Friday, August 29, 2008

Trouble Man

This week, our melanin-endowed manchild takes a long, hard look at himself ... from across the coffee table.

Hey-oh, Beau! Thanks again for lending me that eight dollars this morning. You the man!

Lester, I didn’t lend you any money.

You the man!

At the gas station

Hey, Beau! Thanks again for helping me unload that drink cooler this morning. I couldn’t have done it without you.

Um, that wasn’t me, Larry.

Is this pack of gum all you’re getting? Hey, tell you what: this one’s on me.

Larry, that isn’t necessary. I wasn’t the one who—

Thanks again!

At the video store

Mom, I want you to meet the man who caught the thief who’d been stealing our DVDs. Beau, this is my mother.

Oh, thank you, thank you! You’re such a nice boy.

Really, that isn’t necessary. It wasn’t me—

Mom! “Boy” is not an appropriate term to use when referring to this man!

Really, Lucien, I think you have me confused with someone—

But, Lucien, I call all your young male friends “boys.” Why not him?

Mom! Because he’s black! Isn’t it obvious that you’ve hurt the man’s feelings?

Lucien, I’m not the one who … ah, forget it. Listen, I’ll just take my rental and go.

But, Lucien, I’m 75 years old! I refer to any man under 40 as—


The alarm! Beau! The DVD thief has struck again! … Beau? … Where’d he go?

At the coffee shop

Mandy, over here!

Beau! I’m glad I ran into you! I’d like you to meet someone. Beau, meet Charley. Charley, Beau.

Good to meet you.


You’ll never believe it … I was at the Farmer’s Market this morning about to buy some locally bottled, bee-friendly honey—produced from the nectar of native, organically-grown, Whole Foods’ Garden section flowers—when I suddenly slipped and almost overturned the entire vendor’s stand.

What kind of honey was that, again?

If it hadn’t been for Charley catching me, I would’ve busted every jar on the table.

You’re quite the hero.

Wait till you hear the best part.

Well, I don’t know if it was the lighting—you know, full daylight and all—or the angle at which I was looking up at his face, or a sense of disorientation from the stumble, or a residual effect of the edamame I’d eaten earlier—

She kissed me.


Beau, I thought Charley was you!

Isn’t that funny?

I mean, you can see the resemblance right?

Ha ha, I think Mandy might need a new prescription.

I hate to barge in on you all’s conversation, but I couldn’t help but overhear. And I must say, you two gentlemen do look quite a bit alike.

Wait a minute, who are you?

Are you serious? My hair is longer, and I’m at least five shades lighter. And look: I have a goatee.

Yeah, but for some reason, I always associate black men with facial hair—don’t ask me why. I guess I always subconsciously “paint” it in there whether I actually see it or not.

Oh my goodness! Are you hearing this? This is the most ignorant, bigoted line of backwards logic I’ve ever—

We do favor each other a little, you know.


You can see it in the facial construction and physical build and—

Your lips are sort of similar too.

Excuse me?

I’m just saying …

Oh my goodness! You didn’t just go there. Even a brother’s telling me he’s buying into this racist B.S.?

Hey, a brother’s got to keep it real. I call it like I see it.

Yeah, me too.

Hold up, who are you again?

Hey, F this! I did not rescue your ass at the Farmer’s Market to come here and be subjected to this “regressivist” verbal assault! I’m out.

Hey, he didn’t pay for his coffee!



WTF? Don’t look at me!

In Charley's Lair

Where did I put that hand mirror?

What’s the good word on the street?

Another day, another struggle.

Prying rolls of quarters from the white man’s fist?

And stuffing them in the pockets of the socially and economically oppressed.

Then why the long face, my brother?

It’s just … days like today make me question whether all the keeping it real and keep keepin’ on is worth it, you know? Makes me wonder …

Spill it, brother. Spill it.

Well, who am I?

You’re the cat that won’t cop out. The one who’d risk his neck for his brother man.

But those are just the lyrics to the Shaft theme song. Who am I, really?

You’ve come of heart, baby, but now you’re cool. You didn’t make it playin’ by the rules, baby.

Those are just the lyrics to the Trouble Man theme song. That’s my point—without all the black righteous lip service, the throwback dashiki, and Afro, who am I really?

Am I to be forever confined by the pop cultural images of blackness that preceded me? Can I ever really break through the black ideological frame, become a truly free and liberated Negro, be authentically me?

That’s going a little deep for me, brother. You know I’m all surface.

I want to keep it so real that any film featuring the Wayans Brothers would immediately burst into flames if I so much as walked into a movie theater.

Preach it, brother.

I want to keep it so real that 50 Cent challenging me to a rap battle would be akin to Martha Stewart facing off with Alfre Woodard in a soul food cook-off — you know Alfre can probably throw down in the kitchen.

Preach it, brother!

I want to keep it so real that even my reflection is inauthentic by comparison.

Preach! … Wait, hold up now.

That’s it! That’s who I am: black authenticity—the embodiment of the lived black experience in all its grittiness, pain, and struggle. And the time has come to drop this epic realness on the world!

Cool! So let’s roll. Are we taking the Saab or the Mercedes?

The Beamer?

At the video store, later

You have some nerve showing your face here, Beau.

What are you talking about?

Storming in here and ransacking my store earlier. Scratching up every DVD featuring Will Smith so that they’re unreadable! … Every one except for Six Degrees of Separation, that is—which nobody rents anyway!

But Lucien, that wasn’t me—

Out! Out of here, I say. I don’t want to see you here again until … until … Will Smith releases another blockbuster film on DVD! Then! Then and only then can you darken my doorstep again!

Then I won’t be accruing any late fees on this rental, I guess?


At the gas station

I thought I told you never to come back in here.


At least not until you pay me back for all those issues of Jet, Ebony, and XXL you ripped apart in my magazine aisle.

But Larry—

Yeah, yeah, I know. It wasn’t you … I’m racially profiling you, suggesting that all black guys look alike. You told me you’d give me that excuse.

I told you? Wait a second. Did this guy have a goatee?

Beau … you have a goatee.

Actually, Larry, I don’t. I shaved a few hours ago.

Yep. Looks like you’ve got a big ol’ tuft of facial hair to me.

No, Larry. Look closer.

… Got a thick ol’ Fu Manchu hugging your upper lip there.

Maybe I’m missing something. You got a mirror?

… Yep, working the five o’clock shadow, the King Tut with a handlebar ‘stache, muttonchops, sideburns, the soul patch …

What am I, Mr. T all of a sudden?

At the homestead

Beau, how could you?

Jeez, not you too … sigh … yes, dear?

Next time you get the urge to fiddle with the TV, do us a favor and call the cable company.

Why? What’s wrong?

Screwing around with the cable box, you’ve managed to block out channels we’re paying perfectly good money for: BET, UPN, and the Discovery Channel.

The Discovery Channel?

Yeah, you kept muttering something about “African softcore pornography.”

I see. Mandy, you wouldn’t have happened to have mistaken me for your friend Charley, would you?

Charley? … Well, I don’t think I … I could have sworn … are you sure you … you know, I’ve been a little queasy lately, probably something I ate. It probably affected my vision.

I know, Mandy. I know. It was probably the edamame.