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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 Kansas City.

    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 birthday present.

    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 her building.

    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 sneakers.

    “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 around.”

    “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 drive.”

    “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’re together.

    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.


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