Here’s a topic I’ve been avoiding.

prince gun mic

This was the poster on my bedroom wall for most of my childhood

If you know me, or even if you just know the earlier version of this blog, you know I’m all about Prince. Since the earliest of my days, I’ve been moved by Prince’s funk. Long before I knew what he was talking about, I was choreographing song-specific dances in my bedroom for an audience of none. Before I started choosing my own controversies, I lived for all of his.

Oh, Prince. Continue reading

Register? Who, me?

Immigration matters? Uh, no thanks. Not interested.

Well, that’s been my approach pretty much the entire time I’ve been here. I was a student back in 2011. So when I moved from the U.S. to the Netherlands, the University handled everything with very little input from me. Aside from a bunch of fees and a delay when I first arrived, it was a pretty mindless process. From my residency status to my city registration, they had it covered. I received my registration details in the mail. I barely understood the purpose. And I just had to show up with my passport and smile (or not) to receive my residence permit card.

DSaxon NL Permit_front-001

For once, I was basking in the glow of privilege.* Continue reading

Fears, doubts, inspirations and pink Cadillacs

I may have made some mistakes. But isn’t there some sort of saying about life being about taking risks, making a mess of things, and somehow coming out on top – or happier – or wiser – or some shit like that? If not, such a saying should exist.

I was in the U.S. for a couple of months a little while ago. I traveled quite a bit while there, getting to see lots (though not all) of the important people, including my Mom. It was at my Mom’s when I started to have some doubts about returning to Amsterdam. In a safe refuge where I was fed, emotionally supported, and understood the language spoken, I wondered if it was time to close the chapter and wrap up the fantasy of living in the Netherlands.Perhaps all signs were directing me back to a stable and U.S.-based reality.

Continue reading

Con: not having a home

One of the major disadvantages to this quirky lifestyle I’ve created for myself is home instability.  When everything else is up in the air, not having a stable address just might be the worst part.  It’s probably the thing that would deter most people from choosing this route.  And I don’t blame them.

Occasionally I look back on some of my former apartments and try to remember what it felt like to be at home.  Places where I could have stayed for much longer.  But they rarely kept me for more than 3 years.  There was the cute, oddly-shaped Oakland  apartment with the red door.  I had a sliver of a view of Lake Merritt, a private entrance, and a back door, all of which made me think I was doing something.  In Philadelphia I had the nicest and cheapest (in retrospect) apartment, with a huge porch, two floors, a gigantic bedroom, and a view of one of my favorite Ethiopian restaurants.  Forget about everything else that may have been upsetting me at those times…they were the good ‘ole days!  I had a lease, some keys, and immediate access to all of my belongings.

Today, well, not so much.   Continue reading

Ups and downs of starting up

I haven’t been doing much traveling recently. I’m pretty much staying still in my modest, rented apartment in Paramaribo, Suriname.  Having placed myself on a tight weekly budget, and with lots of work to do, I figure as little movement as possible is my best option.  Now you’re probably picturing me locked in a room, trying to turn straw into gold.  If so, you’re not far off. It’s just…where’s Rumpelstiltskin when you need him?

So I’m here working on the nonprofit startup, Ancestors unKnown.  Maybe you’ve heard about it?  Introducing young people to family history research and the commonly overlooked history of the African Diaspora.  That’s the vision.  And it’s definitely becoming a reality, beginning here in Suriname and Charleston, S.C.

comic reflections

(from facebook)

Continue reading

Quiet return to Amsterdam

Some time has passed since I returned to Amsterdam.  And the dust is beginning to settle.  Or maybe it’s not dust and more a misty rain – not the weather you hoped for, but somehow still refreshing and welcome.

Before I left Suriname, I told some partial truths.  My emotional state (I only cried in front of a couple of people, don’t worry) and abrupt plans to leave required some explanation, of course.  But the actual explanation did not necessarily fit into Surinamese cultural norms.  A place where dogs never go inside and cats are mainly misunderstood street wanderers, Suriname was not as sympathetic to the needs of my ailing cat as you may have hoped or expected.

“You’re CAT?”  This was the reaction from the first two or three people to hear the true reason for my return to Amsterdam.  They had this way of emphasizing “CAT,” perhaps hoping I actually referred to my AUNT named Cat.  Or as if I had said, “I have to return to Amsterdam because my blankie got a tear.”

“Your BLANKIE?” – now that reaction I would understand.

But I didn’t appreciate the judgmental responses that implied my CAT was somehow less important than whatever I could accomplish during those remaining weeks in Suriname.  And though I may have been overly sensitive and took the reactions of people with genuinely poor hearing too personally, I decided my bleeding animal-lover heart should stand on guard.  So I  started telling others that a family member was gravely ill.  And I just needed to be in Amsterdam for her.  No one asked questions beyond that, for which I was thankful.  Because as I left it, I hadn’t lied.  I just, uhh, shaded.

And since I’ve been back, I’ve barely told anyone I’m here.  Not that it’s a secret.  It’s just easier if things remain quiet for a bit.  During this time when I was supposed to be in Suriname, accomplishing all types of magical, thesis-related research and writing, I have gone somewhat underground, off the grid, minding my own, re-grouping.  Living a comfortably homeless life until my apartment is available again (I was able to infringe on Zora’s accommodations when my lovely friend and her daughter were also willing to take me in), I have been going from the guest room to the library almost every day.  Rates of productivity may still waver.  But my focus has been brand new.  This quiet return has been good for me.

As for Zora, she’s not graceful yet.  But her recovery has been.  We’re both adjusting to her new circumstances.  And the future on 3 legs looks quite bright.  I can’t tell you how much I appreciate all of the well-wishes that have been sent our way.  It’s helpful to know that not everyone thinks I’m a hot mess with a torn blankie and poor judgment.

As for my apartment, I move back in tomorrow.  And all I want to do is sleep in my bed for 23 hours.

As for Suriname, plenty of stories were lost in my poor time management and bad news shuffle over the last couple of months.  I just have so much more to say and do related to the subject.  And I will share, I will.  But for now, I’ve realized that the month I spent in Suriname blew some major doors off their hinges.  And the direction of this already complicated life path has shifted yet again.

As for this new path I’m on…I see sunshine ahead. Lots of it.


The unexpected

I’m sitting in a corner of the Miami airport.  And I just paid 8 bucks for internet access. It was worth it just to see Zora on skype for a few minutes.  But I can’t deny that paying so much for the internet feels like a violation of my human rights.  Maybe this is something Obama can deal with in his (optimistically presumed) second term – universal obamanet.

Anyway, I digress.

The point is that the last two weeks have been full of surprises.  And with every unexpected turn, I’m reminded that we have less control over matters than we hope we do.  Apparently plans are just for naïve chumps.  Or maybe they’re better seen as an outline of a preferred path.  But if we’re not willing to shift, adjust, or entirely scrap our plans when changed circumstances require, we lose.

Exactly a week ago, everything went according to plan.  My sister, my niece (the youngest of my sister’s brood), and I stood in my mother’s sister-in-law’s house – in Chicago – waiting to surprise my mother for her birthday.  We have lived in different cities for so long that she doesn’t expect to see us without months of advance planning.  I’m obviously all over the place – on some other continent, with little money and selfish priorities.  My sister is busy on the east coast, working nonstop, supporting her family, and raising her (abnormally attractive) children.  But this time, taking ownership of the unexpected, we decided it was time for our Mom to have her (lack of) birthday plans changed.   So when she saw us standing there, yelling “surprise!” in her face, she looked as if she was seeing ghosts with a family resemblance.  The moment was priceless.  And in an instant, we tossed her into a weekend (or a week, considering I stayed for much longer) of unexpected plans.  Once the initial shock wore off, which took about a day, she made our plans her own.

But as the Chicago surprise plans went off without a hitch, in the back of my mind I was dealing with some major unexpected events unraveling back in Amsterdam.  Backing up another 4 days, when I was still having one incredible and productive day in Suriname after another, outlined plans were finally going from blurry hopes and wishes to concrete next steps and partnerships.  But just overnight everything shifted – my focus and priorities included.

The morning after one of my best days in Suriname, I found out that Zora might be dying.  A healthy cat when I left Amsterdam (though the doctor wanted her to work on her abs), she was in good shape to stay with our friend while I hopped around the globe a bit more.  Well, certainly not as pleasant as a birthday surprise in Chicago, but cancer also gives no warning.  It just shows up – uninvited.  And rocks whatever plans you thought you had.  It took my Dad.  It took my grandmother.  It’s taken so many. And now it was threatening Zora.  I fucking hate cancer.

Zora’s unexpected health concerns immediately took priority.  She’s the only family I have in Amsterdam (people often ask: “do you have family here?”  And I almost always respond: “It’s me and my cat.”). So once I recovered from the panic, and the tears became less frequent (took the better part of a day), I had to make some decisions about where I needed to be and when.  The Chicago trip was days away, during which time Zora was having more tests and little could be done other than waiting.  So I decided to proceed with this trip.  Plus, when I found out Zora’s prognosis, I would be with my mother, which would be helpful.  But the day before leaving for Chicago, I went to the Suriname Airways office to change my Amsterdam return date.  And just like that, two months in Suriname would become one.  And this would just have to be okay.

As for Zora’s plans, she was expecting to have an easy couple of months without me all up in her face.  But when tests came back to confirm that her leg tumor was malignant and growing quickly, suddenly the only concern was saving her life.  The doctors did not want to waste any time.  And they certainly couldn’t wait for me to return to Amsterdam next week.  So yesterday, just like that, before the cancer could reach any other part of her body, they rushed to amputate her leg.

So here I am, in Miami, heading back for my final few days in Suriname.  Having just spoken to a healthy, alert, highly-medicated, three-legged Zora on skype (she’s staying with and being cared for by more than one dear friend in Amsterdam), I can finally breathe.  Unexpected events may have turned some things upside down. But just like we’ve adjusted to every shift, turn, and stumble in the past, Zora and I will adjust to her prolonged life on three legs.  And as my Mom said, Suriname will still be there when I’m ready to go back.

Thanks to all for the kind and well-wishes sent Zora’s way over the past week.  I hope she felt them.  I certainly did. I’ve also learned that Zora and I have a lot more family and love in Amsterdam than I realized.  I owe her life to my friends who have cared for her so well.