Monday, November 21, 2016

Dixie is Dead and Trump is Terrifying

I've been violated.

At least that's how I felt when I was greeted by alarmist messages from my bank alerting me that someone was using my debit card all over New York City yesterday.

Not what I was expecting upon returning home from a pleasant day on the Northern Neck with my parents.

It was all the more abrupt because spending the day with them is akin to stepping through a magic looking glass to a different world. At least all the clocks in the house now read correctly, something that's not the case during the months of daylight saving time when they refuse to change their clocks (on principle, naturally).

Probably because it was a chilly 42 degrees when I drove through Tappahannock, our activities centered around the cozy: Mom wanted to put heavier comforters on some of the beds and Dad wanted help ordering new L.L. Bean flannel sheets (Mariner's blue, queen size) after spying a tiny hole in a sheet on their bed.

It was while I was on the big sleeping porch - especially inviting because of the morning sunlight streaming through the walls of windows - in search of their favorite white blanket that I spotted a stack of my parents' records from the '50s right on up through the '80s and dropped everything to investigate.

Finally having a turntable, receiver and Bose speakers - all used, mind you - changes what gets my attention these days.

Spotting me from the other end of the corridor that leads to the porch, Dad called out to his heathen daughter, chuckling, "What are you doing on your knees, praying?" As if.

Many of the albums I flipped through brought back immediate musical memories - some good, some painful - of hearing them played in the house where I grew up. My parents were deep into Neil Diamond, so there were at least ten of his records, along with a handful of Moody Blues and more late '50s instrumental music than I remembered.

Where I was most surprised was with his array of disco and R & B vinyl: Quincy Jones' 1972 double disco album "Ndeda," Larry Graham's "One in a Million You" from '80 (complete with TMI, as in, "You can write to Larry at P.O. Box 46035, LA, CA 90046) and a really early George Benson record called "Shape of Things to Come" from 1968.

Then there was the piece de resistance.

My father, a man who was nothing if not au courant as Dads went back then (hair past his collar, magnificent mutton chops), had a copy of Van McCoy's "The Hustle," I kid you not. I have no memory of this fact, but I was impressed enough to take the album, along with a dozen others.

When he sees that I've snatched up "The In Crowd" by the Ramsey Lewis Trio, recorded at D.C.'s Bohemian Caverns, he makes sure I know that, "I was into Ramsey Lewis way before they made it big with that album."

You see how cool he was?

By the time I left them mid-afternoon, the mercury had only risen four degrees, making me glad to get back to my more densely populated neighborhood and the attendant shared heat (not that my parents' house isn't kept at hothouse temperatures that have even a cold-blooded person like me shedding layers), even if I was met with the news of fraud and the ensuing inconveniences resulting from it.

Luckily, Mac and Secretly Y'All awaited me a few short blocks away at Gallery 5.

Tonight's theme was "Headlines," ("No, Joe Morrissey is not in the building," our host quipped) so we heard from a slew of local journalists riffing on the subject.

Harry brought props and shared how an article on the infamous Dirtwoman had inspired him to become a journalist, but only after his high school guidance counselor had advised him that, "There's a cheap journalism school up the street." That would be VCU.

The Library of Virginia's Errol brought us up to speed on Richmond's fighting editor and Jackson Ward resident, John Mitchell, with a tangent about a newsman friend working in Danville who got fired for the headline, "Dixie is Dead, Elvis is Dead and Danville is Dying."  Hilarious.

Katy's story of investigating an unreported woman's death was positively heartbreaking while Chris' story of Mayor Wilder trying to rearrange City Hall after midnight involved sheriffs, a lot of PBR, illegal Vespa Stella parking and, tangentially, the headline that had first inspired him to take up journalism: "Preacher Dies in Flaming Mobile Pulpit."

Where tonight's Secretly Y'All differed from so many of the ones I've attended over the years was that it took place in a post-2016 election world, which, as we're all still trying to grasp, feels like a horrific new world order.

Brad offered up a report on being LGBTQ in Trump's America, a terrifying proposition, to be sure, that included learning about the numbers of LGBTQ people who bought guns, both after Obama's election (talk about misguided) and Trump's so-called election. A pink camo assault weapon and Colonial Shooting Academy both figured prominantly into his story.

But the undisputed highlight of listening to tonight's storytellers was when the RTD's Michael Paul Williams took the stage, intent on making us see that the most important stories are ahead of us.

"We need a lot of anger now," he said passionately. "They're trying to push out information as the new normal and that's not right." Amen, brother.

We listened as he told a tale of two of his stories, one that helped the Armstrong choir raise $20,000 to go to a competition in NYC and another where he wanted to shadow three students - Hispanic, black and white - enrolled in Richmond Public Schools and chronicle their experiences and results, a story that died before it saw light because of lawyers and a necessity for endless releases.

But his real point in being there tonight was to use his self-professed "old guy" status to motivate the crowded room to action.

"Be subversive going forward in this new day. I'm pissed off and terrified. We should all be pissed off and terrified at this. We need to protest! I don't want a white supremacist a few steps from the Oval Office."

His was a very emotional call to arms not to go gently into this terrifying new Trump night and it moved me in a way Secretly Y'All doesn't usually. This wasn't about a person's personal anecdote, this was an entreaty not to stay silent about things that matter.

It's no secret, ya'll, we're being violated. Anger and action must follow.

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