African American Authors, Christopher D. Burns, Poetry

A Father’s Day Poem

This is not your traditional Father’s Day poem. This poem is for those who grew up in a single parent household without their fathers. It is not a celebration of mom as father. It is not condemnation of the father who was not there. It is a letter that I had to write to myself. I had to learn to reach out although everything inside of me says that this is not for me to do, it’s for him. This is for all of those who are trying to figure this out.

At this point,

I’m beginning to open.

I can’t bring certain questions

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Christopher D. Burns, hip-hop culture

Winter In Hip-Hop: Track – 3: And It Goes A Little Something Like This

Here I am, a man frustrated with the state, status, complacency of Hip-Hop, listening to an R& B album, ‘Neo Soul’ CD that is almost replacing my desire for finding Rap music that sounds ‘different’. Hip-Hop doesn’t create in me the same emotions it used to. Maybe once or twice, or a few more times I found myself completely in awe of an emcee’s ability to move beyond simplistic weed smoke, drinking anthems and hood stories on wax. But due to the insistence of the media the vast amount of rap music pushed to the public and the youth (who are unaware of more sonically, lyrically challenging rap that exists) distorts the image of Hip-Hop so the artform is suffering. Along with these media representations not only is the image of Blacks in America crumbling, but the actual fiber is being broken down like metamucil in water.

America consumes the negative aspects of rap with an indifferent and damaging ear. Ironically, it isn’t Black America that supports the majority of the negative rap music. It is also not the majority of Blacks who support the positive acts in Hip-Hop. White America is the major consumer of rap music period. We can not however expect Whites to state, “This negative Hip-Hop music is damning to the images of Blacks let’s stop purchasing this.” The artists who capitalize have to become more aware of the affects of the music and stop. But the argument stands, “Does the artist have a responsibility to the consumer, or does the artist have a responsibility to create art?” White people have always encroached upon Black art. There is nothing wrong with that. The problem lies in the Black artists catering to the stereotypes presented for profit. My belief in the learning process tells me that the unconscious, and conscious, mind learns and acts on those things it has consistently heard. In other words, even the strongest person learns through repetition. When a person is listening they are learning. Even the strong, who can supposedly differentiate between right or wrong, hears certain things over and over and those things become habits that are innate. An abused child is continuously told they are ugly. The child eventually has self-esteem problems. Regardless of how handsome or beautiful, the child carries that repetitious refrain of ugliness inside and their appearance/ life is skewed. Something is not quite right and the child has problems that manifest because of this. How is it that a person, ‘mature’ people included, can listen to music so destructive and repetitious in its desire to be ‘hard’, hear this music without carrying ill effects in their soul? A person rides the bus 2 hours a day. Through headphones the hook of the latest popular rap song repeats, “You ain’t no friend of mine, you ain’t no kin of mine, I’ll get you with a nine.” Is it any wonder why students, young men and women act out this attitude in the classroom? This identity that reflects ‘cool’ in the song is mimicked, whether the emcee is justified in creating the lyric is irrelevant. I will state that great Hip-Hop albums speak to the heart of the individual creating the song. But I state this with one caveat, only the first Hip-Hop album from an artist is true to that state of existence. After an artist has become successful the murderous hood narrative, becomes exploitation and deceit in an attempt to remain relevant and rich. The lyrics of the song floating through the headphones are seductively sung and richly produced to a point that the style of the song covers the content and the ignorance within the track. The song betrays the listener and makes the buyer accept ideas such as suicide, rape, drug abuse, and misogyny, as cool in the context of the song. When, if those words are printed in a book and read by a man to a woman, or parent to a child, the person writing would be thought of as a threat to any positive movement. However, because the track has a bangin beat and is considered the shit, an emcee can literally say whatever the ‘fuck’ he wants, holla. Stupid and asinine lyrics are so accepted that Hip-Hop outlets have allowed the conscious lyricists little access to the mainstream. The listener is entranced, hypnotized by straight up foolishness and ignorance. How does one learn? Repetition. The simplest method of control for a person in a dominant position is the constant reinforcement of rules and punishment for the subordinate. 1. You don’t go to work on time you’re fired. 2. You make a mistake at practice you are required to practice longer and harder. 3. You don’t make curfew… You get the picture. These things are laid out before all people as a matter of defacto and dejure laws. They are understood and engrained; therefore we try our best to adhere. Even rules we have never heard from a direct source become embedded in our subconscious. So what makes a listener believe that hearing, “Bitches ain’t shit but ho’s and tricks,” isn’t detrimental to one’s well being? “I’m a mothafuckin gangsta,” “I got girls,” over and over again. How does one learn? People who seek out Hip-Hop beyond capitalist rap are not an elite and small number of people. We are not a distinguished group who should be revered and private in our music choices. We should try our best to spread the word about ‘empowering’ Hip-Hop music to battle against the ill effects of rap. If you were to check when the decline of Blacks began (I’m speaking of the lack of a nationalist movement to continue gaining access to social, political, and financial arenas) one only has to check the year rap music began to make an impression on the U.S. economy. This era, the mid eighties, coincides with Reaganomics and the placement of crack cocaine in poor neighborhoods. Hip-Hop began to change, and of course it would. As Tupac said he was ‘reporting’ on life in the inner city. A year before the 1992 Los Angeles uprising, Tupac, on his album 2pacalypse Now, consistently prophesized the potential for this event to occur, “One day I’m gonna bust/ Blow up on this society/ Why did you lie to me/ I couldn’t find a trace of equality.” Ice Cube in 1992 followed up this sentiment in the song, “We Had to Tear This Muthafucka Up,” from his album The Predator. In a rush to report the problems with America, artists like Paris attempted to create a more conscious music beyond the New Jack Swing/Gangsta Hip-Hop of the time. The misstep by Hip-Hop was embarrassing. Only two years removed from the King incident, and the LA uprising, the West Coast rap invasion and the movie industry decided to capitalize on this moment by introducing some of the most destructive material of our time under the guise of reality. Dr. Dre released The Chronic and the Hughes Brothers introduced probably the most influential gangsta in movie industry history O Dawg from Menace to Society. These two moves were pivotal. It is not that there wasn’t any violence or problems before this movie and cd, but the image of weed and an extremely charismatic and attractive psychotic gangbanger was overwhelming to a generation of kids and adults looking for a Black icon to latch onto. In relation to movements (civil rights, BPP, NOI) Hip Hop has come up as short as a pair of 1979 NBA game shorts. Instead of maintaining and supporting the Human Education Against Lies/ Stop the Violence Movement, New BPP, the L.A. Peace Treaty or taking aim at displaying the injustices of the legal system, we create The Chronic and Ready to Die as ‘classic’ Hip-Hop records. Yet albums like Blowout Comb or records by Spearhead, Souls of Mischief and Freestyle Fellowship, and artists like Organized Konfusion, were pushed to the side. The Chronic did have the song “Little Ghetto Boy,” but one positive song on an album does not give you the right to condemn a whole culture. Am I being a little hypocritical here, yes, but the duality of emceeing is that when it is done well, it can consume you. However there has to be a point where you say ‘wait a minute’. Our culture has rarely addressed war or conflicts central to the problems in Black America (education, joblessness, single parent households) beyond words to fill in blanks for a rhyme to be completed, or as metaphor. At what moment did Hip-Hop lose its power? How did this artform’s failure to foster Black upliftment destroy everything Blacks have worked for? The world is so vast. There are so many problems that to read of every issue becomes overwhelming. How do you fix the world when your house is not in order? Indeed the greatest threat to Blacks remains the structural makeup of capitalism which requires segments of the population to remain impoverished, but where is the moral fiber of our people and our culture? Winter In Hip-Hop:  A collection of essays

African American Authors, Christopher D. Burns

Stages: a handbook on men & relationships

There are four stages men go through before settling down with one woman, according to Terrence Matthews. If a man hasn’t encountered each stage he will never be ready for marriage. Terrence relays his Stages theory to the reader as he tells of his own movement through these phases.

 Buy Stages: a handbook on men and relationships now
if you want to read it at your own pace.

Also available on Kindle

African American Authors, books, Christopher D. Burns

You Should Read This: A Man’s State of Mind by Christopher D. Burns

It only takes one time for a man to be hurt before he turns bad.  Unlike women, men… Well, let’s say men don’t have the recovery capabilities that women own.  Darryl Cartier no longer wants to be wrong, but the choices made in the past force him into a new sense of understanding how it all works. As funny as it seems the one thing that can make a man ‘get right’ could be the one thing that prevents true happiness.

A Man’s State of Mind is a book that was written before its time. The author created the novella without realizing the book would be so relevant ten years later. The original goal was to simply write a book that dealt with Black women and their relationships with Black men. It is not the typical relationship novel that deals with, ‘he say, she say.’ The book tackles issues with enough tact and care to make the storyline lighthearted and subtle in its approach to a serious topic. This is an important book that deserves attention and discussion.

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Business, Christopher D. Burns, Entrepreneurship

25 Key Points: Key Point 6 – Grassroots Marketing Is Vital

Key Point 6: Grassroots Marketing is Vital – I have been involved in basketball for the last 16 years. I was a college student/athlete, a head coach, assistant athletic director, recruiter for a JUCO, camp coordinator, basketball website developer, point of contact for college coaches seeking players, and finally as an NBA/NCAA blogger. All of these things are basically considered a part of Grassroots basketball. Grassroots is a term that has been around for a very long time. In regard to basketball, it typically refers to a marketing strategy by a shoe company looking to promote their brand by developing relationships with athletes by selling or giving them gear that will create brand awareness.

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books, Christopher D. Burns, Entrepreneurship

25 Key Points: Key Point 5 – Learn To Do Some Things Yourself

Key Point 5: Learn To Do Some Things Yourself – Let’s say you have decided to start your own photography service. You have gone to school as an art major and you learned to shoot videos and film as an elective. You really enjoy photography and it has become a passion. Photography is one of the fastest changing forms of media around. Every week a new product arrives that can take a picture and make the picture better, brighter, and clearer. The knowledge that you learned a month ago can be obsolete within two months after learning that material.

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Business, Christopher D. Burns, Entrepreneurship, Starting A Business

Kindle Release of One Hour To Wealth

The Amazon Kindle is one of the best e-readers on the market. However a lot of people don’t realize that you don’t need a Kindle to actually purchase books. There is an app that is made for your PC, your Smart Phone, the iPad, let me just give you the link. The great thing about the Kindle App is that it is free. This means that you don’t have to worry about paying money for an app and then paying for the book. You can simply download the App to your device of choice and in a few minutes you can download my new book One Hour To Wealth and begin reading. Shameless plug? Yeah Buddy! One Hour To Wealth is the first book that actually gives you a definition of wealth and then takes it a step further than simply restating mantras and facts.  The book gives you a plan of action to either copy or develop your own plan. Grab a copy, read it and let me know what you think, or ask me questions. Of course you could wait for me to continue posting the Key Points here on the site, but why not use the five that you were going to grab some momentary Mickey D’s with to improve your life? Here is the link. One Hour To Wealth

Business, Christopher D. Burns, Entrepreneurship, Starting A Business

25 Key Points: Key Point 4 – You Need A Business Plan

Key Point 4: You Need a Business Plan – While I have failed to cover business plans, I am adamant about the importance of organization. The reason I made the mistakes I made with my first business is because I failed to analyze my market and understand terminology and create projections that would enable me to generate a better path through the wilderness of small business. When I began developing my sneaker business, the second time around I took one year to develop contacts and the ideas to establish ARCH. I included in that plan the fact that I would have to grow slowly because I did not want to create debt. I also added an expanded plan which included creating a sneakershop that carried more than just my brand. My business plan is over 40 pages in length and it includes, Purchase Forecast, Sales Forecast, Marketing Strategies, and of course Mission Statements and my personal story (developed after reading Primal Branding). If you are talking to someone about business and you ask them if they have a business plan, and they don’t…Get the hell away from them as quickly and nicely as you can. Oh, run away also if the person tells you that they don’t revise and add to their plan every now and then. I would like to add that spending too much time on a biz plan can prevent you from ever actually starting your biz.

Buy One Hour To Wealth

Business, Christopher D. Burns, Entrepreneurship, Starting A Business

25 Key Points: Key Point 3 – Stay In Your Lane

Key Point 3: Stay In Your Lane – Once you’ve decided to try one of your ideas, it will be tempting to try other things that look like they are working for others. You may see a friend or associate selling flowers and making pretty good money, so you start thinking that you can do that as well. The thing about doing this is taking this kind of action leads you off of the path. Your business may be mobile detailing for vehicles which is a good business. You could add selling air fresheners to your job but deciding to sell tamales and do mobile detailing would be way out of your lane. Stay focused on the idea that you believe in and learn as much as you can about it. Then place the time and effort into that idea. Don’t weave in traffic unless you want the idea cops to pull you over for drunk thinking.

Introduction: 25 Key Points to Stay Motivated in Business

Key Point 1: Be Creative
Key Point 2: Capitalize on Opportunities
Key Point 3: Stay In Your Lane
Key Point 4: You Need A Business Plan
Key Point 5: Learn To Do Some Things Yourself
Key Point 6: Grassroots Marketing is Vital
Key Point 7: Change Is Inevitable
Key Point 8: Daily Dedication & Consistency
Key Point 9: Do Not Swim Upstream
Key Point 10: Develop A Plan of Action
Key Point 11: Social Media is Grassroots
Key Point 12: Find Out About Resources
Key Point 13: Research Your Chosen Market
Key Point 14: Use A Blog To Launch Your Ideas
Key Point 15: Blogs Are Easy To Use vs WYSIWYG or Dreamweaver
Key Point 16: Blogs Are Easier To Monetize
Key Point 17: Ad Revenue is Real
Key Point 18: Conquer Your Region First
Key Point 19: You Have Great Ideas
Key Point 20: Stay Away From Dream Killers
Key Point 21: Remember The Blog is a great way to launch an idea
Key Point 22: The Perfect Time Is Now
Key Point 23: Get Up and Write it Down

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Christopher D. Burns, Civil Rights, Credit Rating for the US, President Obama, race, Social issues

A Few Thoughts on Obama and Presidents in General

Wait a minute, you really think this is my fault?
I am not going to go into detail about the US losing its AAA credit rating with S&P. Although the fact that it happened on a Black President’s watch is pretty darn funny, in the funniest unfunny way that I can approach it. (Insert random Black person and credit joke here.) When President Obama was elected I told a close friend that this was the only time in history that a Black man could get the job. The country was losing trillions on wars abroad, the home loan industry, which had become the backbone of the economy since the 90s was in the dumps and the crisis America faced/faces was paramount to walking in front of a firing range at Marine base Camp Pendleton. In other words, the country was literally going to hell in a handbasket with the devils singing Brittany Spears (Ooops I did it again) and eating copious amounts of gas inducing beans, blasting a stench that would linger for at least 4 years into the next presidency. In other words, if there was anytime to let a Black man take the fall for a country that has been falling for 30 years, why not now? With that said let’s get to my primary point for writing this short post: Obama and Black People. Just a quick thought on Obama’s presidency: Has any president ever made good on his campaign promises? Has any president in the last 40 years placed an emphasis on improving the quality of life for Blacks? Okay, I’ll wait while you search the internet for facts that show how Presidents have tackled the Black agenda… I’m waiting. Nothing huh? Let’s think about it: President Reagan was on watch when crack and cocaine literally destroyed the area around the White House and the rest of the country. His foreign policy literally opened the flood gates for the drug trade to blossom. Who did that hurt? Black people. The first Black President, Bill Clinton, ended educational programs in prison that increased the recidivism rate of Black men who were already being imprisoned at a higher rate than their counterparts who had drugs like cocaine and heroin. The drug laws, three strikes, etc. targeted Black men; let’s not act as if they didn’t. Clinton removed the education programs that could have brought some balance to men who had been institionalized. Clinton also oversaw a government that actually created many of the tax breaks and regulation issues that President Bush increased during his presidency. In short, there really hasn’t ever been a President that has placed the Black agenda at the forefront. Our President is now expected to act on behalf of the lower-middle class, just because he is Black? Talking heads all over the place are calling for the President to remain true to his Campaign promises. By my count the President said he would try to fight for universal health care. He did that, while it won’t ever really be implemented, he did that. Under his watch Gay Americans are now being married and it has yet to be repealed, kind of… He did that. Drawing down of troops has been taking place, although he has taken the country into another war. Let’s be serious though… Had he not sent troops to Afghanistan, or assisted with Khadafi, he would have been considered a coward President who was afraid of confrontation. The President has continued to bail out big business, and extended the tax cuts. Alright he could have done a better job of this, but when has the President ever had the ability to pass legislation? That belongs to the House and Senate which is controlled by? The most important thing that this President did is prevent a complete crash of the economy. But simply because the President is Black, Black folks are doing what we have grown accustomed to doing in the last 40 years, asking for a hook-up. Prior to the Civil Rights movement these are things that were better for Blacks: 1. More Black men were enrolled in college than were in jail. 2. More Black families existed 3. Blacks showed the greatest growth for any race in the country as far as improving their status in life. 4. There were more Black owned businesses 5. Neighborhoods existed where people didn’t have to fear for their life from other Blacks. In other words Blacks have never required assistance from the government or the President to make themselves better people. President Obama is being held to a completely different standard than any President has. White people hate whoever is in office, so their mistreatment of the President is status quo. Sorry White people. Black people though, if you are going to complain about this President because he hasn’t given you a hook up, take a few minutes to write the people who can actually make a difference in your life: Your local councilperson, your local government, your mayor and state reps. Those are the people who will have to get the President’s ear. I really don’t want to end this post with something that sounds so simple, but I will: Ask not what your President can do for you, ask what you can do for your own damn self. That is all.

Black Writers, Christopher D. Burns, fiction

Writing is Just Different for a Black Man

Who will be the next Ralph Ellison?
A writer wakes up each morning, or at the end of the day, and begins crafting narratives. This is what writer’s do. Traditionally, a writer would complete a manucript and purchase Writer’s Market, or some other publication and begin looking for agents. I did this before and during graduate school. In graduate school I was told by my professors that I had what it took to become a “writer”. What I failed to understand is that although they had christened me and given me all of the motivation I needed, my writing program failed to explain the realities involved in writing. They specifically failed to explain to me that a Black man writing is unlike any other person creating narratives. The publishing industry used to be veiled in secrecy. A group of old White men decided the fate of a manuscript: slush pile or publication. Today, self publishing is as accessible as television stations to viewers. Basically anyone with a bit of savvy and computer literacy can put out a publication. I have had the “honor” of being signed by an agent, and having books “sold” under the premise that I rewrite. My problem was I didn’t understand publishing and my MFA program did not explain to me that the writer makes concessions. I didn’t want to change anything in the story. The editing I was okay with, but changing what happened with a character? Out of the question. Needless to say, my writing career with an agent, went south very fast and I did what most people do today, I self published.

Self-publishing is beautiful. It provides anyone with the chance to create a writing career. Many self-published authors have moved on to successful traditional careers, where the agent submits their work, and a publishing company prints and releases the book. Self publishing works and has generated new companies, technologies and opportunities. It has also generated so much information that like the internet the problem becomes where and how do you find information? It has also created the situation where there are so many “bad” books being produced, that sell because of persistence, “good” books get lost in the shuffle. While traditional publishing does not guarantee a “great” book, it does tend to make the best effort at producing books that have the potential to be great. Self Publishing has this capacity as well, but due to a lack of professional editing, randomly designed book covers and a rush to publish, many stories with potential fail to reach that potential.
What does being a Black male writer have to do with this? While writers create and should not have to consider audience or where they will be marketed, the simple fact is all writers are faced with the problem of how they will be promoted and who they will be promoted amongst. There is also the inherent “fact” that people who look alike, tend to shop and buy from who they look like in literature. Most Black writer’s create for Black people. Even if they don’t create for Black people, they are placed in the Black literature section and marketed to Black people. Most Black men, realizing that Black men don’t read as much as women, write like Black women. They cater to this audience because in order to sell books, well, they have to. The problem then becomes, if you are a Black male writer, and you write a book that does not utilize a particular set of rules: overindulgence in sex, no good men, superwoman, then that book fails to gain a following. The Black Male Writer is a role that is difficult to take on because finding an audience is difficult.

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Christopher D. Burns, reading, relationships, Stages: A Handbook on Men and Relationships

Who says we’re not reading?

Speaking of reading, some organization polled America that revealed the latest statistics about the decline of readers. They developed this poll by researching how many people checked out library books and the sales of books in closing stores such as Barnes-n-Noble. People still go to library? If I had the tools, I would do a follow up research on how many people now read from Kindles, Nooks, iPads, download books from mobile apps, and other electronic devices that they didn’t include in that poll. Don’t let them start making us feel like our intelligence is on decline because of the rise of technology. After all, I make it a point to read my newsfeed on facebook every single day.

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African American Authors, books, Christopher D. Burns, friendship, Love, relationships, Stages: A Handbook on Men and Relationships

Part 2: Stages: A Handbook on Men and Relationships – Chapter 22

Chapter 22 Life becomes a habit if you don’t start doing something in your spare time to keep you sane. I had continued with my music, but I’d picked up another trade in my spare time, something I’d come to enjoy thoroughly, writing. Flip had added more speakers to his house and bought a new amp for his system. He even bought a four track machine to record some stuff he and Tina had started doing. She played the piano and sang. Flip played the guitar, not well, but he was getting there. We would spend our Saturdays going to the beach or barbecuing in Flip’s backyard. Oh, Janice learned how to shop more efficiently and less over the course of the year, which was a really good thing for her. I guess clothes had become her hobby. She had even begun designing some skirts and other things. She hadn’t done anything with the designs, but she really got into it. Some of her stuff was really flyy. Anyway December 3rd, Flip and I went to the mall to start looking for Christmas gifts. He had to buy things for his folks and I was looking for another gift for my sister and something for my mom who has everything already, except me at home. “How much money you plan on spending this year?” he asked me. “Not much, I’m looking at a house.” “Get the hell outta here. Are you looking at a house or are you both looking at a house?” “We’re looking for a house.” “That’s alright man. Oh snap let’s go look at those.” I don’t know if it’s human nature or just plain ol guy stuff, but we could never go to the mall without hitting the sneaker store and checking out the new stuff. It wasn’t that I minded, but I had a budget and hell, Flip was still bringing his lunch to work. We stopped anyway and I walked out with another pair of gym shoes I didn’t need. I knew I had to hide them though. Janice was already complaining that I had almost as many shoes as she did. “Man I shouldn’t have bought these,” I said. “Why come you always let me do that man?” “It ain’t my fault. I didn’t put a gun to your head and walk you to the counter to spend a hundred and fifteen dollars. You know Janice is gonna trip.” “What, I’m the man. She ain’t gonna say a word.” “That’s cause you’re gonna hide them,” Flip said. We laughed and continued walking around the mall. “So where do you wanna look first?” he asked. “Let’s run down and put these shoes in the car.” After walking back up the ramp we went to a couple of lingerie stores. I saw this sheer bodysuit that had a hole in the crotch area. “I should buy this for Janice. What do you think?” I asked poking my finger through the hole. Flip pushed me to the side. “You a hot ass.” “Like you wouldn’t want to see your girl in this.” “Already have.” I felt compelled to ask him how the whole thing with Tina was going. “Flip, how is Tina really doing man?” I asked as we walked towards another woman’s store. “What do you mean?” “You know I ain’t prying, I’m just wondering.” “She still talks about it sometimes. I listen mainly though. I know she’s happy now. That’s all that matters. Every now and then she’ll wake up sweating.” “It’s like post traumatic stress or something huh?” “I guess.” “I don’t blame her though. She’s lucky to have met you a Stage Three brother.” “Tee, for a while now you’ve been talking about this stage stuff, what the hell are you talking about?” “I’ll show it to you one day. I’m still working on it.” “Whatever. Let’s go down to the jewelry store.” “For what,” I asked. “Earrings. Women love earrings, you can’t go wrong.” “I guess.” Inside of the store I looked for something simple my mom and my sister could wear at any time. I didn’t want to overdo it with some humongous hoops or those ones that look like doorknockers. Flip bought his mom and dad matching watches. It took me a little longer cause I was trying to be cheap. I stopped at the thirty-nine dollar earring section, but that’s where the doorknockers were. Flip walked over with his bag in his hand, “You just spent over one hundred dollars on your sneakers, but you’re in the cheap ass section in a nice jewelry store?” “Shut up, I’m trying to pick something here.” “I’ma call your mama. I ain’t lying. I’ma call her and tell you bought a pair of kicks that cost more than both of their Christmas gifts.” I didn’t acknowledge him. I just walked over to the more expensive jewelry. I wasn’t gonna let Flip call my mom and get me in trouble. Ain’t nothing worse than being a grown man and getting argued at by your mom. I bought my sister a small tennis bracelet with three small diamonds in it and I got my mom a pair of white and yellow gold, diamond cut earrings. The woman behind the counter wrapped the gifts as we stood and continued to look around. There was a section for wedding rings towards the front of the store. I grabbed Flip by the sleeve and took him up to the case. There were matching his and her wedding bands and separate engagement rings inside of the sparkling case. A little Asian woman walked up. “Double marriage or double engagement?” she asked. “Neither,” Flip and I both answered. “We’re just looking,” I said. “If you’re looking then must be thinking about it,” she replied. “Maybe,” Flip said looking at her name tag. “Ahn may I see that one?” he asked. I was thinking about getting engaged. We looked at each other and began really looking at the rings. I spotted a beautiful carat and a half ring with two sapphires around it set into a braided white gold band. Flip picked up a two carat, traditional gold ring. “You two have very good taste,” Ahn said. She pulled out the rings and let us hold them. We laughed and just stared at the rings. “What do you think bro?” I asked. “I’ve been thinking about it a lot. I mean we talked about marriage once or twice, but Tina didn’t want to seem pushy about it.” “I tried to talk about it with Janice but I punked out. I figured what’s the point in messing up something that doesn’t have any problems?” “I think maybe.” “You think?” “What do you think?” “It doesn’t matter what I think.” “It does.” “Look, if you’re gonna do it, then do it. I personally don’t know,” I said. “Then why’d you drag me over here?” Flip asked. Ahn was looking at us, back and forth, like she was watching a tennis match. She interrupted us. “How long have you boys been with your ladies?” she asked. “Bout a year and a half,” Flip answered. “You guys met them at same time?” she asked. “Yeah,” I said. “There is something called destiny. You heard of it right? Don’t answer, let me finish. You met them at same time, been together for the same amount of time-” “Well, not exactly-” “Ah tut tut,” she said holding her hand up, damn near making me speak to the hand. “Perfect thing would be to propose at same time. That’s very romantic. You two think about that,” she said taking the rings from us. We walked back to pick up our packages. We left the store with what we came for, but we also left with a sensible suggestion that really made sense. As we walked down the ramp towards the cars we talked about the whole thing. “Flip, I kinda, wanna, maybe, you know?” “Me too, but if neither one of us can say it then you think we’re ready?” “I wanna get engaged to Janice. Now, I said it.” I pushed the button on my keychain to open the doors and we climbed inside the car. We pulled out of our space and I stopped. “I really wanna get engaged man,” I said. “Me too, but I don’t wanna do it just cause you’re doing it.” “That’s not what we’re doing. I love her and you love Tina so I say we get the rings.” I’d backed halfway out into the driving lane and was blocking traffic. People started blowing their horns and shouting. I sat for a second longer before pulling back into my spot. “You better hope they don’t key your car,” Flip said. “It’s just a car.” “Hold up, did you just say that it’s just a car? I thought it was a Legend?” “Just a car man. It’s a nice one I will admit, but if somebody messes with it I got full coverage,” I said climbing out of the car. Flip sat inside and didn’t move. I looked down and mouthed the words, “You coming?” He climbed out and walked beside me without talking for a while. Then finally he spoke. “Looking at an engagement ring, not caring about the car, thinking about buying a house, damn, my boy done got X Filed.” “What?” “You ain’t Tee, you’re an alien. Where’s my boy, what did you do with him?” he said looking in my ears. “Stop buggin man.” “I’m just surprised that’s all. Just surprised. My man done finally grew up.” “I know, it’s strange huh?” “You didn’t see it coming,” Flip said as we laughed. That was like our little inside joke. We didn’t see it coming came from this incident that occurred when we went to the park one day to shoot ball. Check this out right: Flip and I were just shooting around, playing a little ball. When this big muscular brother walked up with this pit bull. He tied the dog up to the fence that surrounded the basketball court. Then he walked over to us and asked, “What’s up cuz, can I hoop with yaw’ll?” I looked at his big ass and then at Flip. “Yeah man,” I said. I sure in the hell wasn’t gonna say no to this San Diego Charger disguised as a crip. I threw the ball to him and let him shoot first. Flip just stood looking. This brother had C’s and street numbers tattooed on him and what looked like a long knife wound on his back, that might not’ve been too old. “How long yaw’ll been hoopin homey?” he asked his voice husky and rough. “Not long,” Flip said. I guess Flip didn’t want to say that we wanted to leave. Homeboy probably would’ve kicked our asses. So we kept shooting and playing with, “Lil C.” Why big dudes always wanna be called ‘Lil Something?’ So, we kept playing, although we were tired as hell from being out there for about an hour by ourselves. The sun was starting to come out and I was beginning to get what felt like a heat stroke, but I wasn’t leaving until this brother got enough shooting in. About ten minutes into playing a game of 21, his dog started barking. We turned around to look at what was coming. It was this sister with a nice looking Labrador retriever. She let the dog go and the first thing the lab did was walk towards the pit bull. I knew this was gonna be bad. Lil C walked over in front of his dog to stop the lab from getting ate the hell up. So there was Lil C hovering over the Labrador. This sister walked up behind her dog. I guess she didn’t know much about pit bull’s. “Let them dogs play,” she said to Lil C. Lil C knew what would happen if the lab got closer. The goofy Labrador was jumping back and forth as if Lil C was playing with him. “Lady, get yo dawg away from my dog,” Lil C said once. “Let them dogs play.” The lady said. I kept trying to play ball, I didn’t want any part of it. Flip kept being nosy. Lil C requested once more, “Lady, get yo dawg, away from my dog,” he then pushed her dog away. The lab thinking that this big ass dude was playing, kept jumping back and forth darting in between Lil C’s legs. He continued to push the dog away. The lab continued to play. “Stop pushing my dog. This is a park, let the dog’s play,” she said. Lil C raised his arms up like he was about to box and told the lady, “Lady, get yo dog, or on my mama, I’ma bomb on him.” I stopped shooting and looked at Flip. “Bomb on him?” I asked Flip. I thought to myself hell no, he won’t do it. “You ain’t gonna do nothing. Let them dogs play,” the lady said. Lil C lifted his arms up higher and said it one last time, “Lady get yo dog away from my dog, or I’ma bomb on him.” The dog, still thinking Lil C was playing, kept darting between his legs. The whole time the pit is trying to get off of the fence to rip the silly little lab apart. I looked at Flip, we both looked over at the scene. Before you could say, “Move little doggy,” Lil C pulled his hand back and caught the dog smack dab on the side of his face. The dog stopped bouncing and dropped. The lady screamed, “You motherfucker you crazy.” Lil C looked at her and said, “I tooold you, I was gon bomb on him, I toooold you.” I dropped the ball and watched the dog lying still on the ground. About ten seconds later, the dog tried to stand up. The dog propped his front legs up, then the back, then he just fell to the side again. The dog finally stood up and started running sideways. The sister shouted, “You crazy bastard, I’m gonna get my husband.” Lil C untied his dog and walked away. The lady held her dog and walked him back to the car. Flip and I stood in disbelief. “The dog never saw it coming,” Flip said. I repeated, “Never saw it coming.” We walked to his car and drove home. Every since then we always said that phrase, “He never saw it coming,” like if a brother got smacked or someone tripped up on something. Here was Flip applying the phrase to me and all I could do was laugh. It was funny though, I was a self-proclaimed bachelor, like Ginuwine, and I was the one rushing to pick a ring. Go figure. We made it back to the store and asked the lady to engrave something on the rings. As we stood in front of the counter, I heard a voice that sounded familiar. It was Manny, he was in the ring section getting a small ring for Hilda. He saw Flip and I, and walked up. “Boss, I didn’t see a thing,” he said laughing and patting me on my back. “Damn Manny can’t we go anywhere without you being there?” Flip asked. “I don’t know, can you?” he said laughing. “You guys shopping for rings huh?” “Yeah,” I said. “Bout time, I’m tired of catching you two hugging all the time. That was starting to get gross.” “Whatever Manny,” Flip said. “Just kidding boss. I’m just buying a little something for the Mrs. Excuse me sir,” he said speaking to Flip. “I never thanked you for what you did.” “What did I do?” Flip asked. “You don’t have to say, but I know what you did, gracias, vaya con Dios.” “God be with you also Manny,” Flip said extending his hand. Manny shook it and walked back towards the saleslady. “You are blessed man,” I said to Flip. I felt like I was in the presence of one of the chosen. Flip definitely had Air, and as usual he seemed to be wise beyond his years. I broke the peace by asking him what he was going to have placed inside of his ring. “I don’t know. Let me think, what about December 3rd?” “I guess.” I had December 24th and Janice placed inside. Flip wrote December 3rd inside of his as a personal statement towards when he decided to make the jump to Stage Four. My date represented the date that I would propose.

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