Friday, November 23, 2007
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Thursday, June 28, 2007
This might seem a rather odd practice - that one would seek a Tarot reader to get a reading for two fictional characters - but they're not fictional g*ddamit - I talk to them everyday!
The reading began with _a_u asking the purpose for the reading.
"Nigel and Asha have received a small inheritance - a very small inheritance from Nigel's Great Aunt," I said. "They're seeking advice on how to proceed."
_a_u whispered into his deck, shuffled his cards, and gave the couple a 5-card Crossroads spread:
which is used when the client is at a crossroads in life and is contemplating a change. The five cards tell you what happens/happened in the 1) Past, 2) Present, 3) Future, 4) Visible World, and 5) Invisible World.
Here is what the reading revealed:
CONTEMPLATION: An iron gun, old yet capable of firing a lethal bullet. This gun was not made for target practice or the hunting of food. It has but one purpose. It has but one target.
INTERPRETATION: There has been violence and/or a possible conflict with the law in either Nigel or Asha's past.
CONTEMPLATION: Honey flows freely from Our Lady's gracious bounty.
INTERPRETATION: This card shows Yemaya as a beautiful pregnant orisha standing in the foaming sea. She is about to give birth. This means that either one is literally pregnant with a child or metaphorically pregnant with an idea. It also means abundance and wealth.
CONTEMPLATION: Favorable outcome when last words are said and last things done.
INTERPRETATION: Keep quiet about your inheritance and you should have no difficulty.
4) VISIBLE WORLD
CONTEMPLATION: Rage and hate binds you to your object as closely as does great love. Hate and love are both sides of the same coin whose denomination is union. Will is the name of the Hand that distributes these coins.
INTERPRETATION: Not all will be easy in the transference of this inheritance. There is jealousy, anger, and hatred - perhaps from family, perhaps from elsewhere.
CONTEMPLATION: Accepting one's personal failures. Embracing one's sadness. Usg these sadnesses and failures to build a house of peace and purity, an impregnable abode fit for the indwelling of Obatala (God).
INTERPRETATION: Whatever material goals you are seeking, God will provide them.
Oddly enough, or perhaps not, the reading is pretty in-line with the plot I've envisioned. The most surprising piece of information was that _a_u correctly read that Asha is pregnant.
In fact, she is and has not yet told her boyfriend, Nigel.
If _a_u can see into the world of fiction, maybe I should ask _a_u for tonight's Cash 3 numbers... Maybe not.
Since I've got nothing better to do, I may as well write a play. ;-) Thirteen pages and counting...
Sunday, June 24, 2007
#9: Get a laptop.
One immediate consequence of becoming unemployed was that I had to surrender my work laptop. It took me about 4 days to realize that I couldn't go back to being chained to a computer desk at home, so I went out and bought an Acer TravelMate 2480. While it's not as sexy as the Powerbook I'd been eyeing for the past year, it more than gets the job done for a writer - and, thanks to GIM Computers, for less than half the Powerbook's price!
#21: Buy a house.
It's been several years in the making, but I finally got fed up with renting. About 3 years ago, I decided to work on my credit, go back to school, get a new job, and save up some cash so that, in 2007 I could make the big leap.
Every Sunday since mid-January, I drove to the neighborhood and imagined myself turning a key in the front door. On March 19, 2007, I sealed the deal on a 3 bedroom townhouse in the SWATs!
Since, I've become one old handyman: painting, hanging shelves,painting, installing light fixtures, painting, and plumbing even.
Did I mention painting?
# 59: Teach a college level course
Thomas Lux and Georgia Tech made a dream come true when they selected me as a McEver Visiting Chair in Writing. While it only lasted four weeks, it was life-changing. Though it felt a little strange to be called Professor Heath, it was the single most natural employment experience I've had in my entire life - almost as if I was born to do it!
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
The ceremony was a short, utilitarian affair. It started 2 minutes early, and we were asked not to wear suits.
"Black pants, a white shirt, and a tie," my mother said. "Just make sure the tie isn't red."
As pallbearers, I thought that we might at least wear white gloves, especially in this faraway place of rituals we grew up knowing as only "The Country." So, I was a little surprised at the end of the fifty-five minute ceremony when the pastor said, "Will the pallbearers please rise and exit the church?" and within seconds, I was out in the 95-degree heat with my bare right hand wrapped around the cool steel of the casket rail.
They called him Buddy, but he was born J_hn Wesley Byrd. He was my Mother's father, which made him my grandfather. He passed early Friday morning after 88 years from a sudden bout of pneumonia, just short of Father's Day.
If my Mother and her siblings had had their way, the body would have arrived by mule. Instead, a sky-blue hearse delivered his body to Hopewell Baptist Church in Upatoi, Georgia, and a matching limousine carried his seven living children.
The funeral staff granted the family's wishes to keep the ceremony's pace swift. In fact, it left my Aunt Mae on the outside of the church:
"She's still in the limousine," my Mother, Lucille, whispered to her sister, Brenda.
"Why's she still in the limousine?" Brenda whispered back. "The friends and guests are almost finished viewing the body, and they gonna close the casket!"
"She's locked in it," my Mother said. "She can't get out."
"Whatchu mean she cain't get out. Tell her to open the door!" Brenda said.
"Brenda, she's locked in. It won't open from the inside or the outside."
"Oh Lawd," Brenda said. "Clarence," she said to their brother. "'Cille say Mae in the limousine and she cain't get out."
"How she got locked in the limousine?"
"I don't know," Brenda said, "but we gotta hurry up. They gonna close the casket in a couple of minutes."
"Well, she saw the body yesterday," Clarence said.
"Clarence!" my Mother quipped.
"Well, where the driver at?" he asked.
"Ain't that him on the organ?" Brenda said.
"No," my Mother said. "There he is, standing over there. M_rvin, go and see if you can get the driver to help your Aunt Mae. Hurry up, now before the casket closes!"
When the limo driver freed my aunt from the limousine, her first words to him were not, "How in the hell did you lock me in the limousine?" but:
"That's just Daddy having his last word."
The graveyard was maybe fifty yards from the front door of the church, but it felt like Grandpa's 147 pound body gained a pound with each step. Such is this heaviness:
This is the soil where my Father's Grandfather is buried (1886-1965). This is the soil where my Father's Grandmother is buried (1888-1969). This is the soil where my Father's Mother is buried. This is the church where my Father's father was a deacon.
This is the soil where my Mother's mother is buried. This is where, today, we bury my Mother's father.
This is the church where my Mother met my Father.
This is where, today, we bury my Mother's father.
What a wonderful weight to bear.
All of these years, I never really understood how intertwined my Mother's and Father's families were - how small these worlds.
My cousin behind me kept stepping on my right heel. For once in my life, my world shrank to a very singular purpose: Carry this weight and don't fall.
"Turn," I heard a voice say. "Now switch hands." The pallbearers switched hands. "Now, lift up once." We lifted. "Now, once again." We lifted again. "Now, one final time."
And with the final heave, the work was done. Without a fuss, the casket lowered into the ground.
Saturday, June 02, 2007
Friday, June 01, 2007
I arrived at work around 8:30 with breakfast for my co-workers: pancakes and sausage for _ue___ and French toast and turkey sausage for ___in__. I wore a yellow, long-sleeved Oxford shirt because it was Friday and I was feeling like the sun.
Today, made 4 months at the new gig.
After I finished my own French toast, slopped in syrup and butter, I put on my headphones, turned on my favorite Pandora station, and began my usual business of manipulating cells in Excel.
Suddenly, I got the urge to begin backing up files - my personal files. I was on my work laptop, where I hadn't stored many, but there were a few essential "documents" which had been updated recently (for good reason, apparently) which needed to be protected. So, I shot them to my Gmail account. That's when I received the first tap on my shoulder.
"M_rvin," ___in__ said. "You know they just let ____ go."
"Really?" I said
"Well, right now it is just a rumor, but nobody's heard from her. There's nothing on her desk. We don't know if she went on vacation or what."
"Wow," I said. "How long had she been here?"
"I don't know. Four... five years? It's really sad."
"Yes, that is really sad," I said, stuck my earphones back in, and went back to working.
"Wow. Now that's pretty serious. Who'd you hear that from?"
"M_rvin, hold my hand," she said, playfully - but not playing.
"What are you worried about?" I asked.
Then, she went into the reasons why she thought that she'd be the one let go. Then, she justified why the other Project Manager in the department might be let go.
Then, I said, "Well, I was the last one hired in the department. If there's going to be any letting go, it would only make sense that it would be me."
Then, ____in_ went into all these reasons relating to value and contributions and non-threatingness and likeability as to why, if there was a keeper, I would definitely be it.
"Okay," I said and began backing up my Favorites. This time, I turned off the music.
"M_rvin, can you come down to see me?" said K___, the VP of _e____e. "We won't be in my office. We'll be in the training room."
We? I thought to myself. Here we go.
Then, I grabbed a pen and pad. Though I usually took my laptop to meetings, this time, I decided to travel light.
When I entered the room with its mystic royal blue walls, K___ was accompanied by _e____, the head of HR. A long white envelope glowed ominously on the table where they sat. I joined them.
The 90-second speech began, "Well, M_rvin, as you know, we're in a financial crunch" and it ended with, "you've been a terrific asset to this company, but, effective today, your services will no longer be needed at _o_____ _ho___ Technologies."
"Do you have anything you would like to say?" he added.
"No," I said, smiling. "No, nothing to say."
"We really hate doing this," said _e______, the head of HR.
"I understand," I said to him. "I understand," I said to her.
_e_____ informed me of when my benefits would expire, my eligibility for unemployment, etc.
K____ added, "We just want you to know that this is in no way reflective of your performance.
If you need any letters of recommendation, I'll be glad to write them. Do you have any questions for us?"
"No. No questions. Thanks for the opportunity to work here."
I picked a box, only there was no brand new car.
There is something very genteel about the word, "escort," in this context. The last time I was "escorted" somewhere was as a special guest for a Black history program for the city of Roswell. Another time, I was being escorted to the front of an auditorium as a special guest for a New Year's assembly at a Zulu high school in South Africa. But each time that I've been escorted, there has been a stage waiting for me - a special stage for me to share my talents with the world.
So, as I walked down the graying corridor to my cubicle, my ears rang with a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.:
Take the first step in faith. You don't have to see the whole staircase,
just take the first step.
As I whisked past my former co-workers, their eyes shying away - as if to look at me would be to become me - I felt like a caterpillar about to take flight, or a sun about to rise.
It seems that my dream of the shoes had been my 2-week notice.
Within 5 minutes, I had boxed up all of my things and said my goodbyes. I walked off, donning my new red shoes, into my new life.
Monday, May 21, 2007
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
After being in one place for 11 years, another place is bound to feel a little different. So, now that I have three weeks under my belt and some of the newness has worn off, I can safely say, the place really is a little different.
Rather than tell you, I'll let you see for yourself. This happened while we were in the middle of a meeting at 4:00 this Wednesday:
Sunday, February 18, 2007
Thursday, January 25, 2007
"Well, I'm trying to convince your Daddy to go. He seems to think we're gonna get drowned in snow. He keeps asking me to check the weather."
That was October.
Now, how an October weather report would accurately predict a New England blizzard in January was beyond the both of us; in fact, it was beyond the realm of rational thought. But something about New England in winter made my father, King David Heath of Talbotton, Georgia, irrational. Yet something about this lack of ration was fitting because my mother and father would be coming to witness an event which was, by anybody's stretch, irrational: my graduation with a Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from New England College.
If you've been following this blog, you know the convoluted path I took to get here. Rational thought said I should have gotten a bachelor's degree from Georgia Tech, gone on to graduate studies in electrical engineering at MIT, and followed a sequence of 0's and 1's until I was married with a wife named Angela, two children named Chelsea and Marvin, moving into our second house in some suburb of DC or Houston by this point, living a life of baseball practices and piano recitals and mutual funds.
Instead, here I was trying to convince my Pops to get on a plane to brave the possibility of a blizzard to see me, who shattered his dream of an electrical engineer, graduate with a Masters degree in Fine Arts - Poetry, no less:
SO, HERE ARE me and Pops just before the graduation ceremony. Incidentally, not only did it not snow, but the day before Moms and Pops arrived, the sky was blue, the groundskeeper was actually mowing the grass, and the temperature topped 70 degrees. How's that for New England in January?
Even beyond the weather, the entire residency
was surreal. First, I should mention that, for the first time since the inception of the New England College MFA in Creative Writing program, the winter residency was not being held at the campus in Henniker, NH, but rather at the Northfield Mount Hermon School for Young Ladies , a sprawling campus about 90 minutes south in Northfield, Massachusetts which could have passed for the set of A Separate Peace - in some ways.
In other ways, the campus was eerily reminiscent of The Shining. Perhaps, it was the still as of yet unexplained woman's voice we all heard 3 o'clock one morning screaming, Let me in! I'm locked outside! I'm locked outsiiiiiiiide!!!
Aside from causing good old-fashioned nightmares, the move to this campus could have created a logistical nightmare: flying into Hartford instead of Manchester, all of us being equally lost on a new campus - new students and old students alike. But it went rather smoothly considering.
An unintended consequence of this move to this location "even remoter than Henniker" was that we had no access to a convenience store. Instead, we had a makeshift comissary with very limited options. When I realized that I had forgotten to pack my electric razor, this led to me accomplishing one of my quirkier 101 in 1001 goals:
BUT THE HEIGHT OF SURREALNESS actually occurred on the first full-day of the residency when four of our graduating class of eight had to present our half of the panel, "Doing the Nasty: Writing in, Around, and Through Taboo." Each of us had fifteen minutes to present some craft-oriented mini-lecture. Some of my classmates' topics: Issa Lewis, "The Fallible Speaker: An Exploration of Anne Sexton's 'The Exorcists'"; Misha Cahnmann-Taylor, "White Lies, White Truths: White Writers on Race in Contemporary American Poetry."
My taboo topic? "Rethinking the P*ssy Poem: An Analysis of Tone in the Poetry of Nin Andrews." Yes, me, on a panel talking about p*ssy poems for fifteen minutes.
At the Hartford airport the previous day as we waited for our shuttle to campus, I practiced my p*ssy talk on my classmate, Issa Lewis. I had some reservations about being male and leading such a talk, so I made sure to incorporate a lot of audience participation into the talk. Issa was my guinea pig.
Naturally, the big taboo is the word, p*ssy - particularly, saying it aloud. So, imagine us, in an airport waiting area, surrounded by tables of people, trying to navigate this talk - using our "inside voices," but having to raise our volume periodically to outtalk the P.A. system - Would passenger Douglass J_nes please report to the U.S. Air counter? Passenger Douglass J_nes? - only to have the room suddenly go quiet just as Issa says the following line from "The P*ssy's Debut":
"P*ssy. Pretty, isn't it?"
Imagine the elderly man at the table next to us, raising his brow as he reads the Times. Imagine the woman two tables over, feeding her infant apple sauce, suddenly missing the baby's mouth.
After the practice run concluded, Issa said, "In all my years of living, I've never said the word, p*ssy, as many times as I have in the past fifteen minutes."
"But did you like it?" I asked.
She paused for a moment. Then she said devilishly, "Yesssss."
Parting is such sweet sorrow, it is said. And I'd have to concur. Even in a low-residency format, bonds are created which hurt to break. But where one road ends, there is a place to forge another. And standing here, today, it could not be any brighter.
To end this entry, which culminates an 11-year chapter in my life, which resulted in the completion of my first book-length poetry manuscript, Dreams in the Black Bazaar, (a fitting title for my last 11 years), which resulted in my completion of goal #6: Graduate with an MFA, and which finally allows me to lay Marvin Heath to rest, I'll share these photos of my two families who made it possible - my fellow NEC Class of Winter 2007 graduates: L-to-R: Benjamin Russell, Issa Lewis, Jim Kelleher, me, Michael Fisher, Misha Cahnmann-Taylor, Tara Betts, and Laurie Sewall (not shown) and Moms and Pops.
Here's to a new beginning:
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
"Photographers are the biggest liars there are," __i__ said as I turned on the wiper blades. The traffic light turned green. "No one wants to see the truth. No one wants to see the wrinkles and the scars. No one wants to see the zits. They want to see the make-up and the air-brushing and the digital editing. People want lies and we give 'em to 'em."
"Well, was there ever a time when photographs were viewed as truth?" I asked, stepping on the gas. "I mean, how does what you've said relate to Seeing is believing?"
"Well, no matter who takes the photograph, there's always a matter of perspective," he said. "If I take a picture of your face from beneath you, it can make you look more intimidating.
"Or let's say if I take my hand and point it at your face like this." He pointed his hand an inch away from my right cheek. "And let's say I shake my hand as if I'm chastising you, like this. If someone were to take a photograph of us in this car at this second, it could be used as evidence that we were arguing - say, as a motive for murder."
Why this particular gesture, I thought, of all?"There's always more to a story than a photograph can present," he continued. "What happened in the 10 seconds before the photograph? What happened 10 seconds after? What is occurring just one foot outside of the frame?"
"That's really interesting," I said. "It's fascinating how so much credence in our culture has been placed on photography... and print - how much value we put on these media to document. To see a photograph of something or to see it in print automatically makes it seem more true.
"For instance, in a court of law, if I were to verbally testify that you stayed late after work on 4 different occasions in the past month, it would strengthen my testimony in the eyes of the average person if I possessed a document where I had recorded the dates and times. The funny thing is, it would strengthen the testimony regardless of when I had created the document - even if I had created it just hours before on a computer. The document doesn't make what I'm saying any more true, but we believe it to be more true.
"History is the prime example," I continued. "It is just as easy to write a lie as it is to write the truth."
"Ain't that the truth," he said.
A few minutes before the frame of this blog entry, I revealed a truth to __it_, my main lunch buddy at _o_____ _ed__ _ystems.
After 11 years of service, I pointed and committed a murder, of sorts. I handed in my letter of resignation.
I know it hurt a little for him to hear it, because it hurt a lot for me to say it. I'm going to miss these conversations, __i__. I'm going to miss the midday diversions from the trappings of cubicle life, the exploration of new lunch spots, the visits to the Apple store, the occasional Borders run, and most of all - yes, most of all, the fellowship.
And that's the truth, man. Thanks for all the years.
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Anyway, expect updates to resume this week. 2007's off to a bang!