About six months ago, when I was living with my grandmother in her final days, I was often hostage to whatever album or music video that my 58 year-old uncle Gary was blaring on his lifelong excursion as DC’s oldest teenager. Gary’s taste has always been street, funky, and slightly ignorant, a median line resting somewhere between Juicy J and Wale.
One of the clips during his usual four-hour daily run with MTV Jams was B.O.B’s “High Life”, a mixtape cut with a video shot on a rooftop penthouse (complete with cascading pool) in Singapore. In the prelude, B.O.B, standing in clear, chlorinated water, shows us the view behind him and tells is that we probably won’t ever “get there” to see it ourselves. But thankfully, he’s there, with the cameras and the pool full of models, to live the dream for us.
Though his words (most likely accented by the glass of wine in-hand and the egocentric swagger that comes from having a few plaques and chart-toppers in your early 20s) were meant to express an endearment for all the little people out there, he somehow managed piss me off, but not in a bad way.
As women (particularly African American women), are investing more in trips and international travel, I was reminded of a few things about wealth, too many Black men, and closest to home, myself. It was only a few months ago that former Tennessee Titan Vince Young confessed to be dead broke after bringing in more money than most Black people combined as an NFL quarterback. Young allegedly blew his dough on shots (that’s right shots of 200 a glass cognac)of Louis XIV and $5000 a week spreads at The Cheesecake Factory. Chris Rock’s jokes about spinning rims came to mind, as well as the solid gold dome and plumbing Master P had installed in his home at the height of his career. We buy the house the house and the cars, but most of us don’t travel beyond what we know or where we need to be.
Staying where you are is the general norm. Travel all around the world and you’ll find that it is a select few who venture out beyond the borders of what they know to explore the great wide open. My decision to venture out wasn’t about taking refuge or fleeing persecution. It had to more to do with wanting to see the way things were done somewhere else, with people with different accents or styles of food or women with a different fashion sense than the DC couture I was all too familiar with.
I lived in Atlanta for college, then did a dime in New York, then hit LA, with visits every major epicenter on the continent sans Toronto and Montreal in between. But when I hit it big (or what was “big” for me) I too fell victim. My celebratory moves were towards buying extra rounds for my boys, or more DVDs, or an extra dinner or two for my lady at the time. I told myself I wanted to see the world. But when I had the chance I didn’t really do it.
It wasn’t that I was afraid. It had more to do with who I might share the experience with. My homeboys were rarely the type to want to drop a G and a half to see the museums in Venice or to taste the shellfish coming in off the shores of Brasil, or Madagascar, or to throw down a Guiness in Dublin with a World Cup match on in the background. While half the hood wanted to be Nino Brown or Scarface, I was always good with James Bond and Thomas Crown: tuxedos over Carhart jumpsuits. I looked better in a blazer than I did in a hoodie. And while I took the clowning from my boys around the way because I used bigger words and came from a house where there was more PBS than HBO, the truth was that their sharpened words were the only shots they could take at ambition coated with teflon.
And I never managed to get on a airplane with any woman I loved. It must have been some kind of a curse.
Now that I’m older and know that times ticks without or without me, I think I want to take in that view in Singapore for myself. I’ll catch a Muay Thai match in Bangkok, close my eyes and take in the breeze on The Great Wall. Or maybe I’ll watch a flick in Johannesburg before my afternoon flight to Nairobi for dinner with friends. If I’m gonna come up, I’m gonna come up worldwide, not just on some extra Cheesecake at the chain restaurant down the block.