Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Tight Like This: A Tale of High Adventure in Ancient Nubia

I'm bumping this to the top of the queue. Why? Because I can, that's why. Because the world's got to change and it's got to change NOW. You know, now's the time! We've been mugged by the future and don't realize it. We're still waiting for jet packs when the time for jet packs has done come and gone. There isn't going to be any AGI (artificial general intelligence) coming down the pike, not in time to make a difference and maybe not ever. Get real and figure out how we're doing to deal with a network of self-driving cars that can learn. Anyhow, this is going to require major changes in how we think, and that's going to require a new mythology. I figure maybe old Golfotep and the Mystic Jewels have something to say about that.

I published this on The Valve some years ago and, as the introductory note says, I'd published it on Meanderings, now defunct, before that. No doubt I will republish it somewhere else sometime in the future. Or maybe someone will make it into a movie. Who knows.
Oh, and be sure to check out Tight Like This (this is Wynton Freakin' Marsalis, Armstrong link in text below) High drama & low-down hoochie cooch. 


Jivometrics

Back in the mid 1990s, about the time Mosaic was being unleashed on the internet, I met a fellow in the African-American Forum at AOL Online. Called himself Cuda Brown. We hit it off and began emailing privately. Before you know it we were collaborating on a website called Meanderings - which later became Gravity. Cuda did most of the work, including all of the HTML coding and the back-end database coding. I helped editorially, wrote some pieces, and did some art.

One day I sent Cuda an email containing a spur-of-the moment paragraph satirizing Afrocentrism, something much discussed at Meanderings. While Cuda and I were sympathetic, we were doubtful about the more inventive flavors of the brew. Thus I had improvised something about golf being invented by one Pharoah Golfotep: the primo white-shoe Anglo country club plus-fours game was invented in ancient Egypt. What could be sillier? Over the next two weeks, however, this little bit of satire jes grew and grew, like Topsy, and became something else.

So, we posted it in Meanderings, which may have become Gravity by that time, I forget. And people read it. In time, however, Gravity died. Since then I've been looking for a place to revive “Fore Play.” Well, here it is. Let's call it a cultural studies primer for the new millennium.

Some of it is a bit dated. Who remembers Dennis Rodman, much less his experimental tonsorial stylings? Back then Tiger Woods was more potential than achievement – but what potential! – while boom boxes have now bifurcated into iPods and beat boxes. "Muggles" hadn't become a Potteresque term of art for – well, just what exactly, non-magicals? (I've never read any of the books.) Back then I used it as the name of a Louis Armstrong blues and I'm sticking to it. It's also old New Orleans slang for something Bill Clinton didn't inhale.

Otherwise, it's pretty much now as it was then. Only back then the turn of the millennium was in the future. Now it's in the past.



Fore Play:

A Lesson in Jivometric Drummology



Jefferson Ribonucleic Parker IV

aka

Mr. Ribs


Tiger Woods is only the most recent in a long line of fine black golfers. In saying that I refer to players other than the moderns such as Charles Sifford, Jim Thorpe, Jim Dent, Lee Elder, Calvin Peete, and Renee Powell. Truth be told, the tradition of sepia swing masters started in ancient Egypt, where the game was invented. In that company Woods would be no more than a middling player.

By today's standards Tiger is ferociously talented and filled with promise for the future. Perhaps he'll become the best in post-modern times, the primo putter of the 21st Century, the first master to break par on the New Savanna. But those African drivers of ancient Egypt were giants the like of which haven't been seen in thousands of years.

Their stories, like so many stories, have been suppressed by the Europeans. Fortunately many of those stories have been collected by The Order of Mystic Jewels for the Propagation of Grace, Right Living, and Saturday Night through Historic Intervention by Any Means Necessary. The Jewels are dedicated to preserving the ancient stories and to intervening in history in ways variously clever and indirect. They are the chief source of that version of Afrocentric thinking known as Jivometric Drummology. In her classic study, Klactoveededstene: Riffing the Noumena, Ella Birks Roach defined the basic concept thus:
Jivometric Drummology: A philosophical system grounded in African and African-American musical practice. “Drummology” indicates that the governing logos is that of the drum, of rhythm, of hands and sticks coaxing sound from skin, of people joining together, each playing a simple rhythm, with the many simple rhythms melting into a single stream of infinite diversity. “Jivometric” is here because of the way it rolls off the tongue and tickles the ear; its meaning is secondary to its sound. Jivometrics is thus a principle of grace. When jivometrics is in play outer sonic auras join in the creation of tones played by no one, but heard by all. A treatise may have drummological ideas, but if the language lacks grace, then the treatise is not jivometric -- jiveturkey is all too often the appropriate term. In the most profound works of this school jivometrics and drummology are joined through agape.
The Mystic Jewels, however, are not mere signifiers. They signify with a stern purpose. For example, Harriet Beecher Stowe was invented by the Mystic Jewels. They knew the abolitionists would never get beyond a lot of grand indignant talking so they figured a novel that stirred the imagination would be just the thing. A light-skinned sister named Eleanor Gough McKay changed her name to Harriet Beecher, married Calvin Stowe, and wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin. That book, as President Abraham Lincoln acknowledged, is what gave the North the guts to wage the Civil War.

Anyhow, my mother's father, Cassius Photon Gaillard, aka Slim, was a Mystic Jewel and took a special interest in the history of golf. The following story is based on information from his papers.




The Origin of Golf

and

the Lights in the Sky



Golf was invented by the ancient Egyptians – well, that's what we call them now, but they were really Nubians, and pround of it, too. Most of the details have been lost, but the general shape and thrust of the story has been preserved.

It began in the reign of Pharaoh Ramses Golfotep LVII of the 'N Baa Dynasty. One day Rams was hanging out with some of his friends in the Lark Meadow gazebo at his summer palace. As usual, they were playing bid whist and sipping Mount Gay and Coke, with a twist of lemon. As so often happens, they got to talkin' trash about their wives and girl friends. Ramses talked about how he particularly liked going into a special glade with his wife Cleopatra and a boom box loaded with some righteous jams. The best time was early evening when things were cooling down and the sun lit the sky with orange fire. They'd meander down this long narrow opening among the palms and get to a secluded spot ringed with patches of sand. The ground was firm and the grass kept closely cropped so they could dance freely. Inevitably the dancing would lead to a little fooling around, and that little fooling around generally led to more and before you know it Cleo was baking Ramses' sweet potato in her oven. That was some fine sweet potato pie they'd cook up. Yes indeed.

So, Ramses and his friends kept talking and drinking and talking and drinking and before you knew it they were chasing a lemon around, trying to roll it into an emply goblet that had fallen on the ground. It was a lot of fun and they decided to do it again. Once a week or so they'd get together in the gazebo, break out the Mount Gay, and go out to the Lark Meadow to fool around with the lemons. In the course of about a year or so they structured this camelsplay into the game we now know as golf.

The ancient game was a bit different from the modern one. In the first place, the course was layed out in three sets of nine holes, for a total of 27, rather than the modern 18. 27 is the 3rd power of 3, and thus brings the basic design into agreement with the ternary basis of the underlying rhythms in ancient Egyptian music. Par three holes typically varried between 200 and 250 meters while par fives were between 500 and 600 meters. Par for a single round was 108.

However, the most significant differences between the ancient and modern games involved the finely-tuned geometric judgment and kinematic finesse of greens play. The ancients mastered putting so quickly that the rules had to be changed to make putting even more difficult. Inspired by Monty Python's Ministry of Silly Walks routine, the rules committee, officially called the Jive Adjudicators and Soul Satisficers (JASS), required that all putts be executed while the player is standing on only one leg, with alternation from one leg to the other being required from one green to the next. When that became too easy they decided that all putts less than a meter long were to be executed from a headstand position. On the front nine players were required to hold the putter in one hand only, their choice, using the other hand to maintain balance. On the middle nine they were required to hold the putter in both hands. The concentration and balance thus required taxed the ability of even those magnificent athletes. The JASS decided that those with a handicap above 13 were allowed to use a head ring to help them maintain stability. On the back nine players were required to use both hands for balance and support and to execute the stroke with their legs, which were bent from the hips so that they stood out at a right angle from the body. The caddy would then place the putter between the player's knees and the player would execute the stroke with a twisting movement starting in the torso and continuing to the legs. In time, as knowledge of the game made its way to India, meandering from village to village, town to town, and city to city, the system of putting postures became separated from golf itself and evolved into the spiritual practice of Hatha Yoga. But that's another story, to be told at another time, in another place.

There were a few players, Golfotep LVII among them, who mastered these challenges and aspired to more. For awhile Rams had been thinking about going to Dennis Rodman's hair stylist and, just as he had reluctantly concluded that such outrageousness would not be appropriate to his imperial position (not that there was anything imperial about some of the advanced Tantric positions he assumed with Cleo the Riggish, but that was private business between him and his beloved), he had yet another one of his jivometric mind jolts. The idea was to cut the grass on the greens to three lengths, 1.5, 2, and 2.5 centimeters, so that patterns could be inscribed on the surfaces of those greens. These patterns -- stripes and geometrics, swirls and fractals, lilies, roses, fig trees, the burning bush, ravens, lions, dolphins, Sojourner Truth, Daisetz Suzuki, Elvis Presley, Benazir Bhutto, Kareem Abdul-Jabar, Sequoyah, Martin Buber, Confucius, Kwame Nkrumah, passages from the Talmud, Lysistrata, Bardo Thodol, Roman de la Rose, Ramayana, Vibe, Othello, I Ching, Essence, Madame Bovary, Beloved, Alice in Wonderland, Sita Sings the Blues, The Garden of the Forking Paths, etc. - made it much more difficult to judge the ball's roll, as the path generally cut across, at least a few if not many, patches of varied-length grass. On those greens where pattern intricacy was above 5 on a 7-point scale the players were allowed to use computer simulation to test alternative combinations of stroke direction and force before actually executing the putt.

Clearly this new game required new gardens expressly designed to meet its demands in a surprising but felicitous way. And so Ramses issued a royal decree and it was built: the Imperial Xanadu Golforama. It had sparkling brooks and fragrant cedars among the ancient forests. The clubhouse was one of the wonders of the ancient world. The icy wine cellars had rare vintages from all over and the domed ballroom featured the finest music for your dancing pleasure: Jelly Roll Liszt and his Red Hot Peppers, Ammon Bechet and the Swinging Scarabs, the Nomo Percussion Ensemble, featuring Zutty Pozo Addy, Nina Elman and her Swing Sisters Seven, Rudy Zerafino's Copascetic Syncopators, Duke Prez Earl and HonoriffX, the Hawk Cheops Orchestra, Rama ben Jammin and The Great Sphinx Riddle Masters, and, greatest of all, the Mighty Royal Roof Raisers, led by Daniel Louis Satchotep II, also known as King Toot.

And toot he did. When he was on his form couldn't nobody keep from dancing and dancing. On a bad night he was better than most, popping those high C's like they were birds lined up on a telephone wire. But on a good night, the Tootman was the baaadest horn player in the world, and then some! He could bring sight to the deaf, sound to the blind, make a lame man talk, and inspire the dumb to walk. He was mean!

But he couldn't bring light to the night. And that was a problem. You see, in those ancient days there weren't any stars or planets. Not even the moon. Just the sun and the earth. So, it was real dark at night, darker than you can possibly imagine. Of course, they had torches and whale oil lanterns and Zippo lighters. They could see enough to get around. But it was a drag and so unfriendly. Now that people were always out late dancing it got real oppresive coming home under that infinitely dark sky.

Ramses thought about it every day for years and finally he had an idea. He got his clubs and several buckets of balls and went to the top of the highest pyramid. Once there he started hitting the balls as hard and far as he possibly could. 500 meters, 550, 563, he kept hitting them farther and farther. After three weeks he was approaching 600 meters. But ten weeks after that he wasn't hitting them any farther. He was up against a wall.

Then he had an another idea. He got King Toot's latest tape, Tight Like This, popped it in the Grand High Imperial Boom Box, and once more mounted the Big One. He teed up a Simulacrum II, took out his beloved No. 3 Jivometric Umoja Slammer and turned on the box. Slowly he started moving to the music, harmonizing his movement, summoning the Inner Spirit, the Ka force, easing into a righteous groove. As the music started coming up on Toot's first solo chorus Ramses laid his eye out there on the ball, went into a backswing and as Toots hit his first note, Ramses connected with the ball and knocked it a full kilometer. Solid.

Of course, since he started so high in the air, he had an advantage over contemporary golfers. Yet, a kilometer on the fly is pretty impressive anytime anywhere anyhow. The man was cooking! Within two hours he was up to ten kilometers. Breakthrough!

The next day he decided live music would be even more effective. He brought King Toot and the cats with him and they laid down some serious riffs. They started with a hot version of Struttin' with Some Barbecue - one of the Rib man's favorites, if I do say so myself, and I do - and Ramses swung into some serious slamming. By the end of the day he had knocked one all the way to the headwaters of the Nile. It flew so fast you could see a heat trail shimmering in the air. About ten minutes later they heard it land, tchhcck! in a bird's nest. Over the next few weeks that nest floated to the Mediterranean and became the island of Crete. The day after that King Toot's Gully Low Blues inspired Rams to loft five into North America where their impact craters became the Great Lakes.

On the next day Golfotep achieved orbit for the first time. Toot rounded 3rd base heading into the final chorus of Cornet Chop Suey and Whrzhaap! “To the moon Alice! To the moon!” There it was, for the first time, the moon. One groovin' swing by a man, one giant step for mankind. “Yo! Toot my man, how's 'bout a few hits of Muggles?” “You got it Rams.” Thuuunnk! with the No. 3 Slammer and Mars bestrode the heavens. A couple of choruses into Hotter Than That and Wuzzschkk! Venus was up there making bed-time eyes to the world. Then Mercury, Saturn, & its moons, Jupiter, & its moons, Neptune, Uranus, Pluto, & another handfull of moons scattered here and about. Of course, those aren't the real names. The real names have been lost, erased from history by Nineteenth Century European Running Dog Jackal Pig Facist Racially-Deluded Honkey Imperialist White-Face Round-Eyed Devils.

I digress.

That night there was light in the sky for the first time. The cool cats and jazz babies were delirious with joy. They danced and sang and balled the jack till the cows came marching Johnny home on the range where the buffalo roam from sea to shining amber waves of amen brothers and sisters praise the lord shalom-a-rama dama ding dong daddy from Dumas gonna do muh stuff with YOU baby! The day after that Ramses hit a zillion more into the heavens and created the asteroids. The next day he hit a gazillion more and there were all the stars and the so-called Milky Way - alas more white-washing.
A little smooth sippin'
Gets the honey drippin'
A little sweet talkin'
Gets the hips rockin'
A little righteous jammin'
Gets the backswing slammin'
That's how black folks invented golf and brought light to the night.
Kusa mura ya:
Na mo shiranu,
Shiroku saku.


[Among the grasses,
An unknown flower
Blooming white.]
And that's the truth, Ruth.





About the Author


Jefferson Ribonucleic Parker IV is Director of Abyssinian Memorial Parlor, Inc., a funeral home in Baltimore that was started by his great-grandfather, Jefferson Ribonucleic Parker I. His friends call him Mr. Ribs, mainly because they can't pronounce his middle name and don't much trust it. Mr. Ribs has a B.A. in Music Education from Morgan State University and a Ph. D. in History from Howard University. He's an honorary Fellow of the Mudbone Institute for Advanced Studies in the Sepia Sciences, past President of the Left Bank Jazz Society, has served on the board of Baltimore's Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance and maintains a box seat at the Camden Yards baseball park, “strictly for pleasure mind you, but I'm not adverse to spicing up my pleasure with a little business.”

2 comments:

  1. I do covet an honorary degree from Mudbone Institute for Advanced Studies in the Sepia Sciences.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Nina Paley, Ph.D. (honoris causa)

    ReplyDelete