Smokey and The 2 Live Crew

by Tonya Ellis

New names for old issues. Self medicating? As opposed to waiting around for a doctors prescription medication that may or may not help? Which is a moot point for the many who don't have health insurance as of yet in this country. My Cousin Smokey is up for her usual 5:30am wake up weekday routine. And on a regular basis I can smell Smokey self medicating in her bathroom (which is a separate bathroom from her 2 girls bathroom) before her hectic schedule/routine begins. In all fairness its very mild marijuana usage before the start of a very hectic long work/school week for her & her 2 girls. Whom I like to refer too as the 2 Live Crew. Not that her girls are juvenile delinquent types or anything like that? Quite the contrary- despite the fact that their mother has a section 8 voucher in a not so desirable part of town in a renovated house. Her two girls (my cousins- I'm a Texan/Southerner by birth- we have lots of cousins down south) are 11 & 5 yrs old. Both are very smart (the 5 yr old started school early). They go to schools on the other side of town near her mother’s house in the better school district. I don't want to say a white school district because neither of her parents are white. And not to mention not all white school districts are great anyways.

I felt the need to specify that because many blacks who are 40ish and under have whites in the family. FYI- it’s probably because of all the black men who loved white women during the 1960's & 70's. And after all- We can all thank Barack's African father for that reality bringing him here. Or curse him- For those of you who don't have much luv for the brotha? (Father or son that is). *FYI- I have a P.C. pass on this issue- my ex of 7 yrs was biracial- black/white. Irish/African American as in literally a “Black Irish” to be exact. My Ex was born in 1970. See what I mean about the 1960's & 1970's? Anyways- My aunt and her husband- Smokey's parents have been together for 25 yrs + plus and both are pushing 60 and have middle class income situations. The area they live in is Hurst TX. Hurst, TX actually has the same exact diversity rate as Queens, NY. An interesting little tidbit I found out while watching the local news. The two areas have the most balanced state of diversity in the entire country. Their daughter my Cousin Kerry (or Cousin Smokey as I like to call her) lives in a not so un-hood like neighborhood in South Fort Worth about 15 miles down the road a piece (in southern speak).

My cousin Smokey works part time and goes to college part time. Between all the chauffeuring the kids around with their busy schedules and a somewhat borderline absentee father Cousin Smokey is very functional in a dysfunctional way. In addition to making it to the shrink for regular sessions (mainly for her Xanax prescriptions) & despite the fact that she also self medicates she actually seems to have a very high tolerance. Which all this is due to stress release/relief I'm sure. I tell her it's the stress because obviously I worry about her. I am adamant about letting her know that being single with no kids by choice at 42- I think I would need a lot more than self medication & Xanax to keep up her busy schedule every week along with fighting that 5 yr old every morning about getting up to go to school on the other side of town. It all kind of reminds me of this famous bio I read when I was a teen back in the 80's. I'm dancing as fast as I can was the name of it.

My family was one of the first black families in the neighborhood I grew up in Houston, TX. Being in my 40's now I realize we were basically pioneers in the suburbs back then. We were literally one of the first “nigger” families in our neighborhood back when racist people still called blacks “niggers” openly. Our family broke the color lines where those suburbs were concerned (think ala- Everybody Hates Chris only with 4 black females). Although my three sisters and I down south literally being attacked verbally & physically at times paints a picture more like Spike Lee's movie- 4 Little Girls. One of the convenient jewels I managed to salvage from that experience is lots of cross cultural nerdy awareness about American Cultural. Granted I am a bit of a specialty nerd- after all no one knows everything? A specialty nerd who is carrying her own set of “special” mental health issues I’m sure. In all honest self-observation.

Even though Cousin Smokey's life is no where near as frivolous as the woman in that book- I'm dancing as fast as I can- who's addicted to Valium in the burbs while she's busy trying to have it all. Cousin Smokey's life does has a feel of much more urgency to it. If she is having car trouble early in the morning then the whole day can fall apart? Cousin Smokey's life seems more “real” as it were. The woman in that book is some overpaid award winning documentary filmmaker. So believe me I'm very justified in having this particular critic of this woman.

The book is a series of her sessions with her shrink whom she is codependent on (along with some other members of the private loony bin staff) for her Valium addiction. Her with her overinflated, self important life. I'm sure getting a shrink thru Medicaid in general is all something new generation wise for regular folks like my Cousin Smokey. Getting a referral for a therapist for your mental health issues certainly wasn't the case that I can remember 15 or 20 years ago down south. No one cared back then about the mental/emotional health of a bunch of working poor people of color on Medicaid. As these things always play themselves out in the politics of the region. It's all a much different process than what goes on with the mental health issues of the upper class. But then the overly entitled sense of self worth that privileged people have in this country is a whole other universe when it comes to health issues (let alone mental).

The only thing worse than that 80's book- I'm dancing as fast as I can- a book about the mental health issues of some over paid, over rated, upper class type white woman. Is that string of self aggrandizing reincarnation books by Shirley MacLaine also from the 80's. Forgive me for being a preteen library nerd with a voracious reading appetite for what turned out to be trash in retrospect. *Interesting pop culture note- Of course Ms. MacLaine was a frequent guest on Oprah's show from back in the day constantly talking about her past lives that only her and her regression therapists in this present lifetime can verify. Something about Shirley MacLaine is- Out on a Limb- was the first title. Of course Ms. MacLaine is presently pushing Chakra Sky Jewelry (I pulled her website up online) to go along with her movie star books about being very spiritual. Evidently she is also an Indian this life time and no one but her & her regression therapists seems to know this. Boy- No class. At least Elizabeth Taylor had a perfume called White Diamonds to depend on to keep the bills paid.

Old ladies in white diamonds- That is the real white diamond rocks. Now that's a real classy combo! In my opinion lil old ladies & rappers are the only two groups of people who have earned the right to rock diamonds in their everyday wear in life. The rappers have to rock diamonds and big gold chains so we don’t mix them up with the news anchors & news reporters when we are watching them all talk on the tv. It’s important to know who’s who in any society. And the job of the MC in any capacity is always the same- to inform the audience and host the show. If people start criss crossing and mixing up the various uniform standards this could be very confusing for everyone involved? If you don’t believe me just catch the news on any of the Fox news station outlets. Generally speaking real flashy and trashy so I rest my case.

My specialty nerd shallow level learned-ness generally covers the following subjects; American history, NYT bestselling novels & non fiction, Shallow levels of astronomy & space related subjects, many things considered to be American culture and/or Pop culture- since the two are presently at a merging point, anything American Comedy/Humor related, & pretty much any sort of trashiness that one can consume at a grocery store check out lane such as health tips from Readers Digest or the fact that Enquiring minds want to know if Kate Middleton's baby is an alien clone from another planet (just like President Obama)??? As you can see at 42 I am well on my way to being the nutty elder that I will become like most average Americans.

Where culture is concerned- most of what’s considered to be American historically is often times Blonde/Blue Eyed/ & Apple pie oriented. Even though I am willing to bet money that some African Mammy probably baked that apple pie in the first place it’s still a standard that sits in the American psyche none the less. Marilyn Monroe would be a perfect example of what I mean. I actually am a Marilyn Monroe fan. I love a lot of the comedy films she did it’s a tricky thing to be able to do comedy and still be feminine. I’d say she had it down to a science introducing the character of the dumb blonde the way she did. When I am practicing one of the more shallow incarnations of myself I am originally a Southern Belle by nature, which is in actually a very similar thing really. Minus the issue of literal blondness with myself being African American and all. I mean in the area of feminine wiles if such a thing does still exist I’m willing to bet that it all culturally originated down south. Texas in and of it’s self is definitely the land of Big hair & Beauty pageants that carry an undertone that is still very reminiscent of the late great Marilyn Monroe. Most pageants tend to place a heavy emphasis upon feminine charms and the art of creative self-presentation.

Think two of my all time favorites as perfect examples- The fabulous Anna Nicole Smith (RIP) and of course Beyonce Knowles of Destiny's Child Fame (& now just plain old Beyonce Fame). What with all those big blonde hair extensions? Both ladies are from Texas & in all fairness to Lady B- she is of Creole (mixed) descent & has lots of sandy curly afro hair in the first place (I don't like sistas who hate on other sistas generally). She’s also a product of the Houston area children’s beauty pageants circuit.

My Cousin Smokey is presently standing out on the front porch picking up her water bucket that she uses to collect rainwater (it's raining this morning) for her many flourishing aloe plants that she has here in her hood stylish home in Fort Worth. I tease her because she is wearing a pair of old cut off shorts that I like to call her “Ms. Parker” booty shorts. “Well good morning Ms. Parker” I say to her jokingly. The Ms. Parker reference coming from the movie Friday with Chris Tucker & Ice Cube as well as the other nickname I gave her Smokey.

I got the idea for both her tag names when I heard the guys (a completely cross racial group) in the union call center that I worked for part time/per diem in midtown Manhattan- talking about the sexy 40 something Ms. Parker character from the movie Friday. The character Ms. Parker in the movie - for those of you who are unfamiliar, looks a bit like a sexy age 40ish Pam Grier. Ms. Parker always seemed to be watering the lawn in a skimpy pair of very tiny little booty shorts on display for all the young guys in the hood to see. The guys in the call center talking about this are all between 30-45 yrs old. Despite being different races- all have fond memories of this very male adolescent fantasy scenario from that movie. Cut off shorts are a very American hot weather- Texas/Southern style thing. Think Elly May Clampeth of The Beverly Hill Billies & Ms. Jessica Simpson (who played Elly May Clampeth in the Beverly Hill Billies movie). Yet another Texas girl known for her ala Daisy Dukes cut off shorts.

My Cousin Smokey doesn't quite put on the little showy display that Ms. Parker does in her booty shorts in the movie. I mostly just get a kick out of teasing Cousin Smokey/Kerry. Plus I always like her to know she's still got it going on. All women need to feel like they are beauty pageant winners especially when they have to fight with 5 yr olds who don't want to get up early to go to school at the better school on the other side of town (because they don't understand how fucked up life is yet). Smokey's gig is a much harder gig than some Bougie white woman with a self written 1980's Bio all about being very busy trying to have it all entitled - “I'm dancing as fast as I can”.

Smokey and The 2 Live Crew by Tonya Ellis

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