Thursday, October 26, 2006

The End

This is it. Thursday, 26 Oct 2006, 1:29 p.m. The last straw.

I'm not mentioning who did it, or where it happened. But as of right now, it is over. Finis. Done. Rubber stamp it. Slam the gavel. Seal the coffin. Stick a fork in it.

Take a good look at these shoes, cause soon you're gonna hafta fill 'em.

So it is written.

So it shall be done.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Not Everyone's Dreading It

THIS WEEK I GOT HIT WITH what many consider to be the most dreaded of all civil services. Eight long hours, one short check: Jury Duty.

Reporting time was 8:15. So, I rose with the roosters to make the rush hour drive downtown to the zoo which masquerades as the Fulton County Justice Center.

After security clearance and the 7-story elevator ride, at 8:00 I checked in with the clerk and, with the rest of the pool of groggy jurors, joined the drone of bureaucracy. All was relatively quiet, that is, until one of the elevators opened up and a 5 1/2-foot tall cannonball shot out.

A bearded Black man carrying what appeared to be all of his earthly possessions: On his legs, two pair of pants. On his back, every shirt he owned. Over his shoulder, a dufflebag stuffed beyond recognition.

"Where I need to go for Jury Duty?" he asked - about ten times too loud for 8 o'clock in the morning and to no one in particular.

Someone answered, but he didn't hear it. After gathering his bearings, the homeless man found himself a line and stood in it.

The room murmured a little, and then a little more until the man made his way to the front of the line.

"Here for Jury Duty?" the clerk asked.

"Yes," the man said, suddenly articulate.

"May I have your summons?"

"Yes, ma'am" he said. He fumbled through one pocket. Then another. Yet another. "Oh, oh, here it is."

Before asking the man for his ID, the clerk studied the summons. True, it was printed on the same baby blue paper as everyone else's, but then she looked back up at the man, confused.

"Sir, you're in Group 18," she said, as if speaking to a child. "Only Group 19 was required to report. You're free to return--"

"I know. I know that," he said. "But what I need to know is, am I still getting my $25 check?"

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Stand Up, Stand Out: Honoring the Life of Tamara Dobson

TO TELL YOU THE TRUTH I had never heard of her until Digable Planets' first single, when Mecca said:

Ask Butta how I zone

and Butterfly replied

Man, Cleopatra Jones

The year was 1992 and I wanted to be Cool Like Dat! Whatever dat was. And ya know I had to find out. So, I went to the Wesley Chapel Blockbuster, found the blaxploitation section and bam! Right there between Coffey and Shaft, there she was, 38-26-39:

I popped in the video cassette, and I was immediately souled.

I mean, how could you not love a woman who stood 6 -foot plus and had the nerve to sport 4-inch platform heels? Ow! Who could casually Kung Fu kick The Man without even needing to retouch her lipstick. Shonuff! Who before Foxy, before Coffey, before Christy, broke the blaxploitation gender barrier - before anybody had heard of a Charlie or an Angel. All in a day's work, baby. Bam!

Earlier this week, Tamara Dobson made her transition due to complications from MS, but during her life, in her no nonsense glory, the real woman martial artist behind Cleopatra Jones was a true shero. Face of Revlon, Chanel, and Faberge, she made being Black proud, unapologetic, and downright bad!

So, here's to standing up and standing out. Scram all you jive suckas. This space is to honor the life of a graceful and true Black beauty, a pioneer.

Tamara Dobson
Rest in Peace

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


TODAY, WHEN I returned from lunch, I placed a small Vanilla Frosty on her desk. I knew she liked Vanilla Frosties.

She took her eyes off of her monitor, looked down at it, then quizzically up at me.

“What?" she said. "You didn’t want it?”

“No,” I said. “It’s for you.”

“Well, I mean," she stuttered. "I’m not even hungry.”

“Okay,” I said, and thought, That's why I got you a Small.

I handed her a spoon. Started for my cubicle.

“Hey," she yelled, quicker than a woman can change her mind. "Do you have a straw?”

“Yes,” I said, and gave her a straw.

A few moments later, I reappeared at her desk. She was smiling - eyes focused in her cup.

“You’re not used to people giving you things, are you?” I said.

“Wh- What? Why would you say that?”

“Well, when I gave you the Frosty, the first thing you said was, What, you didn’t want it?

"You assumed that I was giving you the Frosty because it was something I was rejecting – like I couldn’t have possibly bought it just for you.”

“Well, um, I guess you have a point,” she said, between sips. “Thanks!”

“You’re welcome,” I said to her.

How sad, I thought, as I noted her half-empty cup.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Frottage (with the Forsaken Flavor)

AT A COMPANY BIRTHDAY FUNCTION last week, a co-worker pushed up on the table and asked, "What kind of ice cream is that - plain?"

"Plain!" I said. "What do you mean plain? It's vanilla! Vanilla is a flavor, too!"


When people want to describe the epitome of Plain Jane, vanilla's the flavor of choice. Vanilla sex... Vanilla Ice...

How has vanilla gotten such a bad rap?

Ooooh. That was bad.
During summers, when I was much younger, I would wait until my Mother was safely distracted upstairs, doing something vanilla - like, say, cutting out McCormick sewing patterns. I'd wait until my infant brother was counting sheep. Pops on the factory line at the Lakewood plant, I'd descend downstairs into the kitchen for some 5-year-old freakin!

I'd pull myself up onto the formica countertop, peel open the cupboard like a white linen dress. I'd bypass the swarthy cinammon and persimmon, black pepper and salt, until... until...

Ahhhh.... Vanilla extract.

I'd unscrew the top and then: Wait.

I'd leave the bottle open. Ooh, was I open.

Let vanilla linger. Let the aroma waft through the room. Let me wear vanilla in my hair till I lather in its oils. Let me rub my tongue in it.


Aren't those tomatoes still
blushing on the window sill?

The facts:

Native to the Americas, there are about 150 types of vanilla, though only two types are used commercially. In the 1500's when the vanilla plant first left the Americas for Spain, the Spanish believed it only had value as a perfume. Vanilla grows in the tropics - within the 20-degree latitude band on either side of the equator. Vanilla is the only edible fruit of the orchid family.

Tropical? Edible? Orchid? What's plain about that?

Say it with me: Va. Nil. La.

To say it, you must first bite your lip.


Then, press your tongue to the roof of your mouth.


Now, flick your tongue at your partner and release.

I think I hear her coming. Should I climb down?

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Art of Appreciation (Part 1 of 3)

LILY TOMLIN IS quoted as saying:

Man invented language to satisfy his deep need to complain.
Fellow blogger, Lisa Williams, says:

It's really easy to complain. If you're not careful, then you end up complaining about your whole life. Concentrating on the good things is really good. Catch people doing good.
So, I'm taking her up on the challenge in part 1 of 3 of my pursuit of goal 89:

89. Write (and send) 3 letters of appreciation for excellent customer service.
The unintended consequence of writing the following letter to the owners of DeKalb Tire is that it gave me perhaps more pleasure than it will give its subject employee, Mr. Spe_r, whom I also mailed a copy:

30 September 2006

Mr. & Mrs. H____n
DeKalb Tire
6179 Roswell Rd., NE
Atlanta, GA 30328

Dear Mr. & Mrs. H____n:

I am writing to express my appreciation for the excellent customer service I received from Ad_m Spe_r and the staff at DeKalb Tire (Roswell) on the morning of Saturday, 30 September. I always receive good service at DeKalb Tire, but I must say that this was the most painless experience I have ever had with auto repair.

Around 7:30 a.m., I went in for a routine oil change and rotation and asked for an inspection of the CV axles on my I_____i I30. After the oil change and rotation had been completed, Mr. Speer invited me into the bay to see the damage to my CV axle.

I asked Mr. Spe_r for an estimate for the cost to repair and the time it would take. When he told me that it would require transporting parts from another location and about two hours of labor, I felt a sudden weight at the thought of waiting. So, I declined the service until a time when I had more time. But I was troubled at the thought of continuing to ride around with such a serious potential problem.

Then, without my saying a word, Mr. Spe_r offered me peace of mind: a courtesy ride while the car was being repaired. He informed me that the technicians should have the repair done by a little after 12 noon.

H_ns, the technician providing the courtesy ride, had me back home within 10 minutes - before 8:30.

Much to my surprise, I received a call from Mr. Spe_r at 11:00 a.m. telling me that my repair work was complete. A full hour ahead of schedule! And within fifteen minutes, H_ns was back at my doorstep to pick me up.

You may consider nothing extraordinary about this service, but that’s what keeps me coming back to DeKalb Tire. You make extraordinary service ordinary.

For tires, for maintenance, for repair, I will continue to send people I care about your way.


M_rvin Heath

Sunday, October 01, 2006

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED #13: Reclaiming my Inner Geek

WHY DID I do it? I love mental challenges. So, one day last Spring I challenged myself to take the test for Mensa.

The total testing time was about two-and-a-half hours. Two timed tests.

The first IQ test was over in a flash: 50 questions, 12 minutes. It was the notorious Wonderlic test - the very same Wonderlic test given to incoming NFL football players, the one on which a very promising recent quarterback prospect allegedly only scored a 6.

The questions aren't as difficult as one might think - math (arithmetic, algebra, geometry), verbal (vocabulary, analogies,etc.), and logical reasoning skills. Pacing is the issue. You just have to average a little over 4 questions a minute.

You're not penalized for incorrect answers. So, while I put an answer for every question, I really only completed about 44 or 45 questions. I tend to favor accuracy over speed. (Here's a link to a few dozen contemporary other quarterbacks' scores.)

The second IQ test, the Mensa test, was very bizarre. It began with the proctor reading a 3- or 4-minute long passage about, of all things, Greek pagan theatre: Circles. Drums. Priests. Fire.

We were forbidden to take notes.

Then, the proctor gave us pencils and administered 6 very abstract mini-tests (what shape next in this sequence) ranging from 10 minutes to about 20 minutes each, before giving a final test asking 30 questions about the passage on Greek pagan theatre, which we'd listened to nearly two hours previously. Surprisingly, on that section, I remembered enough where I only had to guess on 5 or so answers.

Due to advisement from their legal department, Mensa no longer gives your actual IQ score by mail for fear of litigious test takers - something about liability for the potential psychological trauma of receiving an IQ score without the presence of a licensed psychologist. Nowadays Mensa only notifies you on a pass/fail basis, whether you meet their requirements.

You have a choice to either pre-qualify from a test from your youth, or to qualify on one of the two proctored tests.

So, two weeks later, I received my results from the proctored tests by mail:

My first official Mensa "event" is this week. Talk about interesting material.

I'll let you know how it goes...

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED # 13: Become a member of MENSA.