L’Chayim: I Wish For You 100 Years of Success, But It’s My Time

Jose Vilson Jose

2007 MeAh yes, a year in review, and how better to end the year than the same way I started it: discussing the things I learned. I’m always reflective, and always seeking new answers to the lessons and questions life teaches me on a daily, monthly, and yearly basis. Maybe someday I’ll walk in a path that’ll make me at one as I bury 2007. (You might want to sit down for this one.)

A Recap of Some of The Events of My 2007:

In the winter, I rediscovered my love for the Beatles after watching the cover band Strawberry Fields Forever at BB King’s. I had a small lust-crush on Nicole Scherzinger, and just finished reading 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene, The Bad Guys Won by Jeff Pearlman, and Ladies and Gentlemen, The Bronx is Burning: 1977, Baseball, Politics, and the Battle for the Soul of a City, by Jonathan Mahler. My step-grandfather died, and I stopped caring about what everyone else thought about what I did in my classroom and stepped up my leadership.

Ralf Rakim MeIn the spring, my kids took the 8th grade math test and did pretty well in it, Whole Foods on the Lower East Side opened to my utter dismay, I rediscovered Gary Jules’ “Mad World,” YouTube had a channel looking for America’s Next Black Leader (whomp), I went to Detroit for a week to visit some friends here and there, I met Rakim in Syracuse (holla at ya boy …), met some world-famous b-boys from Planet B-Boy (the Tribeca Film Festival movie), and finished up 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. In the interim, I also partied a bit, saw almost every #1 or 2 movie of the season, and appeared on Comedy Central as an audience member while Artie Lange dissed me and Al Jackson praised me. My cousin Kevin also became the 4th graduate of the same junior high school and high school in our family.

In the summer, I was feeling Spiderman 3, Linkin Park, Grover Washington, Kool and the Gang’s “Summer Madness,” and Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser. Common (Finding Forever), Talib Kweli (Eardrum), Kanye West (Graduation) rocked my iPod with new albums every 2 weeks. I was also into Public Enemy, jury duty (because it ended in 2 days), Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation by Jeff Chang, visitors from Pittsburgh and Milwaukee. Oh yeah, and I was the featured artist for RainTiger.com’s online magazine (August 2K7). Skin loves summer. edit @ 245am: I keep forgetting things I did. I went to New Orleans, too. Lovely.

A-RodIn the fall, I started school again, prayed that A-Rod would become the hero for the New York Yankees’ 2007 championship hopes (not so much), I performed for a good crowd for the first time in a year thanks to Cathy Delaleu, got pissed at the Jena 6 incident, loved Across the Universe the movie and was reintroduced to Salma Hayek (yum), became a full fledged member of the Schomburg Center for Black Research, ruminated on the murder of Jayson Tirado (R.I.P.), watched American Gangster the film and bought the album by Jay-Z, found myself totally peeved at Jimmy’s BBQ on 34th St. Midtown here in NYC, and lamented Kanye West’s mom’s death. Oh yeah, and I went from Penny Harvest novice to Penny Harvest welterweight champion / coach in a matter of months.

In the winter, I found a liking for Led Zeppelin, Soul II Soul, Robbie Williams all over again, went to Atlantic City and shopped like I had serious money, ruminated on Will Smith’s I Am Legend, and had one of the greatest Christmas’ of all time.

As busy as that sounds, it still doesn’t encapsulate the 5 major themes of 2007 for me personally:

Kanye West Graduation5) I changed my blog platform from Xanga to The Jose Vilson, completely and utterly. It might seem insignificant to some, but I built a huge following in that Xanga blog, in the order of 300 or so readers a day and 200 or so random visitors from elsewhere. Eventually, though, I had to let it go, because I was growing into myself. My writing became more sophisticated, and the writing demanded a new, and more grown, platform. I’ve gotten so much love from the blogosphere that there’s no sense in ever going back. I even got nominated for some awards, something I certainly couldn’t have planned. I still visit my old blog for nostalgia, but then I get reminded why I left in the first place. Other minor reasons included the lack of maturity I found in some circles, and the lack of truly insightful blogs there. The ones I still subscribe to there are the last of the dying breed, and I wish them well. The grass is definitely greener here.

Song: “I Wonder” by Kanye West

4) The first kids I ever taught graduated from the 8th grade. I was almost in tears looking at some of my kids grow up. My first homeroom, the one I battled with, the one that threw me a surprise birthday party but a few months later almost made me quit teaching, the one that scarily resembled me as a class, were graduating, along with other students who I also came to enjoy and cherish. While I had already taught an 8th grade class, this was the class I felt most attached to. No matter their shortcomings, I still hold that first homeroom in such high regard. It also gave me a sense of fatherhood: they were my children for better or worse, and they taught me as much as I taught them.

Song: “Nobody Told Me” by John Lennon

Indira and I, CCNY Grads3) I graduated from CCNY, finally. I’m the first member of my family with a masters and that’s something I’m very proud of. The struggles that Indira and I went through for those years in the Fellows program taught us a lot about balancing work, school, and personal schedules. Yet, it’s also the main reason why I’m a proponent of the Fellows program: without it, I’d have a much harder time becoming a teacher, and that’s something I tried to convey to the 2000 or so new Fellows who came to the event in Lincoln Center. The NYCTF provided me with an opportunity of a lifetime, and for that I’m thankful.

Song: “Oh My God” by Jay-Z

2) I got a girlfriend. I kid you not, the faces went from awe and astonishment to dismay and eventually congratulations. While I won’t divulge all the details of the relationship, I will say that I was about as surprised as my friends were and still are. Of course, some people weren’t too pleased about the news, but fuck ’em. I would love to talk about how fuzzy and horny she makes me feel inside, but I’m generally a private person, even if there’ve been hints of this all over my blog. We have some issues to work out on both sides of the equation but she’s great, and I love her. Word.

Song: “Umbrella” by Rihanna

My Father1) On January 24th, I came to the realization that I’m a grown-azz man. Not that I didn’t know that before, when I was already paying bills to my neck, or visiting my younger brother Ralf in Syracuse 3 years after my own graduating. I just felt it. All of a sudden, the first trip to Miami in February became that much easier when I had to visit my then-healthy father. For the first time ever, I felt I had forgiven him for being himself, and if something fatal would happen to him after that, I’d be liberated from my own mental tyranny. When his condition almost proved fatal, I went to Miami again in September and delivered some spirit into his comatose body. He couldn’t even remember me being there when he came to, but it’s OK. As I told my brothers at the time, I didn’t get angry when I found out more about his lecherous ways, his chauvinism and homophobia, or his inability to just hang out with his son, who recently graduated with a masters and paid his own way to his father’s house. When I looked in the mirror, I saw pieces of him. The charm, the charisma, and the easy-going energy that kept even the most pessimistic of us enthralled by him. When I saw him lying at his bed, I immediately caught the resemblance even down to his hands and feet. I already made my peace, so that sense of angst or pain was subdued by a sense of love.

While in Miami that first time, I just cranked up my iPod and all I kept hearing was this song:

bonospecies.jpg And you feel like no-one before
You steal right under my door
And I kneel ’cause I want you some more
I want the lot of what you got
And I want nothing that you’re not

Everywhere you go you shout it
You don’t have to be shy about it …

Song: “Original of the Species” by U2

I wrote out my thoughts and there it was, and soon came to be. G_d speaks to us in mysterious ways …

jose, who will take 10, cube it, multiply it by 2, and add the cube of 2 with a bottle of Korbel …