Whenever my mother looked me in my eyes and started her conversation with, “I have a bone to pick…” I knew she was upset about something or someone. Or, I might have done or said something she did not approve of, I was often the smart-ass spoiled daughter. What was bottled up inside my mother that she did not speak on at the time had exploded, and a bone was about to be picked.
I find that lately people of all ages are picking bones, especially given this current infested administration and lack of competent, educated and compassionate leadership. People are plain fed up and they are speaking on what they believe is unfair treatment and a lack of consideration by some of their fellow human beings.
This brings me to a young father of three who spoke out and lead a charge recently over Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and his lack of compassion and responsibility to protect his employees during the COVID-19 virus. I have been an Amazon customer for about fifteen years. I am currently employed by Amazon as an Amazon Prime Shopper at Wholefoods Market – first in San Francisco, my hometown, and currently in Los Angeles, where I now reside. As a customer I have no serious complaints about Amazon. As an employee I have, however, a few bones myself to pick, although, I have only spoken out to fellow co-workers.
My Skype chat with Chris Smalls.
In February 2019 I resigned from a full-time job, was heavy in debt. and I was about to lose my apartment after being there for 17 years; I was in pain from having suffered familial loses and euthanizing both my 17 year-old cats in the last three years. But, it was burying my mother in 2016 that triggered the unrelenting, unfair cinder block shroud of grief that had caused me to punish myself for living. By 2019 I had bones to pick, with God.
My long-time friend, a Los Angeles native who is employed with Amazon in the Los Angeles warehouse suggested I apply online with Amazon. “Don’t be dumb, you have to work, you have to eat. Just go online, they will hire you right away,” my friend said. I applied, got the job as a shopper and after the orientation and drug test I began working in April 2019.
Jeff Bezos acquired Wholefoods and placed shoppers at Wholefoods supermarkets, where Instacart once stood. A shopper picks groceries for Amazon Prime customers at Wholefoods, bags the groceries and “stages” them on shelves and in refrigerators for independent drivers to pick up for delivery. I actually adore being a shopper, the best part is meeting new people, many of whom had their own life stories to share and maybe even a few bones to pick. Plus, the job is completely cardiovascular, walking for four and a half hours every half shift, sometimes two shifts. By the end of the day I was exhausted but fulfilled, I had a job where I felt productive, important and hopeful. There were issues like how shoppers have to get their shifts on a first come, first serve basis and other things, but I let all that go for the simple fact that I was able to feed myself and get back on my feet. Fast forward to COVID-19 virus that is crippling the world.
My friend, the Amazon warehouse employee, has recently lost a co-worker to the COVI-19 virus. He has not been to work for weeks and is not receiving stay-home pay. Many other Amazon employees are at risk, including myself, I commute to and from work, I cannot afford not to work.
Currently there is so much online about Chris and what he is trying to accomplish, all you have to do is google him to find many articles about his fight with Jeff Bezos to protect his employees during this troubling time. There are also articles about Amazon being against Chris and trying to darken his name. But, there are also noted people who support Chris’ efforts including Us Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Senator Bernie Saunders, Alexa (yes, the voice of) and many others. I am a playwright and creative writer, not a journalist, but I wanted to get to know a little about the determined and compassionate young man and why he felt the need to speak out.
Chris Smalls is the eldest of three boys single-handedly raised by their strong black mother. Born in Passaic, New Jersey and raised in Hackensack, New Jersey, I asked Chris what he wanted to be as a child. Chris stated that he had always wanted to play basketball, (Chris stands six foot, one inch tall). He also wanted to be a rapper, The Notorious B.I.G. (Chris Wallace) is one of his favorites.
Chris began with Amazon in 2015 as a Tier 1 picker in the New Jersey Amazon warehouse then he transferred to the Connecticut warehouse and then Staten Island warehouse. Chris was impressed that one of his co-workers, a black male, was promoted from Tier 1 position. After 7 months of very hard work and determination Chris, who was married at the time with a growing family, was promoted to manager with a full staff. Chris’ pay started at $12.75 per hour, $12 was minimum wage in NYC at the time. By the time he made manager his wage went up to $18 per hour which helped him to support his family. Chris “opened” three buildings starting in New Jersey, then Connecticut and finally Staten Island. For Chris being manager of a hugely successful company like Amazon was what the American dream was all about.
What struck me about Chris’ determination to fight Amazon “big wigs” during the virus situation is that he mentioned he always felt he was a leader, he always knew he was, not that he wanted to be, but he felt he was meant to be a leader especially when it came to leading people toward a positive outcome. He claimed he got his encouragement from his mother.
When the COVI-19 virus took over the world Chris noticed measures were not taken to protect Amazon employees, there was no testing or proper protection, therefore, sick employees were working at facilities, at warehouses or as shoppers at Wholefoods Markets and risking contaminating their peers and customers. Amazon offered no stay home pay. Chris told me he was approached by many Amazon employees from all over the world including Germany, Tokyo, Australia, Canada and Sweden who requested paid time off and retro back pay for the month of March. They have begged him to continue to speak and have praised him for his efforts.
Where I work many of us Amazon employees wonder if this virus is so deadly, and from many accounts it is, why are Amazon employees sent to work? Where are the virus tests given for employees? Why work if we are not sure if we have the virus? We still have no concrete idea where the virus came from and how it is transmitted. Why isn’t everyone tested? These are questions we Amazon co-workers share with each other but not aloud. Not the case with Chris Smalls.
It is my hope Chris’ fervor and altruistic drive will not only gather more hard working Amazon employees to come together in solidarity to make sure we are treated fairly and protected in order to help Amazon maintain its thriving company. Before we signed off, I asked Chris, “Chris, what do you consider a patriot to be?” He replied that a patriot is chosen by the people for what that patriot does on behalf of people.
Until then, here’s to Christian Smalls, a true patriot and American hero, an Amazonian bone picker who stepped up, stood out to lead the charge during the COVID-19 crisis to help raise the voices of Amazon warehouse and shopper employees all over the world for employee protection! Thank you, Chris! Keep moving forward, sir!
I awoke this morning to the old sun shedding new light on my new life.
After having moved from the comfort of my hometown of San Francisco back to Los Angeles where I lived years ago, I awoke next to my 1970s childhood Christie doll with hope renewed. I stated “comfort” because that is how I have lived my entire adult life, 9 to 5 job, pay bills, pay rent, eat, etc.
This morning I saw the same old sun gleam through the blinds in my new surroundings, but it gleamed with a new, beaming ray of light, a new hope for the positive changes that await me on my journey.
Right now as I gather my thoughts, my writing, my heart and my soul, I vow to continue being creative; I am determined to live my life as the artist I truly am. I will begin by picking up my current projects, my One-Act play, my fiction novel, and move on from there. The more comfortable and settled I become, the more I will express my thoughts online. Until then…
I awoke this morning to the old sun shedding new light on my new life. And all is right with the world. LDS
This blog entry is not going to be clever or thought provoking. I don’t have anything special to share except that I have diligently been putting out my writing work entering contests and mentorship programs since February when I left my 9-2-5 job. I’ve gotten some rejections, but also acceptances. Including this graphics attached to an email I recently received.
I submitted an essay to be part of a community of writers for a full color, hard cover book. Last week I got an email with the announcement that I will be included in the book on writers from around the world telling their stories on why they write. This is, so far, the best news I’ve had this year. More on the book, coming this Autumn, as things progress
I am beginning to find my place in this world. Here’s hoping we all find where we belong. So far, so happy. Cheers!
I recently took a leap of faith and walked away from a horrible, but good paying job in search of what my place is in this world. Now I am struggling and why? Why would anyone do that to themselves, quit working with no help and no back up? In my quest for answers it did not take a therapist to tell me that I am punishing myself for living after burying my mother and euthanizing my boy cat, my two major duties in life. Losing a job was my final loss of duty. I am grieving.
Being dutiful was all I knew, it was all I had ever been. I had dreams of becoming a mother mainly because I wanted to take care of people. But, I never seemed to focus on MY life, on what makes ME happy. I realized being dutiful was all that made me happy, made me shine, but it was not about ME. I felt safe and comfortable being dutiful and when loss occurred, my duties were gone and grief set in I had no idea where to go from there. Taking a “leap of faith” did not help me find my way in life, rather, it became my punishment, it was grief clinging to my spirit and that is not good.
A couple of days ago I began binge watching a new Netflix special called, Street Food. Asian and Filipino street food vendors share their stories of sacrifice, loss and success. Just when I thought my leap of faith was wearing thin, just when I began to regret my decision to finally find my own way in life, just when I thought of giving up and go back to working a 9 to 5 and spend the rest of my life living only to pay rent and bills, I found Street Food. These folks (chefs, cooks) refused to give up, even in their struggles they found their purpose in life.
It was no coincidence that I stumbled upon this series, I am sure of that. I might watch all the episodes over and over just to drown out the noise in my head; “You failed! Go back to work, forget about being a tee vee writer, Hollywood is a closed door industry filled with narcissistic hateful people who don’t want you to win! Working class is the only road for you!”
No, I CAN win, I realize that now. And I am grateful for this subtle sign from mom, God, the universe, whomever or whatever made me click on Netflix and watch the stories of these lovely people who have endeared way more than I could possibly imagine. I believe I was meant to watch these stories because I have always played it safe, I always had a job and I always paid my bills, on time. What I want in life is to get paid doing what I enjoy even if I have to struggle and sacrifice. Grief is real, but moving forward is vital. I will move forward, I have to move forward. We all do. Thanks for reading. LDS
The Hollywood “clique,” as I call it, of entertainers is to me a very strange environment of talented artists, many of them, but also of narcissism, fantasy, excess, often-times back stabbing. And, it is a closed-door society that is unbelievably revered and envied by folks who have no clue how damaged that closed-door society is. A person who is elevated to a high tax bracket by parading in front of cameras on reality shows, or acting or making music and selling out arenas is not immune to being HUMAN. They can be damaged, insecure, unhappy, jealous, angry, nervous, just like regular working class folks. They possess a plethora of mental health issues, they abuse drugs and alcohol, they were molested and raped and treated poorly by their partners and family members, just like regular working class folks.
I find the Hollywood clique not just a closed door, but a unique “bubble” that is sometimes difficult to comprehend. I mean, from all appearances people in the Hollywood clique hang out together, everybody is everybody’s cousin or child, they marry the same people. These people understand the closed door world they live in and would never share or explain that world with “outsiders.” On the other hand, even if they did explain and share many of us would not believe or want to be part of it. Yet those of us not of that world find those folks enviable and interesting.
Is it any wonder, then, that a person of the Hollywood clique, an actor on a popular television show decides one day to pull an alleged prank by pretending to have been brutally attacked and lassoed with a noose by MAGA hat wearing “haters” in below zero weather when he went out early one morning to grab a quick bite? Why would he not? He is in a bubble, a world that is protected by his “people” who all stick together and support each other. Of course, we later learned from police and FBI that two brothers from Wakanda, okay Nigeria, were the alleged perps who were allegedly paid by the actor to perform the ruse.
If in 1955 Mamie and Louis Till’s 14 year-old son Emmett had the same privilege to shout, “no, I did not whistle at that white woman, please leave me alone,” and walk away free and clear on his word as a human being, I would not mind the ruse. If in 2018 stabbing victim at MacArthur BART, 18 year-old Kia Wilson had the privilege to walk away from the devil that took her life, I would not mind the ruse. Many other brown men and women and non-brown men and women who were cruelly unfairly mistreated and killed in this “great” country, due to HATE, should have all had the privilege of life.
It is a shame that time, money and media attention was given to an actor who for whatever foolish, poorly plotted reason chose to pull a ridiculous prank on his fellow human beings, some of us who live paycheck to paycheck. Perhaps this might be the time to rally for donations and support from that young actor for fallen loved ones who were brutalized and murdered for no other reason than HATE.
In the REAL world, you blow bubbles, you don’t live in them. Period.
Being of a “mature” age does not mean I cannot “get down” and party along with the young talent that’s on display in this Millennium, of course I can. Age is only a number and I am as young as I feel. Period.
Photo Credit: livekindly.com
Okay, well, age may only be a number, but being in shape and taking a good stretch before I get up for work has become my morning routine ever since I joined the 50-somethig club. I cannot do anything like I used to do that doesn’t involve stretching first, not even bending down. One day I bent down after having sat at my desk for five straight hours and I nearly went blind, my vision became shaded, I was dizzy…all I wanted to do was pick up my pen, ‘the hell?
So, why am I bringing up a youngin’ like Cardi B? Well, two things, liquor and bravado. I’ll explain.
I can’t seem to go online anywhere and not hear about this young lady. And one night when I was drinking, about two or four cocktails, I found a very pregnant twenty-something Cardi B twerking! Twerking while pregnant?! I had never been pregnant, so it looked kind of scary. All I could think was, won’t the baby pop out?
Photo Credit: capitalxtra.com
Miss Cardi B, a very feisty Trinidadian/Dominican artist and wonderfully down to earth character, is a lot of fun to watch. But, it was her twerking while pregnant that impressed me, drunk one night, did I mention that? Looking at her made me feel young, well young, or something, brave and fearless and FIERCE!! I guess. I thought to myself, that doesn’t look too hard, I just move my hips and butt. I can’t salsa, I don’t dance with a whole lot of soul, hardly any soul at all, but I can probably do that twerk thing. Besides, Cardi B is a young Latina woman, right? Well, hell my maternal grand pappy was West Indian, I’m kind of similar to Cardi B, just older and more brown, but we’re kind of kindred spirits, somewhat. And she’s from the Bronx, my mother was raised in South Bronx, Southern Blvd., so yea, we’re almost distant cousins. I took another sip of my cocktail.
I first noticed Cardi B on one of those horribly violent “scripted” reality shows where everyone fights each other. Where’s the “talent” in these shows and why do people watch? Anyway, there are some talented people on those shows besides Cardi B including a Jamaican dancehall artist/rapper, from Love & Hip Hop Atlanta named Spice. I really like her as well, great messages to her music including her latest song, “Black Hypocrisy.” As for Cardi B, she stood out to me because she was able to branch out and make a name for herself in the very competitive, cut throat and often troubled music industry. And if Cardi B could twerk with all that weight on her, I can twerk being my age AND drunk!! I did what my brain told me to do, “Remember when YOU were twenty-five? And thirty-five? ‘Member? You still have moves, go on then, go on and try it.” I had always admired strippers and pole dancers, they have great movement and they’re very flexible. Why not? Drunk.
I bent over just a little bit, I had never before twerked. I looked behind me to see if my booty was moving, it wasn’t, but my legs were, or they were shaking or twitching, I don’t know. I grabbed a quick sip of my cocktail then continued. I shimmied a little bit, looked over at the computer at Cardi B dancing online, then I shimmied a little harder, okay, okay, then I jiggled some, not quite like Cardi B, but I was jiggling, I was…kind of twerking in a jiggling sort of nervous energy, spasm type twerk, I guess. Finally I saw myself twerk, or I felt like I was twerking, I mean I bounced up and down and made at least one of my tiny butt cheeks jiggle to her song with Bruno Mars called “Finesse,” a great song! And I did the damned thing, I twerked, and twerked and I twerked and…oh, good Lord, no, no, no, oh, no!!
Photo Credit: toofab.com
I felt a slight pinch in one of my tiny butt cheeks, then it quickly became a bigger pinch that moved all the way down to my calf, my calf!! And when I went to stand straight up I screamed out, sort of like an angry starving zoo animal at feeding time. Like a dyslexic pigeon that took a wrong turn and flew into the side of a brick building. Like a drunken Pterodactyl getting a pedicure with a monkey wrench, I mean that pinched nerve hurt like a mofo!! I fell over on my side, I could literally feel my kidneys dislodging. I’m surprised my neighbors did not come banging on my door, although, my elderly girl Calico who’s afraid of AIR, fainted when I bellowed, poor thing. She looked like a Black, Orange and White ball of dust at the foot of my bookshelf. I mean, I screamed loudly! Why did my brain, on Whiskey, lie to me? Am I really that old?
Photo Credit: elle.com
Being of a “mature” age does not mean I cannot “get down” and party along with the young talent that’s on display in this Millennium, I can and I will. Age is only a number and I am as young as I feel. Period.
Then again, the next time I set my sights on dancing or twerking or any new trend that some young entertainer masters, dipping, flipping or twerking or slurping or whatever the vernacular is, I will stop and think, no make that, I will have the common sense not to let my brain talk me into doing what my body can’t. At least not until I do stretching exercises first! Period. (PS- Pemba, my girl Calico is fine, but from now on she acknowledges me with a hiss, paw swipe and growl.) ~sigh~ Oh well.
Words from a man who walked away from what some of his
fans believed was his gift, his calling, but in making his decision he broke
the hearts of many. Then Perry returned
and his fans learned he eventually found love, lost love and found his passion
when his “love” made him promise not to go back into hiding.
Many years ago I made a few silly videos where my character coined the desperate phrase, “Where are ya, Perry?” in search of the ever elusive Steve Perry former lead singer of the band Journey. In the videos I poked fun at why he left, where he could be and that I missed the way he sang and danced in circles on stage like a drunken puppy summoning the rain gods. I had a few fans, people who loved Perry and probably thought if he saw my videos he would return. I had, however, no idea what Perry was going through at that time. Eventually, I moved on from making the videos, but I wondered why, when so many artists NEVER give up on what they love, why did Perry walk away? Hip replacement, failed relationships, nothing, in my mind, warranted the man to simply leave, especially with the talent he possessed.
I had found online a huge and often-times fanatical Steve Perry and Journey fan-base, some of whom I met. These people are the most devoted, but especially to the ever elusive Perry. I had no idea people were so into the guy! I had penned a book draft filled with fans’ online testimonies of having seen concerts and their love for Perry and messages and just tons of heartfelt thoughts and cries from fans who wished Perry would return. But, I gave up on publishing that book. I am a fan, but I guess I am not that devoted, I figured if Perry didn’t want to sing again then that was that.
In my research I found that some of his fans did not give up like I did. They are faithfully devoted to the guy, some with a longing to meet and even marry the man! Some fans wish Perry would return to Journey as if his voice would register as it did when he was younger. And some fans make a living being fans, rather, they turn their fan worship into a fan based-business that keeps them connected to Journey and Perry as associates, secretaries, business partners. I had never before known such admiration, especially of a recluse like Perry. But, he does have that beautiful voice! And, I have to think back to when I was a little girl and the fanatical devotion I had for a beautiful black boy with doe-shaped eyes, a big afro and beautiful full lips and bell pepper shaped nose, who brilliantly sang and danced his heart out, the late Michael Jackson. Oh, how I wished I could have married him and had 10 kids and become the Black Brady Bunch! Of course as soon as poor Mike went from being the “King of Pop” to an unusual-looking, strange behaving recluse and a converted Caucasian with almost no nose whatsoever, well I just lost interest. But, anyway, back to Perry.
I continue to be a fan of Schon and Perry and all the other Journey members, Valory, Cain and Smith. And I occasionally see Mr. Schon when his son does venues here in San Francisco, they both treat me like they know me, that makes me very happy. But, as for Perry, I stopped making my silly “Where are ya, Perry” videos and rightfully so at this point. Steve Perry has returned to the spotlight and to singing, and most importantly to his PASSION. And, he has opened up, literally bled out to his audience of his life, his loves, his losses and something I have lived with my entire life, depression, self-doubt, anxiety. To be perfectly honest, I admire Perry for sharing his life with his fans. I also admire that his new CD, Traces, is his way of letting his fans know through music that although he is in pain, he is willing to pull through with an open heart. Good for Perry, as I call him. I will not give a music review, I’ll just state that I enjoy all of the songs, although, two of them make me very, very sad and cry like a baby – won’t be listening to those songs on replay, sorry. But, it is Perry’s voice that makes me very happy, I thoroughly enjoy hearing him sing.
I don’t know if I agree that “a heart is not complete
unless it is completely broken,” but if a broken heart is what it takes to take
a leap of faith, forsake fears and other issues, I am happy Steve Perry finally
took that leap and I cannot wait until I have the courage to do the same. Thank
Press Release for: Treasures of a Bronx Warrior, Photographs and Memories of a Devout New Yorker, Movie Star Hopeful and Loving Mother is now available for view at Pr.com. Treasures of a Bronx Warrior is a three-book Collection, a tribute to my beloved Mother Doris Banbury.