Talking Trash

Walking home from the bus today I saw my neighbor, W, out doing his thing in the front yard. As we have hundreds of times before, we engaged in the wonderful ritual of talking sh*t, or talking trash. It is an amazing, beautiful, and inportant aspect of life as an African American, though many of us do it in our own ways. Topics can range from deeply poingant to irreverant, to completely irrelevant, none of which actually matters nearly as much as the ritual itself. Talking trash trumps being dog tired. Even if I’m too exhausted to even think about speaking with my roomies, who I love by the way, I can easily get myself outside to engage W in a few minutes of trash talk. It’s as though it says that my soul sees yours, my brother, and I recognize and acknowledge that you are here. It is a soul to soul communication that allows each other to laugh at ourselves and everything in general, and nothing in particular. It’s funny because even though I am a Black Man who teaches and plays African Drums professionally and has done so for over half my life, no one would accuse me of being overly engaged in African American culture in the typical,and perhaps expected, sense. But I am also no”Uncle Tom” either…I’m just me, much to the frustration and confusion of those who I encounter. This has often caused THEM to talk trash about me, but in a very different and much less positive sense of the word. But talking trash with W is clearly a ritual that feeds and uplifts us both. This man works as hard and as much as anyone I have ever known, and you can see it in every well earned wrinkle on his forehead. He is a big, beautiful, and rugged salt-of-the-earth type person who works and lives hard to support his family. Shaking his hand is like grasping on old leather mit, it feels like strength and integrity, with just a hint of exhaustion at keeping it all together. He’s always working an angle “trying to get that paper” as he calls it, working his regular job (or two), whatever they are, buying/fixing up/and selling cars, and when he’s home he’s working in or on his yard. He’s the kind of person who most likely hurts in his body much more than he’d ever let on. In his world he can’t because he’s got ” business to take care of”. I would love to have a wad of money, just so that I could leave some where only he would find it because it is clear that as a man he would never accept it. He has earned everything he owns from hard, bootstrap pulling, nose to the grindstone type of work, and he doesn’t want or need anybody’s handouts. So what I can offer him instead is some soul to soul food, some presence, and some love. This is for those among us who seem to be made of the very earth upon which we see them walk every day. Those who always have a smile and a laugh, even though half of their teeth are missing and a few others are going south. People like W are the ones who hold the earth together so that the rest of us can see where the hell we’re walking. Excuse me, I gotta go pay my respects and get my trash talk on~

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