Tuesdays with Biggie

28 September 2018


Cornell West told me that in the original version of The Great Gatsby, Gatsby was a light-skinned black man passing. Then I looked it up. This is an actual literary theory written by a CUNY professor, a theory so threatening to “our” idea of what it means to be “American” that the theory was rejected completely by academia. There is exactly one copy of this paper in all of New York City and it lives in the reference archives at the Shomburg Center in Harlem. When I went there to read it, they gave me a temporary ID, and I saved that temporary ID for the Shomburg Center because it’s the closest thing I will ever have to a hood pass. Tuesdays with Biggie

Tuesdays with Biggie
Getting ready to die
Drove my Chevy to the levy but
Hurricane Katrina
And them good ole boys they were
Sippin on supremacy
Intibated infants grippin on the nipples of the mothers of their enemies
Biggie was a hood hero
A crime that marked him for planetary exile
Made him a born sinner
Made him America’s nemesis
Because he had the audacity to dream
To own BOTH a Super Nintendo AND a Sega Genesis
Like How Dare He?
Like Who The Fuck Do You Think You Are?
Like didn’t he know that Gatsby was white?
But actual factually Gatsby was mixed
And Biggie was Gatsby before Jay-Z was Gatsby before Leo D. was Gatsby before Robert Redford was Gatsby, and before ALL THAT Gatsby was a light-skinned black man pass-ing
And it wasn’t JUST that he was new money and criminally-involved that Gatsby had to die
Gatsby HAD to die because How Dare He?

Biggie standing on the dock staring out into the bay at the green light in the distance
The vast unobtainable America so close he could almost touch it
But it was all a…
Gatsby yellow staring across the blue to the green
But it was all… You see?
These colors we wear
Are primary

These colors we wear are primary.

Gatsby at the Cotton Club ordering a T-bone steak, cheese eggs and Welch’s Grape
And the old money looking at him like he’s a thug
Like How Dare He?
Like Who The Fuck Does He Think He IS?

But don’t You see? Biggie knew very well who he was which is why he wasn’t going to let anybody hold him down which is why he stood up in this middle of that club and and made a toast to all the teachers he had who told him he’d never amount to nothing.

Lift a glass, you see Biggie had come a long way to this blue lawn and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. Lift a glass to all the people who called the police on him when he was just trying to make some money to feed his daughter. Lift a glass because his dream must have seemed so close.

He didn’t know that it was already behind him.

It was somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night. Where the police scan for dangerous darkness, and extinguish lights.

Lift a glass motherfucker. Because LOOK at all of this! And we used to eat sardines for dinner…

Biggie believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch our arms further . . . And one fine morning—

Gatsby made a change from a common thief
Out of the corner of his eye Biggie saw that the blocks of the sidewalk really
formed a ladder and mounted to a secret place above the trees–he could
climb to it, if he climbed alone, and once there he could suck on the
pap of life, gulp down the incomparable milk of wonder.

But like Gatsby, he didn’t climb alone and he couldn’t have climbed alone if he tried.

He said he was livin life without fear, but I never believed him.
Lift a glass.
Lift a glass because we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
Lift a glass to this impossible task: to change the unchangeable past.

– Michael Angelo Baje One Tumbarello

Leave a Reply