Thursday, February 19, 2009

Spiritual Renewal, Pt. 2

I meant to write this post on Monday, but I got laid the fuck out with the flu for a couple of days. [update] I've now been trying to finish this post for a week.

I left off talking about my slow slide into emotional oblivion regarding my father's death. I don't know that I've hit rock bottom with this thing yet, I'd like to think that I have, but it seems kind of unlikely based on what others have told me about dealing with the death of a parent.

I had been feeling shitty (not physically, emotionally) all last week, but the lone bright spot was that Ta-Nehisi Coates had a book signing coming up in College Park that I planned to attend. If you haven't read his book "The Beautiful Struggle" run, don't walk, to your nearest book store and pick up a copy. Just like I try not to be too hard on stupid motherfuckers, I also try not to sweat dudes too much that I think are cool, smart, tough, or whatever. I mean, no one wants to be a dick rider, right?

But rules are made to be broken, so here goes the one time you will catch me on someone's tip like this. I won't go so far as to say this is the best book that I've ever read or that it's my favorite book of all time; I'll need to read and re-read the book several more times before I'll be comfortable making that pronouncement, but this book did speak to me in a way that no other book I have ever read has.

In the same way that "Catcher in the Rye" has been a cultural touchstone for generations or "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" is practically required reading for teenagers, "The Beautiful Struggle" deserves a place in the pantheon of great American coming of age stories. "The Beautiful Struggle" is an instant classic, written in a unique style that seamlessly melds literature and hip-hop into a brilliant narrative about fathers, sons, and the journey from boy to man.

Needless to say, I was very excited to meet Ta-Nehisi at his book signing. When I arrived I saw Ta-Nehisi browsing through the store so I approached him and introduced myself. I shared all of the thoughts above with him and he seemed to be truly humbled and grateful that his book evoked such a strong reaction from me. As cool as it was to meet Ta-Nehisi, it was a total mind blower to meet his father, Mr. Paul Coates, who was there that evening. Even though I had only read the book a few months before I had forgotten how funny it was and it took on a whole new life when I heard its author reading it in his own voice.

BigDaddyRat was a man who loved to read and he shared that love with me, it was one of the many, many gifts he gave me over the course of our time together. In some ways, I guess my upbringing led me to (incorrectly) believe that I was the only young Black man out there that was into Sci-Fi, that liked to read, and saw no disconnect with those things and being Black. So in that context it was reassuring and comforting to be at that book signing, to know that "The Beautiful Struggle" spoke to others in the same that it spoke to me.

Being at Vertigo with some other Black men of letters was exactly what I needed that evening. It gave me a sense of spiritual renewal to feel, to know, that no matter how isolated I may feel or be at a given moment, that I'm a link in a chain.

I had a rough couple of weeks, but for the time being I'm on the upswing.