One of my favorite photographs is of the incomparable Louis Armstrong (“Pops,” “Satchmo”) sitting on the sidelines, in wait, waiting his turn, as the band plays on. His head droops, he smokes a cig, he looks a little anxious even, perhaps forlorn, as he waits. I’m reminded of this photo as I wait for my first novel, The Ape is Dead!, to be published. I’m, like: “the greatest fuckin trumpet player, perhaps the most influential American musician, Louis Armstrong, sittin on the fuckin sideline, waiting for his fuckin turn! you kiddin me?” Arrogant on my part, yes, but I’m sayin some shit in this book about a society politicized to such an extreme that a young man desires a beautiful, and willing, young woman and doesn’t make love to her because he doesn’t want to be accused of anything. It’s as simple as that. He’s concerned about how he is perceived by those around him.
I find the black man/white woman dynamic interesting not only for the obvious historical reasons, but because in today’s America it remains taboo (despite the general acceptance of generally everything else under the sun!), and the young man’s reasons for caution today are more complex. As a relatively successful Black, he doesn’t want to give the Whites the satisfaction, as if a white woman was his logical choice rather than it being a matter of circumstance. They’re schoolmates, they’re both hot! Today, (in his demographic), he’s not concerned about being lynched by Whites but rather reinforcing their vain pride. Then of course he has to deal with the black women, as well as the so-called black community-at large, who make persuasive and heartfelt arguments about a black man and a black woman being together to build or sustain the largely imagined “community” without seeing the obvious self-serving aspects of their demands, (which generally do not incorporate ideas of passion or love). To that end, if you don’t see the divergent interests of the black elite versus the rest of us, then yo ass is blind! Besides, the kid’s nineteen years old and not particularly interested in building anything.
(Haha, my playful working title of the book was “Damn, “I’m just trying’ to git a lil stank on mah hangdown!”)