of fireflies and ghetto radio

There's this professor I had in graduate school. I can always count on him for inspiration. It was in his class I wrote down the first sentence to my novel on my notes. I still remember the discussion. We were talking about what it means to be an American and have dreams and how writing has changed for so many of us....how it makes us feel alive. Two years ago he sent this e-mail out talking about life inventories and it skyrocketed in popularity. For a brief moment, there was even a website dedicated to people who wanted to write down their "life in 30." In this e-mail he talked about sharing our stories - where we've been & what we've done & what we've read - all this makes us who we are and somewhere there has got to be someone who will listen.

I got another e-mail from him the other day with a list of his summer. I loved it so much I decided to write my own. Looks like his inspiration hasn't waned.

This summer...

...moved to a different neighborhood that comes complete with barking dogs hungry for their next fight, ice-cream trucks roaming the streets around midnight, and Tejano-rave music pulsing from various fiestas. We have fireflies, though - and according to Russ, this means we live in a stable environment. Perhaps the quiet solitude of zero-lot line suburbs aren’t as stable as I once thought.

...met Adah who called me her “beautiful mum” and Christine who taught me how to properly swing my hips while dancing the creeper. For two weeks I invaded their lives - breathed in the dirt of their homes - only to leave with half of my heart still attached to their hands. Not a day goes by where I don’t crave the smell of roasted corn on the street corners or glance at the pile of letters written on dirty scrap paper.

...learned the true meaning of “T.I.A.” (This is Africa). Usually, this means last minute schedule changes, trading a gorgeous bracelet for a sharpie, being caught in the middle of a political bribe, peeing in a 2-liter bottle & throwing contents out the window only to hit an oncoming car, participating in the filming of a music video in a slum, experiencing the glamour of latrines and wondering if you’ll live through your bus driver’s attempt to get to the airport during rush hour traffic. All of it quickly becomes no big deal - until of course you return home to culture shock and a serious lack of FANTA drinks with real cane sugar.

...led a fine-arts writing camp and reminded myself the importance of story, the need for forgiveness and the thirst so many have for just one person to believe in them.

...revisited my manuscript and found the courage to send it to some friends so they could read it and speak some advice into its rusty pages while taking the time to breathe some life into it myself. It's the end of August, and I'm not done - but I'm a whole lot more done than I was in April.

...realized that if I ever had a hankering for Africa all I needed to do was find the closest R&B station and suddenly I am transported to the streets of Nairobi, listening to Ghetto Radio. The only difference? I don't have 10 kids singing at the top of their lungs and dancing in their seats in my car. It's just me. And yes...I sing.

...the 'hood's been good to me...every since I was a lower case g

What did you do this summer?

Posted on August 22, 2010 .