Monday, February 18, 2008

breaking through language barriers

I am, as is evident from my intermittent accent (you try saying Darryl without one!), from New Jersey. And I am, as is evident from my local tax rants, living in California. Here in Oakland, we revere the hip hop titans. We love us some R&B. It's no town without motown. And so on. So as a member of the white minority, I struggle like the rest to "do the uh oh" and other assorted gymnastic dance maneuvers.

Still, now and again, we find ourselves involved in the unforeseen no-harm-done cultural train wrecks of our otherness. Last night, I took a four-hour drive. The formula could cure anything: an engine with racing development widgets, an empty and open road (12am to 4am), and a fine soundtrack. It all made the passage of time celestial. Fog in the skies, doug firs and blue spruce blurring by me, I ricocheted around Sugarloaf Road and Idylwild, alongside the ice grass at Ocean Beach, and over the great Golden Gate. The world opened up, every sorrow fell to the wayside, and I decided, among other things, that human nature is inherently, by virtue of a biological need to survive, good.

But that's a post for the philosophy boards. Here, I want to talk Beyonce. Among the soundtrack items was a song meant to be sexy, redemptive, inspirational. It is written for many different circumstances, a simple solution for women in long-term relationships that have since gone cold, for wronged women on the prowl, or for women who are alone and just want to feel sexy (yes!). Now I really want to be Oaklandish. I really want to feel this song. But when Beyonce says, "put your freakin' dress on," I, being from Jersey, receive it less as instruction to put on a dress that will facilitate my success on the dance floor than an exasperated imperative. Read: put your damn dress on already. Put the stupid dress on already. Do you see what is happening here?

In Jersey, freakin', alas, is not about hip gyrations. It is about someone who has had enough of your shenanigans and just wants you to get the flipping dress on already. So, despite an ipod chock full of liberation playlists, I could not help but replay that one song like a toddler watching Telletubbies. Again, again, again, Beyonce made me laugh with unwitting Jersey impertinence. It is this goofiness that makes life good, that allows me to drive outside my life.

"Put your freekum dress on," she says.

Okay, fine! It's on. Now what's next?