Thursday, August 6, 2015

Introduction to Wince

In March of 2012, I wrote "Wince" as an relief valve. After Zimmerman murdered Trayvon Martin, and the media began slandering that boy, I was furious. Irate. And then a friend asked what I wanted to see come out of this tragedy and that started the essay.

But I realize that there are more, so many more victims of police brutality and lynch mob mentality. Nearly 4000 black men, women, and children were lynched between 1877 and 1960 (according to the Equal Justice Initiative). So many killed and brutalized by America's obsession with destroyign the black body.

Slavery was a crime, and the black body is evidence. Those who cannot face their collective guilt and shame instead seek to hide the evidence - us - under allegations of drugs, poverty, violence, and death.

...and Terrence Williams, Felipe Santos, 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Postscript to Wince

and Sgt. James Brown, Raymond Allen, Dante Price, Nehemiah Dillard, Wendell Allen, Shereese Francis, Rekia Boyd, Kendric McDade, Ervin Jefferson, Tamon Robinson, Sharmel Edwards, Shantel Davis, Chavis Carter, Reynaldo Cuevas, Malissa Williams, Timothy Russell, Johnnie Kamahi Warren, Kimani Gray, Deion Fludd, Larry Eugene Jackson, Jr., Carlos Alcis, Jonathan Ferrell, Miriam Carey, Andy Lopez, Jordan Baker, McKenzie Cochran, Yvette Smith, Victor White III, Eric garner, Tyree Woodson, John Crawford III, Michael Brown, Dante Parker, Ezell Ford, Kajieme Powell, Akai Gurley, Tamir Rice, Rumain Brisbon, Justus Howell, Gregory Thomas Smith, Autumn Steele, Tommy McClain, Dillon Taylor, Frank Mendoza, Brandon Ellingson, Tyler Comstock, Jack Lamar Roberson, Angel Chiwengo, Denis Reynoso, Henry C. Taylor, Roza Sakhina, Hans Arellano, John Wrana, Tyrone West, Eugene Mallory, Andrea Rebello, Ivan Romero, Marlon Brown, Cleman Sweptson, Shawn Joseph Jetmore Stoddard-Nunez, Marie Zienkewicz, John Turner, Kathryn Walters, Maxmillian Walters, Oscar Grant III, Aiyanna Jones, Kenneth Chamberlain Sr., Jordan Davis, Kam Brock, Sureshi Patel, Renisha McBride, Dontre Hamilton, Eric Garner, Antonio Martin, Tony Robinson, Meagan Hockaday, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, The Emanuel Nine (Cynthia Marie Graham Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lee Lance, Depayne Middleton-Doctor, Tywanza Sanders, Daniel Simmons, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Myra Thompson, and the Honorable Clementa C. Pinckney), Mount Zion AME, God's power Church of Christ, Briar Creek Road Baptist, Glover Grove Missionary Baptist, College Hill Seventh Day Adventist, Raynetta Turner, Kindra Chapman, Joyce Curnell, Ralkina Jones, Sandra Bland, Samuel DuBose, Jaydon Chavez-Silver, Sarah Lee Circle Bear, Kelly Brinson, Charly "Africa" Keunang, Zachary Hammond, Brendon Glenn, James Boyd, Emerson Crayton Jr., Jennifer Stelly, charnesia Corley, Christian Taylor, Radazz Hearns, Rashod McNulty, Samantha Dean, Shade Schuler, Amber Monroe, Ashton Ohara, Kandis Capri, Samuel Harrell, Terrance Kellom, India Clarke, KC Haggard, Amber Monroe, Shade Schuler, Kandis Capri, Elisha Walker, Ashton O'Hara, Tamara Dominguez, Mansur Ball-Bey, Jerame Reid, Liz Vargas, Lennon Lacy, Kim Nguyen, jamychael Mitchell, Carlos Mercado

and, and and every goddamn day and. 

Today, July 29

I believe this wave of race-based violence we've seen lately is sublimated rage. The people who commit these acts of violence, murder, and terrorism may share a sublimated hatred of Obama. The unmistakable fact of his presidency disturbs the racist on deep levels. At first, they tried to de-legitimize his presidency and his citizenship. When that didn't work, they resorted to obstinant head-in-the-sand tactics. when that failed, they resorted to violence - not against Obama, but against easier prey. Women, sleeping children, unarmed people on the street.

I always expected they would come after me. I was an Obama fundraiser. I registered voters and co-founded Students for Obama. I live alone. I'm a visible target. But these cowards have other plans.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

I'm Out Of Coffee

Half and half, Half and half,
Half and half onward,
None in my empty French press
I'm out of coffee.
"Ruta Maya forever!
"I'll even drink Folgers!" I said:
No flat white, no Cafe' Zorro
I'm out of coffee.

"Expresso, to me!"
Was there a man dismay'd? (Yes.)
Not tho' the writer knew
Himself had blunder'd:
Mine not to make reply,
Mine not to reason why,
Mine but to weep and cry:
No Cafe Touba for me this day,
I'm out of coffee.

Coffee to the right of me,
Coffee to the left of me,
Coffee in front of me
Steam'd and filter'd;
Boil'd bean and grind,
Boldly I drank and fine,
Into the crack of Morn,
Into the mouth of Hell
I'm out of coffee.

Search'd all my cupboards bare,
Search'd but found not a hair,
Save cursed decaf once left there,
Boiling water, while
All the world wonder'd:
City Cafe or Starbucks.
I have to get dressed and that sucks;
Mocha, cappucino, cafe au lait
Without coffee all is astray
Shatter'd and sunder'd.
Then they brewed more, but I'm...
I'm out of coffee.

Coffee to the right of me,
Coffee to the left of me,
Coffee in front of me
Steam'd and filter'd;
Boil'd bean and grind,
While carafe and cup fell,
They that had served so well
Not Black Tie, nor Black Eye
Nor Breve, nor Depth Charge.
I'm out of coffee.

When will my coffee brew?
O the caffeine I knew!
All the world wondered.
Honour the coffee I made,
It was freakin' Fair Trade!
I'm out of coffee.

(Written by Andy Johnson on the morning of January 13, 2015, when he realized he was out of coffee.)

Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Fisher King

This has been the quietest holiday season I've had in years. I don't know how to think about that. No travel, no trips to Half Price Books for gifts, so serious mishaps, no family. I spent Christmas Day and New Year's Eve alone, in my small house on the end of Main Street. Part of me missed the usual hullaballoo. And part of me didn't.

In part of a long talk with H., I admitted that I still suffer from flashbacks, especially around the holiday season. The smallest thing can trigger them - something on TV, a smell, a random thought, old photos. The flashbacks always take me to the same place: betrayal and revenge. Even now, typing, hundreds of miles away from those who harmed me and my daughter, I still feel the sensation of hot bricks against my soul. I could be the Fisher King, always in pain, never healing, robbed of family. I could be, but I'm not - at least not quite. But I don't entirely know what I am either.

Now I feel heavy. My back and hips hurt, as usual. I'd love (LOVE) for a doctor to take me seriously when I say my hip hurts for the umpteenth time. It's been hurting since that car wreck in 1994. So maybe I am the Fisher King.

Almost no one is out and about. I've seen a few cars, and someone ducked into the hair salon across the street. A stray cat ate the food I set out this morning. While the streets are empty, the ghost run the town. Two of them have already fought over my radio, turning it off and on, off and on again. Several items have knocked themselves off shelves or countertops. I'm in no hurry to evict them. When you're alone, ghosts can be good company. Later today, I'll go to Egan's and watch the Alabama-Ohio game. I'll be social and around people. And then I'll come home, to the ghosts and their squabble.

I don;t know why they like my radio so much. Maybe they just like music, or maybe, like me, they need the sounds of human voices to remind them of who they are.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Cannonball Run

List of bad things:

Broken glass
Bits of tire
Drunk drivers
Failed gear
Flying rocks 

List of good things
Gear that works as advertised

Motel 6 in Marshall Texas made me remember a scene from one of my favorite all-time movies, the cannonball run. mad dog crashes through the hotel lobby, and when the bug guy hotel manager comes out mad dog commands "hey man are you the one running this fleabag? Where are the hookers?"
"What?" Squeaks the manager.
"Hookers man! where are the hookers?"

I won't go so far to say that the Motel 6 in Marshall is a fleabag, or that it has hookers. However if there had been fleas or hookers, I would not of been surprised. Many years ago, my former workplace ordered me and many other staffers to go on a staff retreat. They booked us into some sort of dude ranch used for company events somewhere out in West Texas. I don't remember the town. We specialized in putting on Weather shows and della events, so we expected them to book us into someplace that demonstrated respect for what we did. Instead, they booked us into a broken down, run down, dirty little joint. Bare cinder block walls, green paint, you get the idea. My friend and colleague Bill had bad walked into his room he said "this is where my parents will find my body." I thought of that moments of times in the year since when I've been staying at some great places and some less than great places. All that being said, it was clean, bug free, secure, and have hot running water. That place is it in the top half of "places where Andy has spent the night." 

i'm using a lot of "quotation marks" today.

Yesterday, I started the morning by packing and getting dressed. I have very small saddlebags, so I had to pack an extra backpack and lash it onto my bumper. This turned out to be a bad idea. I've done it before, several times before actually, and driven long-distance with that very same backpack lashed to my bumper. Didn't work.

I fed my new stray cat, then had breakfast at city CafĂ©. An older man at the bar try to talk to me. His breath was amazingly phone. I had to back away and I noticed nobody was sitting anywhere near this guy. He said something unintelligible, said something to the waitress, and then stumbled out of the restaurant. We were all looking at each other and shaking our heads, when I heard the war of the motorcycle. I look out the front door and see the drunk old man driving off on a Harley. 

I finished breakfast, got on the road, and made it to Meridian by 9 o'clock. I stopped for gas and found that my backpack was loose. Hadn't fallen off but looked like it might. I tried real lashing it too many contents had shifted during the one hour trip. 

I found the nearest post office and repacked so that everything I needed for the trip say to my saddlebags and things I needed a house when the backpack. Then I mailed my backpack to the conference. 

The rest of the trip was fairly uneventful, until I got to Monroe. As I ate a very late lunch, it started to rain. I had checked the weather forecast before I left and had not seen any rain predicted. Not a Tuscaloosa not in Meridian not in Jackson not in Monroe not anywhere along my route. Whatever. The rain started coming down, light at first then pouring. I'd left my rain gear at home since I'm going to the DESERT. I checked the forecast again: 80% chance of rain in Monroe for yesterday and today. Same in Shreveport. Waiting in Monroe would not have lessened the likelihood of me driving in the rain, so I decided to go.

Driving a motorcycle in the rain is… special. At 80 mph, raindrops hit hard. pebbles feel like buckshot. The worst time to drive is during the first 30 minutes. The water is on the ground, but it hasn't been down long enough to wash away residual oil. I waited. 

I invested in a bunch of new gear for this trip. My old gear was old, and wasn't great to begin with. Some items went missing, but that's another story. New helmet, jacket, gloves, tank bag, fender bag, pillion seat.

My new helmet has serious fog problems. I'll have to sort that out. It also got real uncomfortable until I pulled out the cheek pads. The jacket has all the armor I need in case of crash, but it's only water resistant, not waterproof. The magnetic tank bag hold on just fine, but the rain cover rides up while driving and lets water in from the bottom. The fender bag did fine, as did the pillion seat. The gloves got slippery, which is to be expected. I didn't think about how new they were, or that they'd never been on serious rain before. When I got to the Motel 6, I took them off and found the gloves had dyed my hands black. 

Also found out that my license plate is missing. Whether it fell off or was stolen, I don't know. Maybe my backpack knocked it off.  I'll have to replace it when I get back.

Today, I'm sipping coffee in a Texas best smokehouse in Longview before I strike out for the next town. I'm sore achy and tired, but it's the good kind of sore achy and tired. Once I finish this coffee, I'm off to Dallas, then Wichita Falls.

Saturday, June 28, 2014


First, I want to thank Coral Rock Resort for helping UA in Zanzibar during a crisis situation. You guys rock.

My last day in Zanzibar is the first day of Ramadan. Last night was a big party - everyone was up late. Kids played and girls wore party dresses. One of the things I find so interesting here is the issue of head covering for Muslim women. it seems to be somewhat optional. Most women cover, but not all, and those that cover don't cover all the time. Girls typically only cover as part of a school uniform, but not when they're playing. Some girls under marriageable age don't cover at all, period. Young women tend to remove their coverings at bars and late night parties. Yes, bars. People say this is a Muslim country, but it's really Swahili fusion, with strong influences from mainland Tanzania and Kenya, India, Europe, and the Middle East. African women wore headwraps long before Islam arrived, so head covering rules (I think) follow the culture more than the religion. Even so, I have only once seen a woman asked to cover herself, and that was when a wife saw her husband checking out an American woman in a very modest sleeveless dress. From where I'm sitting, I can see some women on the beach, covered and uncovered. So interesting. I'd like to learn more, but I need to find a culturally-appropriate way to ask by next year.

I'm surprised by the number of expats and non-Muslims observing Ramadan (or trying to).

I've learned so much here, and I have a long list of changes and improvements for next year. Still, I'm please overall with our first year. We had many successes and only a few serious issues. Nothing I couldn't handle, but I'll be more prepared for next year. And there will be a next year.

Time to pack and go home. See y'all Stateside.