Taking the First Step: A Profile of Artist Melissa Joseph

On April 12th of 2015, Melissa Joseph changed the course of her career. Even if she didn’t exactly know it yet.

She had tried to actively avoid violence most of her life, and growing up in the small town of St. Marys, Pennsylvania she, for the most part, was able to. But as she moved away, moved on, and came into her own, she realized that it was an irresponsible way to live.

April 12th 2015, when Freddie Gray died, the violence the world exuded became unavoidable for her. It was time for a change; time to face the rage that presented itself in the news, on street corners, and around the globe in almost every household.

 “I can’t do nothing anymore. I have to do something. And as an artist, this is what I have to give.”

After spending time as an art teacher in private and public schools in Washington D.C., Cincinnati, and Rome Italy, Melissa had thought she had found her life’s calling. She wanted to help people capture their inner self and work through their emotions with art, something she had been doing for years.

Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche and Ricky John Best. Hollywood Transit Center, Portland OR
Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche and Ricky John Best. Hollywood Transit Center, Portland OR

Then tragedy struck Melissa at home. Her father passed away suddenly. Her thoughts shifted, time seemed to stop while emotions swirled and started to change her mind on her life’s course again. Life is so ephemeral and it only gives you a fleeting chance to live the way you want. She needed to produce art, not just teach others how to do it.

Being a teacher is a lifestyle. It’s being there for the young adults and children you teach for ball games, recitals, concerts, and plays. It’s being there for all the school activities that are necessary for encouragement and proper development. She no longer thought that she could provide the right perspective for her own work while devoting so much of her time to the development of others.

Freddie Gray. Stop 2: N. Fremont Ave. & Mosher St, Baltimore
Freddie Gray. Stop 2: N. Fremont Ave. & Mosher St, Baltimore

 “I feel strongly that it’s even more than a lifestyle but its own vocation.  It’s a special calling, just like being an artist. I realized that I had something to say and I couldn’t give teaching what it deserved because I felt so strongly about getting my own work out.”

With her already embedded feelings of angst and despair coagulating, her father’s death provided the catalyst to finding her artistic voice. It had to be exercised and metered out in healthy doses upon the world, recycling the anger into something useful, something beautiful; something that could be better understood.

“This is what I have to do.”

Her first project was icons but she shifted rather quickly to working with cement and stone to represent the hard to handle subject matter. She felt as if she needed to physically work through the global stories of violence and rage with her own muscles, bones, and sweat. The heavy feeling of someone you know dying, transcribed into a physical specimen designed to evoke those same emotions.

Philando Castile. Larpenteur Ave, Falcon Heights MN
Philando Castile. Larpenteur Ave, Falcon Heights MN

She was finding that trying to use words about her emotions was too difficult. They would get in the way and clout her ability to reason and speak directly and clearly. The conversations would shut down and that was not helpful to Melissa or anyone.

“If you’re going to tackle something this heavy you have to be ready for the conversation.”

But for Melissa, it’s not about lecture it’s about connection.

“There’s no blame in it. It’s strictly anti-violence. Everyone is held accountable. It’s not just one thing, it’s everything.”

Her newest series takes a look at spots where people in America and around the world have died from needless violence. The images, ink with brushes on paper, are bare, stark, and have nothing living in them. Just the street corner and the buildings that surround. There’s no cars, birds, or bugs and certainly no humans. They are an attempt to remember the countless names that flash on the nightly news and in the papers daily. The new name just pushes the old name out, making it meaningless and totally forgettable.

“It represents the void left in people leaving and it helps to remember the ones who have died by the hands of violence in the world.”

The death of Freddie Gray triggered a need to react to the violence, but for Melissa, it’s not just about cops or youth, it’s about people, all people, and more specifically those needlessly dying by the hands of reactive violence.  No matter their profession, or race, or gender, or reason, the experience of having someone taken from you so suddenly is unnecessary.

Lylliana Mendoza & Aslemarie Torres. 3000 Block of Lawrence St. North Philly
Lylliana Mendoza & Aslemarie Torres. 3000 Block of Lawrence St. North Philly

Freddie Gray may have triggered the need for the discussion, but her father’s death triggered the need to start the discussion. The bravery needed to utter the first word, pick up a pen or a brush, or take that first step is inconceivable to most. Luckily for us, it wasn’t for Melissa Joseph.

You can currently view Melissa’s work at the Woodmere Museum with another being added in October. Updates will be on her website.

For more about Melissa Joseph, her mission and her work, please visit www.melissajoseph.net or @melissajoseph_art on Instagram.

To get involved please visit the following sites:

http://blacklivesmatter.com/getinvolved/

http://www.mothersincharge.org/

A Sample from Minimal Reaction

Minimal Reaction is a novel written by Anthony Norman White. It is a fiction story that paints the true picture about the opioid addiction and dependency issues that face the United States.

Truth is, addiction to prescription medications starts at an early age and continues for most of our adult life. 1 in every 4 people in the US who take opioids battles addiction. In 2015, there were 52,000 lethal drug overdoses in the US, 20,000 were from opioids.

Make no mistake, drug companies around the world bring in over 500 billion in sales per year, and since they have the highest profit margins, sometimes over 40%, there are a select few that become richer and richer with every addiction.

Minimal Reaction takes this head on while chronicling two best friends who sell a few pills to make ends meet, but wind up being major players in a huge supply chain. They get ahead of themselves, end up in the wrong place at the right time, and learn that you don’t run the pill game, the pill game runs you.

The following excerpt is from Part 2, Chapter 1 of Minimal Reaction. It is unedited, contains explicit language.

Every few minutes Stupid Mickey would yell out “Queensboro”.  It was really starting to get on my nerves.  Every break in conversation, any time we brought up Manhattan, the trip, the drugs, anything really, he would shout out, “Queensboro” fast and furiously, almost as one syllable.  I didn’t want to ask why, but that’s why he kept doing it.  He wanted desperately for someone desperately to ask the question.  He pulled this trick all the time.  He thought it was wit.  Ping just ignored him, which made me even more annoyed.  We were barely to the Van Wyck, not even out of Queens and Mikey was annoying me to death.  I cracked my beer and sat back, the windows open, Rage Against The Machine on the radio, and nothing to do but ride.  I wasn’t even exactly sure where we were going besides into the city.  Maybe I could talk Ping into stopping some place amazing for some food.  I was already thinking about “Cozy”.

“Queensboro!”

“Why do you keep yelling that”? Ping finally confronted him.  I was excited.  I lurched forward and stuck my head between them in the front seat.

“Cuz’ we goin’ over the Queensboro Bridge, my man.  The greatest bridge in NYC!”

“What’s the address we’re going to?” I interjected, just to get things rolling.

Ping knew the city very well.  If you needed to get in or out of the city in a hurry, he was the guy to have on your side.  He said it was because he loved to look at maps and he spent years studying the map of Manhattan as a kid. Ping’s father owned properties there and they used to ride in together all the time.  He would take him all around the city and then when they got home he would have him track where they went on a big map they sprawled out on the floor.  Ping’s dad was great.  He was secretly teaching him a skill that would come in handy for him, even if he didn’t intend it for this purpose exactly.

“We gotta head to Rucker Park to get at someone.  That’s first, my man.”

“Why would I take the Queensboro Bridge then?”

“Cuz’, my man, that’s the way to Manhattan.”

“Not for Rucker Park.  We gotta head north first, then hit the two-eight-seven up to the Major Deegan, then cross the 138th street bridge, quick right on that one way…uh…actually 139th street, and it puts you right at Harlem River Drive which shits you out on Frederick Douglass just north of Rucker Park.”

“Why wouldn’t you just pick up the FDR which turns into Harlem River Drive at the Queensboro, my man!”

“Because the Queensboro doesn’t go into FDR.  It goes over it.  And the only place to pick it up from there is either, south, at 1st and 48 which is stupid, or north at 1st and 63rd and that’s going to be a zoo.”

“Yes it does, my man.”

“Yes it does what, Mikey.”

“Yes it does go into the FDR, my man.”

“No.  You’re wrong, The Queensboro Bridge most definitely goes OVER the FDR.  I’m right, you’re wrong, trust me. End of story.  And, plus, even if it did, which it does not I assure you, my way is faster.  Trust me.  Seriously.”

“Aight.  Aight.  I trust you.  You know I do.  But…Queensboro!”

They both started laughing, Ping mock punching Mikey across the face, Mikey pretending to be hurt, just goofing around having a laugh.  I wanted to strangle both of them.  Although, I had to admit to Ping later in the evening that his directions and argument were quite impressive.  I had no idea where anything was so he could have lied about the whole thing.

“Every bit of it was true”, was what he said and I believed him.

We hit the highway and the blur rush of wind was too much for me to hear what they were saying in the front seat.  I would catch little blips and phrases from now and again as Ping turned towards Mickey in conversation.  Mikey was enthralled.  He really was like Ping’s younger brother sometimes; hanging on every word, trying to annoy him, looking up to him for help and inspiration.  Mikey was a year or two older than Ping but didn’t have the same intelligence or maturity.  And had about half the teeth, too.  Although I couldn’t hear the conversation exactly, I heard Ping talking about basketball on account of us heading to Rucker Park.  I only heard the things he was saying when his head turned towards Mikey.

“about seven o’clock…pouring ‘em in….that’s it baby, that’s KD.  Standing with my back …I’ll be damned…scored…dunk….dunk… pounding three’s…. could’ve gotten…best player outta Texas…come to the Knicks….”

Ping knew more about sports than anyone I knew.  He loved all sports, too.  He could go on talking about Baseball till he was blue in the face, but he watched Football, Soccer, Tennis, Basketball, Auto Racing, The Olympics, Hockey.  He loved it.  He followed all of it and would talk to anyone about it whenever the subject came up.  He gambled on games all the time, too.  Only guy I ever knew to lay bets on college baseball during the regular season.  I remember once, in a bar in Midtown, Ping gave a soliloquy about how Football will be obsolete in 25 years.  I swear by the end, about 30 people were crowded around listening.  Some guy said he should have his own radio show.  Ping talked about doing radio for months afterward.

We pulled up to a stop about a block from Rucker Park.  Mickey jumped out quick and scurried around the corner.  Ping sat back to watch.  He surveyed the street, tilting his head from one side to the other, examining the area as if he were to write a report.  He turned his head so I was in his periphery.  “You know what?  I could live here, I think.  Basketball going on night and day, people walking around, look at that little store over there! Oh man, there’s something about it up here that I like.  Maybe I’m just sick of the island, you know?”

“This is just another island”.

“Yeah, but its different here.  And really, you’re always on an island, you know?”

Ping, whether he meant it or not, could be really philosophical.  He meant that everywhere you’re ever going to live is an island. Continents are for the most part surrounded by water, but the way he said it, could have only come from someone who’s lived through so much in such a short period of time.  I decided I was going to tell him about Gramps. It just came blurting out of me.

“My grandfather died today.” I said it matter of fact.  But I didn’t mean to.  It came off as insignificant.  But I didn’t think of that until now.

“Jesus, dude.  Really?”

“Yeah.  Crazy huh?”

“The one you never see?  Who lives up in East Ba-Jesus?”

“The one and the same.”

“Wow.  Sorry, man.”

“It’s all good.  Like you said, never really saw him the last dozen years or so”

“Yeah, but, still.  When anybody you know dies it sucks.  Especially when it’s your last grandparent.”

I hadn’t thought about that until he said it.  Grandpa Jack was the last elder, the last connection to the past beyond what my parents could remember, the last person in my family tree that could remember a time without television.  Ping interrupted my train of thought.

“You going up there for the funeral?”

“Yeah.  I mean, I guess so.  I haven’t thought about it.  My parents are going up today I think.”

Ping looked away.  He looked out the window on his side, possibly thinking, or possibly not knowing what to say.  We sat for a minute in total silence.  I looked straight ahead, he out his window, and Mikey gone around a dark brick corner to go find whoever he had to find.  The car was suddenly still and silent.

Ping has dealt with the death of a loved one before.  His Uncle Reese had passed away.  His grandparents on his Father’s side passed away before he was born.  So he never knew them.  Then his Father died.  After that strange day under the hot August sun, nothing would really be the same.  His grandparents on his mother’s side, who lived close by, and who he liked a great deal, decided to move soon after.  Ping’s arrest after losing his scholarship was too much for them to bear.  When they left they did not leave their address or phone number. They blamed Ping’s dad for his own death, and they blamed him for what happened to Ping’s mom after.  That’s when he moved in with his Uncle Reese.

“Life’s whacky?  Aint it?”

“Yeah.  That’s an understatement.”

“Speaking of whacky, what the hell is Mickey doing?”

We looked up and saw Stupid Mickey coming down the street, brown paper bag under his arm, singing like a lark, with his fly unzipped, button undone, sweatshirt wide open, with no shirt on underneath, wearing a big floppy straw sun hat.  He looked like a modern day Huck Fin, with his cut off jean shorts, if only Huck Fin had been through the ringer, had a drug problem, and liked fucking prostitutes. He bounded up to the car, swung open the door, and plopped down like he weighed 300 pounds.

“Dudes.  I just got a sick blow job.”

“Really we couldn’t tell”, was pretty much all I could muster up from the back.  I could smell him.

“Whoops! Guess I forgot to close up shop.”

I heard the zipper of his sweatshirt, before the zipper on his pants.

“Yeah, I know everyboday!  And Everyboday knows ME!”

“Yeah, that’s great there Captain shit head, but what the fuck is in the bag?”

Mikey was about as proud as could be.  He made a deal, that he thought was great, somehow received fellatio in the middle of it, and now got to show it all off.  He was acting like a dog that catches a rabbit and leaves it in the shoe of the hand that feeds him.  Ping was the hand that fed him.

Mikey started in with his story while searching for his cigarettes.

“So, this dude, right?”

I wanted out of the car immediately.  In fact, I wanted off of the Island suddenly.  I would have rather literally cut off my left arm with a pair of safety scissors than listen to this debilitatingly stupid story. Mickey half turned around in his seat to include me in his audience.  He lit a cigarette.  I leaned back to get away from the smell of him.

“So this dude I know,right?  Real shady cat.  Weird cat.  Dirty.  Down under.  He’s got some shit he wants me to start gettin’ in on, right?  So of course I’ll try anything if it’ll take the edge off.  Shit is serious.  He’s settin’ there on this couch with this bitch on the nod next to him. I’m like, “What’s her friggin’ problem?” Turns out she’s on the shit my man’s trying to push to me.  Fedinahl.  Son, I scooped a bit up and bang! I’m feeling fine! He goes, “How about we make this happen?” and I’m like “Yeah but you gotta give me a deal.”  And he did.  What’s up!”

He plopped the brown paper bag down on the arm rest in between him and Ping.  Ping looked discouraged but opened it anyway.

“What the fuck is this”?  Ping dipped his hand in the bag and scooped out 4 or 5 small bottles of clear liquid.

“Fedinahl, my man”.

“You mean Fentanyl?  The synthetic, class C narcotic?

“I guess so.”

“You spent my money on fucking fentanyl?  You fuck? “

“You’re always lookin’ for oxy, my man.  This shit is the better.  Trust me.”

This is why Stupid Mickey is called Stupid Mickey.  He is cheap smoke.  Everyone can see through him and Ping was no different.  There was a silence in the car.  I could hear traffic and people all around us.  Mickey was staring at Ping, nervously wringing his hands.  Ping closed his eyes and tilted his head back, then started in on him after a short, awkward breath.

“Mickey, the people I sell to don’t use needles, they think it’s for low life’s and junkies.  Low life’s and junkies like you.  How many times do I have to…”

“Yeah, but this shit is better than…’

“I’m fully aware of what you think is better and I’m fully aware of what is better, and I’m fully aware that you’re a moron!  I sell to college kids and young professionals who have money!  They’re chefs, and business men, and sales people, and business owners.  They don’t want track marks up and down their arms like a fucking junky!  They’d lose their jobs, they’d ruin their relationships, they wouldn’t be able to function in normal society! They are not like fucking street people.  I know what you’re saying.  This stuff is better if not the same, blah blah blah.  Well it’s not.  Not to them.  Did you spend all of it?”

“Sorry Eddy.  I thought, I thought, you know?”

“Did you spend all of it?”

“Yes”

“And let me guess, your guy through that blow job in.  Right?  Right?”

“Well no. But…yeah, but I didn’t pay no extra for some bum bitch!  I wouldn’t spend your money like that!”

“I didn’t think you would.”

“I don’t waste no money, you know?  I’m sorry, Eddy.  Let me make it up to you.”

“I don’t need you to make it up to me.”

“But I want to.  I’ll go get your money back.”

I’ll hand it to Mickey here for a second.  He would have marched right up there and asked for his cash back.  He wasn’t afraid of anyone.  And I was never sure if it was stupidity or bravery.  But it was probably stupidity.  Mickey reached over, snatched up the bag, and started to leave.  Ping stopped him, grabbing him by his skinny forearm.

“Mickey!  Stop.  First of all where did you get that awful hat?”

“I found it in the stairwell, my man”, he explained proud and happily.

“OK.  Second of all get back in the car.  You can’t get your money back.”

“And why not?  That mother fucker ought to be happy to give me that cash back.  I was helping him!  Of course I can get my money back.  That’s my dude up there.”

“He made that hooker throw in the blow job, didn’t he?”

“Uh-huh. I was looking for a deal.  I told him.”

I was in the back listening intently.  I had no idea where this was going.

“He said it was part of the deal, didn’t he?  Part of the deal you were asking about?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Well now you can’t get your money back, because he’ll ask for that blow job back and how you supposed to do that?  Hmm?”

A few seconds of silence ensued.  I watched Mickey complete the thought and come to the conclusion.  It was like watching a cat find a good place to take a crap in a kid’s sandbox.

“Shit.”

Silence washed over the car.  I was impressed with Ping.  But I was also impressed with this drug dealer in question.  He must have known Mickey was buying for someone else, known that it was hard to get rid of fentanyl, and used him the best he could.  And it worked.

We sat around for a minute not knowing what to do.  Ping’s head was working from side to side like a boxer, tilting left, then right and back again.  He cracked his knuckles, took off his hat, ran his fingers through his curly brown hair a few times, snapped the hat back on, and buckled his seat belt.  He had formed a plan.  His dark eyes darted to the rear view mirror and bored into me.

“What was the name of that kid who bragged about going to NYU at Matt’s party the other night?”

“Jesus, Ping.  I was hammered.  I was barely listening to him.  You were the one that talked with him.  And hated him.”

“Text Matt.  Find out.  I got an idea.”

“What?  Why?  What’s your idea.”

It was too late to ask those questions.  He was already set on something.  I knew it was no good.  The car started, lurched forward into traffic and took off downtown.  We cut across a few long blocks and ended up on Frederic Douglass, cruising in and out of traffic, the city blowing by my window like an eight millimeter movie.  Harlem is one of the greatest places on earth.  Great food, busy streets, and affordable rent lead to a nice mix of individuals.  Columbia provides for an eclectic atmosphere and just blocks away from hell’s kitchen where every night can be fun.  I loved it there, spent some time hanging around there, and had a few friends who went to Columbia who ended up living there permanently.  I always wanted to live there and maybe someday I will.

Ping and Mickey were talking in the front seat.  I wasn’t paying close enough attention to get into the conversation.  I kind of didn’t care.  I was starving, annoyed, and ready to do something other than ride in the back of a car.  Our usual runs are to Doc’s place, which is usually a different, but nice, hotel every time, we have a drink, relax, talk with Doc and some of his cronies, casually leave, and then go meet up with our contacts and start making cash.  Holding onto our packages from Doc makes us giddy, giggly, and goofy.  We stare at the loaves, hold them like footballs, and break them up into other bags, consistent to what our contacts ask us for.  We always joked around and called them loaves because of the packaging that doc used.  It looked just like a loaf of bread.  But then you would break it open and find a thousand or more pills in the wrapping.  It was dangerous, nerve wracking, morally corrupt, and completely awesome.  The thrill of the score, the mountains of cash and pills, the high from the drugs, the people, the bars, the driving, all of it, is one big rush of adrenaline.  I wanted nothing more than to feel that.  But instead, I found myself downwind of Mickey, in Ping’s car, flying down 8th Ave, waiting for a text message while my stomach growled.

 

Kes: What Makes Him High, Trap Beats, and the Element of Surprise

Kes is not trying to placate the masses or swim in a pool of hundred dollar bills floating in expensive champagne. It’s not about music videos with rare cars or bikini clad platinum blondes happily twerking by a pool. Kes is simply after the best version of himself.

A version of himself that he’s been chasing since he was in high school and realized that he was a lyricist. His realization grew to an unending passion. He turned passion into poise and dedication and now his dreams are coming to fruition.

Inspiration Comes in Many Forms

When the mic is in his hand and he’s performing he feels at ease. The sense of satisfaction of reciting his lyrics to a crowd is cathartic at worst and inspirational at best. Kes’s lyrics are not damning or insensitive; in fact they are just the opposite, even though when he wrote him he wasn’t feeling his personal best.

“It’s stuff I made by myself. Not feeling great about myself. I made it on my own time. It’s the best high.”

His lyrics sum the feeling up even better:

The sound of a crowd loud shouting out at once

Is the equivalent of the high of a 1,000 blunts

Kes has battled depression for most of his teenage and adult life. In his lyrics you will find hope, inspiration, and strength as if every time he puts pen to pad it’s an effort to drive away the depression and head him back on the right track.

Some of his favorite artists have done that for him. He brings up Joe Budden during our conversation, explaining that it’s OK to need help and to express your true emotion.

“I’m doing what other have done for me. But it’s reality. For better or worse.”

Kes and His Producer

Like so much that happens in Rochester, NY the relationship between Kes and his first producer started at Wegmans. Kes met Volatile there years back and their shared affinity towards the world of hip hop started a relationship.

Volatile already had his career started with his own productions that he had posted to Youtube. Kes looked him up and was impressed. Volatile produced Kes’s first official album “The Prelude” available wherever music can be found.

He is already working on a follow up that should be out sooner than later “Creature of Habit” although no official release date has been set yet.

The producers and rappers that Kes has worked with over the years had a profound effect on him. He has learned from them and taken their knowledge of industry and beats and turned it into his routine, it has made him a creature of habit, writing, recording, learning, and evolving.

The Element of Surprise

I had the opportunity recently to sit down with Kes and share some scotch with him. He’s extremely approachable, quite affable, and humble. His clean cut look and deftly quaffed red hair don’t scream hip hop. But he doesn’t mind that. It’s not about looks it’s about lyrics.

“You can’t take yourself too seriously. I love it. I walk in (to the studio) with my button up and slacks and people are looking at me like ‘You rap?’ and then they hear me and they go ‘Oh shit, you rap’.”

Kes puts a hard line in the sand with new pop rappers and what he’s trying to accomplish. Pop rappers are flashes in the pan, radio wave sycophants who want money and fame. Real MC’s are lyricists, their writers with a craft; it’s about poetry, not bitches.

“Trap beats are the music version of reality TV.”

Simple to make, little production, and the use of very little lyrics slings trap beats into our mainstream. It’s super simple, fun, and goofy; almost as if anyone can make it. And maybe that’s the idea of it and that’s why people gravitate towards it.

But Kes is not impressed. He’s impressed with art, beauty, and challenging yourself. The new pop rap is not made like this and for this reason. He believes that a well-rounded instrumental is much more difficult to make, takes more time, and should be considered just as important as the lyrics.

He goes back to the 1990’s for inspiration, to listen to interwoven samples, the complexity of good production. The music is just as inspiring as they lyrics. The element of surprise isn’t just in looks, it’s embedded in every aspect of his music.

You can follow Kes on:

Twitter @Kessteele

Instagram @Kessteele

Facebook: https://m.facebook.com/Kes585/

The Prelude is available wherever you usually get your music.

Norman White , The Fraternal Order of Hot Dogs and Scotch Founder- Anthony Norman White

The Fraternal Order of Hot Dogs and Scotch

No matter what the situation is you should arm yourself. It doesn’t have to be a weapon, but if the situation is trying to run through a football field full of rabid Grizzly Bears, then a weapon may be in order. If you plan on playing chess against Bobby Fischer, you might want to brush up on your chess skills and contact a good spirit medium.

But you should arm yourself with knowledge and tools wherever you go. It literally makes us human; it’s what separates us from the rest of the animal pack. It’s why we go to zoos and don’t live in them.

Sometimes you can arm yourself with whatever is lying around. This weekend my father and I dislodged a tree from under a dock with a branch that washed up on shore. Opportunity comes knocking and I always try to answer the door.

Tree in Chaumont River - Anthony Norman White
Tree in Chaumont River – Anthony Norman White

That’s why I armed myself with hot dogs and scotch. I took leftover hot dogs from a cookout at my parents’ house over the weekend and a bottle of scotch my Aunt Paula gave me and I went to battle; potty training a three year old.

Well almost three. But that’s not the point. He’ll barely remember all of this, if at all, while I’ll be scarred for life. This is where the hot dogs and scotch come in. They make things a bit more palatable. Even dookie.

It’s true, mornings are spent rehydrating after all that booze and salt, but they are when you’re on vacation, too. So this is my sadistic vacation, my twisted Fantasy Island, my cruddy, dump filled Space Mountain.

While I was at the cookout I snapped a bunch of pictures of the family and of my parent’s property. But for some reason I took a picture of a picture. It’s the one at the top of the page of the old guy. That’s my Great Grandfather, Norman. His first name is my middle name and I always felt like that was a really important piece of me.

His son was my grandfather, Leroy. My wife and I chose Leroy as our son’s middle name, hoping to start a family tradition.

I was going through the pictures of the weekend when I came across the one of Norman.  I stared at him for a long time, the deep wrinkles and sun-leathered skin had seen it all; drought, famine, the hottest summer, the coldest winters. I suddenly realized something.

He had to potty train my grandfather Leroy.  What a funny thing to think about. I can only think of those two as the older men that I knew, so the vision in my head looks more like a geriatric funny farm rather than the dairy farm they both grew up on.

But just as I share a name with Norman, I share a story, too; Potty Training. It’s literally the fraternal order, I am doing as my dad did, as his dad did, as his dad did, and so on. I wonder if they spent the week armed with hot dogs and scotch and that’s where I got this idea?

The Fraternal Order of Hot Dogs and Scotch - Anthony Norman White
The Fraternal Order of Hot Dogs and Scotch – Anthony Norman White

It doesn’t matter. That’s not the point.

The point is that we feel connected to our past and that it comes in all sorts of ways. I suddenly felt connected by more than just a name to my great grandpa by simply beginning the potty training process on my son. I felt as though I finally belonged in the White Fraternal Order of Things. I’m commencing my part in history.

But I like flashy names. And I like Hot Dogs. And I like scotch. So, there’s that.

I would like to extend the invitation to all new dads and moms who are about to begin the potty training process. Come be a part of the Fraternal Order of Hot Dogs and Scotch. It may not make potty training any easier, but it might make it tolerable because hot dogs and scotch.

(This piece is dedicated to Kiki. Thumbs up, dude.)

 

 

North Country Heart Walk 2017

Love For Lucy: Heart Walk Donations

To all my friends and family, I will be participating in a Heat Walk in Watertown, New York on Saturday April 29th. I would love to see you all there in support. If you cannot make it on that day, please consider helping me reach my goal of $150. 

I have been lucky in my life and had great family members who have always been supportive. I feel like it’s time to help give back to those who need support. Heart problems are prevalent in America and we need to help combat the issues any way we can. The goal is to reduce heart problems by 20% by 2020.

Although this is just one little walk in a race among a million miles every journey has to start somewhere. If we all do a little, no one has to do a lot.

Thank you in advance for your support and donation. I really hope to see you on April 29th. I will be bringing my son, Pi, with me and he’s the funniest guy in America. So at the very least you will have entertainment on the walk.

Love for Lucy is for our grandmother Lucy Purpura. She was, in short, one of the most unique personalities the world has ever seen. If you knew her and your reading this, you’re probably smiling. If you never had the chance to meet her, take the best qualities you think I have and multiply them. She taught me a lot about staying focused and being humble. She also taught me that life can be really, really funny.

Donations can be made here. Thank you! 

 

The Art of Drunk Food

It’s late night and you’re wandering with a few friends. You had dinner around 6pm but a blurry check of your watch shows that it’s now just past midnight. The last IPA you guzzled left your mouth dry and you can feel that shot of Tully sloshing in your guts as you trod clumsily along.

It’s Time for Drunk Food

The question is, to what degree of greasiness will you be willing to go? Pizza? Cheeseburgers? Nachos? All of it?

There is an art to drunk food, a je ne sais quoi if you will, from conception to plate. Certain things seem less appealing, like an arugula salad with a pair of soft boiled quail eggs, although at 6pm that would seem like the perfect option. But it’s after midnight now and you’re hammed. Arugula and quail eggs can go straight to hell.

No, it’s time for something double fried, dripping with grease, topped with cheese and soggy with mayonnaise. It’s time for a heart stopping, artery clogging mess that you are certain will give you plenty of time for regret as you perch upon your porcelain throne time after time after time the next day.

Why Do We Do it to Ourselves?

It’s for the sake of the art, of course! Someone put together this creation much in the same way that you came around to eating it. You can imagine the chef coming home late, drunk as ever, looking helplessly around his fridge for something to annihilate. There are sparse ingredients, but just enough to pique the curiosity of the blotto culinary creator. A dish is born, and with certain delight it is consumed in pure gluttony, its ephemeral existence quantified by the inhibition-free state the spirits have created while swimming through your bloodstream.

It’s pure bliss. The next step is finding a place to stare into space for a few minutes until your head hits the pillow. Before you know it you’ll be waking up looking for water, your shriveled prune like body devoid of water, saturated with salt, and dreaming of an ice cold Grape Gatorade.

 Personally Speaking After Going Ham

I’ve drunkenly roamed late night in Boston, New York, D.C., Atlanta, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Montreal, Toronto, Baltimore, and smaller cities like Syracuse, Buffalo, Rochester, Albany, Kingston, Manchester, Raleigh, and West Palm Beach. I have eaten late night meals in pretty much all of them. Regretted some more than others, but never hated on how great a night it was.

Here are the 3 meals unique to a specific area that I would go back for:

  1. Primanti Brothers in Pittsburgh –  Absolute carnage. If you have never had the privilege of eating a sandwich there, its meat, coleslaw, and French fries on the sandwich itself, all piled up and delicious. I had pastrami, with swiss, and I added onions and an egg. I ate it greedily, obsessively, and without breathing. It was the perfect end to a great night.

    primonti bros
    Primanti Brothers Sandwich 
  2. Pat’s King of Steak in Philadelphia – Do me a favor and spare me the “the best cheesesteaks are not at Pat’s or Geno’s those places are for tourists” speech. I was in Philly and I was a damn tourist and the first time I ate a “Whiz Whit” I damn near cried. Tender steak and cheesey goodness was enough to send me to cholesterol bliss. Great night in Philly, too, complete with a memorable 3D Avatar porn experience and Monk’s Café Sour Flemish Ale. Not at the same time.

    pats cheesesteak
    Pat’s Cheesesteak
  3. Dog Town in Rochester – Despite its namesake, The Garbage Plate is delicious. Home fries on a plate topped with mac salad, a hot dog, and a cheeseburger, drowning in spicy meat sauce and speckled with raw onions. Sound gross? Come to Rochester and spend a few hours with yours truly walking around Monroe Avenue and then see what you think. You’ll cave in and then have to sleep for a week.

    garbage plate
    Garbage Plate on an actual plate

What it All Means

I’ve had late night hot dogs and slices of pizza in New York, grabbed after hours meals in Boston, and had a soft shell crab poor boy once in Baltimore that blew me away. But it’s not just what it was, it was the nights that surrounded the first time I had these specific meals, what I was doing, who I was with, and the meal just hit me. It hit me in a spot inside my mind that I can’t describe.

I went to school for a while in New Paltz, New York. I remember a little pizza joint that was on my stumbling walk home from the frat parties. It was called “Italian Supreme”. It’s not there anymore. I remember they had stuffed pizza slices, which were basically just two slices of pizza stacked on top of one another creating a “stuffed slice” effect.

I’m not sure if that pizza was any good. But at the time, at eighteen years old, with friends, drinking cheap beer and whiskey and smoking Natural American Spirits, it was the best pizza ever. We ate it like we were kings, sloppily sucking the sauce off our fingers and laughing till our heads fell off.

The art of drunk food is not just how the meal will satisfy your uninhibited hunger, it’s how that meal will entice your memory to go back to that spot in time and relive it all over again.

 

Anthony N. White is a writer currently living in Rochester, NY.

He can be heckled on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat @Ruthieshusband

Or on Facebook, of course.

 

Real Life Romeo and Juliet

Years ago, around the same time that Anna Nicole Smith passed away, there was an incredible finding not too far from where Romeo and Juliet takes place in the famous Shakespeare play. It didn’t receive much media attention but I thought it was the most fantastic story I had ever heard.

It should serve as a beacon for the love we have for our wife, husband, children, mother, father, brothers, sisters, and family. But instead it was buried among the rubbish of American TV.

Here’s the story according to Time Magazine.

I’m putting together a chapbook of poetry for future publication and was going through some poetry I had written and found this.

So, Happy Valentine’s Day, I guess.

 

Six Thousand Year Old Love

 Six thousand year old love, four thousand four hundred and one years previous to Romeo and Juliet, and twenty-five miles south.  Mantua has become the new Verona.  What would England’s finest and most famous writer think now?

What would he say?

Absent of literary geniuses that Monday, Menotti was the only one there, pawing daintily through rich soil.  She did her best to illuminate love doomed to death, uncovering from raw brown earth, these lovers of Mantua.

Three days later Anna died.

She passed over through orgies of demons to join Romeo and Juliet, Billy, her son, and

American Tragedy.

Six thousand year old news is surely not news. Just ask CNN and MSNBC.  The story of love buried under tabloids and tabloids of stone, dirt, and volcanic dust is not new.

It is ancient.

They are the new, ancient, star-crossed lovers, and not Lindsay Lohan.  They are not Anna.  So they are not news.  They are Shakespeare’s fleshless reincarnations of tragedy,

the world’s oldest and greatest love story.  But old lovers are old news.  Besides, what would America want with a six thousand year old love?  That is not news.  And it is not American Tragedy.

So this beatific Neolithic love will be dug, shipped, and encased.  And new star-crossed lovers of Verona, will drive down

the Autostrada del Brennero,

past Dossobuono,

through Alpo,

past Isolalta, Salette, and Ghisiolo,

and take the Legnago to Mantua.

They’ll go into a sterile museum, and marvel at the longest love in recorded history, emulating the bony proof that love is eternal.

Some will mourn Anna.  Some will buy chocolate flavored roses with white gold and diamond stems for Valentine’s Day.  And some will forget love exists, as chocolates turns to fat, roses wither and die, and diamonds turn to blood.

That is American Tragedy;

The Real American Tragedy.

 

Anthony N. White is a writer currently living in Rochester, NY.

He can be heckled on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat @Ruthieshusband

Or on Facebook, of course.

Running Idle

On a big old concrete slab surrounded by decaying poplar trees off from U.S. Route 11 in a small town without a traffic light there are over one thousand brand new cars. They are shiny and detailed and parked in a row, and when the gleaming sun hits them just right it bounces right back into your eye, blinding you for just a second like the flash of camera bulb. There’s hot dogs, barbecue chicken, soda nestled in a cooler full of ice, music, and the most entertaining barkers of all time. Some can sing, some can dance, hell, one even juggles chainsaws and they bark and coo and jump all around you while you eat, for free mind you, and walk around getting in and out of brand new vehicles. To top it all off, there’s wheelbarrows.

Not just any wheel barrows, mind you. These are state of the art, self-balancing, heavy duty, American made wheelbarrows. Well, they’re assembled in America anyways. These aren’t the cheap plastic Chinese Wheelbarrow’s of your past, these wheelbarrows are made from good old American wood, and the tires are from Goodyear. But that’s not even the end of it, they have wheelbarrow extensions too. You can easily turn a five foot wheelbarrow into a seven foot wheelbarrow just by adding on the extension. And all of this is free. You can go to the concrete slab, watch a barker juggle chainsaws, eat a few hot dogs and a chicken, pour soda after soda down your throat, and then go sit in the air conditioned room, listen to some barking and cooing, and you get to go home. Nobody says a thing to you if you don’t want to buy.

But believe you me, you’ll buy. You’ll be buying every car in sight. That concrete slab isn’t going to pay for itself.  Besides, a free wheelbarrow means work can get done. If you got a wheelbarrow, you can haul, if you can haul, you can sweat, and if you can sweat, you can make money,  if you can make money, then you can pay for one of them fancy new cars, if you can pay for that new car, you can pay your taxes, and if you can pay your taxes then you can pay for that big concrete slab surrounded by decaying poplar trees covered in shiny new cars that blinds you when you drive by as it reflects that big old American sun.

It all starts with paying for that big old concrete slab. That’s what brought the cars, the cars brought the barkers, the barkers brought the free food, and those beautiful, strong, American assembled wheelbarrows and wheelbarrow extensions with their mostly made in America rubber wheels got here by the grace of God. Now we go back to work and have something interesting to do on Saturday. It’s better than great, it’s perfect, five cars in every driveway, all running idle.

 

Anthony N. White is a writer currently living in Rochester, NY.

He can be heckled on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat @Ruthieshusband

Or on Facebook, of course.

 

The image for this piece was borrowed from the following website: 

https://oldereyes.wordpress.com/2012/08/29/parking-lot-art/

What This Shit Means to Me

It’s so much more than a petrified piece of poo. It’s a sharp reminder that life happens fast and you should never take shit from anyone, especially if it’s something that you truly believe in. It’s a putrid reminder that sometimes shit rolls downhill, that there’s always shit on your mind, there’s always lots of shit to do, and you’re always looking for ways to escape all this shit. But it’s also funny, because sometimes shit is funny.

This shit reminds me to stay patient that sometimes you have to wait for shit. That shit doesn’t come easy. Not all shit that does come easy is bad shit, sometimes quick shit is easy and good, but waiting and being patient for shit usually pays off the best. The best shit makes you wait and that shit feels good when it finally arrives.

But most of all this shit reminds me of my Grandfather. He put this very same fake shit on his head when I was a kid and walked into the room. He got my attention and I looked at him and saw the shit, but thought that shit was real and I was so disappointed in him. All I said was, “Oh, Papa!” and everyone started laughing. Then I found out the shit was fake and I realized that sometimes it’s funny to play a practical joke and that he really didn’t let a big dog shit on his head. And I learned a little something about comedy and love.

But it also shows some humility too, that you’re willing to take some shit because sometimes you have to and sometimes you have to be willing to give a shit, even when nobody else does.

I keep this shit on my desk when I’m writing. I look at it to remind myself to dig down deep into the shit and to be as real as possible. It’s a little reminder that you have to get all the shit down while you can, and you better love the shit you create, but never take that shit too seriously.

This shit is important to me and so is writing. So I keep this shit to remind me of the past, the present, and the future.  It reminds me that I’ll never be scared shit-less, no matter what shit I face.

Thanks for reading this shit.

 

Anthony N. White is a writer currently living in Rochester, NY.

He can be heckled on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat @Ruthieshusband

Or on Facebook, of course.

Old Man Woods

I found some old poems a few days ago in a folder I haven’t opened in years. Admittedly some of it was pretty cruddy, mostly just the frantic scrawls of a young man enamored with Jack Kerouac. But one poem grabbed my attention in particular and I remembered that it had been published, although now I can’t remember where. It’s a poem about an old man I used to bring soup to as a boy. He had a wonderful house on Lake Ontario and a little puppy and I could fish there off his docks and catch great big perch and rock bass. My grandmother owned a restaurant about a mile away in Henderson Harbor and she and my mother would ask me to deliver some soup for him on occasion. I grew fond of him as he seemed like a lonely dote.

He was a quiet, white haired old man that could reach petulant peaks in an instant and remain unfettered for a time after, a time that I usually retired to the front yard with the puppy to play a while or walk down to the shore into the eerie old boathouse and look around, hoping to find a lost archaic treasure.

I have no clue what happened to him, how long ago he died, or if he moved long before that. But sometime in college I remembered him, remembered his loneliness, remembered his house, and remembered, for right or wrong, a tiny scene that leaked out onto paper.

Old Man Woods

Crazy

Old man

Woody-

Kept

His

Dirty

Magazines

In the same

Cabinet

As his

Whiskey

So

He never

Had to

Go far

For

Pleasure.

 

“That

Gaddam

Vietnam War

Had me

Hooked

On opium

For

Years.

Now

I

Can’t think

For

Nothing.”

 

Anthony N. White is a writer currently living in Rochester, NY.

He can be heckled on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat @Ruthieshusband

Or on Facebook, of course.