I called my Mom to say hello, and she asked if I’d heard a certain story “on the news”. I said I hadn’t. So she told me the story. It was “the news”, so the story wasn’t really a happy one. I don’t expect news to be happy; the words “have you heard this” or “I’ve got to tell you something” rarely lead, in my limited experience, to a happy story.
“You’re listening to BBC World News. Today, kittens…”
Growing up, news wasn’t happy either, but it was at least assumed to be “true”. Now if someone tells me a news story I ask them who they heard it from, as if it was a rumor heard during first period in high school. “True” isn’t “happy”, but it does allows us that shrug-shoulder-look-up-to-Heaven-what-ya-gonna do thing we’ve all gotten so good at.
It’s better to “know things” than “not to know things”, but still, I’m trying to steer my mother’s attention away from the news. She gets her news from reputable sources, it’s all journalism, but at some point every news source runs out of news and begins offering “information” instead, which is less grim, but still excites her keen sense of danger and mayhem. We would all probably appreciate a little less “what we should be looking out for” and more “what we might be able to forward to”.
The weather report rides that line; no matter how jovial the chosen meteorologist, I am really only concerned about bad weather. The sky looks cloudy, so I check the forecast to see what’s gonna happen, or how long until whatever’s happening is gonna happen, so I can dress appropriately. But when the sky is blue, and it’s going to be great weather, in the back of my mind I’m kind of wondering how long I’ve got before it’s bad weather again.
I appreciate the news my mother tells me. A cautionary tale is still a tale, and I love stories, though it’s confusing to hear the news in the same voice that told you about The Three Little Pigs.
I do believe that wolf is still serving hard time.
You’ve read a year of things like that. Bless you. I began this on a bit of a dare, then wanted to collect enough stories to make a little book, then maybe a bigger book, and now it’s a seed that’s taken root and grown wild. And here we are. This is nice.
It’s the end of Season Three, due to some really weird numbering on my part (I started at “00”, which Zoë says nobody does, but now it’s a tradition). If for any reason this is your first time visiting :lowerblackpain, welcome, and if you’ve been here a while, or even (gasp) since the beginning, Thank You.
I’ll be honest with you, I’m exhausted. Not due to this column, but the post-lockdown pace of the world surrounding it. Leaving the house. Yipe. Talking to people. Eek. But I’m lucky to be sharing this coordinate in space-time with you, people who are doing things, making things and making things happen.
As I close out a year of doing this, I’m going to take this specific moment to share a few updates…
The lollipop lady likes me now.
You remember that crossing guard who was very, well, cross with me?
She likes me now. This is a huge comfort.
I walk to work everyday and offer her a strong “Good Morning!” and a heartfelt “Have a good day!” and she reciprocates, with a smile, even. I am part of a community of people passing her, and for each of us it’s a bit of a blessing.
Heck, it’s New York, it might be the nicest thing anybody says to us ’til we get back home. She couldn’t be more comforting if she was a nun.
My name is (also) Jd Michaels.
You know the history of my name, but strangely, even after all the twists and turns, it isn’t entirely unique.
There are two other Jd Michaels.
Owns a landscaping company (and the url of my name with .com after it). He lives in Guilderland, New York, which sounds like it’s between The Shire and Camelot, but is just 30 minutes west from our state capital. He does beautiful work, and must be incredibly annoyed by my constant online shenanigans. It’s an arm wrestle between us; one of us is going to have to say “No, I’m not THAT Jd Michaels” someday. Though, to be honest, given the demographic makeup of Guilderland I don’t think anyone assumes that he’s the author of this column. Just…y’know.
Is a professional wrestler. He is the reason that the WWE video game has my last name programmed in it. With a bit of finagling I actually created an animated entrance sequence where the announcer says “and now, coming to the ring, weighing 150 pounds, from Kansas City, The “Professor”, JD MICHAELS!” And then there is pyro and smoke and I jump out from behind the screen and the lights hit my sparkly shorts and I rage down to the ring. It’s cathartic.
Last weekend I heard, for the first time, an album called “Donuts” by arguably the most famous Jay Dee, a man whose full name was James Dewitt Yancey, but was known best as J Dilla. He was a hip hop sample artist who created some amazing work and stands as a primary influence to modern music. And where did I listen to this incredibly important chronicle of genius? Home Depot. (The sink was broken.) As a fellow African-American “j-d” I wanted to bond with him, in a way, which happened in a big way over by the rubber faucet washers. He sampled not only Frank Zappa, but also Raymond Scott, two of my top five musical heroes. I was actually tearing up by the time I got to the checkout. I am proud to lose the name arm wrestle to that guy.
The first lap.
I never did find the photo of me and Spider-Man. I looked in all the photo boxes, it just wasn’t there.
I found one with a cardboard cut-out of the magician David Copperfield levitating me (the Polaroid camera and his cutout were both mounted sideways to create this illusion). I found one with my grandfather at Thanksgiving; I’m probably 17 and I’m wearing what I must have considered a “nice outfit”.
I did discover one I don’t remember seeing before, of my mother and I, as a tiny baby, maybe a few weeks old. The photo was taken from a weird distance away, not really a portrait but more of a journalistic piece. I’m doing nothing at all useful, I’m a potato, but my mother looks confident, sitting in a housecoat, calm, focused, even though she was surrounded the late 1960’s and riots and war and unrest.
But soon, she will tell me of The Three Little Pigs. Shortly after that, she will call me at my home in Brooklyn and make sure I don’t eat the recalled spinach, or give my social security number to the wrong person, or get caught up in an international deepfake conspiracy, because she heard it on the news and it might be important information I need in order to stay safe. And I will appreciate this information, and check the dates on my food items and not answer unknown numbers and avoid professional spy networks.
And we will talk about the weather, even though we know it’s changing, and tell each other stories. And then I’ll tell a year of them to you.
Thank you for your time. And yes, I will see you next week. I mean, next year! Wow.
- Jd Michaels.