Let’s be real: you’re not going anywhere, b.” We laughed and he had to go. It was fitting that such a lighthearted statement would be our last conversation.

I deal with death very intellectually. I talk so causally about friends, family, and loved ones after they leave earth so causally it freaks people out. For those of us who are fortunate, the older we get, the more we are going to find ourselves losing people. I don’t say this from a dark and cynical place; it’s logic. You never fully get over the losses. You cherish the time you were blessed to have them in your life and have to continue living yours. Sometimes it’s unexpected. Sometimes people live full lives. Sometimes people gradually go and we have time to process. With the exception of 2Pac and a select few, we never know…

Because of this I try my best to live my life as if tomorrow isn’t promised. For most people my age this is still theory and experience hasn’t made it fully applicable. I make sure I demonstrate and articulate how I feel to those I love. I have no regrets or wish there isn’t anything I haven’t said. My mission in the lives of said people is that whenever God calls me none of them can ever question or have any doubt they weren’t loved by me.

I blogged about T.R.O.Y. over a year ago. So I decided to go with Mr. Cheeks’ remade version that featured a reunited Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth. Mecca jumped on the third verse and once again paid tribute to fallen friend Trouble T-Roy of Heavy D and the Boyz. His verse was so heartfelt. He gave updates about people he mentioned in 1992 and mentions how they continue to live through him and song. My brother Donnell Tyler does as well…

My Life in 100 Songs: Play No Games by Big Sean, Chris Brown, and Ty Dolla $ign

For as long as I can remember I always had a feeling that my first child was going to be a girl. There isn’t much rhyme or reason. Whenever I imagined myself being an adult and having a family I envisioned a daughter being the oldest of three.

As I got older and learned some things, I kind of believed in player’s curse: the concept of men who tend to break a lot of hearts have daughters. Just in case it was true, I tried my best to eliminate as much of that as possible. While the idea is rooted in superstition, the decision to do was was based on logic.

As soon as Timile found out she was pregnant, the first thing we thought of were girl names. She was hoping it wasn’t a girl because she wasn’t quite ready to relinquish the attention I gave her for another girl. Nonetheless, we both just kind of knew. We came up with boy names just in case we were wrong. Right before Christmas of 2010, we found out our intuitive intellect was correct and we were having a daughter.

I wanted to be the best dad I could be, so I would be all into the princess stuff and learn to braid hair. As it turns out, I would need to anyway because Cydney only has one living parent. Lord knows with the way that life has transpired I didn’t need to have a boy right now. I needed and still need Cydney to soften me up. I would be all kinds of jaded and hard on him.

Having a daughter as a single parent has definitely shifted my outlook on life. If her mother were alive, Cydney would see the way that I treat her as the foundation of the way she should be handled by men. I date my little girl. She doesn’t let me open doors or pull out chairs for her because she wants to do it herself. I still will let her know I’m taking her out to the city or to dinner as if it’s a special occasion so she can have something to look forward to and feel special.

Cydney is around me a lot. Because I have taken her on dates and because she’s Cydney, she considers herself the gatekeeper to whatever women are in my life. She’s very smart, so she definitely knows when I’m on the phone with a girl.  If it is someone she approves of, she’ll let me talk. Otherwise, she’s going to talk all through my conversation. You’d have to be pretty special if Cydney wants the phone to actually talk to you.

While I’m pretty sure a few that I have dated would say I’m a little “dick-ish,” I do try my best to treat them the way I would want a man to treat Cydney. I’m pretty upfront about my intentions. That’s something I take very seriously. I told one person that whether it’s for one date or a lifetime if I’m interested in going to treat you special.

The truth of the matter is I either sugar coat the hell out of things to protect feelings or I’m incredibly blunt. My brusque way of talking is often mistaken as anger or being emotional.  I like to get straight to the point and leave very little room for interpretation.  There’s no need to read in between the lines if I’m being direct and if one does that is a reflection of them. It’s my way of showing that I’m sincere.

“I ain’t like them other n****s. And I ain’t ’bout to play no games wit cha.”

False Reflections: We Aren’t Who We Appear To Be On Social Media

“And no I ain’t perfect. No one walking this earth’s surface is.”

I told a girl I was dating that I like imperfections. The things that I-we all-don’t like about the people we love are just responsible for the quirks that make for some of their finest qualities. For instance, I have a big mouth. I talk a lot of shit and tend to put my foot in my orifice. However, the same quality that gets on people’s nerves is what makes me witty and a pretty funny guy. I have no problem coming off flawed.

I say this because I have been thinking a lot about social media. I look on the various platforms and see many of my friends living amazing lives: the vacations they go on, their amazing marriages when I know from experience how much one argues with their spouse, avatars of perfect pictures that people look nothing like in real life, the #fakedeep inspirational quotes people aspire to but don’t really abide by, and what have you. You love your job and ever since you were a little kid you dreamed of being (insert job you compromised for a check _____). It seems as if the only time people are honest is when someone has broken their heart.

Sometimes I feel as if I’m the only one struggling. I work long days, raise my kid, and sleep very little just to do it all again. This is one of the main reasons that I write and post things up. I like to look at my thoughts as if I’m confronting issues. I share bits and pieces of them because while our experiences may be different, we all have felt the same emotions. For someone who gets paid to write, I could care less if my grammar is on point and sentence structure is fucked up…it’s as imperfect as I am.

Sometimes I say corny shit. I don’t give a fuck because we all do and it probably came from a heartfelt place. I have had English teachers tell me all my life that I write how I talk. My literary device of choice is prose and I do know that it is part of what makes things that I say compelling. I guess that too is a flaw that makes for part of my charm.

On the other hand, I think that is what makes social media so great. Even when we are feeling our lowest we want to put our best foot forward for the world to see. We want people to think that we have it all together in hopes that it inspires others. I can think of many who post about how well work is going, the people they meet, and whatever who are lonely people that just want to feel loved and would trade all if their success for that.

One of the things I’m working on is being a little more personal. As much of my life as I share it often comes off calculated and lacks vulnerability. I’m kind of closed off and I have always been that way. I have a soft spot for only two people and everything else rolls off my back. I over think everything; but do so until I come up with a great and almost foolproof plan. I obsess over miniscule and almost irrelevant details when things don’t go as planned because they’re the variables I didn’t think of. I’m a horrible communicator of my feelings. I’m frustratingly nonchalant and laid back. I’m probably a little too forgiving. I’m a realist who wants to be optimistic but cynically expects disappointment in almost everyone and. I come off cocky and arrogant; but I’m incredibly shy (no one believes this) and so much more.

Just thought I should take down my wall for once.

My Life in 100 Songs: Me and My Crazy World by The Lost Boyz

It’s been a little over two weeks since Cydney and I drove to Virginia. Visiting Timile’s cemetery, her parents, and revisiting the darkest time in my life has given me a lot of clarity. Being back in the Seven Cities gave proper context into where I am headed by reminding me of where I have been.

By all means I live a pretty hectic life. I often say that God knows I live for a great story so he keeps giving me good ones to tell. I think this mantra has put into the universe that I need some kind of drama or adventure in order to thrive. Making order out of chaos is a talent of mine and without it, I get bored. While I always look forward to a time where life will be less complicated I need it.

We attract who and what we currently are and this is more apparent in my dating experiences since Timile died. I was explaining to my good friend Kalique this epiphany I had about people I have been romantically linked to and he said “You needed that trip to Virginia. You had no idea that Timile would do that for you. You had no idea she would give you the go ahead to [free you] for someone else!” I hadn’t thought about it like that because I had let go and moved on from her.

Nonetheless, the last three and a half years have been very dramatic. The consensus from my constituents such as Kalique is that somehow I seem to get myself into circumstances one couldn’t make up. There is always an inquiry along the lines of “So what’s the new story?” One would think that I exaggerate many of these encounters; but some have seen them firsthand and are in disbelief how accurately I depict them.  For the record: I have nothing bad to say about anyone.

The Lost Boyz were one of my favorite rap groups growing up. Like me, they were from Queens. A lot of their music was the soundtrack to adolescence living in the largest of the five boros. Only in Jamaica Queens is slain rapper and Lost Boyz hypeman Freaky Tah a part of a graffiti mural in memoriam of Notorious B.I.G., 2Pac, and Jam Master Jay…Mt. Rushmore style.

I found myself listening to a Lost Boyz playlist one night as I left a friend of mine and headed to see another. The playlist was on random and of course my phone was trolling me so it played “Me and My Crazy World.” I was feeling pretty torn because I had been wishing that things would work out with one of them. Things had ended months earlier and I had one of those random encounters in which for thirty seconds I found myself wanting “that old thing back.” At the time, I had no peace with the former and latter there was plenty.

The travel from one place to another had me thinking “If I could combine the two of these people things would be great.” However, that’s not the way life works. There was love with and for both; one brought peace and the other was happiness. The experience made me realize what I needed…peace of mind. That was the moment I first thought to myself “I need to get to Virginia.”

My Life in 100 Songs: BBHMM by Rihanna

Cydney may be four years old; but I swear on everything I love she’s been here before. She is as articulate as an adult and many times this child says things that clearly indicate she has an understanding past her years. There are many times I forget I’m conversing with a preschooler. The moments that I remember she’s just a little kid are when she tries to explain something and can’t find the words; so she’ll say something complicated in kid language.

Being that she is my child she has begun to pick up the art of the witty comeback. I was on the phone having a conversation with a friend and she kept telling me about a bug that wasn’t really bothering her, she just wanted my attention. I said “The bug is on the phone!” She paused for about fifteen seconds and retorted “Umm no. Bugs don’t have phones. They use leaves as iPads,” with all of the sass of someone I’d be dating.

Cydney is my little road dog. Because she’s smart I talk to her like an adult. There is no little kid baby talk. She knows when I’m on the phone with a girl. Somehow she can differentiate by the timbre of my voice who is platonic, one of the homies, and someone I’m dating. Shortly after, she’ll say “Let’s have girl/boy talk.” That’s when she wants to give my advice about my love life and many times has told me without saying it “Daddy, cut the shit!”

I’ve told her she’s antagonizing her brother/cousin and she has responded “My friends tagonize me in school all of the time! They tell me I’m singing too much and I don’t care! I keep singing anyway!”

Always singing. That’s Cydney. Her new song is Rihanna’s “…Better Have My Money.” I guess I was driving around somewhere and the song was on the radio. By the second verse I heard “I call the shots! Like block block block! Pay me what you owe me! Don’t act like you forgot! Better have my money!” Her tone and inflection was perfect. She even moved her head to emphasize her point.  She then followed this up by asking me “Daddy, why doesn’t she want cash?”

Now, I can’t help but find this funny. I am cognizant of what I play around my child. Kidz Bop is corny and Cydney’s father can’t take that shit. She has her own playlist that we listen to often. I’m not perfect but I do know my kid. If you have the pleasure of interacting with her you will see she’s just a really smart four year old and I treat her as such. I was raised to be a different thinker and a free spirit, so I encourage my child to be who she is.