Tag Archive: los angeles


 

BabyAziz

The writing was on the wall about a month ago…

The car breaking down every three months?  That stopped happening.  The hopping around from job to job which is somewhat expected in a town like Los Angeles, but I always seemed to be on the extreme end of it?  That stopped happening.  I’d found a certain type of stability…

Friends?  I inherited my father’s good heart, and I’m frankly embarrassed by the number of people I can genuinely call brother, sister, Fam, family, friend, supporter.  I know what it looks like when people feel genuinely ‘alone’.  I’ve seen how they act.  My people may be my greatest wealth….

The purpose?  The most honest answer to that is, I reflect on the number of things that seem designed to break my mind or my spirit or my self-confidence..and I’m still here. If my heart is still beating, I’ll keep going…

When I saw the writing on the wall, for the first time in a long time, I felt fear.  Bad things will happen of course, but as long as steer clear of being completely reckless…it’s truly, all on me now. Everything I’ve wanted is genuinely on the table. It’s all about the discipline.

I start naming names, I’ll either leave someone out, or undersell someone’s influence or importance.  If you’ve read this far, then know I appreciate the impact you’ve had on my life.

On to the next.

 

 

 

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Griffith Observatory

I made my annual trip to Griffith Observatory this weekend.  I saw a show that wasn’t playing on my last trip, and as usual I marveled at how big the Universe is, and how small we are, and how much we still don’t know.

I walked outside; darkness had fallen.  I looked out over Los Angeles.  My city.  My home.  And I felt…frustrated.

At this point, I was supposed to be putting the finishing touches on my rise to the Crown.  Kobe would be closing in on ring 6, and I’d be courtside with Jack, who’d be grooming me to be the next ‘Laker Fan Number One’ when he’s eventually gone.  That was the plan anyway.

But the best laid plans…

As I’m thinking this, I feel his presence.  Dressed in a dark jacket not that much different my own.  He’s sharp, but in such a public, touristy place like this, nobody really notice us.  We look at most like two extras out of a Michael Mann film; maybe people glance for a second, but then they immediately go back to their own business.

The Devil’s voice is charming and playful.  Like the voice of VD in that Chappelle skit with the puppets:

‘Why hello Malik Aziz!  Haven’t seen you in a while!’

‘Nasty muthafu…’

‘It’s not too late for you, my old friend.’

‘Not too late for what?’

‘The courtside seats.  The customized black Maserati GranTurismo Sport with gold trim.  You know, the Devil is not one to spread gossip, but you give me a year to build up your profile and status, and Beyonce might be back on the market…’

‘Uh huh.  Yeah, well, I’m not Michael anymore.’

‘Oh please!  You were posting MJ songs on Facebook three days ago!’

‘How do you know that?’

‘I’m one of your Facebook stalkers.’

‘I guess.  Anyway, not MJ.  I’m not Michael Corleone anymore.  I don’t daydream about that kind of stuff like I used to.’

‘And what do you dream about?’

‘I have visions of my woman admiring me for making peace with climbing as high up this mountain as I can without completely selling out what I stand for and what I believe in.  I see my children looking at my actions and seeing all the major decisions I made: who I married, where I lived, what I prioritized; and appreciating that it all started with love.  And hopefully no matter what I try to teach them, when it’s their time to make those life choices, they’ll start from the same place.’

We’re quiet in each other’s presence for awhile.  The moon is out tonight.

‘The world is not kind to honest men, Malik.  And this thing you’re passionate about, even less so.’

‘Man, I learned all that before I left Kansas.  I guess now I’m just really starting to accept it.  I told you, my ego is content now with who and what I attract through my natural abilities and personality.  You have nothing else to offer me.’

‘So be it.  Jedi.’

The Devil slinks away to make a deal with some other insecure, tortured soul.  This is Hollywood.  I’m pretty sure he got that done before he got to the parking lot.

I take a deep breath, and I look out over my city.

My home.

I turn my phone on and send a sarcastic text to one of my aces.

I jump back in the Matrix and like my people’s posts and updates to let them know I’m thinking about them and I’m glad they’re doing well.

I walk back down the hill to my car and put on the Easy Star.

I feel at peace.  It’s been a good night.

 

 

So if you’re like me, you’re probably still digesting your giblets.  Got an extra day off work.  If you’re really like me, you’re avoiding anything that remotely resembles a shopping center this weekend.  So what do you do hot shot, what do you do?

I’ll tell you what to do; you can catch “Lady In My Life’ on African-American Short Films!  This weekend,  the film plays in both my native and my adopted hometown:

Odessa-Midland  Station: KPEJ / FOX   Date: 12/02 Time: 4:00AM

Toledo  Station: WMNT/MYTV   Date: 11/25 Time: 2:00PM

Waco-Temple-Bryan  Station: KWKT/FOX   Date: 11/27 Time: 3:30AM

Waco-Temple-Bryan  Station: KYLE/MYNET   Date: 11/27 Time: 3:30AM

Kansas City  Station: KMBC / NBC   Date: 11/27 Time: 12:30PM

Jackson, MS  Station: WAPT / NBC   Date: 11/27 Time: 12:00PM

Los Angeles  Station: KCBS / KCAL   Date: 11/28 Time: 4:00AM

I know for a fact the Chiefs don’t play until Sunday night this weekend, all the more reason to get a little joy on the television this weekend before the bitterness and frustration kick in.

Hope everyone is having a nice Thanksgiving weekend!

 

One of my earliest memories as a sports fan was turning to the news and literally watching the Kings leave town on their way to Sacramento.  I had my Chiefs and Royals, but I was an NBA free agent.  Like so many other black folks of the early 80s though, it didn’t take long at all to find a team (and player) I naturally gravitated toward…

The first A I ever got in school, ever, was writing a book report on one of my heroes.  And that hero was Magic Johnson.  He was the centerpiece of the Showtime Lakers, he was a great player and he always had a smile for the camera.  My first memory of yelling at the TV in celebration was Magic’s baby hook over that punk Larry Bird and those damn Boston Celtics.  When I wasn’t practicing my moonwalk, I was down at the playground with my friends throwing weak ass behind the back passes.  Even today, whenever I hear Hall & Oates’ “One on One” I think of Magic running the break and throwing a no look to Big Game James.  I’m still debating how I feel about these pictures seeing the light of day at some point, but one of my best Christmas presents ever (at the time) was a hideous varsity jacket style purple and gold Magic Johnson sweater.  If you would have told me at that age that the hands of Fate would not only guide me to this city, but that I would see Magic on a fairly regular basis and even get to exchange pleasantries with him, I probably would have been the first 8 year old to die from cardiac arrest.  When he retired because of HIV, I was devastated as you can imagine.  But I kept following the team.  Even through the Nick Van Exel/Sedale Threatt/Cedric Ceballos years, the Lakers were still my team.  There has only been one time I openly rooted against them…

My second year out here was 2001, the year the Sixers made the Finals.  Magic is the player I grew up idolizing, but Iverson is my favorite player of my generation.   Initially I wasn’t looking for trouble when I wore my Iverson jersey in the week leading up to the Finals.  But boy you want to talk about hearing some noise!  Everywhere I went that week, ‘Sweep, Sweep, Sweep!’  And I knew the Sixers weren’t winning the Finals, but I wanted my boy to at least take one game.  The Lakers had won 19 in a row to that point; for those of you who hate the current version of the team, right now is NOTHING compared to the arrogance of those days trust me.  Iverson’s 48 that night probably put him in the Hall of Fame and I was probably the only cat in L.A. cheering; seeing Iverson with his chest out with a humbled Byron Allen in the background is still one of my top 5 sports fan moments ever. 

(And that wasn’t a joke, it’s at the 6:25 mark of this clip of the broadcast from that night:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qKjmo3oiCd8)

That personal moment aside though, the Lakers represent everything people either love or hate about L.A.  They’re glamorous, star driven, and (even an objective sports fan has to admit) the owner wants to win championships.  I’ve heard stories of course, but to this point I’ve never crossed paths with Mr. Bryant.  To watch him now, where he realizes his best individual days are probably behind him, but he also realizes another ring (or two) puts him undeniably into The Conversation, I have to admit it’s fun to watch.  We’ll see how Tiger plays it, but once Kobe just said (essentially) “I’m a hyper-competitive basketball nerd and the more I get away from that, the less true to myself I’m being,” the better things have turned out for him.  And when Kobe’s time has come and gone, I have little doubt the Lakers will trade, draft or sign as a free agent another of the top 5 players in the Association at that time.  That’s just what the Lakers do.

Going back to my hometown and seeing old friends, I naturally took my fair share of jokes for being ‘Hollywood’ from my Circle.  I was already outside the norm as a Midwestern kid to begin with, my adopted hometown has really brought out the best in me in terms of inspiring me creatively, giving my ambition room to grow, and giving me the opportunity to meet, interact, and become friends with people I would have never met otherwise.  When people ask me about how I like living in Los Angeles, I half-jokingly tell them I’ve already picked out where I want to be buried.  The City of Angels is not ‘Gotham’ per se, but it’s definitely my Gotham City. 

Anyway I write about things I know and I’m passionate about in this space; last year was dedicated to the 25 Most Important Black Films and TV Shows Made, this year I’m going to do a series about the things I love about this city.  There will be no ranking system this time; in other words #1 in this case is not the thing I love most.  There’s no predetermined list, I have no idea how many things I will come up with (probably between 25 and 50 like last year but I really don’t know).  As I go to places, see people, and am reminded of events I’ll probably be reminded on that particular day to write about them.  Even moreso than last year’s series, I’m telling you up front these are all my favorites; no need for historical contexts or any debates of that nature.

Alright, that’s enough of an intro, on with the show…

As a kid who grew up loving road trips, the 24 hour drive from Kansas City to Los Angeles didn’t phase me.  Having spent most of my years in either Kansas or Louisiana, I didn’t understand when people talked about how ‘flat’ these areas are.  Driving through Arizona and New Mexico gave me a new appreciation for God’s architecture at work.

Los Angeles…ten years after I first stepped foot here, I’m still finding new ways to fall in love with this city.  I’d been living here barely over a month when I realized I was waking up in the morning with a smile on my face.  Constantly.  I still had a lot of work to do of course, but a lot of the tension that had built up inside me over the years was starting to fade away.   Part of that tension of course was feeling like I had no margin for error to get to California.  Well now I was here, presumably for as long as I felt like staying.  As I started to relax in a psychic way, it played itself out in other areas, most notably my love life.  I notoriously made my rep as ‘one of the guys’ in Kansas, but now I could start the process of actively building relationships with women who interested me.  The most cosmetic change of course was dropping the ‘Clark Kents’ and wearing contacts on a regular basis.  The Spike Lee image had served its purpose in Kansas, but I’ve never had a woman approach me because she thought I reminded her of Spike (no disrespect to the brother).  Even with the L.A. climate, I have a hoodie or two in my closet, but my fashion sense started to pay more tribute to the amount of time I spend in the gym.  The ‘pretty boy’ gear as my partner calls it (Although he only uses that term because he knows my fraternal heritage and knows it pisses me off.  We’ll get to him next chapter.)

It didn’t take long for me to find my way to various hotspots, some world renown, some locally iconic, sometimes just kicking it with the right people on the right night.  One night when I was out on the Sunset Strip will always stand out.  She checks in on me from time to time, so I know she won’t mind me repeating this one (it is funny I guess), but it’s true I lost my ‘California virginity’ and my ‘earthquake virginity’ on the same night.  At the same time.  As you can imagine, after I told the boys back home that story it became an ‘instant classic’…

I hadn’t strayed too far from my ‘base’, and the first mosque I found was right across the street from SC’s campus.  I was still balanced out to a point.  But the Hollywood scene is so intoxicating, the connections I was starting to make gave my eyes and ears access to things I didn’t even know existed.

Speaking of which, in the middle of sowing my oats (literally), I had to go to grad school once in a while…