By Harry Banks
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The honey-n-caramel complexioned young thing is my wife now, but
I’m reminiscing of one day in particular when I realized how lucky I
was that Dennie was in my life:
It’s a Saturday in October. The weather is on point for a lazy
autumn day. The temperature is 73 degrees, the sky is blue, and the sun
resembles a faded Brach’s butterscotch disk as it smiles down at
I’m driving down a booming strip called Metcalf Avenue that
afternoon, taking note of the blinding sunglare that dances off the
windshields and chrome of cars driving northbound on Metcalf. The
sunglare on each and every vehicle is in constant motion, as though
being manipulated by unseen strings that stretch to outer space. The
effect produces a four-mile line of automobiles that are so distorted
from the unapologetic glare of the sun, that they resemble futuristic
land-roaming craft from a late 60s/early 70s low-budget space movie.
The Wu Tang Clan’s Enter The Wu Tang: 36 Chambers CD is bumping lowly in the stereo
system of my silver 1997 Toyota 4runner. I’m bobbing my head to the
classic hip-hop beats. Although 36
Chambers is four years old, it is still a highly-rotated CD in my
collection. It stands head and shoulders above Wu
Tang Forever, which was released earlier in the year and is already
collecting dust in my CD collection.
All twelve tracks on 36 Chambers are tight, but I’m really waiting for my favorite song
to play. “Bring Da Ruckus” is the first song on the CD, but I have
the CD player set on RANDOM, so the song ends up being somewhere in the
middle of the sequence.
When my song finally comes on, I turn the volume way up, not
caring who I offend. Bring The
Muthafuckin’ Ruckus/Bring The Muthafuckin’ Ruckus/Bring The Mutha,
Bring The Muthafuckin’ Ruckus/Bring The Muthafuckin’ Ruckus,
goes the chorus as I bob my head harder. I’m feeling the song. Every
bit of it, from the chorus that assaults, to the angry flow of the
lyrics to the simple, hard-knocking beat to the industrial cling-clang
of percussive metal.
“Bring Da Ruckus” is that rare hip-hop song that bridges the
gaps that exist between all of us hip-hop heads. The song pleases an
auburn-haired, dreadlocked, bespectacled boho like myself. I have a few
punk rock friends who dig it. The song is also felt by thug niggas, as
well as underground hip-hop purists.
When “Bring Da Ruckus” ends, I turn the volume down, and
settle back into my seat. Driving past Kmart, or what some of us black
folks call Kmart’s, or in more extreme cases, Kmark’s, I take note
of the unique architecture of the building. I pay particular attention
to the front entrance, which resembles a small castle.
Nearing the 95th Street intersection, I’m undecided
as to whether I should try and speed up to beat the inevitable yellow
light, or slow down so that I can be ready to stop just in case the
yellow light suddenly appears.
I choose to speed up, and like clockwork, the green light turns
yellow as soon as my SUV crosses the pedestrian walking lane. After
getting across the intersection, I check in my rearview mirror for cops.
I’m relieved that there are no silver Overland Park Police cruisers
coming up behind me with flashing red lights.
I’m relaxed, thinking of what a pleasant day it had been, and
the wonderful remainder of the day that lies ahead. Me and Dennie are
going to the Worlds of Fun amusement park later in the evening, but
we’re wanting to visit the zoo first. Dennie also wants to take me
shopping at Oak Park Mall, since Sunday is my birthday. She’s going to
buy me FUBU, Tommy Hilfiger, and Karl Kani, but I don’t mind her
spending money on me for clothes. After all, I dipped into my savings
account and bought her an original Basquait print for her
Shopping, the zoo, dinner, Worlds of Fun. It is already half past
two o’clock, and the amusement park closes at ten, so I have no idea
of how we’re going to do all those things in less than eight hours. We
did, however, manage to pull it off. We had to rush around, but we had
fun. Me and my girl Dennie were able to enjoy ourselves for forty-five
minutes at Worlds of Fun before it closed.
Shortly after making a left turn on 119th Street,
I’m turned off by all the new shopping centers and housing
developments that I see. The architecture of the shopping centers is
dull, and the nearby housing developments are made up of hundreds of
homes that all look the same.
Although I’ve only been in Kansas City for four years, I can
see that the metropolitan area is becoming a victim of sprawl, in which
the outer-lying areas continue to boom while the core of the city
deteriorates. And the dull housing developments and shopping centers are
perpetuating that phenomenon to this day.
Passing the Court, a retirement community, or what some people
might call an upscale nursing home, I become sad because I am reminded
of my grandmother who lives in such a place. So young and full of ideas
at one point, then a respected educator who raised four sons by herself.
She went back to school to get her doctorate degree, then she became the
beloved principal of a reputable high school. Ten years later she was
recruited to run the school district. The district became one of the top
districts in the country during her tenure. She was revered. Her
admirers called her Miss President. All of that, only to be (virtually)
diagnosed as helpless a few years after retirement. No longer able to
care for herself, she is confined to the Extreme Care ward of a
retirement community in Florida.
My mood becomes heavy when I think of the inevitable; of old age
and sickness coming to get me. I find it hard to enjoy the music now, so
I turn the volume way down.
A few minutes later, I’m stopped at an intersection. My dark
mood is suddenly lifted when I realize that I’m getting closer to my
destination. My girlfriend’s apartment. Dennie lives way out in
hypersuburbia, in a sprawling, isolated apartment complex near 151st
& Mission Road. She likes living way out because she can’t stand
living in the city. She has to spend two hours driving to and fro art
school everyday, but the time spent driving is the only time that she
can listen to her music as loud as she wants to. She can’t listen to
loud music at home, because her roommate is always studying.
The green light is on point as I press on the accelerator. Dennie is on point as I think of all the things we have in common. We both despise Kansas City, and are here only on a transient basis. We are in our senior year at the Kansas City Art Institute, majoring in graphic design. Both of us come from upper middle-class families. Dennie and I both are from Colorado; she’s from Denver and I’m from Colorado Springs.
We’ve been together for a year now, and as my SUV gets closer
to her apartment, I realize that in our relationship we trust each
other, yet I don’t have the nerve to propose to her. She says she
loves me, but I don’t know if her feelings for me are as strong as the
feelings I have for her.
After driving for nearly an hour from my apartment in Wyandotte
County to Dennie’s apartment complex, I pull my SUV into the parking
space next to her SUV.
I walk across the parking lot towards Dennie’s apartment,
amazed by the serenity of hypersuburbia. Surrounding the apartment
complex on the north, east, and west are hill upon rolling hill of green
grass. To the south is a wooded area that seems to stretch into the next
county. Cars fill the parking lots of the entire apartment complex, yet
the only sounds I hear are those of nature. There is not a soul outside
doing anything; no young man waxing his car while listening to loud rock
music, nobody utilizing the basketball or tennis courts. The area is too
quiet for my taste. How can Dennie
stand to live out here, I wonder as I walk through the entrance of
I decline taking the stairs to the ninth-floor to her apartment,
opting for the elevator instead. There is an elderly white couple
waiting for the elevator as well. They stare at me like I’m an alien
from outer space. Perhaps it’s my auburn-colored spiked dreadlocks or
my purple Doc Martens or the plaid wide-leg JNCO pants or my black
t-shirt that reads: USE A
SKATE GO TO PRISON or the fact that I stand 6’4” and tower over
their shrinking bodies. The old couple keeps looking at me, but it
doesn’t bother me, as I am use to it. I’m an art student, a young
black bohemian who listens to punk music sometimes, frequents coffee
shops and has fashion tastes that are “out there”; so everywhere I
go, people look at me and wonder.
The elevator finally arrives after what seems like an eternity. I
walk on, turn around, and hold the door for the elderly couple. But they
just stand there, looking at me coldly with their faded blue eyes. The
message is quite clear, so I let the door close, and press the lighted
button that reads: 9.
When Dennie answers her door with the biggest sunshine smile on
her face, I realize what a fortunate man I am. She seems as happy to see
me as I am to see her. I’m feeling everything about the young lady. My
little hip-hop/boho queen. The Wu Tang Forever t-shirt that I bought
her. Her straight-permed hair that is dyed light brown and hanging a
little past her shoulders. The slender face, juicy lips, pointed chin,
and brown eyes. Her Kikwear blue jeans that fit so wide at the bottom
opening that I can barely see her 3-inch heeled, old school Adidas
“Hello Jay,” she says, stepping out of the apartment. She
kisses me on the lips and gives me a hug. “Are you ready to go now, or
would you rather come in and hang out for a little while?”
“I’m ready to get on up,” I say, “We have a lot to do,
and not much time before Worlds of Fun closes.”
“That sounds good to me,” says Dennie. She closes the door
behind her, and locks it.
“Are you going to bring your purse?” I ask, not use to seeing
her without a purse or backpack.
“Nah, I’m using my wallet today,” she says, “With all the
running around we’re going to do, I don’t feel like toting a purse
“I hear you,” I say.
Once outside, we are walking towards the SUVs. I’m assuming
that we’re riding in my Toyota 4runner, but Dennie veers to the right,
heading to her Jeep Cherokee.
“Where do you think you’re going?” I ask.
Dennie puts her hands on her hips, and turns to me. “I want to
do the driving, Jay,” she says. “You know how much I love to
“That’s cool,” I say. It doesn’t matter one way or the
other to me who is driving or whose vehicle we are in, just as long as
We both get into the Jeep. Dennie backs out of the parking space,
and speeds out of the parking lot. We head up the quiet suburban road.
I’m all happy because I’m anticipating a fun night with a person who
is not only a lover, but also a best friend and buddy.
That wonderful day happened three years ago today. Me and Dennie
have both accepted high-paying graphic design jobs at reputable firms.
Both firms are here in Kansas City, so it looks like we’ll be stuck
here for a minute. But we’re still trying to get out of here as soon
as possible and move to Atlanta though, because if we don’t we’ll
get too comfortable in Kansas City and may not want to leave.