Sunday, July 24, 2016

I'm Rick James B@#%*!

"We should go to a Chappelle show," he said.
I looked up from my book (for the 3rd time) to find him staring at me. We were both laying across my bed width-wise. Our bare ankles were intertwined, hanging off the bed's edge. It was a typical Sunday afternoon. I was reading ​Eat Pray Love​, he was playing around on his laptop.

I turned my head back toward the book but I could still see him out of the corner of my eye. "What did you say?"
"Dave Chappelle, do you like him?"
Even without peeking up at him, I could tell that he was inspecting me with that mildly amused look that he gave me when I regarded him with suspicion. I shifted so that I could sit up and face him.
"Yes...." I said slowly. "Do YOU?"
I said YOU like it was his name.
Why is he asking me about Dave Chappelle?!
The truth was that I did like Dave Chappelle. At least I thought I did. Suddenly I couldn't remember if I'd ever seen anything that he'd done. Everyone knows he is a pillar of the Black comedy world. I had always heard people say that he's a comedic giant, like Murphy or Pryor. "Do I like Dave Chappelle?" he asked with mock-seriousness. "I love Dave Chappelle," he replied, closing his lap top. "Did you ever watch his show?"

"​You​ love Dave Chappelle?" I repeated as I raised my right eyebrow.
I didn't mean for it sound so much like an accusation. But hey, here was this golden-skinned, Dave Matthew's Band-listening, fly fishing, rock-climbing, blond guy from Park City, Utah (via Richmond, Virginia). And I thought I knew enough about him to gage pretty accurately that he didn't know much about Dave Chappelle, or any other Black comedian. But you see, our relationship was brand new. And we were at that stage when we were eager to learn everything about the other. I knew Scottie was different. There was something soulful about him that made him unlike anybody else I'd ever encountered. He told me on our first official "date" that he was certain that he had known me in a past life. "I don't know how I lost you then, but I'm never going to lose you again," he would say. "I don't want to waste all this time in the next life. I will find you sooner, but I will always find you". That's how it's always been with him.
But back then, in 2008, our new love was like an exciting game — every similarity was a sure sign that we were meant to be together;

"You have two kids? So do I!"
"You're recently divorced? So am I?"
"You watch 'Weeds' too? Oh my God! That's my favorite show!"
"You love the new, vintage Spree's candy? Me too!"
"You're in recovery? too."

Recovery is, obviously, the big one. It is the thing that really connects us. All of our dissimilarities (music, background, race, culture) seemed to dissipate after we connected on that level. But he and I had both seen enough episodes of Celebrity Rehab and Intervention to know that recovery couldn't be the only thing we had in common if we hoped to survive as a couple. So while we were both digging deep to make sure that we poured a proper foundation for our relationship, we were also continuing to delight in surprising each other with things that the other didn't know — and maybe wouldn't have guessed.
Most of the time, we were pretty evenly matched when it came to the subject of anything related to or concerning White (or mainstream) America (although he did/does occasionally educate me about a few of his culture's "mysteries" (such as camping, "The Big Lebowski" and Jerry Garcia). However, when it came to Black American culture, I was pretty sure (smug) in the knowledge that anything that Scottie knew were things that I had taught him. So yes, I was surprised when he brought up the idea of him taking me to see Dave Chappelle.

"You - at a Dave Chappelle show?" I said with a smile. "I'm really surprised you even know who he is."
He got off of the bed and grinned.
Standing up, he held both his arms to the side and said, "Whaat? Surprised I know who he is?!?
Don't you know? I'm Rick James, Bitch!"

Turns out that Scottie really did know a lot about Dave Chappelle. In fact, he knew most of his jokes by heart. He was actually incredulous about how little I knew about Dave Chappelle. "I'd really like to take you to see him live," he said with that same, endearing smile.
"Let me show you a few of his skits." He opened his lap top again. Reluctantly (or like my Aunt Ruth would say — with an "attitude") I set Eat Pray Love face down on the bed and allowed him to educate me.

With some occasional teeth-sucking (mine), both of us huddled around his laptop screen and watched skit after skit. I suppressed a smile as I watched Chappelle meme Lil Jon (YEAHHH!). I couldn't help but giggle a little when Tyrone Biggums the crack-head scratched his neck like a rabid dog. And I actually had to laugh out loud when the 1950s white sitcom-family the "Niggars," invited their Black milkman to stay for breakfast. But by the time we got to Chappelle's infamous Rick James "True Hollywood Story" skit, Scottie and I were both rolling around the bed laughing. I looked at him as I wiped tears off my cheeks. I was hooked.

But as it happens, I had discovered Dave Chappelle too late. He had disappeared. And no one knew where he was (although it was rumored that he had turned down a $50 million check from Comedy Central and jumped on a flight to South Africa). Wherever Dave was, he wasn't performing anymore. Scottie and I could love him on Youtube, but I had to put the idea of us going to see him "live" out of my head.

7 years later...

"Sorry my brother! We're not giving away those Dave Chapelle tickets until the noon hour," said Big Boy on 92.3FM. "Make sure you stay tuned."
I was just about to turn on my iPhone playlist when some unseen force caused my finger to hover above the touch screen.

Did he say Dave Chappelle tickets?

I turned up the volume and gripped the steering wheel while I stared at the car radio, willing Big Boy to say more.
Dave Chappelle is performing again? When?? Is he coming to Los Angeles? How did I not know about this?

"That's right! Leave it right here for your Dave Chappelle tickets," said Big Boy as though he had heard my thoughts. "It was just announced TODAY that Mr. Chappelle will be gracing the City of Angels with his presence this Thursday, Friday and Saturday at The Hollywood Palladium. Tickets go on sale today at noon, but if you keep it right here on 92.3, you have a chance to win..."

I wasn't listening anymore. I pulled over on Valley Vista Blvd and got out my phone.

11:47! Oh my God, Oh my God, Oh my God!

I called Ticketmaster and waited on hold for what seemed like forever. When the operator came on I blurted out my order:
"I need two tickets to see Dave Chappelle this week in Hollywood! Please!!"
He laughed and agreed with me that it was a matter of great urgency. I wish I'd gotten his name, because he was the nicest guy. He waited on the line with me for 8 minutes, chatting me up about the advantages of living in Los Angeles until they released the tickets at 12:01. When we hung up, Scottie and I had two tickets to go see Dave Chappelle live that Friday night.


Friday Night...

I followed his eyes and saw it. There it was — the longest line I'd ever seen. There were ten people deep along the side the theater wall. 5 going one way, 5 going the other. I had never seen anything like it. It started on the sidewalk on Hollywood Blvd and stretched around two corners and then wrapped back around to where it began. I was too stunned to move. I could hear people talking through a haze. All I could think of was, ​how did I let this happen? I knew it was open seating! Why didn't I follow my first instinct to get here at 3:00? Why...
Scottie grabbed my hand and began fast walking toward the line, jolting me out of my reverie. "We'd better move. We're going to get shitty seats!"
I was completely out of breath by the time we'd reached the end of the line. It was only then that I noticed that everyone seemed to be wearing bright yellow wristbands.
"Do I need to get those somewhere first?" I asked the woman in sky-high wedges with bright pink hair in front of me.
"Umm Hmmm," she nodded. "First you need to stand at the end of that line (she pointed toward a line of people that stretched up into the next block) "for these," she held up her wrist. "Then you come and get back in this line."

Once we got wristbands, the line moved quickly. As we got closer to the door, my anxiety level went from a level four to a nine.

Jesus Christ! Maybe two thousand people have already gone in ahead of us, I calculated in my head.
What if we can't see the stage? What if we can't sit together?!

When we got to the front of the theater, I saw people surrendering their cell phones.
So it was true! Scottie said that Chappelle didn't allow cell phones in his shows. ​What happens if my kids need me?
I didn't have much time to worry about it, because it was already our turn and a bored-looking teenager was holding her hand out for my cellphone. Once I surrendered it, she dropped it inside of this curious looking orange, metallic-mesh bag and locked the top before handing it back to me. Scottie held his up for me to see after we'd gone through. "Crazy," he said. "So we have the phones but we just can't use them." Next we stood in a line to be searched.

Dave Chappelle does NOT mess around!
I put my useless cell phone in my purse and pulled out Scottie's glasses. "Do you need these, Hon?"
Just as he took the glasses from me, they began to divide the men from the women. There were several male security guards to frisk the men and only two female guards to pat down the women. I scampered over to what I thought was a shorter line before I realized that it was also a men's line. Normally I would call or text him and see where he had found seats. But without cell phones none of that was possible.
I ran frantically inside and looked around the theater. I was immediately hit by the stale smell of beer-stained carpeting. As my eyes adjusted to the semi-darkness, I could see that I was standing in yet another line.
This is a line for the bar!
Skirting the bar crowd like a running back, I burst into the cavernous, crowded and dimly lit auditorium. There were several bleachers surrounding what looked like a catwalk, which I decided was the stage. I shielded my eyes with my hand from the overhead lighting and scanned the large floor level.

Where are you, Scottie?
I jumped up on a bleacher near the stage and found that I could see the whole room pretty well. I also found two empty AMAZING seats. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. From these two seats I was about 15-unobstructed feet from the stage where the microphone was set-up. I couldn't believe my luck. They were empty and no one seemed to be checking for them. Where are you, Hon?? I found these AMAZING seats!

I sat down for a moment and placed my purse in the seat next to me. People were streaming in now. The lights were flickering off and on signifying the start of the show. I looked across the room and strained my eyes, willing them to pick him out from the crowd.
Oh man! There's a balcony. He could be up there waiting for me!

Now there were people sitting on either side of me. The couple on my left smelled like garlic and were arguing about who should leave the seats to should go get popcorn. The two guys on my right were sitting facing each other, engaged in an intense conversation. The gentleman next to me had his back to me.
"Excuse me," I said as unobtrusively as I could, while I gently tapped his shoulder. "Can you please watch these seats for me? I have to go find my boyfriend." I heard the tremor in my voice, I knew I sounded desperate.
He half turned toward me and pushed his glasses up on his nose.
"I don't think we're allowed to, sorry."
My heart sunk.
I opened my mouth to plead with him, when the announcer came on the sound system and told people to leave the restrooms and head for the auditorium.

I can't believe that Scottie and I waited 7 years to see Dave Chappelle together and now I may not even get to sit with him!

Self-pity hit me like a stomach punch as I pictured Scottie's face that day in the bedroom.
"I'd really like to take you to see Dave Chappelle live."

I knew it was silly to cry. I was here where I'd wanted to be for 7 years (and with the most amazing seats)!
Nothing should get in the way of my enjoying this moment...
But I just couldn't enjoy it without Scottie. 7 year's later, he was still the yin to my yang. We had to watch it together or not at all. I lowered my head and sighed as I scanned the crowd again. With a reproachful look to the guy who's back was still facing me, I whispered a pitiful goodbye to my seats. Then I leapt off of the bleachers again and dashed over to the nearest balcony-staircase, taking them two at a time.

All of the seats up here are filled! ​Where did all of these people come from?!
I stood near the front so he could see me if he were looking toward the stage.
He's not here!
I turned and ran down the opposite staircase and re-entered the floor level.
Scottie! Where could you be?!
My heart was pounding in my chest. I ran around the circumference of the floor like a mad woman looking for him in every seat. I wanted to shout out for him, but I knew my voice would be instantly absorbed into the deafening din of the other 4000 people talking excitedly.
Where are you, Hon?
I was doing a second lap around the floor when I ran past "my" seats. I almost didn't recognize them because the garlicky people had been replaced by two thin, brown-skinned women with braids. But the rude guy with glasses was still there in his seat talking to his friend. And...
Glory hallelujah! My seats are still here!
My heart soared with hope at what I took to be a good omen.
Breathing heavily, I hopped back up on the bleachers and scanned the room again.
Come on Honey, I closed my eyes and willed him silently. C​ome and find me here.
The room lights were so low now that everyone was outlined against the stage lights. I HAD to try and spot Scottie's silhouette before the show started. I put my purse down in the open seat next to me and stood on my tip-toes, opening my eyes as wide as I could. I saw a man entering from the lobby just as they shut the doors. I kept my eyes glued on him as I watched him spin slowly around in a circle.
That guy is looking for someone!!
As he completed the circle I could see the outline of Scottie's glasses and hair perfectly backlit by the stage light -- like a halo.

​I jumped up and down on the bleachers knocking my purse to the floor. Ignoring it I kept jumping and shouting,
"Hon! Scottie!!! Over here!!!!!"
He turned toward me and I saw his body language change from defeated to excited as he headed my way. I stood there vibrating with my arms out until he'd crossed the room.
I jumped down and picked up my purse before hugging and kissing him. As I held on to him with all of my might, I closed my eyes and nodded my head toward the ceiling and smiled.
It's all right. He's here. Everything is all right!
Suddenly, we were like teenagers on a first date. We kept laughing and talking over each other, holding on to each other's hands, touching the other's faces.
"Where were you?"
"I looked for you upstairs."
"Me too!"
"I waited by the bar for a while."
"Me too!"
​"I was so scared" he said.
"Yeah - me too," I said. "Thank God you have your glasses on! That's how I spotted you!"
He kissed me again and held my eyes with that endearing look.
"I'll always find you," he said. "I told you, I lost you once, I'm not ever going to do it again."

Just then the lights went out completely and I smiled and bounced in my seat with excitement. As the crowd erupted into applause, Scottie turned to me and shouted in my ear - "Hey, how did you get these great seats?" 

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