Saturday, November 25, 2017

“They call me MR. Poitier.”

Throughout life, I’ve always had a complicated relationship with the films of the great Caribbean-born actor Sidney Poiter. Now a sturdy 90 years young, the iconic thespian’s most famous movies, the ones I used to enjoy on television as a child, featured an actor whom you couldn’t take your eyes off of yet his performances seemed to be indictments not of the black experience, but the white one.

Whether it be Lilies In The Field,  In The Heat Of The Night, or Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner, Poitier characters were the sole black face of any significance:  the tragic negro who was simply a conduit for the white characters’ social conscience.  Even though his very presence was important to me, the fact that a black star could even exist that wasn’t a stereotype, the fact that he seemed super-human and a righteously perfect made me think Hollywood used Poitier to trot out & herald its half-ass liberalism which finally made  him less a person than an idea. He was certainly unlike any black man I ever knew. 
Still, over the years I came to appreciate the man for his dignity and the academy award winning quality of his performances and the dynamism . – He was just always fascinating to watch.  Over the years as he became more powerful, Poitier because he began different kinds of roles, including romantic dramas that made him seem more accessible as a human being, as well as taking on a career as a successful director.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Veteran's Day

My late father Joseph E. Brown served in two wars during a time when black soldiers were finally getting the respect they deserved in the Unites States military. He was drafted into the U. S. Army at the end of WWII and released early when the war ended. Then the Korean War came and in his third year of medical school, he was called back into service. Soon dad found himself in a medical unit in the thick of the fighting in North Korea. He never kept a gun.

He told me bits of his experiences when I was a kid and later gathered them into a book. He was very proud of his service.

Monday, November 6, 2017


Most subway riders know there’s a 3-inch gap between where a car door meets the platform. We pay it no mind. But to me, it’s a chasm, 44 miles wide, 100 deep. It’s where the tip of one of my crutches slipped through today. I tumbled to the dirty concrete platform and had to be lifted to my feet by strangers.

The mean old streets of New York are mean enough. The last thing you need is to be is "disabled". Having been struck down in the street by a speeding biker recently, resulting in a broken foot resulting in surgery, I’ve learned the hard way what it’s like to brave the big bad city, one foot forward.

I usually take the subway ride to work in the morning, arriving in roughly 25 minutes. This all has changed. First, a walk to the station, which used to take about 10 minutes (this has stretched to twice that time).  Each step, or swing, requires three times the energy, so by the time I arrive at the station, I find myself already damp with sweat.

When I enter the station, this is when the real fun begins. In a typical commuter morning, people pile on the trains, eyes either facing forward, or ears crazy-glued to their smart phones; the routine has become so burned in the collective DNA that any deviation is met with utter shock. As I try to adjust myself so I can board a car against a wave of retreating commuters, no one bothers to allow any leeway. Often rushing feet threaten to kick my crutches underneath me. Very few acknowledge my predicament and at worst, nearly send me reeling to the platform with no apology.
Once arriving to my stop, I set about the task of trying to locate an elevator or escalator. I pull out my trusty app – and lo & behold, no such luck. This means hopping up, step by step, to the street. Yes – sometimes some generous fellow commuter may offer to lend a hand, and I deeply appreciate it, but at this juncture I’m on my own.

Once I see the light of day again, I get enveloped by the wave of the crowd, inevitably traveling in the opposite direction, again completely oblivious to my plight. I bob to and fro, as if on skis - trying to be avoided being sideswiped to the sidewalk, until finally after squeezing through the revolving doors, mercilessly pushed from behind and thrust into my office lobby, exhausted and dripping with perspiration.
And so my day begins.