Boots on the Ground

Boots on the Ground

I have maybe fifteen pairs of boots. Black, brown, tan, and about a dozen variations of those shades. I like them because they give me a sense of invincibility. They’re weighty, solid and make consequential sounds, no matter what surface they strike. The love affair started when I was in college in Poughkeepsie, New York. My school was populated by over-privileged kids who wanted to look like they were anything but. We wore army surplus coats, plaid shirts and distressed jeans. And boots; always boots. The most popular ones were Doc Martens. But as a budding Black nationalist, I wasn’t down for Docs because they looked too much like jack-boots, which I associated with Nazism.

Instead, I cobbled together my own look with anything but Docs. Cowboy boots, calf-high Frye boots that last a lifetime, and lace-up witch-boots (as I called them). It was a whole look, consistent with my artistic pretensions. My crowd—such as it was—was comprised of a similar tribe. We were sarcastic, and spoke to each other more with significant looks than with words. We were introverted, and thought too much; and thought too much of ourselves. We wore black almost every day, we smoked clove cigarettes, some of us did so-called “party drugs” like E and Special K, and most of us spent our weekends doing lots of weed. I mean, lots of weed.

A guy I knew, who wasn’t a close friend but in the second concentric circle of people I hung with, had a full-fledged marijuana farm in his dorm room, complete with sun lamps, humidifiers and dryers. I think he supplied the entire campus. His last name was Wolf, and he looked like one, so that’s what we called him. He had dark, shoulder-length wavy, tousled hair, dark eyebrows and an unnervingly penetrating stare. He was the kind of guy who was so beautiful, you’d have no trouble believing that he could get away with anything. And for a long time he did.

Someone snitched on him during senior year, and his pot operation was exposed to the college administration. But instead of expelling him, or even turning over to the police what was clearly a major drug operation, all they did was strongly suggest he find accommodations off-campus. And so he did, but he remained a full-time student in otherwise good standing, and even graduated on time with us, the rest of his class. And maybe my overactive imagination is making this part up, but I think I even recall that Wolf graduated with honors.

Somehow in my mind, what happened to (or rather what did not happen) to Wolf became symbolic of those days, those boot days. Rain or shine, spring, summer, fall or winter, I wore boots and I felt like I would live forever and my friends would live forever, and we would do big and amazing things. Bad things wouldn’t happen. Not to us. Just like nothing bad had happened to Wolf when his drug-dealing was discovered.

We would clomp through our world, making consequential, substantial sounds wherever we went, and we would leave a big mark. Wolf is a professional photographer now, and captures stark images which he displays on a blog site full of cryptic posts that lead me to believe he is still regularly smoking. Another friend, this one much closer, is an art dealer in New York City. Yet another is a yoga teacher.

Among us, I am the only one with a more conventional career in the law. I love my work. But I am aware of how the mark I leave is smaller, and more incremental. Ripples, rather than waves. And I no longer wear boots every day.

Word Soup

Word Soup

 

This is my inaugural post on The Spice Aisle (yay!) so I figured it might make sense for me to introduce myself. I’m Nia Forrester, and I write what I like to call ‘romantic realism’. I use that label because think it’s important to set clear and honest expectations for your readers up front. And since I break a lot of the rules of the romance genre, I never want folks to start one of my books expecting one thing, and then be crestfallen because they get something else entirely.

But enough about that. I’m sure I’ll have plenty of time during my run on The Spice Aisle to bore you with details about my “process.” This time though, I want to talk about my relationship with music. ‘Dinner Music’ sounds so polite, so it’s actually kind of funny that I’d get assigned to this feature because: the music I like most in the world, and which inspires me creatively is probably the least polite in all the world. Hip hop. That’s where I find my brightest sparks when looking for ideas.

What inspires me about that genre is the absolute rawness of it, the realness of it, and the word-soupy-ness of it. Hip hop artists pay attention to rhythm, rhyme and cadence above all else. And to do that, they use words in unconventional ways, and sometimes even make words up. They’ve changed how we use language in ways that even literary fiction writers–those connoisseurs of the written word–have not managed to do.

Here’s an example of what I mean. Like … what are they even saying, right? But the fearlessness of their creativity is undeniable, even if you hate hip hop … I don’t have to like what you create musically, but I’ll always love the creativity itself.

For someone who loves words as much as I do, but is sometimes frustrated by my inability to make them convey the mood and feel I want to communicate, I really dig it that the really talented hip hop artists are brave enough to do with words all that I cannot. Well … at least not yet.

Love & Light,

Nia

P.S. I lied. I actually do know what they’re saying. So if you’re curious, hit me up and I’ll send you the lyrics. 😉