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Review and Notes from The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

Review of The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

During the Summer of 2020, I wanted to read a book with each of my daughters.  Two of the three participated and I am grateful. When the girls came to me with their selections, I could not have been more surprised and proud.  The 16 year old picked “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander and the younger of the three picked “Becoming” by Michelle Obama.  Given how events have unfolded during 2020 and the Black LIves Matter movement, my girls thought these were the most appropriate books to choose.  Maybe they would have felt the dull pang of white guilt as they read their “Judy Blume” books by grandma’s country club swimming pool. I know I did, though I did not read much as a child.  All the while, the world is happening and they know nothing of that world and those living in ghettos just a few miles from their own home.  I know this was my experience growing up in the privileged western suburbs of Chicago and it never sat right with me.  I was the kind of kid that was bothered by inequality from a young age.  I was also pleased with the girl’s choice of reading material because I know nothing about race and the black experience in our country and I knew that if I wanted to engage and advocate, I needed to educate myself.  I never realized the huge discrepancy in how the war on drugs was being waged in different parts of our nation’s urban ghettos.  When I read books, I am tough on them.  There is a lot of highlighting and just about all the pages are tattered and frayed, even after just one study by yours truly.  When I finished the book, it occurred to me that I wanted to share these highlights and underlines and notes with my Tic Tok audience.  I was confident a lot of folks out there would not only be grateful but also need this education if we are to really address the root cause of the heinous system we call criminal justice… what it is in reality is a system of racial and social control, 100%.  There is so much to digest in this well researched effort by MIchelle Alexander.  While this book was written 10 years ago, everything presented is relevant today, it never wasn’t relevant . When I started sharing some thoughts and statistics on Tik Tok, it occurred to me that some people would also enjoy a written, higher resolution version of these clips.  There is a lot Alexander asks us to consider, what follows is not even the tip of the iceberg… doesn’t even scratch the surface.  My hope is that people will read these notes and watch my clips and want to engage on a higher level than what was possible before.  I call this progress.  There is so much more in this book than what I have included here.  It can be scary to address tough topics like this and most won’t even try.  But if you have courage, you can be a light for those stuck in the perpetual darkness of race and mass incarceration.  

The seeds for the war on drugs was started a long time ago.  One can go back to 1935 and the reefer madness movement.  This is nothing new.  Back then as it is now, it was black “jazz musicians” “Mexican workers” that would smoke the “evil weed” and rape “our white women.”  Saying there is 100 years of anti drug racist propaganda affecting how we see this issue is not an overly aggressive statement to make.  If this took 100 years (the war on drugs) to get us to this point, it is going to be a while longer before we are able to address the systemic racism that exists as a result of this messaging. 

Part 1

  • The War on Drugs is the New Jim Crow, plain and simple.  Once released from jail after a low level drug crime arrest, black and brown men are relegated to permanent 2nd class citizen status.  These people are no longer allowed to vote (the vast majority of the time), cannot receive federal or state aid or get housing.  Discrimination and exclusion are perfectly legal if one is labeled a felon.
  • Generations of black men have been prevented from voting.  Whether it was as a result of poll taxes, literally tests, or the felon label, these are new tactics with the same goal and result.  
  • Reconstruction started to see the wedge driven between poor white and newly freed slaves.  This political resentment was created in order that elite white would deflect anger from themselves to the newly liberated black man.  This strategy proved a highly effective tactic that is still employed by our current President, truly shameful that this occurs in what is to be the world’s greatest democracy.  
  • The War on Drugs was not started because the black mothers and grandmothers came out and claimed “We need your help, drugs are ravaging our communities.  The War on Drugs was started in 1982 (Nixon really got the ball rolling in 1972) and for example, crack cocaine didn’t even come onto the streets in a major way until 1984!

Part 2

  • After the Civil War, there was huge amounts of fear throughout the South.  “This state of affairs produced a temporary anarchy and a state of mind bordering on hysteria; particularly among the planter elite.  Newly freed slaves were literally roaming highways and roads throughout the South.  These newly freed slaves became the target of vagrancy laws that were disproportionately applied to blacks.  This leads to the practice of hiring prison labor… a.k.a. “convict leasing.”  What a horrible term.
  • The reaction to reconstruction was swift and severe.  Whenever newly freed slaves made gains, white outrage and panic followed.
  • Charges of “mischief” and “insulting gestures” were the low level cannabis convictions of the day.  Making sure the pipeline stays full with young balck and brown men, before they get any ideas about their own upward mobility.  
  • These laws were also designed so poor whites could still retained their sense of superiority over the newly freed slaves.  This made it less likely they would direct their anger and frustration at the planter elite and instead stay focused on feeling superior to the newly freed slave.

Part 3 

  • There was a big economic collapse in ghetto neighborhoods in the early 1980’s.  The combination of globalization and deindustrialization took industrial employment of black men from 70% to 28%.  This had a huge negative impact on communities of color in much the same way that the closure of auto plants throughout the midwest.  Over time, this became just another example of the wedge driven between poor white and blacks.  Add a dash of crack cocaine and you have the perfect launch pad for a racial caste system built off mass incarceration.
  • Bill Clinton was arguably worse for African Americans than either Reagan or Bush.  Bill Clinton decided he was not going to be considered soft on crime under any circumstance.  Reagan (maybe Nixon, too) started this dumpster fire and Clinton fanned the flames.  The message could not have been more contrived.  Bill Clinton was called the “first black president.”  This messaging is exactly how the system maintains legitimacy as there are politicians from both sides of the aisle that are supportive of being tough on crime.  It was Clinton that started the 3 strikes and you’re out and even went so far as to make one strike and you are out when it comes to housing aid. 
  • Consent searches are one of the key elements necessary for keeping the mass incarceration pipeline full.  This is where the 4th amendment was blown out of the water.  The supreme court has made it clear to all lower courts that from now on, the Fourth Amendment should place no meaningful constraints on the police in the war on drugs.

Part 4

  • The militarization of local law enforcement was also a key component of the war on drugs.  Federal grants for cash and equipment were significant.  Not only do people not want the “cash and prizes” to stop once they start rolling in, officers and prosecutors knew their jobs depended on keeping numbers high so that the “money and stuff” never stopped.  It seems like that all this country is about… money and stuff.
  • Military SWAT style raids that used to be only in extreme situations are now commonplace.  One lady died after a flash grenade was mistakenly thrown into her apartment and she suffered a cardiac arrest… passing away a couple hours later.  
  • Prosecutors are an important part of the mass incarceration industrial complex.  They have huge amounts of power.  Prosecutors rack up charges they may have probable cause for but could not prove in court.  These charges carry longer and harsher sentences, which gives the prosecutor leverage to pressure defendants to plead guilty to lesser charges and avoid ever seeing the inside of a courtroom.  These people become a part of the mass incarceration system and not the criminal justice system.  

Part 5

  • Why is it that crime rates are at historic lows though the levels of incarceration continue to climb.
  • Most people under state control are not even in prison.  2.3 individuals are under state control and in prison, the remaining 5 million people are still considered under state control when you take into consideration, parole, probation, community service, electronic monitoring, house arrest and other forms of control.  When released from prison, black and brown men live their daily existence with the felon label, relegated to permanent 2nd class citizen status.  Watch where the money goes, there are many ways to make money controlling people not in prison, assuming they have the felon label, the sky is the limit in terms of the number of ways that discrimination ensues.  
  • It is important to remember, this is all done in a “colorblind” fashion.  Racism can always be denied because there was no noose, or the police officer involved never said the “n word.”  The exclusion of overt racism supports the idea that then no racism exists.  It is the genius of the new system of control that it can always be defended on non-racial grounds, given the rarity of a noose or racial slur in connection with any particular crime or case.
  • One of the most effective tactics in the mass incarceration movement, is the “closing of the courthouse doors.”  The criminal justice system has been manipulated in a way as to guarantee black and brown people never get their day in court.  Court does not exist for these people.

Part 6

  • The war on drugs could have been waged in the suburbs, corporate offices, and college campuses.  IT was not as this would have been political suicide.  My own fraternity at the University of Alabama should have been a target, it was not.  The money would have stopped if whites were the predominant targets in the war on drugs.
  • The war on poverty was replaced with the war on drugs.  They even keep black Americans malnourished… ghetto neighborhoods are known as food deserts with little to no access to quality, healthy food.  Residents of these ghettos call the work of law enforcement “the occupation…” I can see why.
  • In 2010 50,300 (138 PER DAY) low level Marijuana arrests were made in New York City… mostly young men of color.  These arrests serve a couple of sad and sick purposes.  First, they are “training opportunities” for rookie officers, many times earning large amounts of overtime while engaged in such “training.” The second purpose is to fill the mass incarceration pipeline by collecting fingerprints, photos, and other data on young people not yet entered into the “justice” system.  
  • Huge amounts of shame is felt by the family members of incarcerated individuals.  This causes depression and anxiety that ripples through communities of color.  Everyone wants to be seen as part of the upwardly mobile middle class.  

Part 7

  • Black men such as Sidney Poitier, Bill Cosby and even President Obama, make statements reinforcing black stereotypes all for political gain and selfish self interest.  The most egregious example of this is Thurgood Marshall Jr., as he serves on the board of directors of the largest private prison company in the world.
  • None of these elite blacks talk about the fact that thousands of black and brown men have disappeared into prisons and jails, locked away for crimes that largely go unnoticed in white communities.  
  • One of the saddest parts of all this is that this entire system now seems normal and natural… a regrettable necissity.
  • The new and the old Jim Crow a similar in a few ways.  They both support political disenfranchisement, exclusion from juries, closing the courthouse doors, in addition to being the definer of what race means in America today. 

Part 8

  • Drunk driving also occurred during the 80’s.  Most of these violations are made by white males and this problem was much worse than drug use.  The remedy to this was to keep these violators functional and in society, while drug offenses were typically charged with felonies and sent to jail.  Drunk driving at the end of the 80’s produced 22k deaths and alcohol overall could claim 100,000 lives a year.  Drug deaths during the same periods were 21k… less than drunk drivers and a fraction of the total number of lives claimed by alcohol.  
  • The bottom line is punishment becomes more severe when drug use is associated with people of color but softens when drug use is associated with whites.  
  • The economic devastation continues and white collar looting of neighborhoods of color is rampant.  Taxpayer funds meant for crumbling schools and social services in ghetto neighborhoods often are diverted into the pockets of wealthy investors as a result of political cronyism and corruption.  People in suits and ties loot too!

Part 9

  • The debate in the black community is the same as in the rest of society.  Some say it is racial bias and others believe it is a “cultural” phenomena.
  • Is the problem inside or out?  Most first will look inside themselves and at the community.  On the surface this seems acceptable given that when researchers control for joblessness, differences in violent crime between young black and white men disappear.Now it is the systemic descrimination and racism that must be checked.
  • Elite blacks have not always been good advocates for their black countrymen.  Many did not want to rock the boat and wanted to stay on the “inside rail.”  Others thought that racial equality could/would be attained by assimilation into white culture/society.
  • Nooses, racial slurs, and overt bigotry are almost universally condemned.  We now believe and support that if these aspects of our past are absent from our present, no racism exists, and it could never be considered systemic under these assumptions.

Part 10 

  • Affirmative action is addressed in great detail and I freely admit I need to go back and read this section.  I will be reflecting and studying this book for years to come.
  • Mass incarceration depends for its legitimacy on the widespread belief that all those who appear trapped at the bottom, actually choose their fate.
  • What about black police chiefs?
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13th

What follows are my notes from watching “13th” on Netflix.  The response to my “review” of the New Jim Crow was amazing.  The support and love I received in the comments for these videos blew me away.  I am not sure how my racial education would have progressed if I had not done these clips, but it would have taken a much different path had I not done the Tic Tok review videos.  I would like to think that I would have continued with my education… who knows?  That being said, I could not be more excited about how this has affected me.  Rather than write a bunch of stuff that simply would be obvious and redundant, (my flowers appear to be mainly black) I will go straight to the notes.  While I have posted my Tic Tok review clips, the format is much too restrictive for me to share all I have learned.  I have put longer versions of these clips on my YouTube channel.  I am eager to know what I am missing and or getting wrong… a lot I am sure of this.  I also am considering a podcast and would like very much to know who you think I should have on the show as guests.  Let’s get to it as I know there is much ground to cover.  While I know it is never the oppressed that should educate their oppressors, I would like to ask for your help.  PLEASE introduce this content to a white friend that you think not only needs this education, but also would be receptive to this information.  We need to build a strong base of support among people that look like and grew up like me… a 1% white kid that has no idea what he is talking about when it comes to race in our country. 

  • We, white people, are the products of the history that our ancestors chose. If we are black Americans we are products of a history that are ancestors did not choose. We need to understand this much better.
  • The language of the 13th amendment is intentional and put in place to be used as a tool.
  • After the Civil War African-Americans were arrested in large numbers. This was the first prison boom in the beginning of convict leasing. It’s also the beginning of the mythology of black criminality.
  • Birth of a nation was the first blockbuster film in the US. It confirmed the white narrative of black men being rapists and criminals. It was also a very good predictor of how race operates in America today. The burning of the cross was actually what DW Griffith thought was a good cinematic image… Life imitates art. This movie also glorified the KKK making them look like heroes and was 100% responsible for its renaissance.
  • In 1924 at the Democratic national convention 350 delegates were Klansmen.
  • The African-American migration north after the Civil War was nothing other than a refugee crisis caused by inflicting terrorism on the population.
  • Terrorism turned into segregation which supported a permanent econd class status for African-Americans.
  • Leaders of the civil rights movement saw this as nothing less than a human rights movement. These leaders were portrayed as criminals as well as the entire movement. My dad even said Martin Luther King Bridge is non-violence with violence followed him everywhere. Being arrested they became noble, this helped define the movement.
  • At the root of this movement is simply the desire to be seen as full complicated human beings. I am a man is the perfect example. African Americans are not a menace though they have been portrayed this way from the beginning.
  • The civil rights act in the voting rights act did indeed admit to the population that we got it wrong and these laws were sold as the fix.
  • Politicians began to run with the criminality narrative as it was easy to show yourself as tough on crime.
  • The film states that it was the 1970s when mass incarceration started and the first thought to pop into my head was it ever not in existence?
  • Pop culture and politics would have us believe that it was Ronald Reagan that started the war on drugs, it was President Nixon that got the ball rolling hard.
  • Drugs were dealt with as a crime issue rather than a health issue. This is all part of the Southern strategy to get quotes. Pitting poor whites against blacks ensured that the voting bloc would switch from Democratic to Republican.  
  • Hundreds of thousands of black men were ripped from their families and  poverty was criminalized. Politicians took advantage of the economic collapse in the early 1980s in order to leverage these efforts.
  • Crack cocaine was given a 10 times greater sentence than powder cocaine which is more prevalent in white communities.
  • A political strategy morphed into a literal war that felt nearly genocidal to many.
  • Race is at the center of political life in America more than any other issue.
  • Media outlets began using the term super predators to instill fear in the population this was very effective. Black people also bought into this as well and supported policies that were devastating and criminalized their own children.
  • The objective reality is that nobody who is white understands the challenge of being black in America.
  • . Willie Horton won the election for George Herbert Walker Bush in 1988. The black male rapist in our imagination was brought to real life; it has been there ever since the Civil War. White on black rate is much worse the black on white rate as is portrayed in birth of a nation and other pop culture messaging
  • birth of a nation and its messaging in 1915 still had political utility a century later.
  • Bill Clinton and Barack Obama or just as bad as Reagan Bush and Trump when it comes to supporting this prison industrial complex. President Clinton knew he had to do something with governing Reagan’s America and had to look tough on crime… Three strikes and you’re out.
  • How did Bill Clinton get labeled the first black president?
  • It was during this. The judge has lost all their discretion in sentencing and that discretion given to prosecutors.
  • The 1994 $30 billion crime bill started the money flowing to local law-enforcement. This militarized forces all over the country. Bill Clinton built the infrastructure in place today.
  • The federal government stripped out an entire generation was civil rights leaders in the 60s 70s and 80s. The FBI was all over criminals in the civil rights movement. Martin Luther King was branded the most dangerous man in America by J Edgar Hoover. He was also selling the narrative that black panthers were the greatest threat to American democracy… Really? How in the world with this small band of Brothers take over the strongest military in the history of the world? Fred Hampton is a prime example of how a unifying leader in the eyes of our federal government must be taken out.
  • This is all nothing less than a terrorist campaign waged by the government on its own citizens.
  • The American Legal Exchange council, otherwise known as ALEC, is responsible for writing the laws that support mass incarceration. This organization has been around for 40 years although almost nobody has heard of it.
  • It was 1980 when the CEO of ALEC talked about how it was in their best interest for everyone to not vote and that indeed their leverage went up when the voting populace went down.
  • Corrections Corporation of America began making contracts with states in 1983. These contracts stated prisons had to be kept full. States then ensure this would be the case by passing laws incarcerating people for low level non-violent crimes. These private prison corporations need a constant flow of bodies to produce profits to pass on to the shareholders.
  • These organizations are now preparing for the next phase… SB 1070 states that law-enforcement can stop anybody that looks like an immigrant… Simply another source to keep the flow of bodies coming.
  • Privatization of probation and parole is the next model they are building. privatization in commercialization of probation and parole means citizens own homes can become their prison. 
  • It’s important to remember that it’s not just correction corporations of America but also it’s vendors. Telephone companies healthcare providers and food service providers are just a few of the greatest contributors to the systemic nature of this horror.
  • In this country we take exception to buying clothes made in sweatshops overseas but think nothing about what happens right here at home. Federal inmates make the guidance system for Patriot missiles… Punishment now equals profit. 
  • Tens of thousands of people are in jail because they can’t afford bail.
  • The justice system is not judge histories and trials as most people think. Did Justin system would break down all those charged with crimes went to trial. Prosecutors will say to a defendant we can get you three years or go to trial and you’ll get 30 years. 90% of those that are locked up have plea-bargain.
  • The Phelan label follows you forever and puts people into second class citizen status for the rest of their lives.
  • 30% of black man in Alabama have permanently lost their right to vote. Once when is branded it fell in the old Jim Crowe is resuscitated. Jim Crowe was simply redesigned.
  • White politicians should not be the ones reforming our criminal justice system. They are not ready… Are we ready as a nation? 
  • Donald Trump doesn’t even waste time with the new Jim Crowe he simply still lives in the old Jim Crowe… “The good old days” is now a racist dog whistle.
  • African-American men make up 6.5% of the population but are 40.2% of the prison population.
  • We now have more prisoners than we ever had slaves. Ultimately we have more slaves now just owned by the state and not individuals.
  • Throughout our history African-Americans have been controlled in one way or another.
  • The good news is reformers can now force the conversation… Smart phones
  • People ask how we could have lived through Jim Crowe? I would point out how can you live through what is happening today? All of us need to be re-humanized.
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Sweet 16 Playlist

Living in Missoula, MT while my daughters are in Chicago during their birthday is a difficult thing for this dad. I miss my girls but also know everyone is exactly where they should be. As a result of this separation, it’s tough to know what to “get” my daughters as a gift. My oldest biological daughter turns 16 this year and it truly is a sweet time in her life. I got sober 2 weeks before my oldest daughter was born. As a result, in many ways, we are growing up together. They say that one’s development is arrested when alcohol becomes an overwhelming force in their life. For me that was around age 16. So “Little Sveny” and I are about the same emotional age. I will admit on most days, she handles being 16 much better than I do now or when I was actually 16 for that matter. When I was 16, like most Genx’ers, I used to make mixtapes for the special people in my life. Being away for her Sweet 16, I thought this would be the perfect gift. One that keeps on giving.

Not sure the dog on her lap is a good idea for a new driver…?

The 80’s anad 90’s were the Golden Age of making mix tapes.  Sometimes, I would sit and listen to the radio waiting for a song I wanted so I could include it in my mix.  There was always a little bit of the advertisement at the beginning or the end of the song…. You really had to be quick with the play/rec button. It didn’t matter one hill of beans though, I got the song.  I could live with a few seconds of babble in order to catch Men at Work “Who Could It Be Now?” BTW that was my dad’s ringtone and he always thought it was hysterical. The songs I included on this mixtape are all songs that have meant something from the beginning of this little ladies’ life to the present moment.  I hope you enjoy the music and how each piece came to mean so much to me and my family. 

“Layla” By Derrick and The Dominoes 

My dad told me from a very young age, “Layla” by Derrick and The Dominoes was the best rock n’ roll song of all time.  I never argued with him as I rather enjoyed watching his fingers roam the “keys” of his dashboard piano on the front end of his Cadillac Elderado.  He really thought he was hot stuff in that car.  I am pretty sure he had 6 or more in a row.  The same new car every two years.  Well, all that has nothing to do with the song or my daughter and the song is not the reason we named our angel Layla.  Layla’s mom had a very close relationship with her paternal Grandmother and her name was Eulailia, folks called her Lala.  Hard first “a” soft second.  When we were picking names for our baby, I suggested we name a baby girl “Layla.”  My then wife loved the idea and we did not have to talk about it any longer.  I thought the whole thing was realy cool.  Our baby girl was going to have a unique name but probably not overused as it is Arabic in its origin.  There are way too many 16 year old “Madison’s” running around right now.  My wife was over the top happy we were going to use a derivative of her Grandmother’s name, it meant the world to her and still does I am sure.  All this in addition to the fact that I was more than pleased with myself for having come up with the idea on my own.  As you can see this song has roots that run deep through our family music storeyhood.  

“The Chokin’ Kind” and “Super Duper” By Joss Stone

When Layla was born, the doctor told my wife she could bring in a CD or two she enjoyed to play as background music while in labor.  Joss Stone “The Soul Sessions” was the CD she brought.  These are two of my favorite’s from that album.  Remember the days when you would buy an entire album for only one or two songs?  Both of these songs say so much about relationships and what a healthy one should look like. I am glad wifey #1 introduced me to this gem.  Wifey #2 and I even jam to this one together 16 years later!

“You Are So Beautiful” By Joe Cocker

This is just the perfect song for any Father to daughter, husband to wife, mother to son… two people in love.  My daughters are all “heaven’s gift to me.”  Nuff said.

“Baby Beluga” By Raffi

This is my favorite childrens song of all time by my favorite children’s singer songwriter.  We have the cardboard book version of this classic and I plan on reading the same copy to my grandchildren, God willing.  Layla not only loved singing/reading Baby Beluga, but also enjoyed turning the pages with smiles and giggles everytime we picked up this classic. The entire album of Raffi classic’s is still something I pull up from my iTunes library and take a trip down memory lane.

“Under The Sea” From Little Mermaid (Samuel Wright)

Again, another classic that I find myself humming still to this day at a red light or waiting to check out at the grocery.  I have not seen this movie in years but I think the girls and I need to have a Little Mermaid session.  I am a sentimental and sensitive guy. I will never turn down snuggle time and a Disney classic with my angels.  I hope they never get too old for snuggling with dad.  It is exactly little moments such as these I live for.  I can’t believe Little Mermaid is 31 years old.

“Friend Of The Devil” By Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter (Counting Crows cover)

This one has history, it has indeed been a long strange trip.  I remember when Marc Baez gave me my first Grateful Dead tape in 7th grade.  I wish more I had saved that tape.  I clearly did not know what I had in my hands back then.  I listened to The Grateful Dead in high school but did not really become a “Deadhead” until I was in college.  During those years, I admit going to Dead shows was more about acting like an idiot than appreciating the culture and art.  I was a pretty self centered kid.  When I met my 2nd wife, one of my favorite things about her was we both liked camping and we both liked the same kind of music.  If you are not familiar with The Grateful Dead, it’s very camping friendly music.  Bluegrass and folk are other genres of music that wifey and I enjoy that our kids hate.  I got lucky one day when Layla claimed “Friend of The Devil” to be her favorite “Jerry song.”  I could not believe my daughter said those words, she actually liked a Grateful Dead song.  Like all dad’s, I immediately took this to mean that she loved the Grateful Dead as much as I did.  Let me be clear, she does not like the Grateful Dead and it does not look good for the future.  Though I think John Mayer could peak my daughter’s interest in the coming years at a Dead & Co. show.  It is this thinking that led me to include the Counting Crows version of this classic… maybe Jerry was just a little too much.  Grateful Dead music has meant so much to me over the years, my hope is that my daughters will find their own musical northstar to guide them through the darkness this life so richly guarantees.  Life “very seldom turns out the way it does in a song… sometimes, you can get shown the light in the strangest of places if you look at it right.” “Scarlet Begonias” The Grateful Dead

“Glorious” By Macklemore

OK, this song makes me cry everytime I watch this video, really the message is in the video.  My daughters and I are alike in many ways.  One of the most special ways we are similar is we all have/had very deep relationships with our grandparents.  Meme, Popo, Grandmother, and DeDe.  My girls call their grandparents, Mamoo, Papa, Grandma, and Grandpa.  In addition to the freedom having your drivers license gives a 16 year old, I think Layla was most excited to  to drive to the suburbs on her own or with her sister to visit their grandparents.  All four of their biological grandparents live in the same village West of the city where their mom and I grew up. I have a ton of stories with Popo and Dede, similar to the ones Macklemore has with his grandma in the video. While my daughters have lost two of their 5 grandfathers… lots of “step” in this family, three of their grandmothers are still with us.  None of these women are the type to throw eggs on someone’s house or wear a “fresh pair of kicks.” I hope they make as many memories as possible with these special people… Ahhhh Grandparents.  There are many many more stories I can share but I would rather you recall your own special grandparent memories.

“One Love” By Macklemore

This song is how I taught my daughters to respect all human beings and how they choose to live their lives.  I just played the song over and over, knowing that they would get the message.  Music is a can opener for the soul, it really works!  ALWAYS look for the similarities and not the differences.  Nuff said.

“Lean On Me” By Bill Withers

Well, this is a great lesson to teach any child.  Not only is it healthy to ask others for help, but one can simply not get through this life without help from others.  There is also the message that life is suffering and we need others to lean on to get through the tough times.  This is a very comforting song. Dede used to play this one along with Lou Rawls when we would run errands together on Saturday mornings. So many Memories…

“Memories” By Maroon 5

Let’s first talk about how much the other members of Maroon 5 hate Adam Levine.  Does anyone even know who they are or their names.  Huh… maybe they like it this way.  Well this is a good song to end on as this whole essay has been about all the memories Layla, myself, and the rest of the family have made over the last 16 years.  She is a beauty to watch grow and make her own mistakes on this life’s journey.  Godspeed, Layla… Let the good times ROLL TIDE… DIDO! 

I LOVE YOU,

DADDY

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Sweet 16 Playlist

Living in Missoula, MT while my daughters are in Chicago during their birthday is a difficult thing for this dad. I miss my girls but also know everyone is exactly where they should be. As a result of this separation, it’s tough to know what to “get” my daughters as a gift. My oldest biological daughter turns 16 this year and it truly is a sweet time in her life. I got sober 2 weeks before my oldest daughter was born. As a result, in many ways, we are growing up together. They say that one’s development is arrested when alcohol becomes an overwhelming force in their life. For me that was around age 16. So “Little Sveny” and I are about the same emotional age. I will admit on most days, she handles being 16 much better than I do now or when I was actually 16 for that matter. When I was 16, like most Genx’ers, I used to make mixtapes for the special people in my life. Being away for her Sweet 16, I thought this would be the perfect gift. One that keeps on giving.

Not sure the dog on her lap is a good idea for a new driver…?

The 80’s anad 90’s were the Golden Age of making mix tapes.  Sometimes, I would sit and listen to the radio waiting for a song I wanted so I could include it in my mix.  There was always a little bit of the advertisement at the beginning or the end of the song…. You really had to be quick with the play/rec button. It didn’t matter one hill of beans though, I got the song.  I could live with a few seconds of babble in order to catch Men at Work “Who Could It Be Now?” BTW that was my dad’s ringtone and he always thought it was hysterical. The songs I included on this mixtape are all songs that have meant something from the beginning of this little ladies’ life to the present moment.  I hope you enjoy the music and how each piece came to mean so much to me and my family. 

“Layla” By Derrick and The Dominoes 

My dad told me from a very young age, “Layla” by Derrick and The Dominoes was the best rock n’ roll song of all time.  I never argued with him as I rather enjoyed watching his fingers roam the “keys” of his dashboard piano on the front end of his Cadillac Elderado.  He really thought he was hot stuff in that car.  I am pretty sure he had 6 or more in a row.  The same new car every two years.  Well, all that has nothing to do with the song or my daughter and the song is not the reason we named our angel Layla.  Layla’s mom had a very close relationship with her paternal Grandmother and her name was Eulailia, folks called her Lala.  Hard first “a” soft second.  When we were picking names for our baby, I suggested we name a baby girl “Layla.”  My then wife loved the idea and we did not have to talk about it any longer.  I thought the whole thing was realy cool.  Our baby girl was going to have a unique name but probably not overused as it is Arabic in its origin.  There are way too many 16 year old “Madison’s” running around right now.  My wife was over the top happy we were going to use a derivative of her Grandmother’s name, it meant the world to her and still does I am sure.  All this in addition to the fact that I was more than pleased with myself for having come up with the idea on my own.  As you can see this song has roots that run deep through our family music storeyhood.  

“The Chokin’ Kind” and “Super Duper” By Joss Stone

When Layla was born, the doctor told my wife she could bring in a CD or two she enjoyed to play as background music while in labor.  Joss Stone “The Soul Sessions” was the CD she brought.  These are two of my favorite’s from that album.  Remember the days when you would buy an entire album for only one or two songs?  Both of these songs say so much about relationships and what a healthy one should look like. I am glad wifey #1 introduced me to this gem.  Wifey #2 and I even jam to this one together 16 years later!

“You Are So Beautiful” By Joe Cocker

This is just the perfect song for any Father to daughter, husband to wife, mother to son… two people in love.  My daughters are all “heaven’s gift to me.”  Nuff said.

“Baby Beluga” By Raffi

This is my favorite childrens song of all time by my favorite children’s singer songwriter.  We have the cardboard book version of this classic and I plan on reading the same copy to my grandchildren, God willing.  Layla not only loved singing/reading Baby Beluga, but also enjoyed turning the pages with smiles and giggles everytime we picked up this classic. The entire album of Raffi classic’s is still something I pull up from my iTunes library and take a trip down memory lane.

“Under The Sea” From Little Mermaid (Samuel Wright)

Again, another classic that I find myself humming still to this day at a red light or waiting to check out at the grocery.  I have not seen this movie in years but I think the girls and I need to have a Little Mermaid session.  I am a sentimental and sensitive guy. I will never turn down snuggle time and a Disney classic with my angels.  I hope they never get too old for snuggling with dad.  It is exactly little moments such as these I live for.  I can’t believe Little Mermaid is 31 years old.

“Friend Of The Devil” By Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter (Counting Crows cover)

This one has history, it has indeed been a long strange trip.  I remember when Marc Baez gave me my first Grateful Dead tape in 7th grade.  I wish more I had saved that tape.  I clearly did not know what I had in my hands back then.  I listened to The Grateful Dead in high school but did not really become a “Deadhead” until I was in college.  During those years, I admit going to Dead shows was more about acting like an idiot than appreciating the culture and art.  I was a pretty self centered kid.  When I met my 2nd wife, one of my favorite things about her was we both liked camping and we both liked the same kind of music.  If you are not familiar with The Grateful Dead, it’s very camping friendly music.  Bluegrass and folk are other genres of music that wifey and I enjoy that our kids hate.  I got lucky one day when Layla claimed “Friend of The Devil” to be her favorite “Jerry song.”  I could not believe my daughter said those words, she actually liked a Grateful Dead song.  Like all dad’s, I immediately took this to mean that she loved the Grateful Dead as much as I did.  Let me be clear, she does not like the Grateful Dead and it does not look good for the future.  Though I think John Mayer could peak my daughter’s interest in the coming years at a Dead & Co. show.  It is this thinking that led me to include the Counting Crows version of this classic… maybe Jerry was just a little too much.  Grateful Dead music has meant so much to me over the years, my hope is that my daughters will find their own musical northstar to guide them through the darkness this life so richly guarantees.  Life “very seldom turns out the way it does in a song… sometimes, you can get shown the light in the strangest of places if you look at it right.” “Scarlet Begonias” The Grateful Dead

“Glorious” By Macklemore

OK, this song makes me cry everytime I watch this video, really the message is in the video.  My daughters and I are alike in many ways.  One of the most special ways we are similar is we all have/had very deep relationships with our grandparents.  Meme, Popo, Grandmother, and DeDe.  My girls call their grandparents, Mamoo, Papa, Grandma, and Grandpa.  In addition to the freedom having your drivers license gives a 16 year old, I think Layla was most excited to  to drive to the suburbs on her own or with her sister to visit their grandparents.  All four of their biological grandparents live in the same village West of the city where their mom and I grew up. I have a ton of stories with Popo and Dede, similar to the ones Macklemore has with his grandma in the video. While my daughters have lost two of their 5 grandfathers… lots of “step” in this family, three of their grandmothers are still with us.  None of these women are the type to throw eggs on someone’s house or wear a “fresh pair of kicks.” I hope they make as many memories as possible with these special people… Ahhhh Grandparents.  There are many many more stories I can share but I would rather you recall your own special grandparent memories.

“One Love” By Macklemore

This song is how I taught my daughters to respect all human beings and how they choose to live their lives.  I just played the song over and over, knowing that they would get the message.  Music is a can opener for the soul, it really works!  ALWAYS look for the similarities and not the differences.  Nuff said.

“Lean On Me” By Bill Withers

Well, this is a great lesson to teach any child.  Not only is it healthy to ask others for help, but one can simply not get through this life without help from others.  There is also the message that life is suffering and we need others to lean on to get through the tough times.  This is a very comforting song. Dede used to play this one along with Lou Rawls when we would run errands together on Saturday mornings. So many Memories…

“Memories” By Maroon 5

Let’s first talk about how much the other members of Maroon 5 hate Adam Levine.  Does anyone even know who they are or their names.  Huh… maybe they like it this way.  Well this is a good song to end on as this whole essay has been about all the memories Layla, myself, and the rest of the family have made over the last 16 years.  She is a beauty to watch grow and make her own mistakes on this life’s journey.  Godspeed, Layla… Let the good times ROLL TIDE… DIDO! 

I LOVE YOU,

DADDY