A Solitaire Song

“Actually, call me back on this number XXX-XXX-XXXX now!” – She said, in the calm yet stabbing tone ever familiar to a child being scolded by a mother in a grocery store.

I hung up the phone and obliged.

“How dare you! My husband accused me of having an affair, and I had to sleep on the couch because of you!”

I, on the other end of the telephone, wondered how asking about a school trip got me here.

I guess if my name were Yunior, that story – a story of poor admin, oblivion, Greece, and marital issues deeper than a tour agent calling about your upcoming trip –would have ended up in the rough drafts of Junot Díaz “This is How You Lose Her.”

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Junot Díaz
This is How You Lose Her
Riverhead Books, New York
2012

Disclaimer – I love (the idea of) love

I was first introduced to Junot Díaz’s engrossing story-telling abilities in his Pulitzer Prize winning “The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.”  The opening paragraph of this book had me. I should have known that I would be captivated from the jump, that I would have wanted to cancel all plans of being social –  Junot Díaz knows how to do this writing thing, shem.

The book is a collection of short stories about love and all that comes with it – lost love, infidelity, dying love, unrequited love, get-your-coins-in-the-name-of-love love – but there is more than just love that threads the stories together. Junot Díaz once said that men are not good at writing from the perspective of women. And in all but one of the stories written from the man’s perspective, I found reading the book very zeitgeist-y. Reading the book at the tail end of my Summer holidays (insert smirk), Valentine’s day, between social media’s “men are Trash” parade, and beginning the book the day after we were introduced to “Hurt Bae,” Yunior, a character full of flavor, was the perfect sometimes guide (no spoiler alert), sometimes protagonist, throughout the book.

The prose in these short stories allowed me to feel the gamut of emotions one expects to feel for “love.” I had several neck-contorted, eyes slightly squinted, mouth partly ajar “the audacity” moments, like while reading “Nilda.” Rafa’s stories had my stomach clenched, hoping for the best, grinning when I should be laughing, waiting for the inevitable. “Otravida, Otravez” and the oh so familiar story of another time and another life, and yet I am going through with this nonetheless. And besides making me want to break out in an All-4-One song, “The Sun, the Moon, the Stars” beautifully told the story of the process of accepting that things are over – even when you do not want them to be.

But this isn’t a sob story about romance; I would not dare put it in the same category with Nicholas Spark. Junot Diaz’s stories are robust – there is wit and an ever so attractive cheekiness. I was not whisked away to a mystical land, there was stench and real pain alongside the excitement of stolen lust. There was a lot of truth.

The stories were captivating in isolation, and the last few pages of the last story “The cheater’s guide to love” made me feel as if I were hoodwinked, in a Morgan Freeman at the end of Lucky Number Slevin laugh at the brilliance kind of way. It made me re-read the first page, as I did when I read “The Outsiders” for the first time. I wanted to read it again. I wanted to pick up the phone and call him to tell him to read the book.

This time, knowing why I was on the other end of the phone call.

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RIP to Malik,the 5 Foot Freak

One of my first music memories are the sounds of A Tribe Called Quest (thanks to older siblings) I went through my own Tribe “awakening” during my Sophmore year of college. I own almost every Tribe CD. A crossed off item from my bucketlist – watching Beats, Rhymes & Life with (really with – as in he paid for my ticket,popcorn and soda and I sat right behind with) Ali Saheed Mohammed.

A Tribe Called Quest (You have to say the whole thing like a Pimp Named Slickback) are part and parcel of Baby Phoof’s musical lexicon. And Phife Dawg, The 5 foot freak, is every part of my love for the group. Hearing about his passing dealt a blow.

To the ultimate sport loving hip hop legend!

 

 

 

You on point Phife?

All the time…!

 

The Inarticulate Premise

There is something about expression which brings finality to word.
Fluidity hardens as the ink dries on page;
And control passes once scanned by eyes or slotted in ears.
These words aren’t yours anymore; they belong to them now.

And so the fear blankets over this assemblage of words
Contemplation of unclothing parts, to be shared for what they are worth.
But there is hesitation.
What if my sequence of words color me in ways unthought of?
As if my diction restricts the truth of my complexity.

So here I sit, each word perched on its nuanced interpretation;
Understood differently by those who meet it.
(Un)known data points creating stories through interpolation,
Punctuated by breath, insecurity and imagination sparked by silence.
How audacious to believe I could capture its intricacies;
Fear that you believe me the same.

And as I swell with words which once swam in possibility.
Words that are now robbed of movement, stifled.
Because those that should have been released are imprisoned by fear of inarticulation;
Overcrowding what little is left of coherency.
I reach this point of delirium and I choose expression:
For being silenced is a greater injustice than being misunderstood. 

 

A duty to serve, protect, and accuse of perjury?

Given the crime statistics in South Africa one would think that a person reporting an incident would be treated with some form of decency. Instead when I had to publicly (in front of the line of people waiting for other police services) state that I was there to report a mugging, I was boldly told, with seething words, that I was lying.

The deplorable behaviour of Captain Matroos of the Mowbray police station is the very reason why people do not trust taking their matters to the police station. Not only did the captain say I was lying, he went on to tell me what the weather conditions were like on the Saturday morning (which he reported falsely) and that there was no way I was mugged were I reported the mugging to have taken place as there are cameras and security guards and they would have seen the incident on tape. When I told him I knew of the guards and had reported the incident to them, he smirked and proceeded to tell me that perjury was a serious offence and I should be ashamed of myself.

As if the incident was not jarring in and of itself, to have the people tasked to serve and protect me are the very same ones treating you as if you’re the one who did wrong.

Thankfully Constable Powsa (I may be spelling his name incorrectly) dealt with the situation more appropriately, and followed up with the report I made to the UCT security guards at my residence.

Tunesday (on a Sunday): Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment – Sunday Candy

Cape Town’s winters are happy winters (in comparison to Maseru’s Winters) and we have had some beautiful days recently.  The afternoons have almost been as feel good as Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment’s Sunday Candy

Chancelor Bennett makes me happy, Jamila Woods voice makes me happy, overall Im a happy chappy. Thanks Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment (does DTatSE include Chance? I feel like I am having a Tracee Ellis Ross moment)

Blue Valentine and my alternate life

I’m not an avid movie watcher but once in a while I catch myself in the mood to watch one. Last night was one of those days. Ironically, I spent a lot of my undergraduate time critically analyzing film through my Spanish major. I knew film terminology in Spanish before I knew them in English (some I still don’t know in English, some I’ve forgotten all together).

Blue Valentine did not shy away from the color in its name with the subtle and not so subtle use of the color blue. Eg the paint Dean uses to paint to house, which stains his hands and is (arguably?) the focus of the moment Cindy holds his hand after the fight in the car. Or the blue of the future room where they spend a not so pleasurable night. Okay, enough blueness. My undergraduate days of writing papers on symbolism in film are over.

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In my alternate life, I am a movie music director and Questlove is my mentor. That’s the reason for this post. After watching the movie, I got deep into my feels, and created a quick playlist of songs which would sustain the feeling I felt through watching the movie. Although I’d say the Grizzly Bears did a great job on this one (yes, I look up the music credits at the end of films) I’m adding my two pennies and a quarter worth.

Penny and the Quarters: You and Me

Okay, this is my cheat song. The story behind this song and how it ended up in the movie is so special.

Bon Iver: I Cant make you love me/Nick of Time

Justin Vernon got me deep into my feels. In my scoring capacity, I think I’d place this when they are at the motel as Cindy closes the door between them.

James Vincent McMarrow: Cavalier

This song made me shed a few tears the first time I heard it. I may have shed a tear or two while watching Blue Valentine.

Damien Rice: 9 Crimes

An oldie, but one of those that really tugs the right strings. This would play when Cindy is at the clinic.

Sampha: Happens

There is no way I’d have an in my feels moment without World Peace, AKA Sampha. But I think this would fit well at the end of the film, when Dean is trying to fight for their marriage.

James Blake: Limit to our love

I just like this song. But I guess it would work as an outro.

Mountains don’t get as much glory as the sea

Mountains don’t get as much glory as the sea.
Yet, you are sturdy and resolved
Not wavering and uncertain like the waters.
Your presence is always felt; your shadows calm me in its imposition.
Not like the sea, demanding respect and instilling fear.

Sometimes I’m frightened by how high I have to climb,
It is more comfortable floating on the surface,
But once on top of you, I am only reminded of how far I’ve come.
Things are lighter up there.
The sea can only push me down into its dark pressures,
Crushing my lungs.

I will never drown in your being;
I may fall, but even then I’ll be at your feet.
Your tantrums are infrequent,
Unlike the constant ebbs and flows of the sea,
Even in the quiet of the night.

You may not cradle me like the waters;
You may not be malleable enough to slip through fingers;
You may not wash over me;
But you are always there when I need you.

Mountains don’t get as much glory as the sea.

If My Playlist Taught Me Law

International Law:

Michael Jackson – We Are The World

For Subjects of International Law who have considered Ius Cogens when the Vienna Convention on Treaties is not Enough

African Customary Law

THEESatisfaction – Recognition

*This is what I want, I’ll get down, recognition, recognition, Section 211(3) recognition, recognition*

Jurisprudence

Frank Ocean – We All Try

*We all gotta believe in something*

Contract 

Luke James ft Rick Ross – Options

Love is not a valid underlying agreement Luke

Criminal Law

Joey Bada$$ ft Action Bronson – Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

Can I live?

Delict

Slikk the Shocker ft Mystikal – It aint my fault

“Did I do that?” *Steve Urkle voice*

Corporation Law

Aaliyah – Resolution

Because everything can be rectified.

To the man in the blue blanket

If it were any other day I would not have paid attention to you.
At best, you would have been a blip out the corner of my eye.
But today was different.

Standing on that street ledge you demanded no attention,
Your action was not laudable, it was anticipated.
And yet, it was an action unfulfilled.

Confusion holds me – it could have been done
You gave no reason for its incompletion,
It wasn’t your intention.

For four hours I stared at you
Unmoving in your position
We turned cold for the same reason, you more lasting.

In life you would have been forgettable
In death you became a spectacle.

Static History: Statues, Symbolism, and Race

This year I joined the University of Cape Town’s Black Law Student Forum (BLSF) as a member of the executive because I knew many students who felt disgruntled about their experiences within the faculty. I did not join the team with utopian dreams of solving all the issues and turning the law faculty into Gilberto Freye’s “racial democracy”. I joined because I thought it senseless that students felt the way they did yet not much was done in terms of collective action.

This is not the post on why I joined the BLSF nor why I believe it still necessary to have organizations such as the BLSF within the faculty. However, in light of recent events surrounding the Rhodes statue, and the greater conversation about race and symbolism, (if you are unaware of the situation read more here) members of the BLSF executive were asked to give our thoughts on the statue. Although the article posted by the organization does in gist represent my views, (read the statement here), I thought to share my original piece with you to better express MY opinion…

Each morning I walk from UCT’s north stop to Kramer, I tend to look up at Jameson Hall beautifully contrasted by the overpowering mountain. I occasionally see Fuller’s bust encompassed in the sandstone, and the view from where Cecil John Rhodes sits is enviable. I do not know who the Kramers, Jameson nor Fuller are, but I assume they have played an integral part in the formation and sustenance of the University of Cape Town; an institution which prides itself on its legacy and the calibre of students, researchers, and faculty it produces. However, I am very aware of Cecil John Rhodes.

From a young age, I was taught of South Africa’s history through a particular prism, and Rhodes was a prominent name in textbooks and tests. Ingrained in my memory is this mining titan who would wish to build a railroad from Cape to Cairo.  His story is not as novel as my textbooks made him seem to be. As I was taught to wonder at this man’s accomplishments, I was never told that he would not regard me, Black and female, as competent nor as worthy of achieving the dreams he was meant to inspire in me. It is this tainted reality of who Rhodes was which I believe the reason why many UCT students are calling for the removal of his statue.

The power of imagery is often understated; it is a conversation between the curator and the audience –  a story, message or feeling wished to be told. I do not wish for Rhodes’ story to be erased from the history of UCT, controversy aside, he played an important part in why the university is situated where it is among other financial assistance which he provided and continues to provide till this day.  However, it is the celebration of Rhodes through a statue that needs reconsideration. I am conflicted in the sense that I understand the outrage over the statue; however I do not know where this will stop? Is this a call to rethink all names and imagery at the University? Will I walk to a building no longer named Kramer, see a hall not named Jameson, or Fuller’s bust?

The problem is greater than the symbols at UCT. The removal of Rhodes from campus will unfortunately not erase the greater sense of silence on issues of racial representation at the university. Whereas I believe the conversation, and call to remove the statue is a starting point, there are deeper issues which need to be spoken on, not in place of, but in conjunction with symbolism at UCT. With that said, I support the student’s call to remove the Rhodes statue, and equally urge all students to engage in conversations and actions on broader transformational goals.

Relebohile Phoofolo