Posts Tagged With: Bishop The Eastside Nappyhead

How far would you travel for love? w/ mc enigma

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I never planned on releasing this project or even telling this story.  It was an intimate gift forged in the hopes of rekindling the flames of a past love.  I am opening up, becoming vulnerable and sharing my experience. 

Thank you for your time,
– Lyle


written by mc enigma of Negros Americanos

We’d initially met in Newark Penn Station through a mutual friend, playing matchmaker.  Up to that point, I’d only known she was Ethiopian and a fan of the Pharcyde.  When we first met on the PATH platform, I was instantly enamored.  Eyes so pure and beautiful that they could pacify the fiery heart of any warlord and a smile that was a blessing to behold, all packed into her petite frame no taller than a broomstick.

She extended her hand politely and I smacked it out of the way and hugged her.  We laughed.

The night consisted of walking the New York streets, stopping by Fat Beats (R.I.P.), S.O.B.S. and a long talk at Washington Square Park that sealed the deal.  On the way home, “I Ain’t No Joke” by Rakim was the first sound that came out of her radio.  When she showed me her CD collection, I fell even deeper.  She was smart, kind, beautiful, and a fan of hip-hop!  I was sold!

Here’s the catch, she lived in Montreal and was just home visiting family for the summer.  I didn’t care how far she lived; I knew I wanted her to be my woman.  We’d spent a lot of time together, getting to know one another.  Before she headed north, I applied for my passport.

Days before my first trip to Canada, I’d been listening to her copy of Revolutionary Vol 2. by Immortal Technique.  After hearing the song “You Never Know,” I immediately bought a phone card and told her I loved her.

Time waits for no man.” – Jean Grae

We’d spent the next three years while in college visiting each other at least once a month, taking buses, trains and sometimes planes, crossing international boundaries to sustain our love for one another.  Each summer we managed to find housing together or near one another in NJ.  We had the type of relationship that made onlookers marvel at our chemistry and genuine love for one another. I’d gained a great girlfriend, lover, and best friend.

After college we’d lived in New Haven, CT for a year while I was working at Yale.  That’s where everything started to change.  There weren’t any violent arguments or tales of scandalous mistresses; we simply began to grow apart.
Before we broke up, I asked her if I were to quit my job and pursue my dreams of hip-hop among other things would she support me? I’d argued that it was a young man’s game and that I’m fully capable of getting my Master’s and Doctorate later in life, but to influence the youth with messages of positivity, as a young emcee, would be more effective with the gifts that were bestowed upon me.  She honestly said “no.”

Neither of us wanted to initiate the break up.  We were prolonging the inevitable.  Towards the end of the relationship, I was Donnell Jonesing, thinking that the grass was greener on the other side.  We broke up over the phone through international lines.

Her last words were ‘please don’t leave me and I hurt her.’”  – mc enigma

While in Panama I’d gotten word that she was coming back to NJ from Mali.   Disillusioned with the single life and nostalgic of my first love, I planned to make the S.A.R.A.H. project.  I would put all my heart and soul into it and give her a gift based on our experience that no one else in the world can!  I hoped it would reconnect us.  I’d been listening to Elzhi’s Out of Focus ep and he had a song called S.A.R.A.H. which meant (Someone As Real As Her).   It was the perfect title for the project.  It fit.  (That’s what she said!)

Within two weeks I’d written, recorded, mixed, and designed S.A.R.A.H.  I worked tirelessly, perfecting the project as best as I could, adding subtle touches and seemingly random inside jokes to make it unique.  It was finished days before my plane ticket back to NJ.  I’d decided to share it in secrecy with a couple of my and her female friends, curious of their opinion and seeking advice because winning her over meant so much to me.  I sent it to 10 friends, yet I noticed it was downloaded 50 times.  I was furious!  I trusted that they wouldn’t share it and I was 48 hours away from delivering the project to her in-hand.  Bishop the Eastside Nappyhead told me that it spread so fast because I’d asked that it was kept secret.  He urged me to continue to share it among our female networks “in confidence,” knowing that it would spread like wildfire because people couldn’t keep a secret, especially those that were familiar with our relationship.

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I boarded my plane from Tocumen Airport in Panama headed to Newark, NJ to meet her and deliver the project.  I remember scrambling, renting a car and running to a friend’s house to press up the cd.  I wanted to give it to her before midnight.  Everything was on schedule and optimistically I hit the Garden State Parkway headed for her house.

When I arrived we embraced, but it wasn’t like before.  The hug was hesitant on her end.  I disregarded it and we talked for a while.  Anxious and apprehensive, I asked her to come to the car and I said I had something to show her.  I gave her the cd and asked her to put it in.  We sat there and listened to all 28 minutes of Someone As Real As Her.  She smiled from ear to ear at first, but then she kept shaking her head at parts that I thought she’d be ecstatic to hear.  She said she enjoyed it, but then said that I didn’t have to do it.  Hmmm…

We saw each other for a couple of days, but the hugs were distant and so was she.  There was a huge invisible wall between us.  I couldn’t understand what was going on.  I thought my plan was fool-proof.  In a Cinderella-esque way I thought I held the glass slipper in my hands with this project, but little did I know, she’d already moved on.

 

I played the beginning Part 2.  My baby started grinning.  A false start, I almost thought that I was winning.mc enigma from The Flight Back

I was and still am well versed in rejection, but this was my first love.  She’d moved on completely and I was stuck, holding onto something that no longer was.  I was devastated.

On the flight back to Panama, I felt like an inadequate failure, and in an effort to combat my desperate stupor, I began to write while on the plane.   The song “The Flight Back” from L.y.l.e. Rainy Season, written over the Atlantic Ocean, was about that trip, flying back to Panama defeated, alone, and heart broken.  By this time, I returned to Ciudad Radial on Calle 16 in Juan Diaz, Panama City, Panama.  I recalibrated my focus from pursuing love lost to making music and building our base as Negros Americanos in Panama.  That year I’d written 5 solo albums, 3 joint projects, and had an excess of 150 songs between Bishop and me that could end up anywhere.

I chose to release S.A.R.A.H. because it symbolized closure for me and I believe to date, it is my most popular project.  The love that went into it was real.  The love I had for her was real and I’ve got her to thank for many lessons and for introducing me to this energy known as true love.

Although things didn’t turn out as planned, my efforts weren’t in vain.  I acted out of love and if you are fortunate enough to find true love, hold onto it.  Travel for it.  Pursue it to no end.  Love is the ultimate and it is worth all of our time and attention.  Tell them you love and appreciate them every chance you can and help them realize their own worth and beauty.  Let love live and grow.

I am hopeful that this project, which is birthed in love, inspires more love.

S.A.R.A.H. was reviewed by Jeff Leon, Senior Staff Writer for KevinNottingham.com

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Indigo Sun Conscious NYC Boat Ride (Harbor Lights Yacht)

One thing that Negros Americanos is really all about is Bridging together different people and fostering better cultural understanding. Especially throughout the African Diaspora. An event like the Indigo Sun Conscious NYC Boat Ride is wonderful because it gives Africans from all over the earth a chance too come together on yacht to fraternize and network. Also, there will be lovely food from Cafe Khufu(Egyptian), Nafi’s Hot Condiments (Senegalese) and Yemi’s Mesob Ethiopian Catering (Ethiopian). There will be a Fashion Show, performances (which Negros Americanos will be rocking full set) and more importantly the change to meet some great conscious individuals…check the promo video its going to be a hell of a ride.. AUGUST 18, 2013 …BOAT BOARDS 7 PM NY Sky Port Marina corner of FDR and E 23 st.  Join The Facebook event by clicking this link

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I heart Pole Dancers!

So it’s like this, mc enigma and I had the great pleasure of meeting the two lovely pole dancers you see in this intimate performance at a show we had in Montclair, NJ at the Adinkra House. They were in their civilian attire at the time, and it wasn’t until we ran into them again at a showcase at the Center stage cuts barbershop in Newark, NJ which is actually a large barber shop with a stage for performances (great idea), that these lovely ladies told us that they were indeed pole dancers and expressed interest in collaborating on their recital in July. I didn’t quite know anything about pole dancing, or its community, I was ignorant so to speak. I thought it was stripping and that had nothing to do with the Negros Americanos brand. What I found however, was that the pole dance world is one of exercise hard work perspiration and dedication. Actually all the things that make up Negros Americanos. Yes there are sexual and sexy elements, but its is more of an athletic art to me and it is beautiful dagnabit! So these lovely ladies attend Alter Ego Pole Fitness and Wellness Studio In Newark NJ. They bought us up there and we agreed to do the show. The video that you see before you is the result

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First Annual Afro Latino Festival of New York

First Annual Afro Latino Festival of New York

This event was put together in part by a lovely Panamanian born/raised New Yorker that (like us here at Negros Americanos) has a passion for uniting Latinos and Blacks, as well as bringing the hidden history and stories of Afro Latinos to the forefront…You know of course Negros Americanos had to be part of something like that…It makes perfect sense, even though we are not technically Afro Latinos, our experiences have allowed us to be adopted and christened as such…If you are in the general NY Metropolitan area, hopefully I will see you there !!!!

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Have I finally discovered the Chupacabra?

Have I finally discovered the Chupacabra?

My fellow constituents in the blogosphere, I need your help with this one…I came across this strange skeleton of a small critter on my last trip to the jungles of Puerto Viejo, Limón, Costa Rica. My goal is to find out truly what this creature may have been before its untimely demise. Some have said small dog, others have said bat, Chupacabra, fox. I cant seem to solve this riddle alone I need your help….You can comment on here with your ideas of what this animal is, or you could reach me on Facebook at Facebook.com/NegrosAmericanos or Facebook.com/nappybishop…Muchas gracias

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Negros Americanos is in Afro Punk’s Battle of the Bands 2013!

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Thanks everyone who participated in voting in the the online voting segment of the Afro Punk battle of the Bands Competion 2013.  Thanks to you all Negros Americanos came in first place, but that is only 1/3 of the battle.  We are in the top 16 bands out of about 150 along with great bands such as  Fartherout, Sol Ardour, Brittany Campbell, Rosemary Fiki Band, Echo Sonic ,Mighty Paradocs, and King Holiday just to name a few.  Join us June 3rd 7:00 pm at Free Candy, which is at 905 Atlantic Ave, 2nd Fl, (between Waverly Ave & Washington Ave) Brooklyn, NY 7:00PM to 10:00PM, as we get Rambunctious in there and move to the 3rd phase of this contest, which will be the Final 4 showdown, and that is on June 14th at the same time, but we aint in there yet.  We need to rock the house there and win, so if you are in the general NY C metropolitan area come down and rock with us…Hit us up for tickets at NegrosAmericanos.com also if you have Facebook, reach out at our Negros Americanos Facebook Page.  Thanks and we will see you in there…

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Hey Negros Americanos, Why did you choose to live in Panama?

Negros Americanos Panama Costa Rica Black man rapping in spanish

Bishop The Eastside Nappyhead Negros Americanos

By now you feel like you know me a bit don’t you?  You know about my cougar love affair, you know about the decrepit housing project we lived in together in Panama, but do you know the real reasons that prompted our journey to central America?  I have to admit that before the year 2009 I had  no idea what a Panamanian person looked like, thats not to say that I didn’t know plenty of Panamanians, I just didn’t know anything about where they came from.

The first time I realized I was talking to a Panamanian person, was at work.  She was an interesting person, with a great sense of humor.  Interestingly enough during the short time that I met her I was watching a program on the US invasion of Panama, something that happened when I was but a newborn, nonetheless I never heard of this event and the unjustified violence and brute force used on the Panamanian people.  The woman that I worked with was unmistakably black and her accent was so caribbean I swore that she was Jamaican or something, but then i heard her speaking in spanish.  Now it wasn’t the first time I heard a black person speaking spanish.  I’d known some black Dominicans, but the fact that she spoke in a Caribbean style intrigued me.  I asked her where she was from and she said Panama.  Wouldn’t you know that after meeting her I would run into countless Panamanians who all were full of pride for their home country.

hip hop in panama living in panama the real Panama

mc enigma Negros Americanos

Going back even further, I knew mc enigma most of my life.  Probably since we were about seven.  We went to different elementary schools in Plainfield but he actually went to the same school as my cousin.  I would always see him when I went with my grandmother to pick my cousin up from the after school program.  It was actually in middle school when we started putting raps together.  mc enigma graduated from NJCU and got a job working at Yale as a Union organizer in Connecticut, and I stayed in Plainfield working  and was still in school and trying to make my way.  The year was 2010 and it was getting crazy in Plainfield New Jersey.  In this small city of about 45,000 or so there were several murders and I started to notice a growing trend of blacks and latinos killing each other.  Once mc enigma found out about the murders he decided to come back to Plainfield, and we lent our time working for the Plainfield chapter of the Newark based People’s Organization for Progress(POP).  After the notable murder of a teenager in the city we both canvased the neighborhood where the crime happened to talk to the people and realized that the majority of the neighborhood didn’t speak any english. Our message was useless if the people couldn’t hear it.  We wanted to be able to reach everyone in the community and  ease the tension and fear.  With that same mentality, we began to think; “Hey, if we can learn spanish we would be able to make the same type of classic music that we make in english and be able to grab a way larger fan base than otherwise.”  Imagine when we learn other languages as well, we will be unstoppable.  The idea for Negros Americanos was now born.

na black americans rapping in spanish

Now the question was, “how were we going to move to a spanish speaking country?”  Panama was preferred because of the large population of black people.  We knew that we would be able to maneuver there easier than other latin american countries that have as much of an economic boom as Panama was and is still having.  So how were we going to afford it? We started to research how to live and work in a foreign country on google and learned that teaching english was the best route to go about.  We saved up money and paid for courses for certification in teaching english, thinking that after taking the 3 month program we would be placed with a job.  Nothing could have been further from the truth.  We were told that we had to buy our plane ticket and physically travel to the country to look for a job.  When I heard just how difficult it would be for me to find work, as I would be judged as a drug addicted Rasta because of my hair, I almost gave up on the dream.  I didn’t want to starve out there.  Once we got the certification, we bought a one-way ticket to Panama and we met another Panamanian woman in New Jersey, who would become our Aunt.  She was so excited that we were going to move to her country that she told us we could move in with her sister for a few months to get ourselves together. We waited until the 5th of January 2011 and then we hopped on a plane to Panama City, Panama.

Negros Americanos mujeres bonitas de Panama

Bellas Mujeres De Panama

I was so excited to be out of the country and to be starting this new life, the goal was to absorb everything we possibly could, especially the language. As soon as we stepped out into the airport I realized that the “physical” quality of women in this country was unbelievable.  I had learned that the best way to learn a language would be to find a significant other that doesn’t speak your same language.  It forces you to learn in a more natural way.  With that said,  we treated the female hunt with the same passion we took on the job hunt.  Trying to talk to every woman that I could possibly run into with my 5 word spanish, sticking my chest out as if my American-ness would give me access to all of these thick brown women. After reading several blogs on Panamanian women, I thought it would be easier, but I didn’t take into account that those blogs were written by white men, and the results would be a tad different for me.

nueva concepción Panama, gueto de Panama

Bishop The Eastside Nappyhead en Concepcion Juan Diaz Panama

Our adventure began in the neighborhood of Nueva Concepción, Panama, a humble neighborhood where you really  feel a sense of community.  The family we lived with was very black and proud, so when I hung out in the street I was in awe at the amount of black women with white or cholo  (panamanian word for indigenous mixed with spaniard) men.  I also noticed that some (not all of course) of the black Panamanian women that I tried to talk to would look me right in my face and then look ahead as if I didn’t even exist.  One time I noticed that happen with me, but then when a fellow white American tourist tried to talk to her and she broke her neck to make sure that he was responded to.  I was in shock.  I started to learn about the “mejorar la raza” phrase that some women have adopted.  It hurt me so to know that many of these women were not with these men initially because of love, rather because of self-hatred and the desire to have ‘pretty’ children who hadn’t been cursed with the same sun absorbing skin tone.  At that point we made a conscious decision to promote black pride everywhere we went.

Negros americanos water shortage in Panama

Negros Americanos water shortage in Panama

 

 

We couldn’t have come at a more perfect time.  There was a water shortage in the country in the first couple months of 2011.  We ended up taking bucket showers and using water from buckets to cook.   Every day a truck would come around midday with water tanks and fill up our buckets.  We had to conserve the water though and not use too much for bathing as it was a family of 6 or 7 including us and the same water had to be used for cooking, needless to say in a country so hot I began to learn how to caress my body with powder every morning.  After the second month, the water started to come back.  Now we could concentrate on trying to find out where all the hip hop events were and how to collaborate with other artists.  That is the story that will be told in the next blog post.

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Rakatakas Necesitan Amor Tambien (Hood Rats Need Love Too)

Finally we have released the black soap opera/music video- “Rakatakas Necesitan Amor También” (Hoodrats Need Love Too) the video was filmed in the beautiful Afro-Latino Caribbean city of Puerto Limón, Costa Rica. An attempt at courting a woman hardened by an abusive relationship, and the dangers that come with these types of situations…….(Negros Americanos)  This song is in spanish…for those that don’t speak spanish visit this link right here to get the lyrics translated in english 

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What’s that crawling on my face? w/ mc enigma

by mc enigma of Negros Americanos

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I felt something crawling on my hand.  I fidgeted and woke up, staring at the peeling, diluted yellow paint on the walls of my cuarto (room) on Calle 16 en Ciudad Radial, Panama City, Panama.  The day before, I’d cemented a hole in Bishop’s floor, when he was living in Ciudad Radial long before he’d experienced the enticing growl of the cougar.   When I poured the cement-mix into a hole on the floor in Bishop’s cuarto, sporadically cement covered mice scurried out of the hole and into his apartment.  We’d laid out sticky traps and whichever mice managed to evade those traps either found their way out of the cuarto, into a hidden crevice, or met the sharp end of our machetes.  Critters were commonplace and that feeling of having your skin crawling became normal.

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I got out of bed and headed to the bathroom.  I must’ve interrupted an orgy of cockroaches. Most of them escaped post haste, but the two that were the slowest now laid there together.  I swept them up and out of my shower and snapped this foto, thinking it would be a good promo pic for the future.  Don’t be surprised if this becomes the cover for “Buscando” off of my upcoming project L.y.l.e. Dry Season.

After I stomped the roaches and disposed of them, I realized I never put any shoes on!  My bare feet squished the life out of those roaches and the thought of putting on sandals first didn’t cross my mind.  I was sick of them.  Yeah, they could survive a nuclear winter, but I was not about to be intimidated by their brood.

I only had running water 3 to 4 times a week and it was always late at night between midnight and 3am.  I would have tanks, bottles, and buckets of water saved up from rain water, outside hose water, or from my shower when we had running water.  I proceeded to commence my bathing ritual.  I’d dip my washcloth in soap, give my body the twice over and drop a cold liter of water over me for the rinse.  I tried to hook up my bathroom as best as I could.  Was it a little grimey?  Yes.  But it felt at home.

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I was changing,transforming, becoming one with the habitat. The same dude who’d carry hand sanitizer was now squashing roaches with his bare feet and using the sweat from the back of his neck to clean his hands when there was no water.  Riding packed Diablo Rojos from Juan Diaz to Panama City, I got used to soaking in the sweat of others.  Like sardines in a tropical sauna, people are packed into these cartoon and graffiti draped cheese-buses too damaged to be legally driven in the US as the main mode of public transportation.  25 cents can get you about anywhere on these vehicles, but there are hazards like drunk bus drivers, maliantes, near-death engines, and sometimes they race one another for passengers, often causing mayhem on the road.  A young man and his pregnant girlfriend were hit and killed by a racing Diablo Rojo in Concepcion while I was living there.

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The other option for transportation was hailing a taxi.   There were tons of taxis, but that didn’t mean they stopped for me.  I’d made myself as “non-threatening” as possible, cutting off all my hair and trying my best to look, sound, and act like Bryant Gumbell or Tiger Woods, yet still I had trouble catching a taxi.  I remember one time Bishop and I were going to meet up with P.O.C. and we took a taxi where the driver was drinking while driving.  I didn’t notice it until it was time for us to pay and leave.  I gave him the money and Bishop exited the vehicle.  I was in the passengers seat and as I was leaving, he grabbed my arm.  Bishop and I thought he was trying to rob me or something.  “Yo quiero aprender! I want learn english!” he yelled in his Panamanian Spanglish accent.  The tension eased and we discussed classes.  Never heard from or saw that guy, but I remember what I thought when he grabbed my arm.

If you didn’t want to ride a Diablo Rojo or take a taxi, there is the Metrobus, which used to cost $1.25 but now its more and you have to buy a Metrobus card and put money on it.  Initially they were a step up because they weren’t as crowded, they would get you on the Corridor which helped you beat the traffic and they were air conditioned.  After a couple of months, they became as crowded as Diablo Rojos and the air conditioning went, so they were more expensive Diablo Rojos with access to the Corridor.

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Or you could always foot it.  Walking in Ciudad Radial, you had to watch for your occasional stick up kid (chacal or maliante), corrupt police (which I’ll get into later), and tumor-ridden, pus-spewing packs of dogs that would run down on you if you had food nibbling at your limbs until you let go of your grocery bags, which become their reward for the raid and ambush.

Any way I looked at it, there were tons of risks living in the 3rd world, but I developed a real faith that has guided me, opened my mind and freed me.  To make history you must take risks and explore new lands.  Lets troop it.

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The Enticing Growl of the Cougar parte 2

ciel

I guess I did indeed make you guys wait a little longer than expected, for that I apologize.  So its december and I we (Negros Americanos) have almost been living back in the states on and off for about a year.  We moved back from Panama in the early part of 2012 and have already accomplished much of what we set out to do.  The goal of living in Panama was to learn spanish in an environment where we can fit in being urban black youth.  Not to be a part of any collegiate programs, but to find a job and live as the average struggling Panamanian; to completely submerge ourselves in another culture and let it change our psyche and how we view the Planet Earth.  The struggle in Panama City was real, and honestly if it weren’t for Cielo, I don’t know how well this story would have ended up.

We (mc enigma and I) worked as english teachers for an internationally known language institute, and weren’t exactly rolling in doe.  To be precise, well off students (usually foreigners from Venezuela escaping  Chavez’s government flooded to Panama along with Spaniards, French and Colombian ‘workers’) paid  $40/hour for english classes at this school, while the language center only paid us $7.50/hr, while we were the ones that actually did the teaching.  Needless to say we offered our services to the students on the side for some extra money like we learned we could do when we were researching this transition on the internet before we came to Panama.  Its not exactly what the Language Center would like you to be doing so we had to keep it under wraps, but I quickly learned that a great number of these wealthy students (almost all of which were white) didn’t take to kindly to the idea of taking private lessons with someone who looked anything like me.

When I first moved to my 1 bedroom apartment in Ciudad Radial, Juan Diaz I was paying 120 a month 60 out of every check for rent. Image

I flipped when “La Dueña” told me the price, I thought I misunderstood her spanish.  That price was stupid cheap………..back when we kept the schedule that we had when we first found our jobs.  But we quickly realized that with a 7 am to 8:30pm schedule constantly speaking english, the dream of learning spanish and forming an international bi lingual hip hop/reggae group was not going to happen.  I made up a lie to get out of having to work that many hours; I approached my supervisor and in a shaken state I told him that a gang of young bandits threatened me while walking and pointed their hands like a pistol at me and I could no longer work nights.  My plan worked but backfired at the same time, because we serviced professionals the hours were geared towards a working 9 to 5 schedule so we gave classes from 7-10:30 am had pause another class form 12 -1pm and a last from 6-8:30pm.   After that we were reduced to working 7-10:30 everyday and some days occasionally staying until 1.

When the mice began to infest my apartment I was ready for it.  We tried to fight back, sliced and diced a couple, why-we even put glue traps down only to capture other animals (mc enigma actually used a photo of two lizards that got caught in my glue mouse traps to advertise the project that he was working on at the time; mc enigma L.y.L.e rainy season. 

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It was like with each mouse killed 2 or more decided to join the party.  It felt disgusting sleeping in my bed above and hearing the scurrying below as they were foraging for food in my apartment, as my home had become their habitat.    After I met Cielo and got comfortable it just made sense for me to move into with her.  I knew what I was getting myself into, I knew the risks but its really what I wanted to do, no different than a journalist who travels to Iraq to get that winning scoop.  I guess it’s time to pick up where I left off in the story right.  So, before I ever entered Cielo’s building, I  was always at her stand.

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It was a ritual to go there and just soak in the atmosphere, the people, the smells (usually of the putrid ooze and black water that ran along the side of the street where it met the curb, that mixed in such a distinct way with the papas rellenas y el pescado frito).  One thing that I noticed about many people as they walked past the Kiosko de Plantas Medicinales was that the number of amputees in this small area was astronomical. Image

I saw some of the most sexy women with missing limbs.  I saw so many young men my age missing an arm or a leg, as i often found myself wondering what their stories were.  I listened as she talked and laughed with her customers, I learned the names of all of the plants and when she had to go on runs, even with my limited Spanish, I was able to help her conduct business alone.  I found myself buying newspapers everyday (they still costed 25 cents in Panama).  While the more distinguished Panamanians would always suggest that I practice reading ‘La Prensa’, which could be compared to a ‘New York Times’, I opted for ‘El Siglo’, Your ‘New York Post’ equivalent, but on steroids.  I never in my long legged life saw such macabre images on a national print sold at every major business and in the street.  The bodies that made it to the front page were usually covered in blood, hacked up or shot an ignorant amount of times.  Sometimes they would black out the eye area, but most times they just kind of left the body as is in the edit.  I wondered how the family members of these victims felt about their loved ones being used to sell cheap classless papers.  Oh did I mention that on the back cover of the paper featured images of half naked Panamanian women (some of which had to have been the most sexy women that I have ever feasted my eyes on in life).  I collected at least 30 issues of ‘El Siglo’  to bring back with me to the states to show my brethren how their papers differ from ours.

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I made a friend in Cielo’s neighborhood.  A disgruntled rasta from Colon, Panama (on the Caribbean side of the isthmus….the black town as it is looked at).  His name was Sea Mon.  Well, that is the name that I was given, I never really asked him for his real name, everyone just called him Sea Mon, because he sold Issinglass (or Irish Moss, as it is rightfully called) on the street.  he would boast that his issinglass was the best because he would actually go to the sea and collect the sea algae himself, instead of relying on vendors like his competition.  This man was an outcast, an anomaly, he hated everyone in his surroundings he spent most of the time sitting on an upside down bucket talking to himself in a west indian broken english about how he hated all Spaniards (white people I presumed).  I was a listening ear for him and his woes, and he took a liking to me.  We would talk day to day about racism, immigration, women and money.  People looked at me strangely because we talked everyday but I didn’t care, and he needed that human interaction.  One day I found myself in need of my own version of plantas medicinales and I talked to him about it.  He said “sure I know where to find that mon”.  I followed this man that I barely knew into an open door on the side of the decrepit building, as I walked up the stairs I saw the walls tagged up with drawings of Ak-47’s and pistols, gang initials and muerte (death).  I wanted to stop and turn back, but I couldn’t look weak, so I decided to continue as we made our way to the top of the steps, the first thing I saw was a wall riddled with bullet holes and what appeared to be dried blood on the floor.  we turned around the ben and I saw a group of youth hanging out smoking and playing music from their stolen blackberry’s (more on the whole blackberry craze in a later post).  “XopA Fren” (wuss good homie) says one of the baby gangsters.  I kept quiet, they seemed to look rather soft and boy like but the overall scenery was something out of a “Saw” movie “to bien, es que traje un amigo que quiere kenked” (I brought a friend thats wants some medicinal plants) said Sea Mon.  “To bien kompa”  (cool bro) we left that building and it was my introduction to where i would be living, and the people I would be living with .  At that time Cielo had not yet lived there, she was living in a hotel down the street.  She settled for that building about a month into our relationship, and when she told me i begged her not to move in there but she assured me that things would be good.  I said I would never visit her in there but she assured me that I would, and she was right.

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The sex was incredible, I never imagined that sex with a woman in her 40’s could be so slippery and invigorating.  The way she craved it 24/7 made me feel like a young Leonardo DeCaprio.  She needed me, she needed the service that I provided.  It never failed I never needed pills or breaks.  I did what was required of me, I fulfilled my obligations and that made her happy.  Now what I had a problem with was the fact that she loved for us to make sweet music at night.  Now that is all well and good, but the apartment was so small, and her son was there sleeping, but at his age he was fully aware of what sex was.  I felt uncomfortable having sex because of all of the moans screams and bed noises, I knew it was only a matter of time before he was to wake up.  Im sure he woke up several times during that experience and the trauma from that would never allow for him to take too kindly to me.  A rift started between her and I  at this moment and it killed me because I felt like I was never understood with her.  She thought that I found her unattractive and that I was looking at all of the young women that walked around her stand.  We used to argue all the time, at the time I hated it, I mean every situation called either for an argument or her trying to undermine me in front of her constituents.  But all of these situations forced me to think on my feet quickly for a response.  I needed to be able to defend myself from the onslaught of “Vete a la foking mierda Jordan”” Pa la pinga”  all of these things were said to me almost on a daily basis and those situations helped me to learn Spanish faster.

I noticed interesting things about her.  For instance she avoided stepping on any cracks, she wouldn’t drink from the same bottle as me or anyone else from that matter and she always had strangers over.  Many of which who were gay and transexual Santeros, namely one fat gay witch named La Burbuja (the bubble).  he was such an odd character, he always tried to practice his english with me and that was cool and all, but when she gave him a key and he would go upstairs conducting ‘business’ with women who wanted to either know their future or find out if their husbands were cheating on them I started to get suspicious.  I heard some of the most strange noises, but I refused to see what it was that they were doing as it was none of my concern.  Come to think of it so many strange things happened when i was in there, I remember one time I was looking over the balcony and along with the trash I saw a dead baby being picked apart by vultures.  I vomited in my mouth, I went back and forth to that spot for about 15 days and noticed that the heavy torrential rains would move the body to different locations on the roof.  Out of respect i never took a picture of the baby but sometimes i wish I had.  I even bought mc enigma (who stayed at his apartment several miles away in Ciudad Radial) to the building, because I had to share these nightmares with someone.  It sounds harsh to me, but I tried to show Cielo and she never really made a big case of it.  One time I remember that i was touching one of her yellow feathers and she came out of no where and told me “eh Sigue tocando era pluma y vas a convertir en un sapo”!  Which scared me, but when i bought mc enigma up there we were joking about what she had said and a flame lit from a candle stick out of no where, needless to say we hightailed it out of there.  What I can say really impressed me was that I remember getting so sick that I almost felt the life slipping out of me.  I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t keep food down.  I didn’t have any energy to walk and pills weren’t helping so she got some of those plants that she sells and made some type of remedy and after drinking that within 2 days I was back on my feet again.  I fought drinking it for about a week, she kept trying to give it to me, but my distrust in what I didn’t understand prevented me from taking it.  As I continued to worsen I figured I had no other choice, I now am an advocate for natural herbal healing.

My relationship was cool with those that lived in the building, it was more of a hi and bye thing but a lot of times we sat and had real conversations.  We would talk about life and how they feel that there is nothing out there for them, how many of them have never left a four block radious.  They wanted to know what the world was like…..I was a mystery to them, and probably to a lot of other people walking the streets.  Rasta! is what they called me, and I tried my best to play that role.  I always said Bless broder and indulged in medicinal activities with these young lost youth.  There was a girl, however.  I believe she was a prostitute but Im not 100% sure, her eye contact was overwhelming, she was about my same age and had the craaaaaziest body that i had ever seen a face like an angel minus the devilish eyes and disposition.  She constantly stared at me and even though I knew about her shady dealings with thievery and getting rival gang members set up in a trap and murdered, something about her was still calling me.  I fought it vehemently but it was a difficult task.  During the day in that building there was no running water that came from the showers so  if you woke up past 9 and wanted to shower before 7 at night, you had to do it on the first floor for all to see.  I saw her shower so many times, I mean she kept her underwear on and piece of fabric that covered her breasts, but all wet and sudded up I saw everything, and she saw me watch her and she smiled.  One time i was walking up the steps with Cielo and she was up there smoking with her homeboys, she was wearing a skirt and she  placed her leg in a way that allowed both of us to see her clean shaven vagina…I just looked away quickly, I didn’t want to seem too interested, I really wanted to just keep my eyes there a little longer, but I remember that the gang in that building gave me a list of clearly laid out guidelines and i really wasn’t trying to break them (self control is a must…but so difficult).

I lived in that building for about 10 months, I saw death I saw rats take over the building at night ( I prefer that to the mice because if you secured your door right they never actually got into your apartment).  I saw police run up into the building searching for people AK47 in hand only to have me spread out on the wall like I was in the same life, perplexed as to why someone from my country would choose to live in such a crime infested red zone environment.  But it wasn’t something I planned, it is just what happened and Im so glad that it happened like that because it gave me such a new appreciation for life.  Struggle is struggle and no one’s pain can outweigh anthers, however what I once thought of as hood changed to Beverly Hills once I returned to my city.  Me and Cielo had to end.   We discussed pipe dreams of maintaining a long distance love, but really she’s not an online nor phone type of person it just wouldn’t have worked.  Plus at my age now, I want children someday, and with her I was never going to be able to procreate.  I still miss the shit out of her, I owe her and when Negros Americanos makes it I am entitled to take care of her because if it weren’t for her and the experience that she provided me with, my spanish wouldn’t be so good and i wouldn’t have been able to feel comfortable maneuvering through other countries and hoods in Latin America like I have done, and those stories will come in the following chapters.  For now ladies and gents I bid you Adieu!

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