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Ghetto-Opoly: How It Really Went Down
Wednesday, 17 November 2004
Wiggly Moment: Ghetto-opoly Intermission
wiggly moment --ghetto-opoly intermission


Adrian described my life as one long series of wiggly moments. Which sounds about right --scandalous, yet unglamorous.


Today's wiggly moment happened when I ran into Paul Smith at the Gazette office, where I'd gone to discuss my forthcoming football article with the head editor (which is due Friday, so I really shouldn't be writing this right now, but I'm sad and I need to vent a little before I pick up the pen.) We both looked at each other with this mutual sense of guilt --what could almost be described as empathy. My cheeks were burning and I wondered if he'd discovered the Ghetto-Opoly blog, and if so, how was he planning to exact revenge on me. I asked Adrian what would you do if you found out the girl who was muscling for your position was also writing an exhaustive, serialized narrative whose basic thesis was: "Why Paul Smith is A Bad Lay," including intermittent date rape fantasies, and hot lesbian sex scenes added for the purpose of plot. Even if most of what she says is true --so you can't do that much about it.


Adrian said he'd probably send me a virus over e mail --some kind of picture attachment that leaked pathogens into my computer and turned it into a zombie for Viagra adds, or something.


So he wouldn't look me in the eye, and I started getting one of my ticks, where I pull my hair and pinch the flesh on my neck. I'm seeing a counselor and she asked why I pinch myself so much while I'm trying to tell a story ---I said I'm just fidgety; she said it looks really self-destructive.


But, anyway.


Paul felt guilty for objectifying me, and I felt guilty for skewering him in my blog, and we probably both felt guilty for having spent the last six months talking shit about each other ---albeit to people who didn't matter, until now.


Last night Fifi and I were lying in bed, and she asked if I ever looked at other girls. Like, that way. And I said, matter-of-factly, hell no I don't. And she said well I must be the exception then --the super-extra-good one who's pulling your heartstrings. And I said no, I don't look at you either. Not that way.


I meant it. Writing is becoming increasingly difficult, with her two inches from my wall all the time.

In truth, Fifi's done more for me than any man I've dated over the past year. Let's tally up the gifts:

one pimped-out stereo

one MP3 player

26 kimchi dinners

cleaned the stove

washed my dishes


provided a full-length mirror so I can practice my dance moves in the bathroom, while I'm listening to KMEL love zone on my walkman

Is this a fair exchange? Well, I attacked her rather savagely the other night.

And I haven't even finished the story yet.


Posted by yorachelswan at 1:00 PM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 17 November 2004 1:06 PM EST
Ghetto-Opoly: pt. 9 (What's better than sex is writing about it)
What's better than sex is writing about it (was: Ghetto-Opoly: How It Really Went Down pt. 9)


As you can imagine, the sex I eventually had with Petey Pedrito Stretchito was mostly propelled by a certain fantasy of loyalty -the prostitute and the pimp- that wasn't really enough to buoy a romance for very long. It took longer to dissipate in my mind than in his -I think he thought I was a bore after about the second date, when I refused to tell him exactly what I'd written about his rap skills in my previous reviews of the Friendly Low Region. He did, however, concede that I give good head when I want to, and that it's impressive for a girl my size to pin down a guy his size with my knees pressed against his thighs, and my hands gripping his wrists against the bedpost.

But, anyway, Petey Pedrito Stretchito has enough groupies to keep him busy for a while. And it's pretty much understood that if Ghetto Sublime engaged in wild sex with her own horde of groupies, she'd quickly find herself stuck with:

1) VD

2) a lot of annoying, hangin' on-ass motherfuckers.

And there's no way she's gonna risk gettin' knocked up by any of them, so there you have it.

But, anyway. On that particular night the game ended around 2, and by that time, Paul Smith couldn't stand up without gripping the edge of the table. Ghetto Sublime scurried around sweeping up the cigar ashes and spilled beer from the floor, rinsing out the empty bottles, scrubbing her roomate's IKEA table, and herding everyone outside. And then she sidled up to Petey Pedrito and asked wouldn't he like to have her phone number, so they could resume this at some other date.

Bazooka Tooth Joe was the first to drive off in his old Toyota, and Petey Pedrito offered Paul Smith a ride home, which Paul Smith refused, saying he could use the walk to clear out his system.

Of course, Ghetto Sublime knew his real intentions. And she said nothing. And as Petey Pedrito cranked up his engine and sped off, she wasn't surprised to feel the cold hand slide around her waist, all over again.

So now you understand why, when I eventually related the story to Rosa, she re-christened me "Miss Dick-In-Her-Face." The next thing I remember was being chased back into my bedroom, and as I'm curled up on the bed with my knees drawn up, Paul Smith unzips his pants and then there's this long unappetizing schlong just kind of hanging out in space like a big corn cob. Fortunately, he's drunk and it's easy to trade positions; I get him in a half-nelson and push him on the bed. He gets up, shakes my shoulders, tries to push me down again, I yelp and run to a corner of the room until I hear him panting and breathing heavily.

I lean against the wall and watch the hour hand inch from 2 to 3 while he crumples on the bed, and starts to snoar. And then I open the door quietly and look again, and think there's something kind of peaceful about him just sleeping there --it helps dissolve my anger. I'm reminded of something Tony Morrison said --that there's a loneliness that can be rocked.

I saunter over to Fifi's room and knock tentatively on the door. There's a Sade song playing low on the stereo and she's stretched out on the massage table, with the tennis balls digging into the small of her back. Like a minx, I think.

"Mmmmmm Ghetto Sublime, you should really try this." She uncurls an arm and yawns. "But I don't think you can handle it, yet."

I tiptoe over to the table and lean over to kiss her. She whispers something, and moves a little, and I sit down and curl me knees up again. She asks how the game was and I'm silent for a spell, and I want to cry. And then she sits up and starts kneading my shoulders and whispers that it might be fun one of these days if we tried fucking in the garden, in the dried leaves and the weeds and the witchgrass, and I'll bet you a dollar nobody would see.

And then there's a hand pressing into my thighs and I moan a little and she says relax, spread your legs. And my heart starts beating faster as she's unbuttoning my fly and pushing my legs apart, and her finger traces the lining on my panties, and then she's in me, and I'm moaning again and she says sssth, hush, people will hear us. And I'm panting and trying to talk to her and say yeah, what really made me angry was --

but I can't talk because I'm breathing too fast, and she pushes me up on the table and sticks a knee between my legs to open them, and she says "open your legs wider" as she's kissing on my neck, and I say put the pillow over me, I want to scream, I'm gonna scream, and she slides into my thighs and I curl my back and make a shadow-sillouette against the window.

Outside a freight rattles by and I hear the howl of a stray cat. The limp penants of a used car dealership glow under the light of a gibbous moon, and I think somebody's shirts are flapping on the line. And my thighs are slick and wet, and I curl my head back to peer through the eye-like windows.

Then we hear it. A knock. And somebody's voice bellowing from outside.

Posted by yorachelswan at 12:50 PM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 17 November 2004 1:06 PM EST
Sunday, 31 October 2004
Ghetto-Opoly pt. 8
We're running low on groceries in my apartment, so this afternoon I ate a bowl of long-grain jasmine rice with chopsticks, and drank two cups of black coffee. I remember that Paul Smith told me I make weak coffee --it used to be weaker than hotel coffee: Muddy water at the top and grounds at the bottom. These days I make my coffee black, and strong, and it hits me so hard that I feel the warmth rising up from the soles of my feet and pulsing through my arteries like liquid sugar --just like the old days when I used to snort meth anphetamine to write my college papers. I was wired, panting heavily and dancing in circles at the BART station, with my portable Discman blaring Biggie's "Kick In The Door": Jesus, get off the Notorious penis before I squeeze and bust. If theres beef between us We can settle it With that chrome-metal shit I make it hot, like a kettle get
You're delicate, you better get Who sent ya?
You're still peddle shit I got more rides than Great Adventure.

The lines lodge themselves in my brain like spat-out venom; words I should have volleyed at Paul Smith on the night of the great Ghetto-Opoly experiment, when he cornered me in the bathroom and put his arms around my waste, and stuck his tongue between my lips. It was a soppy, beery kiss that I would have hungered for, except on that night I pushed him away with a nervous smile. Oh, not right now.

Kick in the door wavin the four-four
All you heard was poppa don't hit no more.

When Ishtar Blaq left my apartment, just after midnight, he asked me to walk him to the door and as soon as the other players weren't looking, he slid his hands in my jeans and said oh, I don't think anyone suspects anything, well maybe Petey Pedrito Stretchito because he made a couple comments when we walked to the store, but it's all right because I think he's getting along with you okay.

I'm reminded that Ishtar Blaq sometimes rode his bike to my house on weekday mornings and smoked a spliff out the window while I blithely penned reviews of the newest MF Doom or Variable Unit. Once he told me oh, you're cute now, but give or take five years and you'll be knocked up and your nails will grow out all long and your hair will grow out all long.

And I remember I declared a moratorium on Ishtar Blaq that day, except I should have warned him:
Look how dark it get When ya marked with death
Should I start ya breath Or should I let you die?

One of my friends once tried to goad me to come to a Red Army meeting with him at an Erytrian restaurant on 51st and Telegraph, where he was supposed to convene with some members of the old George Jackson Brigade. He said, "Ghetto Sublime, I think we should make revolutionary communism a little more like hip-hop. You know, have a girl there to just sit around and dangle cigarettes, with no apparent purpose." And maybe Paul Smith was trying to institute the same thing in Ghetto-opoly.

When I sauntered back into the kitchen, Petey Pedrito Stretchito was eyeing my money gingerly --marveling at the slovenly stacks of bills with the hundreds crumpled up and the five hundreds soaking in a puddle of beer.

"Girl, you really need someone to manage your money," he said.

I didn't know what to make of this. It sounded like he was saying something private, and intimate. But he was talking about accounting. I was giving instructions on how to cook porkchops.

"Let me be your manager."

At that point, there were still two other players, and one of them was Paul Smith, and they were both pouring another six-pack of Colt 45 down the hatch. But I felt like Petey Pedrito and I had suddenly entered this hermetically sealed space where I could finally get a little outside the role that had been cultivated for me, and tap into this fantasy that I'd heard about in rap songs since I was 13, and still growing into my own sexuality, and not really understanding what rappers meant in their more benignly patriarchal songs about controling and handling women.

Secretly, I'd always wished something similar would happen to me.

By that point, Petey Pedrito owned about half the properties on the board --apparently he'd parlayed his ghetto tactics and his monopoly skills to succeed in this ridiculous game. And since we'd formed an alliance, he let it slide when I landed on his properties, and should have paid a sum of 200 or 500 daughters.

See, that's your hotel, Ghetto Sublime. I named it after you.

And I said "Okay Papi, move the piece for me." He looked at me a little funny, and I was getting butterflies again. I couldn't believe the words even as I said them --damn, I was acting the fool!

Paul Smith would definitely agree, except at that point, he'd drank so much he couldn't stand up without grabbing the table to steady himself. The dishes were piling up and the floor was tracked with mud, and I knew my roommates would kill me in the morning.

Slugs go touchie touchie; ya bleed lovely, with your spirit above me --or beneath me. Rest where the worms and the weak be. Here's a tissue, stop your blood clot crying; the kids, the dog, everybody dying, No lying, so don't you get suspicious. I'm BIG dangerous, you're just a little vicious.

I re-channeled all my anger into the sheer delight of behaving in the most morally reprehensible way possible --what Mikki would call "tapping into your inner-hoochie." And later, I tried describing the feeling to Petey Pedrito Stretchito, except I still struggled to wrap my mind around it:

" I guess what I was trying to tell you tonight -that I
> couldn't express then, and probably won't articulate
> well, now- is that, in the ghetto-opoly setup, it
> seemed like race/gender/sex/power/etc. were all in a
> piece --and yet, and still, I was turned on. And it
> took me a while to figure out why.
>
> What was deep, to me, was watching myself watch you
> play the pimp, and thinking, wow, I'm supposed to act
> a certain way in this setting, and yet I'm inclined to
> act the other way, and maybe that's just because of
> the taboo-ness of it all. In reality, I was vibing off
> you in this rich, rich, rich way --because pimping
> seems like a natural extension of your personality."

And I should have known, even then, that there aren't worlds of difference between Bazooka Tooth Joe, Ishtar Blaq, Paul Smith, and Petey Pedrito. And really, in the end, they were all out to bring in the pain.

Posted by yorachelswan at 5:14 AM EDT
Saturday, 30 October 2004
My Journey of Self Discovery as a White Girl Who Fucks Black Nationalists (was: Ghetto-Opoly: How It Really Went Down pt. 8)
What sucks about being the white girl who fucks black nationalists -as I discovered in the case of Paul Smith- is that you're burdened with having to listen to Paris, or worse yet, Immortal Technique, while you're having sex. And the problem with listening to Paris while you're having sex is that you feel like Paris is in the room with you -which may or may not be a good thing, depending on how you feel about Paris. I mean, what else would you bump? African drum?

Paul Smith cornered me in the bathroom that night, wrapped his hands around my waist, and pushed me into the door jam. He kissed me. I rolled my eyes and pushed him away.

Posted by yorachelswan at 5:00 AM EDT
Ghett-Opoly: How It Really Went Down pt. 7 (was: Porkchops and Pork Rinds)
Girls pee pee when they see me

Navajos creep me in they tee pee As I lay down laws like Alan Coppet Stop it - if you think they gonna make a profit Don't see my ones, don't see my guns - get it Now tell ya friends Poppa hit it then split it in two as I flow with the Junior M.A.F.I.A. I don't know what the hell's stoppin ya I'm clockin ya, Versace shades watchin ya Once ya grin, I'm in game, begin First I talk about how I dresses this In diamond necklasses - stretch Lexuses


The sex is just immaculate from the back I get Deeper and deeper, help ya reach the climax that your man can't make Call him, tell him you'll be home real late and sing the break.


Okay, it's about time I let you know that I've distorted something else in the story. The four of us -Paul Smith, Ghetto Sublime, Petey Pedrito Stretchito, and Ishtar Blaq- weren't the only ones playing. There was another guy -a white guy- named Bazooka Tooth Joe, who runs a San Francisco-based record label. And the reason that's important is that, if you looked around the table you'd see that all the black guys had their money organized, and piled in neat little stacks, and the two white people both had their bills scattered every which way.

Which just goes to show why I always go to my black friends for financial advice. White people all have secret bank accounts. They didn't come up in the struggle.

Ishtar Blaq, who had chosen the pimp piece, leaned over and offered to help me manage my money --I vaguely remember swatting his hand away, and according to the article I rebuffed him. So that's what must have happened. I was too busy trying to avoid spilling beer on all my CDs, and figuring out a way to play footsie with Petey Pedrito Stretchito under the table. We'd been listening to the same Ice Cube and House of Pain mix (don't ask) over and over, so I pulled it out and put in a little Soncito by Celia Cruz.

I glanced over at him and smiled cleverly. "Do you know how to cook porkchops?" I said the words as though I were still chewing on them.

Actually, I heard my own voice but it sounded like someone else was speaking. Or I was under water. I couldn't even think; my mind was rushing ahead and the stuff I wanted to say was falling out hurdily-gurdily, and yet I couldn't understand why it sounded so slow and calculated and cagey. "You crush up some coliander and rosemary and ground peppercorn, and a little butter, and you take the hunks of meat and slather them up so gets all in the insides and all the little crevices. And then you heat the pan, and the moment you want to throw them on you --"

I couldn't believe this. He was staring at me like, completely rapt. "--you --you --wait!" And I threw up my hands for the purpose of plot, and added "You wait just a little bit, and when you finally get them on the pan it should make this little sound like --"

"tsssssss."

By then, I was wriggling around in my seat.

"It's like someone's whispering in your ear, saying 'tssssssss.'" My voice hushed so he had to lean over a little more to hear the rest. "That's the sound you want."

Paul was glaring at me. "Ah hem. Butter in your chops? You wanna kill a black man?"

Petey Pedrito chuckled. "We should cook together some time, Ghetto Sublime. You know make some porkchops, listen to a little salsa --see what we think."

I remember in my first ever love letter to him I wrote:

"I started to get this
feeling, like every last molecule in my body was
unhinged, and floating toward you."

It was a warm, clean feeling.


Posted by yorachelswan at 4:00 AM EDT
My Interview With Jesus Christ (was: Ghetto-Opoly: How It Really Went Down pt. 6)
Okay, I've already told a lie in recounting this story. Ishtar Blaq wasn't one of the original intended members of the great ghetto-opoly experiment. His slot was actually supposed to go to a rapper named Cue Ball, from the old school East Oakland crew Bum Confunkshun. Unfortunately, that night Cue Ball was going through some baby mama drama, and it was Petey Pedrito Stretchito's idea to call Ishtar to take his place. It wasn't too hard to anticipate Ishtar's reaction: "You, Paul, and Ghetto Sublime are doing what? This movie's boring anyway. I'll be right over."

Ten minutes later he arrived, tethered his bike to the wrought iron railing on my front steps, and summoned Petey Pedrito Stretchito off to the liquor store on Idaho and Alcatraz to buy some Black and Milds and Cheetos. As they walked down the block together, Petey Pedrito nudged Ishtar (and this is some omniscient narrator shit, for ya): "So how come you didn't need directions to this broad's crib? You fuckin' her or something?"

"Uh, nah man. Nah. I just came for the interview."

"Yo, I heard my man talking shit about that bitch. He was like, 'you wanna fuck a lesbian? She'll give you a bad review, but it's almost worth it.' But then he added, 'that's the bitch who won't shut up about my lisp.' So I was like, man, I'm straight."

Meanwhile, Paul Smith had put a mix of old B-Legit and Mac Mall tunes on my embarrassingly small, dimestore clock radio/CD player. I was suddenly having reservations about ghetto-opoly, and saying that if I was relegated to the role of the white ho, I assume it's his way of putting me back in place. And I'd have to find away to let my humanity, and my essential ghetto sublime-ness, shine through. He cut his eyes at me and made a sssssssth sound.

And then they came back with the Black and Mild cigars and a pack of zig zags --I abandoned whatever principles I'd just claimed, and decided, suddenly, that if I was gonna be the white ho, I may as well take it as far as possible. After all, the Ghetto Sublime tries to be an over-achiever at everything she does, even if it means becoming complicit in her own exploitation. The other motivation was that Petey Pedrito Stretchito was sitting across the table from me --and to this day I get butterflies thinking about the way those chains jangled over his red jersey. I was more smitten than mutton. If I were muttton, I would have been come to life on your dinner plate and started singing sweet nothings in your ear: "I'm just a lamb, alone in the world."

And I was also petrified. I mean, hello, these are guys I've already given so-so reviews to in the alt.weeklies --and they try to act like that doesn't create any tension in our interactions, but I remember Petey Pedrito Stretchito whining at me when we first met --something about myopic critics who thought the beats of last year's Friendly Low Region album outpaced the substantive content of their lyrics. Which I still hold to be true, so we'll have to agree to disagree.

But, anyway, after a while I wasn't hearing his complaints. It was like having a case of Charlie Brown syndrome --every time something came out of his mouth, the words magically changed into KMEL choruses before hitting my ears. And before long, all that was running through my head were the lyrics of that Missy Elliot song that she performs with Method Man:

I came to bring the pain hardcore to the brain Oooh baby, wuss your name? I love the way you spittin your game You made me change from thinkin all guys the same You the type of guy I wanna marry in months Got exactly what I want And ain't no fakin the funk You're attitude is bunk and you makin me crunk


Posted by yorachelswan at 3:58 AM EDT
Ghetto-Opoly: How It Really Went Down pt. 5 (was: Fucking Fifi Again)
When I look at me
I want to flee.
I long to be strong and swift
From my body my soul will lift.
Why must I be who I am?
Away from me I want to scram.
Someone who I'd rather be
Anyone who isn't me.

So I was wondering how long a girl could persist in having hot, sweaty lesbian sex with her roommate and avoid that errr... sordid, ungainly tempest called "the lesbian relationship." For me, it was five days in a row. Not bad, right? I guess the whole "processing" part of girl-on-girl interactions was something I didn't miss very much. Over the past year, I've been dating guys who I wouldn't necessarily describe as emotionally unavailable --a better way of saying it would be that all the guys I dated last year were on a wavelength that, when crossed with mine, produced silence.

Fifi is mad that I've cast so many aspersions against (in no particular order): lesbian folk music, Billy Idol, zodiac signs, The Zen of Motorcycle Fixing, low carb diets, decaffeinated tea, and -above all- spoken word poetry --in particular contempt for the Bay Area's darling, Baya de Bologne. She's particularly peeved that I describe myself as "the motherfucker who doesn't do Yoga." She's angry that half of the album covers in my CD collection show guys pointing M 16s at each other --and that I call those the "happy" albums.

Last year I wrote a list of all the words I associate with sex: anger, power, violence, dick, control, blood, wet, lust, gold chains, slap. I showed it to a counselor, and she asked me to make a list of words that described me. So I wrote: chaotic, angry, clumsy, impatient, stubborn. To which she quipped, c'mon, rachel, don't you have anything positive to say? I thought about it for a moment, and then added: sexy.

But I digress again. On the morning of Ghetto-opoly, Paul Smith called me up fromt the Gazette office, asking me -no, telling me- that it would be best if we played at my house (It was the kind of "I was wondering if ..." that actually translates "Listen, bitch ...."). I guess it's because he has a wife, or something, and obviously he's not gonna get his dick sucked when she's around --moreover, a fawning younger writer would think nothing of hosting a bunch of drunk, obnoxious guys in her apartment until 3 in the morning, condemning herself to a week of complaints from cranky, sleep-deprived roommates.

I guess he was right. I swallowed my anger and said okay. Throughout the day I would think about it with a mixture of anger and titillation --after all, I was also curious about the other players, and shit, for as long as I've been writing, I don't think I've been the subject of anybody's article before --the closest I've come are those letters to the editor about what a fucked-up bitch that Ghetto Sublime is (the one from 2 Mex's label manager was a career highlight for both of us). At the time, I worked afternoons filing tax forms and receipts for this woman named Rosa (I'd tell people, just imagine if Sunspot Jonz were a 65 year old Afro-Carribean woman with really salty views about race). I got off early and rode my bike from her Lakeside apartment to my North Oakland garrett --where Paul was already waiting for me.

He'd brought two packs of powdered donuts, a bag of pork rinds and some Colt 45 --traditional ghetto fare, I guess. Actually, at first we were genuinely happy to see each other. We shot the breeze for a while --swapped anecdotes about my interview with Keak Da Sneak and his interview with Jesus Christ (which, I thought, might have been taking it a little too far)-- until a slick red sports car rolled up in the parking lot, and out climbed Petey Pedrito, in his signature red jersey and wavecap, jangling about twenty sets of keys.

And immediately, I was smitten. All I could think was, "oh my, look at the size of those chains."

Posted by yorachelswan at 3:55 AM EDT
Ghetto-Opoly: How It Really Went Down pt. 4 (was: Ghetto Sublime's First Foray Into Sportswriting)
Imagine a really square, middle-aged white guy -whose only experience of hip hop has been bumping Rappin' 4Tay on his walkman- trying to write an astute recap of the True Skool Anniversary Show featuring Africa Bambaata. If I were him, I'd probably be wandering around the club feeling like a veritable Candide, tapping kids on the shoulder and asking, "so wait, they sampled the beat from what? And he cribbed the drop from who? And who's rapping on top?"


So that's me in the pressbox at Memorial Stadium, blithely unaware of what's going on during a football game, elbowing middle-aged, male journalists with toupees, and badgering them: So wait, he wants to stay away from the endzone because of what? And he's punting in the coffin corner because why? And why did that quarterback rush for the ten-yard line? A seam means what? A pooch kick means what?


Otherwise, this recent foray into contact sports has been all rosy-fingered delights, so far. Being a sportswriter has different perks than hip-hop journalism; we get catered lunches with fried chicken, biscuits, crab salad, coleslaw, fat peanut butter cookies, and two different kinds of iced tea. We get "press credidations" that serve as a passport into the locker room (ooooh) and we get to rush on the field after games to thrust microphones into the faces of sore and beleagured PAC-10 players with streaks of greasepaint under their eyes.


I guess my only qualm, so far, is that -for the most part- football players aren't nearly as interesting as gangsta rappers in describing what they do. Being a rapper is all about inventing a persona and inhabiting it --which is why you get such bizarre, enchanting, unabashedly tacky characters like Keak Da Sneak and Goldee the Murderess. In my observation, football players aren't nearly as good at celebrating their idiosyncracies, and spinning their lives into lore.


Yet, I digress. Let me rewind a bit:

Back on the ghetto-opoly tip, about 5 weeks passed between the moment Paul hatched his plan for the article, and the actual game. In the meantime in-between time, our interactions were hot and cold. I apologized for trying to get on him at the Friendly Low Region show, and he said yeah Ghetto Sublime, you's a gangsta, but remember that discretion is the better part of valor.


And then, nothing.

The word "sublime" refers to something that's so beautiful, it disrupts all your internal systems of organization --and I'm reminded of a letter I sent to Paul Smith during that hiatus --a garbled, ecstatic, 2 page panegyric to an absent lover who didn't reply. Because I'm ghetto, at heart, I decided to make a much more heady, impetuous move.

Maybe it's not the best idea to use your music articles as a way of telegraphing messages to your crushes --but sometimes, if you frame it just right, you'll make a point that's relevant to your larger audience, too. So in the middle of a profile piece about the East Oakland 'ghetto retro' funk singer, Sweet Lil Wayne, I inserted the following 2 paragraphs:

"While Sweet Lil' Wayne isn't beholden to trends in hip-hop and R&B, his music isn't above emulating them. In fact, his forthcoming LP (due out later this month) represents a new style and language that's gaining currency within hip-hop -- one that digs a bit deeper into relationships and their attendant emotions. ...

"The song "Miss Taboo," which opens Ooh, Mr. Farrakhan, you're gonna be so mad at me/I met this bad one, she was gray, but I just had to see/I pushed up on her, then I boned her/When I was through she thought I owned her/Okay, well I guess that happens when you young, hung, and mackin, represents hip-hop's new penchant for personal testimonials that end up sounding more pithy and self-deprecating than the old agit-prop stuff. (Though there's still plenty of "boning.") Given the genre's recent foray into songs about that forbidden fruit called "white girl" (Z-Man's raunchy "White Girls with Ass" comes to mind), it seems condonable now for MCs to talk about interracial relationships both as a cultural shibboleth and, in this case at least, a personal vice. (Indeed, Langston Hughes might have called "Miss Taboo" a testament to the raciness of race.)"

Two days later, Paul sent an excited e mail to say he thought it was the best thing that ran in the Gazette that week. Yeah. It was on again.


Posted by yorachelswan at 3:51 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 30 October 2004 3:57 AM EDT
Monday, 25 October 2004
Ghetto-Opoly: How It Really Went Down Pt. 3
I thought Paul Smith was the guy I'd been waiting for. We're from the same town. We could gossip maliciously about other music journalists, or discuss the question of authenticity in black literature. He's cocky. I'm cocky. We both liked to drop 50 dollar words now and then. Again, maybe it was the sheer scandalousness that kept that chemistry going, but I felt a powerful sex vibe being generated through our -errrr-- largely epistolary relationship.
What I didn't know, and what he didn't tell me, was that he had a girlfriend already. What I also didn't know -or didn't want to admit to myself- was that he wouldn't be caught dead with a white girl. If he had feelings for me beyond a kind of affectionate paternalism, he concealed them from everyone --including himself.
Which probably explains the fact that, when we finally did have sex, it was stunningly and appallingly bad. Bad sex isn't as bad as date rape (I've endured both), but there are similarities: Those scant seconds of ear-nibbling don't prepare you for the big knee that pushes your legs open, or the fingers that cruely twist your nipples while he thrusts into you, and pulls out, and for the two minutes before he cums, you're thinking about anything -how you'd rather be playing basketball, for example- even as you're trying to summon up the soft pants and sighs that would come naturally if you were having good sex, or trying to imagine the things about him that got you here in the first place. With Paul Smith, it was fast, awkward, and clunky -- a romance invigorated solely by my infatuation with, and eagerness to please an older writer, and his desire to put me back in place.
At the same time, I indulged so fully in the fantasy of Paul Smith, that the reality of Paul Smith pretty much eluded me. It didn't occur to me, at the time, that sex was merely an act of showmanship, on his part --in other words, that I should feel jigoloed. Nor could I understand why he ignored me when we ran into each other at -of all things- a Friendly Low Region show a couple weeks after getting it on the first time. I should have cussed him out, but instead I drank too many Blue Hawaiis, and then -in my typical, alcohol-induced form of logical ineptitude- started making cow eyes at Petey Pedrito instead. Fortunately, that night, I had the good sense to leave before any serious ho-ing ensued --because otherwise the story would end there.
At some level, I knew Paul wanted to connect with me too; he just couldn't find an elegant way of doing it. He called himself my mentor, to which I couldn't help but giggle, and ask if his apprentices usually wind up sucking his dick, and if so, well --how very Greek of him. I tried to imagine what would happen if the roles were reversed: In August, Ishtar Blaq coyly asked me if there was any chance I could help him publish something in the Beast Bay Gazette. In retrospect, I should have said "well, you can start by sucking my cooch, asshole. Because you can see this thing ain't gonna suck itself."
One night Paul called me all a tizzy, and said he had a brilliant idea. I assumed it involved some kind of weird sex thing with handcuffs or an alkaselzer pill. I was surprised when he said:
"I'm gonna have you play ghetto-opoly with some rappers, and then I'm gonna write about it for my column."
"Ghetto-what?"
"You know, ghetto-opoly. The monopoly-spoof that was invented by that Asian guy. I want to set up a social experiment where you play ghetto-opoly with some other local ghetto experts. The ones I have in mind are Ishtar Blaq and Petey Pedrito."
It was clear to me that, while Paul may have thought this was some kind of joke or 'social experiment,' it was actually a way to objectify me. Paul would never admit it, even to himself, but the actual impetus for ghetto-opoly was to see how Ghetto Sublime would interact with that particular constellation of men.
Of course, he didn't expect it to backfire.

Posted by yorachelswan at 9:23 PM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 26 October 2004 12:00 AM EDT
Ghetto-opoly pt.2
If there's one thing I learned from the filmmaker Calvin Able, it's this: If you're losing at someone else's game, just create a new one in which you prevail. At the Paris show last November, he flashed the bouncer a DVD copy of his film and insisted that he should have a free ghetto pass into any black nationalist concert in San Francisco, because damnit, he's a black man, and he made a film. And it worked.
As Adrian points out, there are other black men who make films and still pay for shit. But in Kevin's case, permanent VIP status somehow seems right.
That's the attitude I had when I first approached Paul Smith. There's something really titillating about striking up a conversation with someone you're convinced hates you --a simple overture becomes a grand act of seduction. And I liked the chase.
On Sunday night I sent him a simple, cordial e mail, under the pretext that I wanted to dig up a letter to the editor he'd written a couple years ago, which criticized the Beast Bay Gazette's former music editor (obviously this is before he became a columnist for the paper) for heaping praises on the "avant-hip-hop" outfit, Anticon (which is predominantly, if not totally white), but largely ignoring the genre's African American standard-bearers. He wrote back the next day, saying he might have it somewhere, and why was I interested? So I replied:

What I'm getting at, I guess, is that I have this
suspicion that part of the reason I'd appeal to the
(mostly) white population of weekly editors is that
they're totally stoked when they find another white
person who can "bring" people of color to them.
Borrowing a friends words --it's like I've done the
work for them; my activity legitimates their
inactivity.

That among other self-effacing things, and in the end, I thought I'd offended him. So I was surprised when he replied:

i'm not offended. actually, i think you're on to
> something.
>
> unfortunately, there's probably not a whole lot you
> can do about it,
> especially if you dont want to be--pardon the
> expression--blacklisted.
> while i'm personally disgusted by the amount of
> freelance writers who
> never wrote about hip-hop until the streets and
> eminem came out, it's
> not like i "own" the music or the culture, so
> sometimes you just have to
> let that go, and hope that readers can separate the
> real from the fake.
>
> i do feel that hip-hop journalism has receded,
> quality-wise, since its
> mid-90s zenith, but to a certain extent that's true
> of the media in
> general. and it's hard to complain too much about
> alt.weeklies when
> major media is even wacker.

And from there we started a nefarious relationship: I impressed him by dissing other weekly journalists and showing how much downer I was --without quite downing myself out of a position. He impressed me by being infinitely, organically downer --by virtue of having a black dad.

Pretty soon we were exchanging 5 or 6 essay-length e mails a day, comparing our respective critiques of race, gender, and pop culture, swapping Top Ten lists of the year's hip-hop artists, and talking shit about local rappers. I was smitten; I completely degraded myself and licked his ass. In fact, I developed a crush on Paul Smith that was so earnest, and heartfelt, that its sheer visceral force gave me physical symptoms --when I thought about the e mails, my breath got caught in my throat. I was convinced that, at 23 years old, I suddenly had asthma. I even went to an Urgent Care Facility to have the problem checked out, only to learn that I suffered from minor anxiety attacks, and should probably start taking Yoga, or something.

And then he suggested -obliquely- that maybe the best way for a down white chick and a down black guy to subvert the white man's print media operation was to bump uglies, and maybe we should go out for a drink some time. It was on.


Posted by yorachelswan at 3:40 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 30 October 2004 4:05 AM EDT

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