Put Some Charlie On It


The year that would not quit is finally behind us. As we lurch into 2017, it’s still hard to believe that 2016 actually happened. So many calamities, so many deaths, so many scandals. So many assumptions made by so many people about so many things were completely upended. In addition to all this fuckery, 2016 was also a bit of a drag for me personally. I’m glad that it’s now over.

I spent the better part of 2016 contemplating and recalibrating my intentions, setting the stage for some much needed self care. Part of that included building and launching this website; the latest manifestation and destination for all things James. It was not my original intention for this particular post to christen my new project, but considering the year that we just went through, the subject seems apropos.

As a creative, when inspiration strikes, my role is simply to be available to it. In this instance, my muse appeared around Christmas in the form of Charlie Brown.


Moody Blues

I spent most of the holiday season in a mood. Not a bad mood or a particularly good mood, just a mood. Whenever I'm feeling this way, I often turn to music to help me change the mood, or in this case, to embrace it. On this occasion, A Charlie Brown Christmas provided me with a degree of comfort. It is such a great story with an equally great soundtrack by Vince Guaraldi; it's the perfect accompaniment for when one finds oneself in a mood.

The inspiration for this post came from the classic dance scene that we all know and love. I can never get enough of it. It's so mesmerizing. What are these characters thinking about? Each one is doing their own thing, in the moment, uninhibited. How cool is that? But what's their story? After staring at the animated gif for longer than I care to admit, it suddenly occurred to me that many of the events from 2016 are embodied in this scene, personified by these characters.

And with that, I present to you…

The Peanuts Class of 2016

Definitive Jux

I would be remiss if I didn’t include in this piece the Peanuts characters who personified the greatest jux of 2016. The enduring image of Lucy van Pelt snatching the football from Charlie Brown is the definitive metaphor for what is happening to our country right now. Only, instead of Lucy swiping the ball, it’s Donald Trump who is sending the collective “us” flying through the air screaming AAUGH!

For those of us who are activated and who are planning to resist this new reality, I'm concerned that (in the short term) we may not be prepared to resist effectively? In the decades since the Civil Rights Movement, we've fallen out of practice and have lost our conditioning. Our sense of urgency to affect radical change through radical resistance has subsided considerably. Conventional forms of resistance may be woefully inadequate once the Trump administration and the Republican Party begin their take over on January 20th. We know what resistance to low-level suppression and unprovoked aggression looks like, but are we prepared to resist old-fashioned in-your-face systematic state-sanctioned oppression?

Consider This

In the current arc of this narrative, conservatives have been pulling this football trick on the American people for over 40 years. And the American people have been falling for it for just as long. This is nothing new. Donald Trump just happens to be the one holding the football this time. What is new, however, is that for the first time in as many years the GOP, unsympathetically, has slowly and surely drawn its plans against us (to paraphrase H.G. Wells from War of the Worlds). In an almost direct correlation with the end of The Civil Rights Movement, the conservative establishment has orchestrated its revenge on the movement through organized, deliberate and unflinching resistance. The type of resistance that is defined alternatively in the dictionary as: the impeding, slowing, or stopping effect exerted by one material thing on another.

This is the type of resistance one would encounter while lifting weights at the gym or when running on a treadmill. Otherwise known as resistance training. The purpose of which is to condition the body for strength and endurance so when a challenge arises or an opportunity presents itself, the body is able to respond quickly and decisively. I would suggest that, at this juncture, conservatives are better conditioned and prepared to act on their agenda, quickly and decisively; more so than progressives and liberals are prepared to effectively resist them.

Resist. Rebel. Repeat.

I honestly don't know what effective resistance to Donald Trump and the GOP is going to look like after January 20th. In the short term, they are probably going to run roughshod over our rights and there won't be much we can do about it. In the longterm, the ways and means by which we resist will likely need a significant upgrade if we are going resist effectively.

Resistance training, in my opinion, is the best thing we can do to prepare for a sustained struggle. Projects like The Indivisible Guide and #DisruptJ20 are great places to start getting acquainted with the current schools of thought. This extensive bibliography of non-violence training resources seems like a good place to do a deep dive on the subject. And this particular book What Goes On in a Nonviolence Training is on my short list of things to read (h/t to Professor Claiborne). Additionally, developing this website as a platform for my voice (among other things) is another way I plan to resist.

And finally, the conservation of energy is also going to be crucial to playing the long game. We are at the threshold of a new type of struggle. Striking a balance between the theoretical, the symbolic, and the practical is essential to figuring out the most effective way to resist what's coming. Until we truly know what we're dealing with, we simply do not know.

The metaphor of Lucy and her football explains 2016 well enough, but it also explains—in one important way—how we should be thinking about the beginning of 2017. The picture of Charlie Brown suspended in mid-air is where we, as a country, are right now. A event has been set in motion which has yet to complete its cycle. No matter how we choose to rationalize it, there is nothing we can do to prevent it from playing itself out! But here is what we know:

  1. We know that we’re about to hit the ground.
  2. We know that it’s going to hurt.

What we don’t know is how hard we’re going to hit or how badly it’s going to hurt. The best we can do right is to get prepared and brace ourselves for impact.

I'm delighted to Put Some Charlie On It and say, “FUCK OFF” to 2016, but my declarative mantra for 2017 and beyond is, "BACK DA FUCK UP!"

Behind the Music

So I’m sitting around the house on Christmas day doing nothing in particular, the Vince Guaraldi soundtrack for A Charlie Brown Christmas is playing in the background. The instrumental version of Christmas Time begins starts playing, the producer in me says, “You know what? I should sample that.” And so, I did, and that’s how this little project got started.

[bandcamp width=100% height=120 track=651678421 size=large bgcol=ffffff linkcol=fcb931 tracklist=false artwork=small]

With the help of my son Angel, who co-arranged the track with me and my good friend DJ Eclipse, who was generous enough to provide the finishing touches with his signature scratching, Put Some Charlie On It emerged. Eclipse premiered the track on his Sirius/XM radio show Rap Is Outta Control this past Sunday.

A video posted by DJ Eclipse (@djeclipsersc) on


Live. Journal. Breathe.

Black Lives Mattering

Stampede for Cancer

Stem Cells and Coffee

The Sun Also Sets

Kenyan Gold

A typical winter day in Tampa Bay is anything but typical. One is more likely to see sand angels on white sands before seeing anything that resembles snow.

But on occasion, and sprinkled throughout the Winter season, the Bay area is prone to experience a cold snap or two. And on those thin-blooded days when socks are NOT optional, Café Kili in Temple Terrace is a welcome respite from a brisk day; a place where hot coffee and a warm smile will bring your temperature back up to sub-tropical norms.

Café Kili (named after Mt. Kilimanjaro) is owned and operated by Patrick and Rose Waruinge. They opened for business in 2007 and are a thriving mainstay of the Temple Terrace and USF communities. They roast their coffee in-house. Raw beans are imported from Kenya, Tanzania, Sumatra, Costa Rica, Mexico, Colombia, Guatemala and Brazil. You haven’t tasted coffee as rich and flavorful until you have experienced the taste of a bean that has been brewed within a few hours from the time it was roasted.

All of the usual varieties that discerning coffee drinkers are accustomed to can be found on the Café Kili menu. My personal favorite is the Café Mocha. At the franchise coffee shops, I’m normally a quad-shot-espresso kind of guy, but let me warn you right now, the brew at Café Kili is of such a high grade that it makes the corporate swill seem like watered down Prohibition-era hooch served at a speakeasy. So, if you’re like me, you might want to dial it back a couple of shots—I’m just saying.

One would be hard pressed to find a barista in the Bay area with the intimate knowledge of the “sacred bean” as Rose Waruinge—her passion for coffee runs deep. “Rose can taste a bean and tell if it is an African bean or tell you where it is from,” says her husband, Patrick. She was raised on a coffee plantation in the central province of Nyeri, Kenya. Along with her ten siblings, she learned to cultivate raw coffee beans that would, in turn, be sold exclusively to the Kenyan government. “Growing coffee was a family operation,” says Rose. “Our father could not afford to hire workers so he used us [his children] as laborers to care for the coffee plants, pick the ripe cherries and deliver them to the factory. He paid for our educations in this way.”

“Kenyan Gold,” as coffee is commonly known in Kenya, is one of the country’s top cash crops. It is grown on family-owned plantations, but the prices are fixed and regulated by the government. Ironically, according to Patrick, “Coffee growers are not allowed to process for consumption the beans grown on their own farms; it is an export-only industry.”

The idea to open her own coffee shop came to Rose after she observed the wild success of Starbucks. She recalls saying to herself, “I think I know more about coffee than most people. I think I can try and start a coffee shop.” Since she only knew how to grow and sell the raw coffee beans, she had to learn the art of roasting coffee. She and Patrick bought a roaster and spent a couple of years perfecting their roasting methods. If you come to the café on a Saturday afternoon you might find Patrick roasting the beans that will be sold for that week.

Because they roast their beans in-house, Café Kili is able to offer better prices for their coffee than the corporate chains. Once a month they have coffee tastings. It’s a great opportunity to sample different blends. They value their customers’ opinions and feedback. And like any good mom and pop shop, you can be certain that Rose and Patrick know the names and drinks of all their regular customers.

If the coffee alone weren't reason enough to patronize Café Kili frequently, the decor will surely draw you in for an extended stay. Rose single-handedly designed the interior around the textures and colors of Africa. Real bamboo trim, comfortable seating, free wi-fi and warm lighting create a welcome atmosphere spacious enough to be suitable for group meetings, first dates, poetry readings, studying and even live music. If you really want an idea of what I'm talking about, the photograph and colors used in this article’s layout were shot on location.

Café Kili was recently voted one of the Top 10 coffee houses in the country by The Huffington Post—well-deserved praise for Patrick and Rose and a testament to the foundation of excellence that they have established and maintained throughout the years.

Café Kili's location in Temple Terrace is on Fowler Avenue right off the corner of 56th Street behind the Applebee’s. If you rarely visit or pass through Temple Terrace, consider making the trip if only to stock up on a bag or two of “Kenyan Gold” (their premium house blend which they sell by the pound).

I'm certain that after an initial taste of the coffee and the hospitality, you'll find a reason to come back again and again.


Originally published in the Winter 2010 edition of VERTICAL Tampa Bay magazine. Republished here with permission. Photo by Papergirl Press.

Apocalypse How?

Imagine the hit theme song, sung by Susan Boyle, from the blockbuster film Deepwater Horizon. directed by James Cameron and starring Kevin Costner. Full-scale surface and underwater sets will be built and principal photography will take place off the coast of New Zealand. You'll marvel at the cgi renderings of oil-drenched pelicans and beached dolphins with bubbling crude oozing from their blowholes. Ee-vil corporate villains with British accents and majestic score composed by James Horner will tell the story of greed, love and betrayal in the age of corporate sovereignty, set against the worst man-made environmental disaster in US history.

The elevator pitch for such a film—if it weren't so utterly absurd, so utterly horrific, so utterly true is likely to be circulating among Hollywood execs just like the millions of gallons of crude circulating in the gulf at this very moment.

The uncertainty of what lies ahead for the gulf and the dread of what lies beneath its surface is not something that VERTICAL can consciously ignore. Our mission is to celebrate all that is precious and sublime in Tampa Bay. Preservation of the environment is intrinsic to the fulfillment of that mission. We are reminded by this tragedy that the gulf is our goodwill ambassador. To sustain our way of life, the gulf must be sustained. Though, not just for the sake of our leisure and our business, but for the sake of the gulf itself—and its is-ness.

Originally published in the Summer 2010 edition of VERTICAL Tampa Bay magazine. Republished here with permission.
Photo by Braun Tomlinson