Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Prosperity diAries: Day 18, Silence

Prosperity diAries: Day 18> Silence

The morning was gloomy filled with grayish clouds. It rained which was great it hadn’t rained in months.I let the rain drizzle on me and put my umbrella away. My sis and I went to the East Bay church of religious science. Rev. Elouise talked about giving yourself up to god. To some folks that means sitting up in church every Sunday, reciting holy text, rebuking anyone that is of another faith. For me it means honoring the god within me which goes beyond my doubts, worries, fears and expectations.

People always say “Aries your so patient” but really its the god in me. I believe in the power of prayer and divine intervention. Shoot, I would have givin up a long time ago if it wasn’t for the grace of god. After church, I felt the need to be in silence. No talking, no second opinion, no chatting about mundane things, no mindless talking to feel the air only silence.

I told Lil sis let's not talk for a couple of hours. As much as I love to talk even I have to shut up every now and then. Silence helps me to clear my head and be more in my body. I know folks that always gotta have some kind of noise in the background; radio, TV, gun shots or sirens. I remember in college one of my friends was like it is weird in upstate New York cause you don’t hear helicopters or ambulances like in the city.

We all have soundtracks to our lives that we hear on a regular basis and conversations that seem to keep repeating. When we turn down the volume and give words a rest many things arise. In silence we find the answers that we have been looking for, the clarity we need to move forward and insight if you listen.

In the words of the great Sufi poet Rumi

I took a vow of silence
And my tongue is tied
Yet still,
I’m the speaker without a speech

Enjoy the sweetness of silence. Peace yall

--Aries Jordan

Aries is author of Journey to Womanhood, poems, 2011, Black Bird Press.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Ode to the Lady Drunk on Self Righteousness

Ode to the Lady Drunk on Self Righteousness

Who is this lady who loves modern day lynchings? Who is this lady who is never humble enough to admit her guilt, her fault, her wrongdoing? Who can be perfect every single time? Not one person and certainly not a large institution and never a nation. This nation is deeply embedded with the error of self-righteous ways that she has masked in pursuit of her own wealth, disguised in idealistic terms such as Westward Expansion, Religious Freedom, Democracy, Capitalism, The American Dream, Industrialism, and Rugged Individualism. All of these pursuits have led to the destruction of so many groups and ideals that stood in the way of narrow minded Euro-Americans fulfilling their own dreams. Dreams that have not been consistent with the idealism in that “perfect” doctrine known as the Constitution of the United States of America.

America has never apologized for her treatment of African Americans during the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, and thereafter. This failure to apologize has caused her tremendous guilt and pain when looking into the face of African Americans; as a result, we can never really deal with one another on equal footing. As a result, she is still able to lynch innocent individuals with no remorse, with no guilt, and with no shame. No matter what the world conscious says, her arrogance, her self-righteousness will not allow her to say or to even consider, “Perhaps I have made a mistake.”

America there has been many mistakes. More than 30 years ago Martin Luther King reminded you of the words of the bible which says, that pride and arrogance goes before a great fall. You are falling and you can’t even see it. You have been warned and you are being warned, but you’re drunk with your own quest for power and wealth. It is time to see that your imbalance will never lead you to seek truth, justice and righteousness on behalf of all of humanity. Wake up, before you begin to be a remnant of the past, like the Incas, the Mayans, the Babylonians, the Romans and other great empires of the past that are only relics of history. Wake up Amerimacka before Injustice comes knocking on your door.

And for those who think this doesn’t apply to you, if you’re not fighting against injustice, your complicity is guilt enough to condemn you.

There's is yet work to do...peace and blessings to all of us, for we are Troy Davis!



Thursday, September 8, 2011

Serendipity Books, R.I.P., Peter Howard

Serendipity Books, R.I.P.

Who doesn’t love buying online? It offers a bigger selection for less money, ordered from the privacy of your home and delivered there too. But if e-commerce is great for consumers, it is more problematic for citizens. The sales tax that people pay in physical stores helps pay for the upkeep of their communities. The physical stores also provide employment; these workers can afford in turn to buy things and thus keep the economy afloat. Few such benefits flow from e-commerce.

The bookseller Peter B. Howard, shortly before his death.The bookseller Peter B. Howard, shortly before his death.

California, with a colossal hole in its budget and 12 percent unemployment, is confronting this quandary as it tries to compel Amazon.com to collect sales tax. Amazon is so confident that bargain-hunting consumers will rally to its side that it is essentially ignoring the law. Maybe they will.

But as the battle between the state and the retailer was heating up late last week, news came that Serendipity Books in Berkeley was closing. Antiquarian stores like Serendipity were once plentiful. They specialized in winnowing the detritus of the past, plucking the important material for collectors, scholars and institutions. Serendipity was for decades one of the best such shops, and eventually one of the last. In the years to come, people will have a hard time appreciating there were such places, where anyone who wanted to could look and learn and buy, or maybe just while away a rainy afternoon. So let’s spend a moment giving Serendipity its due.

The store was founded by Peter B. Howard in the early 1960s with the notion that the best bookshop in the world would have one copy of everything. It sometimes seemed as if Serendipity fulfilled this dream. Potential customers were confronted with a warren of rooms, some two stories high, with good books stuffed absolutely everywhere, including in shopping bags blocking the narrow aisles. Although there was clearly an underlying order, its nature was hard to discern; there were no signs. People would wander in a daze, sometimes asking, “Do you sell books here?” They thought it was a library or perhaps a museum.

The lack of direction was on purpose and in earnest. Mr. Howard wanted people to search for books and find not just what they were looking for but the book next to it, which they might want more if they only realized it existed. “The bookstore is an infinite array of material and knowledge of which you know nothing,” he said. “If you’re focused, you go to the library.”

Or, these days, you go online. Serendipity largely ignored the Web
as a publicity and selling device and the Internet returned the favor.

Mr. Howard might have created a wonder-filled shop, but on Yelp the reviews were few and grudging. One reviewer complained that prices were too high. Another said the store offered too little when it was buying your old books. Neither seemed to appreciate that the store could exist only because there was a merchant in the middle of these transactions trying to make a living, and that there was a benefit to the community that it was this way.

Mr. Howard bought and sold collections as well as individual books, including the world’s greatest assortment of lost race fiction (a peculiar American fixation in the early years of the 20th century; Tarzan was its most famous exemplar); a 5,000-item gathering of material about baseball dating from 1819; proletarian literature from the 1930s; classic film scripts from all eras; geoscience and paleontology published between 1550 and 1850; pioneering collections of fiction and nonfiction about the oil industry and the Vietnam War. The store featured Carl Sandburg’s guitar and Jack London’s spears. The poetry sections were a trove of obscure versifiers, unrivaled by any store in the country. There were vast holdings of Canadiana, books in Russian from the early Soviet period, every book in seemingly every edition by John Steinbeck, from $20,000 inscribed copies of The Grapes of Wrath to paperback reprints. Mr. Howard believed in volume and breadth.

You needed to know what you were doing to take advantage of Serendipity, which used to be the way the world worked. Finding the books was only the beginning. After you stumbled on things you wanted to take home – perhaps through persistence, perhaps by serendipity – you would be making a mistake to take your choices to the bookkeeper in her alcove, the closest the store had to a checkout till. Instead, the smart customer would take them up to Mr. Howard, pausing first to see if the Giants had won their most recent game.

The fortunes of the team often affected how much he would charge for books. This quirk was so pronounced it was immortalized in print. In Samuel Gottlieb’s “Overbooked in Arizona,” the tale of a book collector gone mad, the protagonist is driving from Phoenix to Berkeley to buy books at Serendipity when the Giants lose a game they had been winning. He cuts across the median and heads back home, knowing the trip is now in vain.

If your chosen books were already priced, Mr. Howard almost always lowered the sum demanded for each unless he didn’t like you. If they were unpriced, four out of five would be less than you hoped while one would be much more. But you had to take all of them if you wanted a similar deal next time. The books would be written up by hand on an invoice, a tedious process but on Saturdays Mr. Howard nourished all comers with pastries and coffee. When the books finally changed hands, money did not necessarily follow. Like a good bar, which in some ways it resembled, Serendipity allowed customers to run a tab and pay more or less when they wanted. As I write this, I owe $388.

Suppose you took a book home and belatedly decided, for whatever reason, you did not want it? All Serendipity catalogs were emblazoned with the remark, “Any book may be returned for any reason.” I returned a book. Once. As Mr. Howard complained about my bad faith, I referred to the guarantee. Mr. Howard’s wife, Alison, who was listening, responded sweetly: “We said we’d accept back any book. We didn’t say we’d do it happily.”

Downloading ebooks was nothing like this. Serendipity was a refuge and an education.

And sometimes a pain. Mr. Howard could be a difficult man. “He always had an instant answer he would throw in your face in the manner of some biblical prophet,” the bookseller David Mason wrote. Yet he was also wildly generous, a quality never more on display than in his famous biannual parties when the store would be swept clean and a fabulous all-day feast put on, with suckling pigs and fine wine. It was a way of rooting himself in the community. Customers would walk in with an interesting tale and interesting books, and Mr. Howard would buy them. “Because I own the building, I can have a lot of books, and because I have a lot of books in a visible place, things can happen,” he said.

Mr. Howard was too irascible to train a successor but when he developed pancreatic cancer two years ago, he began trying to sell the store. The price would have been about the seven-figure sum that it takes to buy a nice house in Berkeley, a pittance really. There were no takers. Who wants a half-million books in the Internet Age?

The bookseller was 72 when he died on March 31, Opening Day, while watching his beloved Giants. He checked out in the bottom of the sixth, when the score was still 0-0 and before the Giants could lose. The store hung on a couple more months as the Howard family considered its options. Late last week, Nancy Kosenka, Mr. Howard’s longtime deputy, posted on her Facebook page that Saturday would be it. Sales were brisk. Late in the afternoon, a first-time customer walked in, scanned the shelves in bewilderment and inevitably asked, “Do you sell books here?” Not anymore.


Peter Howard, R.I.P., encouraged the Bancroft Library to acquire the archives of Marvin X. He also was agent for the archives of Eldridge Cleaver and Ishmael Reed.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Congo Square West

Congo Square West

Ancient drum beats
rock Berkeley Flea Market
crossroads of Africans in the Bay
Legba land
drummers at the gate
like Peter
rhythms from a land forgotten
land reclaimed
somehow remembered
the ancient dance of Shango
fused with blues and holy ghost shout
these are not true Africans, you say
they cannot speak the mother tongue
dance the ritual moves of ten thousand years in Yorubaland
but sincere and pure they beat their congas, batas, djembes
healing what and where they can in the broken brain cells
wives drop off drummers
women join the circle
dancing to the wind
remembering what they can of sacred moves, leaps, twists, turns
the men from Pelican Bay take their turn
don't be surprised at these holy men
who move and shake and raise arms in praise to some most high god of long ago
but they believe
and they move in holy ghost rhythms
the sweat runs down their foreheads
they do the james brown on the concrete
leaping, sliding jumping
there are those on the sidelines chanting in tongues unknown
known only to the insane
yet the healing is in motion
one day at a time.
--Marvin X

Thursday, September 1, 2011

How Did I Get Here and How Do I Get Back Home?

How Did I Get Here, and How Do I Get Back Home?

Marvin X and Master Sun Ra, his mentor.

How Did I Get Here and How Do I Get Back Home?

I listen to the Kora
I wander into the self lost soul lost
how did I get here
yes, in this land of Babylon
stranger in a strange land
I am naked in the street
take me to the hospital
I am sick
it is the music that I hear
not the ancient music of my soul
call it sold music sold out music
demonic sounds of nothingness and dread
nursery rhymes for sleepy time tea children

Oh, Ancestors, deliver me from this unholy condition
lift me up to my Father's House
let the chains of the dungeon fly from my legs
let me fly home
send the space ship to the rescue
Sun Ra
spread your sacred wings around me
devour me in your love
Oh, Sun Ra we call upon your Wisdom
let us escape the box
let the Creator take us in his grace

We are better than this, wiser than this, more holy than this
the Holy Ghost fills us with His Holy Spirit
we talk in tongues
we fly into space
we are not in this place
we are in a world where our bodies dance into the sun
fly into the moon
we spread our wings and fly to Jupiter, Mars, to the Sun
Space is the Place
Space is the Place
--Marvin X