Posts from the ‘The Groove’ Category

The POTUS edits himself

Writers: wherever you are working away in your little secluded corner of the world, searching for just the right word, draft after draft, seeing President Obama’s Inaugural Address revisions will make you feel better. And remind us that it’s all about process. This photo was taken by White House photographer, Pete Souza: Read more…

April is National Poetry Month ~ and so ~ A Poem

Brownland Browsing

by Anita Jones

when you sit down you make a lap   a place for something to happen   cradle your plate at the potluck where they didn’t think enough to set up tables   rock a baby to sleep   bounce a toddler on your knee   pat out the rhythm for juba-this-and-juba-that

when you stand up your lap disappears but the notion is always there
Read more…

President Obama in the House!

Boy how time flies. Already a month ago today that I saw President Obama at a reception at Masonic Auditorium in San Francisco.

At the same reception last April 20th, I volunteered with my buddies, Doreen and Nancy, working the will-call table. This year, I bought a ticket…and stood in that line. Plenty of time to make new friends…and get sick and tired of shouting protestors across the street beside Grace Cathedral. They definitely needed new writers: their chants were tired, uninspired and flat out lies: Read more…

New Year ~ Good Food brings Good Luck

a.jones © 2012

In the 1960s, living out my southern childhood amongst the gray walls of 325 Hazard Drive, it was enough to know that collard greens, black-eyed peas and rice were necessary to good luck in the New Year. I didn’t know anything about “customs” or “superstitions”, but peas and rice would bring change to jingle in your pocket and the greens were for folding money. I knew that, and everybody I knew knew that. It was also important for your first visitor of the year to be someone of the opposite sex (not a blood kin). My elder cousin Jessie was known to arrange with a female friend to knock on his door, leaving nothing to chance. Jessie passed away in 2010 at the age of 91 ~ having been the oldest living descendant of my paternal grandfather, Ras Jones’ twenty-one offsprings.

On my research visits home the past 5-6 years, I never missed a chance to interview Jessie. When I started writing Peach Seed Monkey in 2005, many of Jessie’s stories and his property in Putney, Georgia were the inspiration for story. He was three years older than my dad, Silas and they grew up more like brothers than nephew/uncle. My protagonist, Fletcher Dukes, is a composite of  those two men and other male relatives of their generation— black men who came of age way before the Civil Rights Era and experienced a certain kind of America.

But back to the food ~

There’s certainly no shortage of info, lies and speculations out there about the origins of “Hoppin’ John” —as the black-eyed peas and rice are called—and I’ll leave it to you to search and seize the one that suits you. As for me, I’m happy knowing what I shared with you above. That basic knowledge (and the good eats) have sustained me since my mother, Irene and maternal Grandmama, Arlena stirred the pot of peas in the deep well of our old stove. Now there’s something to search ~ deep well! (The beauty of blogging, I haven’t thought of that word (or seen a deep well) in 50 years.)

a.jones © 2012

A Phenomenal Woman

My sister, Dr. Betty Jean Jones:

December 11, 1949 ~ January 9, 1997

When I think of Betty, I see her leading; at home, school, in the community or church, she was out front, leading. She was full of ideas and put them to good in the classroom, the theater and life~also her classroom. She was only 47 when she died in a plane crash. At that time she was working as a professor of American Theatre and Associate Dean of Rackham Graduate school  at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor. Go to our family foundation website and click on the history tab to learn more about Betty ~

Checkmate

The movie Casablanca came out in 1942, the same year my characters Fletcher Dukes and Altovise Benson were born. I love the opening scene for Bogart where director Michael Curtiz has the camera find character, Rick Blaine,  playing a solitary game of chess.
At the start of my writing process for Peach Seed Monkey, before deciding to write the novel first, I was working on the screenplay version and saw a certain actor—who shall remain nameless for now—as my Fletcher Dukes. The Rick Blaine chess scene inspired me to have Fletcher play solitaire checkers—remembering that my dad had a homemade checker board in the Atlantic filling station he ran for a few years in east Albany in the 1960s. Here he is with a group of buddies (and my cousin “Stokey” on his left) standing in front of that station. You gotta love the hats:

My dad, Silas Jones, standing in doorway of Atlantic Gas Station he ran in 1960s.

For the checkerboard they used a piece of  old plywood, painted the squares with black shoe polish and bottle caps were used as pieces —half with cork side up. In that small room filled with cigarette smoke and the smell of gasoline and oil, they sat the board on an overturned 5-gallon plastic bucket, pulled up mix-matched chairs and the game began—they slapped those bottle caps down along with friendly quips and  jabes.
As Fletcher’s character developed, I rethought it (at his suggestion of course) and we decided to have him foil the stereotype and play chess. A friend sent me this article yesterday about current day young black chess masters. Since we’re not hearing about it in the mainstream media, we can all do our part to spread some good news ~

More from Hazard Drive

Nothing like gettng to know your hometown by making it a character in your novel.  Same is true of your childhood street. On both my recent research trips back to Albany I walked up and down the old Hazard Drive (now College Drive) mourning the houses and people that populated it in the 1960s. The Culpeppers had a goldfish pond in their yard; Mrs. Clemy got mad when we picked plums from her tree (even though the tree dropped fruit ON the sidewalk), and our house was lively with college students my parents took under their wings.

Like the houses and the name, so many of the people of Hazard Drive are also gone—including my parents and sister—but luckily stories have the power to live on especially with the help of photos like the one below.

James "Bubba" Johnson ~ Pitcher for the Albany Tigers, Circa 1948

James "Bubba" Johnson ~ Pitcher for the Albany Tigers, Circa 1948

My sister Betty left many little stories scribbled on Post-it notes and the backs of photos. Years ago I found this one amongst her things in a manilla envelope bulging with pictures. She had written on the envelope: (all labeled and identified as much as possible; ready for photo album). Because of Betty’s detailed attention I’m able to share so much of Hazard Drive with you. She continued the story on the back of this picture:
Left: Henry Green’s grandson
Right: James “Bubba” Johnson pitcher for the Albany Tigers
Hazard Drive
(Silas Jones {our dad} was Business Manager and Sylvester Dukes was Asst. Business Manager for the Albany Tigers) 

My search continues to learn more about the Albany Tigers,  a  local black baseball team. Part of the Negro league? I wonder.

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