I was with my boys: A-Dollar, Ant Live, and T-Money (I love 80s Hip Hop nicknames. I am surprised we didn’t have a “Somebody Ski” in the crew.). We had to be coming from Union Square in Manhattan or Club Zanzibar in New Jersey, maybe The Garage. From where ever we were coming, we had to be danced out ‘cause we profiled little, danced a lot. We always did. Music brought me a freedom and individuality that I didn’t feel at home or school. That freedom I translated into dance. Moreover, the late 80s and early 90s in New York were vibrant times musically. Hip Hop like Public Enemy and Leaders of the New School emerged from my neighborhood in Long Island, and my brother spun Hip Hop and House wax since the beginning of dee jaying. The clubs held diverse mixtures of people with whom I rarely had the opportunity to chill regularly. I knew Latinos, the African Americans, the stick-up kids, the house heads and b-boys and b-girls that might be found in any given club, but I had never partied with Asian folk, lesbians, whites, gay men, and many other folk.
Music changed my inexperience. Some of the clubs I went to in Manhattan, New Jersey, and DC, particularly where House Music was played, drew all kinds of folk in to Jack their bodies: “They may be white; they may be black; they may be Jew or Gentile…” (From the House Hit entitled My House http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_NSn5RfxoXs). They all jacked their bodies. I’d hit the club with thick soled shoes, nerd glasses, and a gold streak in my hair (washable). I danced in ways that revealed my feminine side as well as my masculine side. I was a true street dancer. I danced for freedom; I danced to loose myself, and when a Soul Clap started to dance with the beats, the club was one living entity with many different stories, looks, and realities, like specialized cells forming one body. Cells don’t judge; they just work until they don’t.
Some of the best clubs had unisex bathrooms and catered to folk from the LGBTQ communities on certain nights, which, coincidentally, were also the nights that the best music was spun and the best live performances took place. Hence if I wanted to hear the best music, I often entered worlds that weren’t mine by orientation and, at times, by ethnicity and race. However, “Jack brings nations and nations of Jackers together.”
When the music stopped and I crossed the line back into my neighborhood, I did not bring the same freedom and universal love of humans to the rest of my life. I am sure that very few people have thought of White Castle, particularly the one in Hempstead, New York, as a place of holistic revelation. Maybe Mecca, not White Castle.
On the other hand, holistic change can come from anywhere, from anybody. For me, holistic change came in the form of a bum. I say bum because I thought of him as a bum when I first saw him. I mean who the French Toast did I think I was? When I saw him, all I could think of were the three hats he was wearing, one of which was a St. Patrick’s Day party hat. Bums in New York during the 80s were fixtures. They were part of the décor of New York like floral patterns and chair molding. I am surprised I noticed him at all. When I first saw him, Ant-Live (still love those nicknames) was yelling through the bulletproof glass between customers and employees: “Damn! What the hell (He probably said fuck.) is taking so long? Yall catchin the fish!?” I went from laughing at my homey to laughing at the St. Patty’s hat. My boys thought the three-hat wearing bum was funny too, so we snapped on 'ol dude (Verb; Past Tense of snap; defined as " to make fun of” for folks not in the know), and he hears us. I am not sure if he knew who started snapping, but he fixed his eyes on me, stood up from his bench in the Castle, and walked toward me.
I often believe the creator made me to listen and observe in the service of humanity because, too often to ignore, folk talk to me to teach me or to be heard. The bum walked up to me, looked in my face and, asked, “How old are you?”
“Eighteen.” I'm sure I was still smiling.
“When I was your age, I was in Vietnam. I watched many of my friend die,” the man said in response. I talked to the gentleman until the White Castle’s employees caught the fish and gave us the face food, constipation fixers. I do not remember all that he and I discussed, but I do remember imagining being him and seeing friends die in quick succession as he spoke. I thought about being a warrior then coming home and trying to return to being a man in a changing world, one that changed while I was away. I thought about how I would have changed. Sugar Honey Iced Tea! Who the French toast did I think I was? Whoever I thought I was didn’t exactly exist anymore. I can’t say that I changed overnight, but I did change: I realized that I knew nothing, that life would keep surprising me in amazing ways.
I am: Nothing…, everything…, a human. This is the philosophy that I now bring to coaching, to life. Since I met the man in White Castle, I have had more than one family member have no home. I fought personal addictions and still battle depression. Although there are laws to live by, myths we have created about people we see, and realities we learned from our parents, friends, lovers, and enemies, the world can and does change with a Touch. When we least expect it, the world, our learned realities, go from being certain to being nonsense. The old rules no longer apply. Sometime the change happens so quickly that we humans lose balance. Our lives become a tightrope walk without a net. Every step we take feels measured, thought out, and under duress.
My White Castle touch didn’t cause me to lose balance, yet it did set me on a divergent path. At this very moment, I am on a never-ending path of discovery. My coaching, writing, and research celebrate life, love, spirituality, and sexual freedom. I celebrate my life and all humans. Now I don’t see bums. I see hard stories and unlimited possibilities. If only I had asked him his name, I could then tell you who helped me realize who the French Toast I am.
For a free coaching session email Dr. T. at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 336.662.7777. Your servant Dr. Nwachi Tafari