Picture it. It’s the mid 1990s, I’m in high school, late for the morning bus, desperate for something to read during my lengthy commute. On my Grandmother’s disheveled porch, I find a slightly sunfaded paperback. The book is Sweet Flypaper of Life, with text by Langston Hughes and photography by Roy DeCarava (originally published in 1955). I toss it in my backpack, completely unaware that:
1. My life would never be the same… I would see the world differently from that day on.
2. That paperback was (at the time) thirty years old and worth nearly 100 bucks. I would only discover its value when I attempted in college to upgrade for a hardcover. Apparently, it’s an exceptionally rare book. And I threw it in my backpack. Did I mention it rained that day?
About the book:
Essentially, the Sweet Flypaper is written from the vantage point of an older woman named Sister Mary Bradley, who’s a fixture in her Harlem community. The Langston Hughes’ text is accompanied by photos by Roy DeCarava. In the text, the woman introduces us to each person in her world, as conceived by Hughes as a means to tie together a series of DeCarava’s intimate, moody photographs. We’re let in on the subjects’ struggles as well as the hard-fought victories in their lives.
How I love this book. It captures a time on the cusp of the Civil Rights Era: a time steeped in the Electrified Delta Blues, in Joe Louis Fights, in sedans with gleaming chrome portholes, in Dinah Washington and Sarah Vaughan, in Miller High Life, in the smell of Dixie Peach pomade. It captures something so timeless that it stays with you…. always. I recommend you discover a copy of your own, but until you do, enjoy the pages I reproduced here for you. Jive on!
“With just the right amount of heart, soul and edge, Peter Hadar IS the Coolest Weirdo” – Rahsaan Patterson
Born Peter Winstead, Jr. in New Jersey, Peter earned the surname Hadar from his Hebrew Israelite uncle (think Soul Vegetarian East). It means “adornment”, and he adorns his tracks with a molasses-sweet vocal quality I am digging. His first LP, Memories of the Heart, came out in 2006, and “Sweat” comes to us from his latest EP, “She’s 4 Months”. “Sweat” quickens the pulse with a classic samba shuffle, and promises more sweetness.
Coke bottles clanging together, the sound ringing down a dark, wet alley. A voice calls out menacingly:
“Warriors…. Come out and Play-yay…..”
The Warriors (1979) is many things. It is a classical Epic tale (like Homer’s Odyssey). It is a pulpy cult classic with a look all its own (co-starring the New York Transit System and a bunch of dudes on rollerskates). It is a gangland movie. It is a spectacle.
Picture New York in the Late 1970s, poster child of ‘urban decay’. Now picture a late night meeting of every Gangmember from all five boroughs. In that meeting, a gangland kingpin named Cyrus (attempting to unite the Gangs of New York into one indomitable threat), is assassinated by an unknown assailant. Somehow, one member of the Warriors is fingered. Suddenly, the hunt is on to wipe them off the map, and their struggle becomes making it to their home turf (Coney Island) by daybreak. This becomes horribly difficult as night progresses, and gangs come out of the woodwork to avenge the death of Cyrus. Super-fun, no wonder it was made into a video game. Each gang rumble plays out like a “level”. In the final scene, with Coney Island Beach as a backdrop, everything comes to a head.
NOTE:In real life, Coney Island (gritty neon playground of New York [and homebase of the Warriors]) has had its future in jeopardy. Mayor Bloomberg plans to destroy what is there and create a squeaky-clean remake of the island a’la the Times Square revamp. Click here to learn about the campaign to take the grit out of Coney Island (and the community-based backlash).
Another NOTE: You can catch “The Warriors” on the big screen March 6 & 7th (this Friday and Saturday) at the Music Box Theatre (3700 North on Southport, accessible via the CTA Brown Line) at Midnight.
So, I am in in love with a carneyThe Brooklyn Circus. Great boutique in the NYC. But was I excited to discover that said fly-ass boutique has an outpost here in Chicago!
The BKC has got great urban clothing that is for folks doing holy work (i.e.: not so-fly-you-can’t-get-your-hands-dirty). They say on their site, “The beautiful art of well dressed, intelligent people should never be lost. Please help us as we nurture timeless Style and Character, past, present and future”….with just a touch of freak flag going on. Love. Love. Love.
Here’s the Info:
The Brooklyn Circus (CHI) @ Solemates
2708 N. Halsted
Chicago, IL 60614
Mon-Sat 12-8pm | Sun 12-5pm