Monday, March 9, 2009

Grace After Midnight

What was it? Last week when I was talking about my ambivalent relationship with the bandwagon. Well, one vehicle I had no problem jumping on was The Wire. Not having cable, I pretty much missed the entire hoopla. Then again, since neither HBO, the audience, nor the Emmys ever gave the show that many props, I guess the hoopla was never really that big. Besides, anytime I heard about the show, I confused it with The Shield and had no desire to see the Commish trying to act all hard-ass.

But then last year, The Wire's last season, Terry Gross became all obsessed and had everybody ever associated with the show on Fresh Air. Then my boy, Dabalou, told me he had all four seasons on DVD. I borrowed the first season, and then I became obsessed.

Actually, addicted was more like it. That first night, I stayed up until 6:30 in the morning, watching the damned show. Poohbutt woke up around seven. I changed her, fed her, and then had her watch the rest of the first season with me.

Generally, we don't watch TV with Poohbutt around, but I made a special exemption for The Wire. In fact, Pooh and I watched so much of the show together, I was afraid her first words were going to be "bitch-ass motherfucker."

But what can I say? I hate hyperbole, but The Wire was the ABSOLUTE BEST SHOW in the HISTORY of BROADCAST TELEVISION!!!!

So, when another friend asked me if I wanted to borrow Felicia "Snoop" Pearsons Grace After Midnight, you know I jumped all over that. I love me some Snoop, now. I could hardly understand a damned thing she said throughout the entire series, but damn, she was cool. And that hardware store scene was classic!

Now, I knew what I was getting into when picking this up. I mean, here's a woman who's clearly no writer writing a book for mainly a TV audience. So, it wasn't like I was expecting Augustine, Rousseau, or Malcolm X. Yet, I couldn't help but being a little disappointed.

Since Sister Souljah decided to include everything that could ever possibly happen to a girl in the ghetto in The Coldest Winter Ever, it's almost impossible to cover new territory in the genre. Even though the other book was fiction, you pretty much feel you've heard everything in Grace before. Thanks, Sister.


Since I'm on the subject ... God, I hated The Coldest Winter Ever! I mean, that book was so damned contrived it made the word "contrive" put a bullet in its own head. Jerry Bruckheimer blushed. Even soap opera writers hung their heads in shame. So much happened to our lovely heroine, halfway through the book I was waiting for the mothership to land and dispatch Jesus to declare her the Lamb of God.

And speaking of Messiah complexes. What the hell was with Sister Souljah inserting herself in the book, portraying herself as a truly committed revolutionary sister, a paragon of virtue, and a sex symbol?! I mean, damn, I realize all us artists have a bit of an ego--after all, we actually think we're so talented, so talented, so sagacious that everybody should buy our works--but a damned sex symbol?! Couldn't you have at least used a pseudonym? Like ... I don't know ... Lauryn Hill (to keep true with the era). You know, someone we could believe in that role!

I know, I know. I'm calm now. I just thought that Winter was one in a long line of detritus that never would've been published if it had been written by a white writer for a white audience.

And don't even get me started on Shannon Holmes. That nigra's Exhibit A as to why massa never learnt us black folk to read.


But the first of my two major disappointments in Snoop's bio is a lack of reasons. Here, she was a drug dealer who'd killed someone and had spent time in prison. Yet we never really get to know why. The bourgie in me needs that moment of faux understanding where I can tearfully tug at my own heartstrings in drummed-up sympathy for that poor girl's ghetto plight. That part was never satisfied.

While Snoop didn't know her father and her mother was a drug addict, she had foster parents who loved and cared for her and tried their best to raise her up. Yet, Snoop still fell into the drug game.

And Grace makes you feel that Snoop actually did just fall into it. That being a drug dealer's just what you do if you grow up in the mean streets of Bal'mer. I admit, I grew up in the 'burbs, so I don't know what it's like growing up in the inner city. However, a lot of my friends did grow up in some really tough cities, and they were never involved in drugs.

No matter how powerful or numerous the societal factors are that push you into it, a life of crime is still a choice. There are thousands of po' folks growing up in those very same streets as Snoop who never get involved with drugs, who go on to live decent lives. I really was looking for the reason she decided to turn her back on all that and the life her foster parents were trying to provide for her.

Of course, maybe that bourgie part of me is just terrified by the idea that she didn't really have much of a reason to do it. That maybe a lot of these kids don't either. That maybe it was just inertia that drove her and drives them. After all, what kind of social programs or amount of social engineering can reverse that force of nature?

My last pseudo-beef with the book (after all, it was "a'ight" and hasn't made me love Snoop any less) was where the hell was The Wire? I mean, look, Snoop, I love you to death (I just said that in my last parenthetical statement), your story is most definitely feelgood, but, well, I hate to say it ... no, really I do ... but ... well ... I didn't really borrow the book to learn about ... you know ... your life ... per se. What I reallllly wanted to know about was the damned show.

I wanted to know what it was like working with Omar (sorry, Michael K. Williams)? Or with Michael? I mean, that Tristan Lee is one, Satanically-gifted kid actor! Was that guy who played Marlo as creepy as he seemed? And is Gbenga Akinnagbe the Man, or what?!

You ever get a chance to hang out with Meth? Go to a go-go concert with Anwan Glover (Slim Charles)? Did you ever get to talk to David Simon (God) or Ed Burns (demigod) or George Pelacanos (a one-man pantheon)? Come on, woman! What was life on The Wire actually like?

I went through that entire book waiting for the pay-off. As the remaining pages dwindled, I knew I was going to be left hanging. Finally, I got there, the very last, sparsely-typed 14 pages. I wanted to know the insides and outs of the greatest show in the history of broadcast television, and all Snoop gave me was a ho-hum, "It was cool."

I gotta admit, it was almost as disappointing as the lame way they got rid of Omar on the show.


Torrance Stephens - All-Mi-T said...

i have never seen that show

boukman70 said...

You really need to, T, especially seasons one and four.

Grant said...

Yeah man. I got obsessed with The Wire on DVD in October. I finished the first 2 seasons in no time at all. Then I gave myself some breaks, but I just finished season 5 last week.

And like you, I had my daughter sitting with me through some episodes. You should hear her say "sheeee-it".

Ditto on Omar's end. And special appreciation for the line "Jerry Bruckheimer blushed.