Blue Hurt, Blue Lines, California, Common, Cuban, Death, Grandfather, Hip-Hop, Jay-Z, Kenneth A Suffern Jr, Key Yemaya Walker, MW, Myla, Myla Watson, Myla Windham, New York, psychology, Queens, Rene Sotolongo, Sacramento, School, Tower Records, UNC Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Origins of Blue Lines manuscript…Part 1
Let’s say that somewhere around 1996 I wanted to write a manuscript, book, whatever. It was more of a focus on what was one of my loves at the time, Hip-Hop, therefore the plan was to tell the story of an aspiring MC and the girl that he meets along his way as a struggling artist. Other than the concept, there was no plan for the story, no outline, development, or clear cut path for this to go. It simply consisted of its Hip-Hop background, and somehow creating a story that at the end of the day was a parallel using live characters to illustrate that “love.” I guess for those who listen, Common’s “I Used to Love H.E.R.” would be the best musical description of what my initial aim was.
So it begins…
With that said, the initial 5 page story followed the story of an unnamed male protagonist, and pieces of him meeting a female antagonist simply names “L.” Now, if you will indulge me, again we are looking at 1996-ish, Lauryn Hill was being promoted at the “IT” woman in Hip-Hop. Rather than initially using her name, I simply shortened it to “L” until I could actually name the character. Character names were pretty bad, her friend was listed as (homegirl) , and his friend was “Mello Smoothe” a self moniker that a friend gave himself around the time that Maxwell came on the music scene. This initial version grew from one page, to two pages of scatter story development, and stalled out at 5 pages that gave a clear development of the opening, middle and an outline of an ending, the only problem is that it stalled out there. And the dream to write a manuscript was stalled by an aspiring writer who had no inspiration.
Let me first relate, that although many of you know who I am, and most should, because you either “became a friend” after I replied with my real name, or I made the request with such, using a character name from my manuscript as my alias does allow me some distance from my feelings. I seriously cannot call myself Blue. In 1997 when my Cuban born grandfather passed in March after complications from a January car accident took his life, I had to reevaluate certain aspects of my life. In the grand scheme of things, to lose my full blooded lineage to the island of Cuba really ripped into me. Growing up, especially in the 80’s in GA, the most I knew about that being here was that I was Hispanic, or “Spanish.” With our true patriarch gone, I had to look at how do I fulfill my goals, 1) school; 2) write (my rationale being that if I had made the decision to do this, I have to do this). I asked myself, how do I focus this story, how do I formulate my thoughts? Although still jumbled, and although the first version of the current embodiment of Blue Lines was a little more than a year off, the catalyst was mere months away.
Disclaimer – Before I continue, I would like to make two very important points in regard to my material and to anyone’s feelings. Because of my intellectual property, and my goal for this to begin my being published, I have to be vague in many areas of the story’s actual content. I would like to add that should anyone be offended by ANYTHING that I go forward with: 1) if it will offend you, please read objectively, my goal is not and has never been to embarrass or disrespect anyone; 2) although I am explaining why Blue Lines was written, this is a public forum and names will be omitted to protect the innocent; 3) if you know me now, and did not then, this also applies as this relates to why I wrote my work.
While we were in New York to tend to the funeral details for the only grandparent that I had in my life, I had to hush my feelings to make sure that my mother was ok (the phone call to my Father’s house the day we were to drive to New York in which she cried “Why did God take my Daddy,” to her eldest son. To have a Father who although he and my mother had been separated still looked to him as a Father figure) I had to take care of what was set before me. But the malady of the entire predicament was that in the end, I lost my opportunity to grieve. And, I would not cry for over three years. With that said, let me delve into why this portion is subtitled “Life.” I was still in school, and upon my return to Atlanta, I had to either start classes again, or audit classes that I was previously taking. The easiest way to not deal with my hardship, was to submerge myself fully in my work. During my absence, I had a Philosophy professor who helped me greatly in getting my things in order while I was gone, and as the next quarter began, I audited his class, but the effort I gave outweighed anything that I had when I was previously taking the class, in my static seat in the rear of the class. Having fostered a relationship with the professor, it didn’t matter whether I sat in the front or rear of the room, I was always a target of the coursework and of course I had to always be prepared. And although there was a lot I could recall as if it were yesterday, and reading certain scenes in my manuscript remind me of the inspiration for them being written, I do not have any idea of when I finally noticed her.
To set the scene, this was the last quarter prior to summer (before the University System of Georgia schools made the change to semesters) and again my goal was school, feeling was secondary. I cannot recall the initial moment I noticed, but I can clearly remember when I saw this seemingly shy and quiet girl enter the class at some point during that spring, and I remembered that the boy who couldn’t feel felt like he was back in high school again. She had to feel my eyes burning in the back of her neck and braids (whoa, I wish I could add that to the manuscript) as she sat in front of me. Although I was taken aback, I knew she wouldn’t sit in front of me again, and although I noticed her, she didn’t notice me. The quarter continued, and (that was 1997, but I will relate it as best as I can) she continued to sit in the same general area, but our communication was limited to random eye contact, and my marveling at this young woman that I eventually had inner strife over. My discord was based around a simple concept, “did the events that led to my auditing this class tie back to her? And was I putting too much value on the unknown?” As I went on, I used my classes as a barrier, never really said anything, and spoke to two people who ended up a couple, about how I didn’t know how to speak to this girl in my philosophy class. The quarter ended, I aced my classes, we somehow mustered a few words to each other, and in the most anticlimactic end to the school year I somehow got her to drop me off at the train station.
“I would ask her out,” I thought. I got in the car, we took off. Jay-Z’s Reasonable Doubt album played in the car (an album that I had overlooked numerous times, and even when my friend Myla Windham, God rest the dead, a former buyer with Tower Records had him in store, we entered saw him sitting at the empty table with Myla, laughed, I waved at her and then we left. Jigga, I’ve more than made up for that one, you live in my iPod…LOL).
“What’s your major,” I asked.
“Psychology,” was the one word answer.
“Whoa,” I thought, “this is going to be harder than I thought.” “Do you like Jay-Z,” I asked…yes I know, GREAT question.
“Yes,” she answered. This was getting brutal quickly.
“Maybe this will open her up,” I thought. “Where are you from in California?”
“Sacramento,” she simply replied.
“REALLY,” I thought…”I’m drowning.” By the time I got to the station, I failed to ask her out, but more so, had no idea about what had just happened. Now you’re reading and trying to figure out, how the hell did he find inspiration to write this book? Ahh, part 2 next week…Tuesday June 30th.
The manuscript Blue Lines is a fictional period piece that takes place at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill between the years of 1997 – 1998. Loosely based on true events, and experiences during that time, told through the eyes and voice of the main female protagonist, a freshman first attending the school.
Always feel free to give your comments, and/or suggestions.