Writing from Inside A Tornado



I’m a child of the 80s, but I’m a suburban 90s teen. I saw Edward Scissorhands when it came out and immediately identified with Kim Boggs (Winona Ryder’s character). She felt isolated in those well-manicured ‘burbs, which was a metaphor for Reagan’s America. Then we got Clinton’s America where individual involvement in the stock market was a thing. Everyone owned tank-like SUVs. McMansions sprouted like mushrooms. The whole nation was in buy-mode, but it felt like something was missing. I mean there’s a reason I loved the music of the disaffected, rappers like Outkast, Ras Kas, and the Dead Presidents and rockers like the Pumpkins, Nirvana, and Marilyn Manson.

What was missing was the old push towards truth in our everyday American lives. The 60s had been a tumultuous time. Free love, protests, riots. That decade produced Hendrix, the Dead, Sidney Poitier, Dick Gregory, and the Bluest Eye (released in 1970). But it seemed like by the time my generation hit the scene, the previous generation of conservatives, liberals, and moderates had entered into a tight-lipped, latte-swilling truce.

Hadn’t women gotten their rights? Hadn’t blacks, immigrants, and gays gotten plenty? Weren’t we all rich? Why complain? There’s nothing to see here.

Prolly. But to me the 90s was a boring time for art. Having a Walkman, a shoulder-mounted camcorder, and sweet ride, it turned out weren’t that conducive to thinking and feeling out loud. This continued into the 2000s with the advent of iPods, smartphones, and Segways. But then something happened. The economy crashed in 2008 and it seemed like everyone who was previously fat and happy woke up and noticed there was still work to do. The decade-long push for marriage equality ended in victory. Healthcare for everyone. And this “national conversation” (a national shouting match or a national whisper? You tell me.) about race.

As an artist, all I have to do is listen like Woolf, Hemingway, Wright, and Morrison did before me. Because the world is like your cousin who drinks too much, talks too much, and can’t hold down a job: kind of a train wreck.

Sometimes I worry as that we’re living atop a volcano in the middle of a tornado (thanks, Eminem, for that image).

But I feel lucky to live in an extraordinarily messy time. There are innumerable hedges that need trimming, and my shears never dull.


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