TourLife: Things Passed and Things To Come

Written on April 3, 2016.

As I sit here staring out the window to an open field, I began to reflect on things passed and things to come. I am currently on a musical tour with my teammates and brothers Tek, Logic and Rock. Tek, Logic and myself started in the UK where we would spend the next 6 days, 5 of which we would be performing, dubbing this part of the tour, #SmifnWessunUKTour2016. We would then meet with Rock in France where we would spend the remainder of the tour together, dubbing this part of the tour #BootcampClikEuropeanInvasion.

The first stop was Manchester, U.K. The flight was pleasant not to mention I was still a little saucy from the day before. I cracked a few jokes then pretty much slept the entire flight. When we arrived we were the very last to go through the border patrol, save these two guys who look like they were there since yesterday, other than that we were the last men standing. They had to check our work permits, then we were on our way.

Tek asked the customs agent what the weather was like and he reluctantly replied, “it’s dry”. If anybody is familiar with London then you know it pretty much rains everyday. Upon exiting we met this slim, lanky fella with reddish hair and tones. He approached us calmly and introduced himself. “I’m Tish”, he said. I immediately thought, thats a girls name but I kept it to myself. He asked us how the flight was and we replied, “cool”. 

We’re not really ones for small talk, especially after a long flight. We just wanna get to the hotel, get food and possibly some rest before the show. We were pretty hungry so we went for food at a place called the Glasshouse, located in the hotel. I kept it simple with a beer battered cod fish and fries and a shrimp in garlic sauce appetizer. It was amazing. I then went to my room to prep for tonights show. 

My room was cozy, had a nice decor and a beautiful view of the city. This was in total contrast to where and how I spent my last days prior to coming to the U.K. The view out of my bedroom window is of construction sites with condos being erected for prospective tenants. There are three separate sites directly across the street from me. I witnessed most of the process, from the demolition to the first concrete being set. One of the three is scheduled to be done by the end of 2016 while the other two are scheduled to be done in 2017. 

Manchester, UK

Manchester, UK

Park Slope, Brooklyn

Park Slope, Brooklyn

There is also construction being done in my co-op building as well. We're getting a makeover consisting of new walls, doors and floors. It’s a lot of work not to mention a lot of noise. I was glad to leave that behind and looked forward to the solace of whatever hotel room I would be occupying for the next few weeks. 


When I finally got to my hotel room, I got my gear together then I laid down and went to sleep. About an hour or so later the guys knocked on my door to go to soundcheck. I declined and decided to stay in my room and get some extra rest, I needed to reserve some energy for tonights show and the long trip ahead. The last tour we had, I had a rough time. I lost my voice toward the end and on occasion, battled with fatigue. I was not gonna have that problem this time.

When they came back from soundcheck, Logic gave me the rundown on the venue and what time we were gonna be leaving. He also bought me a plate of some Indian curry chicken and rice platter. I was still full from earlier so I put that aside and went back to rest. 

Tish, the road manager for the UK dates, gave each of us a copy of the itinerary. He also blessed me with a little something extra gaining immediate favor in my eyes (laughs).

He was a younger kid, late twenties, early thirties. He had a calm demeanor and although he lived in Bristol, he didn’t have the heavy English accent. He later revealed that he was born in Canada and even lived in Asia for ten years as a kid. He mentioned that his dad is a Buddhist. I thought this must be the explanation for his balanced demeanor. I initially thought he was just a stoner (laughs). He later proved to be much more.

The first show was at Band On The Wall. When you enter, you have to go through the bar, many of the patrons saw us come in and immediately got excited. We continued to the backstage that was set up for us. I was still a little groggy so I went to the bathroom put some water on my face, poured a shot of Hennessy, “10 minutes”, the stage manager yelled out. 

The show was on and it was intense. The crowd was massive and I was overcome by an immense surge of energy. I didn’t realize what it was until we arrived at the part of our set where we do a dedication to rap artists that passed away, two of which happen to be our beloved brothers, Sean Price and most recently Phife Dawg of A Tribe Called Quest

When Logic put the Tribe song on something hit me right in my chest. It became hard to swallow and I just dropped my hands and head while my body went into a trancelike (head nod), this was followed by Sean Price’s Onion Head and I almost lost it. Phife Dawg passed away only days ago. Prior to the tour, I got a text from my friend Mike informing me of Phife’s untimely death and I was immediately stricken by the news. I remember replying, “c’mon man”, in a text message.  I didn’t want to believe it. Just a few days prior to hearing that news, I learned that a very dear friend of mine had lost his long grueling bout with cancer. 

My friends name is John John or Ginsu to many of us who knew him in the street. Embarrassingly the last time I seen Ginsu was 8 months ago at Sean Price’s funeral service. When I learned of his passing not only did it hit me hard, but it opened up the still fresh wound from the death of Sean Price. Ginsu’s funeral would be held the 22nd of March, the day before we were scheduled to start our tour. 

 

March 22nd was also my god daughter, Mckayla’s birthday. Shaun, the 8 year old daughter of Sean Price, birthday had just passed on the 18th which happens to be one day after her fathers birthday. We had just did a party in New York at The Delancey to celebrate Sean Price’s birthday. It was just a party but many of his friends came out as if to see him perform one last time. 

 

There were artist and family alike. I was glad to see members of our Decepticon family like Raquel, Spanky, Venom, Skywarp and P-Wop just to name a few. These people love Sean and I could sense their emptiness without him being there as I was experiencing it myself. In addition, the news of Ginsu’s death was extremely fresh as it came just the day before. I didn’t want to party but I didn’t want to not celebrate the life of my friend with friends. 

L,R Bo Black, Rudis, Stuck B, Cleqout, Rob, Petro, Giambi, Top Dog

L,R Bo Black, Rudis, Stuck B, Cleqout, Rob, Petro, Giambi, Top Dog

 

I thought I was gonna be able to attend for a short while and leave but I didn’t leave until much later. I had two drinks in the club but I had been drinking earlier in the day in an unwavering attempt to drown my sorrows. By the end of the night, my boy, Louie was wasted (laughs). He forgot where we parked and he needed the entire sidewalk to walk as he zig zagged up the block toward us. I wondered if this is how I look when I’m hammered. 

We headed back to Brooklyn as I peered out to the East River, blanking out the irritating sounds of my drunken friend. Cyn was a little tipsy too as she belted out, “I’m hungry, I’m gonna get some lasagne”, which slowly turned to a melodious jingle. I continued to look out the window reflecting on the nights events as we crossed the bridge. I was attempting to mask my emotions but I am not as good at it as I wanted to be, that night. Needless to say Cyn never got that lasagne as she passed out onto the couch. I cut a small piece of lasagne for myself and ate silently reflecting on the things passed and the things to come


In two days we were scheduled to go to Texas to perform at SXSW music conference which happened to fall on the exact day of Sean Price’s birthday. The plan was to do a tribute to Sean, so, Rockness, Ruste Juxx, Illa Ghee and even Bernadette were all in attendance. It was Bernadette's first time ever getting on an airplane. I may have been more excited than she was. We sat together, joked and laughed the entire flight, probably annoying a few people. 

Although we were in a jovial mood, I think we all were trying to mask how and what we were truly feeling, anger, pain, frustration, to scratch the surface. I was blasting off about irrelevant topics that only I thought was important which in turned annoyed the people I was with.

I still hadn’t seen Tek yet because he was flying in from Virginia. I admit I was a little nervous and tense, but that eased a bit when we got to the venue.

It was huge. Nas was set to be the headliner. We would be sharing the stage with him, Manny Fresh, Just Blaze, Large Professor, Yo Gotti, Dj Khaled, Trae the Truth, Dave East and a host of others. 

It was pretty chaotic as you had security volunteers trying to control the crowds of artist and entourage as they entered and exited the backstage area. They eventually found a room for us by the stage, 10 minutes later it was showtime. I wish we could’ve went over the set again, but it wasn’t time for that, it was time to go to work. 

Rock kicked it off followed by Smif-N-Wessun then Buck with some of the other Duck Down artist weaved in-between. It was a tad bit sloppier than it should’ve been in my opinion but we pulled it together for the finish. I don’t think any of us was our normal selves as I looked at my partners they all looked how I felt, misplaced, emotional and maybe even a little disheveled. We all have been through so much within the last few months not to mention days, which I admit put an emotional strain on me to say the least .

We pulled through the show satisfying the handful of diehard fans scattered amongst the collective. This wasn’t one of our better shows by no means.

When we got off stage we were ushered towards a VIP which was located one floor up. Dru Ha and Noah had purchased this amazing cake to present to Bernadette in addition to a specialized Sean Price box set. 

The plan was to cut the cake in VIP but security gave us such an issue that it was a turn off. When we got to VIP there was no accommodations. It look like where you dump the leftovers. Why are we up here, I thought, why are we being treated like we didn’t just get off that stage. At that moment I see a familiar face in Brainiac Beats. We started to kick it then I started to get restless. I suggested we leave and meet up with Mic Handz. 

Mic Handz invited us to this mini mansion he rented out for the music festival. He also had two events he was running out there. As we were leaving these guys noticed me and began to comment how much they respect Smif-N-Wessun and the Bootcamp Clik. They were a part of the few die hards that were scattered amongst the collective (laughs).

Upon exiting we were shuffled in all different directions by the security volunteers, some of which were rude, others confused, either way we finally made it out to where the crowd was and so started the melee. It was cool because we got to see a few more of the die hards and even take a few pictures with some folks who just enjoyed our performance. It took the sting out of the less responsive people in the crowd.

Tek was riding with some people I never met before as was Rock so it was just Bernadette, Illa Ghee and myself with Tank, the driver while Buckshot went back to the hotel. I had to convince Tank to drop us off at the mansion and stay for a while to secure we had a ride back. He insured me that he would stay for an hour then he had to get back to his young sons. “I can respect that”, I replied. 

The mansion was a nice sized house located in this secluded culdasac, reminiscent of the Hamptons or some exotic places in Florida . It was beautifully peaceful and serene, until we entered the mansion of course (laughs). Mic Handz did his thing this time I thought. Upon entering my eyes went straight to the back patio doors which led to a pool. I was like, “ahhhh shiiiit, Now this is living”. 

There were two women in the kitchen chefing it up, they were part of Handz’s team and they was throwing down. It was assorted bottles of liquor and weed being rolled, this was my kinda scene. It definitely was a nice spread. Handz then gave me the official tour which revealed the true luxury of the dwelling, I was proud that Handz was able to pull this off as I know it was a big move and a great look for him.

Bernadette and Illa ate food while I went out on the patio to smoke. I was too excited to eat. Shortly after, Ruste Juxx arrived followed by Rock. Tek never did show up. We ate food, drank, smoked, talked sh*t, rapped, etc., I honestly did not want to leave to be stuck up in a hotel room watching whatever salvageable programming on the television. Tank had to leave, he went well passed the hour he promised and I was grateful. I was able to finagle a ride back for Bern and I, the rest is a blur.

We had a connecting flight back to NY as opposed to the straight way in which we came and Tek was on a totally different flight. I wasn’t used to that, it felt awkward. He was flying separate from the rest of and he was scheduled to reach Laguardia before us. The rest of us had a five hour layover which meant that we would spend that entire day in transit. Bernadette is flying with us and it just happens to be her daughter, Shaun’s birthday. Unfortunately they would only get to see each other via FaceTime. 


When I got home the whole day was over. I ate some chicken and salad prepared by Cyn, smoked a spliff and had a few shots of cognac. I didn’t even unpack I just sat on the couch reflecting on the events that occurred and the ones that have yet to materialize, the things passed and the things to come.

I wanted to take my god daughter Mckayla to the circus along with Shuan and Elle’vyn, my other god daughter. Unfortunately the circus had left the city so I had to be creative. Cyn informed that she had made plans with Nicole, Mckaylas mom, which was surprisingly short notice for me but there was no other window to see the girls so we decided to have a small gathering for them. I called Bernadette to let her know the plan and bring Shaun over, “we on our way”, she replied. 

 

Each one of these young girls are special in there own right but what they share in common is that they currently lost a major figure in each of their lives, their father. Shaun's dad passed away, whereas the other two girls lost their fathers to the penal system. Both of them are currently serving time in the penitentiary. It was a big strain on me, one I wouldn’t realize until the first day we arrived on UK soil. 

Since the death of Sean I have been angry, sad and a bevy of undesirable emotions. I can only imagine what that little girl must think and feel. I feel selfish to even consider my feelings. Shaun is her fathers daughter, strong yet emotional, a sweetheart to boot. As is Mckayla and Elle’vyn, they are all daddy babies and I hurt for them having to endure this precious time without there heralded champion, DAD. 

So we had a small gathering. Moon brought Elle’vyn and her youngest son Optimus, who is definitely a daddys baby. He doesn’t mess with anybody! (laughs). Bern brought Shaun and Nicole brought the rest of the party, Mckayla, Keefie, the eldest, Brandon, Baby D and King, the baby. It was the first time any of them would meet, this was gonna be special, I thought, but wait what if they don’t like each other, all sorts of thoughts ran thru my head. I can only smile as I think back to that weekend, they had a ball and we didn’t even do anything crazy. It was just family, food and fun. I was in heaven but they was driving me nuts too. Man I had so much fun. I needed that. They were a breathe of fresh air (breathes), a break from the rap monotony. 

 

When the last parent came to get her kids I sat in silence and began to reflect on things passed and things to come, I missed them already. 

Mckayla’s birthday is actually on March 22nd which was the day before we were set to leave for the tour. It was also the day off Ginsu’s funeral service. I was an emotional wreck. I was supposed be preparing to leave for the overseas tour but I had an obligation. I started drinking early that day which basically ended the same way with me passing out somewhere thats not my home. 

I stayed out way to late now I have to scramble to get my things together. Luckily I started picking gear out weeks ago. I made good time. Oh I forgot to mention, the day before, there were terrorist attacks performed in at least two separate places, one being Brussels. I started to get calls from friends expressing their concern. “Y’all not going over there are you”, one of my friends inquired. “Nah we good”, I assured him. 

Tek suggested we leave earlier to anticipate any extra time at security. We actually got through smoothly and arrived promptly at our gate. “Now boarding Delta Flight 420 to Manchester, London ”, It wasn’t a full flight and I had a window seat in the emergency row, talk about a come up (laughs). Anyway, the liquor and my nerves began to settle and I was sleep well before the plane even took off (laughs). I was burnt out and I needed this trip outside the box. Before I passed out I took time to look across the tarmac and began to reflect on things passed and things to come. 

 

By General Tony Steele

4/3/16

 

GUILTY

Guilty! read the news headlines in big bold letters. I write this in light of the recent verdict involving the 2014 shooting death of 28 year old Akai Gurley by NYPD officer Peter Liang. It’s been two years since his death. He leaves behind several loving family members which include a now four year old daughter Akaila

I can only imagine the pain of loss the family has had to endure or the methods in which they use to cope with this tragic turn of events. What were the thoughts and feelings of Akai's friend, Melissa,  as she struggled to keep the life force from leaving Akai, after he was struck down by a single shot to the chest from none other than a police officers gun? 

What went thru Akai Gurleys mind as he felt the sting from a single bullet and what went thru officer Liang's mind as his life has just taken a turn for what could prove to be the absolute worst outcome. Are their families prepared to deal with the horror and suffering of what is being regarded as a tragic mistake?

Normally you call the police when someone is shot, injured or assaulted, but in this case, who do you call when the ones who are assumed the responsibility to protect and serve are the very same perpetrators of the crime itself. 

The single shot was discharged from the Glock 9 of rookie police officer Peter Liang. Officer Liang claimed, initially he was unaware he actually shot someone, perhaps he was in a state of shock and denial as he and his partner discussed whose phone should be used to call the Sergeant. Officer Liang was afraid he would lose his job for firing his service weapon, so saving the life of Akai Gurley seemed to be of little to no importance. "Shot In The Dark, Cop Accidentally kills man in stairwell..." reads the headline and as to officer Liangs own personal account, "he was afraid".

There were many details involving this case which led a jury to find officer Liang guilty of manslaughter and official misconduct. In light of the many shooting deaths of unarmed black and latino males involving police officers, this may seem like a victory. Others cried murder and pushed for the maximum penalty under the law. Some even say he’s being used as a scapegoat for the NYPD. He is the first police officer to be convicted in the last decade.

I find this to be a sad case in our history. Here we have two young men Akai Gurley 28 and Peter Liang, who was also 28 at the time of the shooting, meeting at the crossroads to a deadly outcome. Both young men were victims of circumstance. Akai Gurley born of West Indian descent and raised in the belly of Brooklyn, was found guilty before having a chance to prove his innocence as he lay clinging to breathe from an unsuspecting single shot to the chest. 

This wasn’t beef he had from a rival gang or a robbery gone bad. We know that living in the ghettos of Brooklyn can be very dangerous to say the least. To take a quote from rap artist Smif N Wessuns 1995 song “Stand Strong", “it gets mad deep in the streets, when you gotta watch ya back for beast, enemies even ya peeps”, the beast being slang for police.

Peter Liang, born in Hong Kong, residing in Bensonhurst and a rookie to the NYPD force, was given the responsibility of patrolling the darkened stairwells of Louis H. Pink Houses in East New York Brooklyn. Even people who live there are afraid to explore the stairways of the notorious projects. Officer Liang took an oath to protect and serve but did he really understand the responsibility of such an oath? Did his superiors use fair judgement when they assigned him that post? 

Officer Liang was fresh to the force with 18 months in, yet being a resident of Brooklyn he may have been well aware of the dangers in becoming a police officer in the current state of New York. One can also assume that officer Liang may have been thrusted into a situation he was ill equipped to deal with. If this is the case, then one can assess that not only is officer Liang guilty of the charges presented against him but it also illustrates the poor judgement on the part of his superiors within the NYPD. The NYPD is also guilty of the same charges which officer Liang now faces 15 years to life for.

What should be the punishment for an institution which has been under scrutiny for its many cases of reckless endangerment and official misconduct, which often results in false accusations, brutality and even murder of innocent men and women mainly black and latino?

Liang and Gurley were both born of modest parents who both struggled to make a better life for themselves and their families. They both met their destined fate that gruesome day in that dark, cavernous stairwell. Neither expected to be the model for similar cases to come, neither wanted to be the poster child for this advertisement. If either could turn back time…

Two families destroyed due to the negligence of the institution known as the NYPD. We can choose sides but in this instance I will remain neutral and just offer an aspect for conversation and further analysis not for judgement and condemnation. 

Akai Gurley took a bullet from Officer Peter Liang and officer Liang  took a figurative bullet  to diffuse an already volatile relationship between the NYPD and the people of the community. We endured stop and frisk, where innocent black and latinos were racially profiled and sometimes detained and brutalized by members of the NYPD. I know, not all cops are bad but each cop reflects the psychology of the institution which he or she is employed by. In addition, not every young black male is a criminal, but many have been victims of police brutality, if not first hand, then by a family member or friend.

There are deeper issues embedded in the seams of our society that makes us all guilty. In some form or fashion we have to share the blame for what this society has become or what it is becoming. Our children are afraid to play outside, the parents fear for for their children’s lives while the people who are employed to provide and ensure some level of safety are in fear of losing their lives on the job. 

Fear is the bodies natural alarm system. Many of us cannot operate under fear, then others are propelled into action because of their fear. Some fear the unknown while others are intrigued by it. Officer Peter Liang was afraid way before he stepped into that deadly stairwell. I’m sure he didn’t have intentions on killing a young black unarmed male that day but he did have his finger on the trigger and whether accidental or not he did fire the fatal shot that ended the life of Akai Gurley. 

To add insult to injury, Akai was still breathing and may have had a chance to survive if given the proper attention. This speaks to the very fabric of a damaged people entrenched in social and civil injustices, disproportionate access to information and resources, conditioned into acclimating in institutions cloaked in racism, classism and fascism.

This is clearly a case of injustice and a tragedy for the Gurley family, the Liang family and us as a people. I sincerely sympathize with the families who have to relive this tragic turn of events. Hopefully we as a people, all races can find a commonality thru humanity and realize that All Lives do Matter

Although it is said that every child is born innocent,  many of us are found guilty since birth. 

 

REMEMBER TIMOTHY STANSBURY.

 

By General 'Tony' Steele

MY TIME IN EUROPE PART3: BUDAPEST

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General Steele with Dj Nadir

General Steele with Dj Nadir

Monday October 26 2015 we arrive in Budapest, Hungary. The streets are narrow and there is graffiti sprawled on every other wall. We're greeted by DJ Nadir a slim guy with long dreadlocks. He seemed a bit familiar to me. He reminded me of someone I knew back in the states. He even mentioned how he was originally from Baltimore, Maryland. He held us down while we were in Budapest. His vibe was cool, sort of laid back but very focused.

We unloaded our bags and began to walk thru what appeared to be a city within the city laced with shops and restaurants. We entered into this building and proceeded to an office to check into our rooms. These rooms were different than the others. We would actually be staying in a fully furnished duplex apartment equipped with a kitchen, 2 bedrooms and 2 1/2 bathrooms. I was excited about this because this meant we would get to cook some real food and get to stretch out a little bit because we would we spending the next 2 days here.

We were all pleasantly surprised as we entered the apartment, none of us expected this and it was exactly what we needed. We could really enjoy our time in Budapest, I thought. Some of the guys began to roll up joints as the rest of us took a tour around the apartment. We had the night off so there was no urgency to do anything. I chose my room immediately, an upstairs loft style bedroom with sky windows attached to a bathroom with a tub.

I set up shop and joined the rest of the guys downstairs. We were all pretty hungry and it was getting late. We went to dine at this amazing Restaurant Cafe Vian.  The service was good, the food was great. Tek and I had the grilled salmon while Buck had the lamb. We all enjoyed our food and voted this as the best food on the tour thus far. We left very satisfied but it wasn’t until later I realized we under tipped the waitress.  

There was an event going on later that evening that we were contemplating on attending. We decided to stay in and get some well needed rest. I never did make it to my bedroom, I just fell asleep in the living room watching videos on Youtube with Buckshot. I eventually woke up in the early hours of the morning and went to my bedroom. Buck and Tek were still asleep so I decided to take a bath.

I haven’t actually sat in a bathtub in a while and this apartment came equipped with a hug tub positioned underneath a sky window. I rarely find time to relax on the road so this was gonna be a new experience for me. I programmed my phone to play John Coltrane and sat back under the sky window allowing my thoughts to just flow. 

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I got out of the tub feeling rejuvenated and very relaxed. The guys were still sleeping so I went downstairs to do some writing, shorty after, Buck woke up and we started building over a joint and some tea. Afterwards he left to go to the other apartment to change clothes. Yes, we had two identical apartments but we're so conditioned to being around each other, we didn’t really need the extra place but it was perfect for us to recuperate and prep for the rest of the tour, besides that, Figub, the DJ we had with us was a little under the weather and was in need of well deserved rest.

Today was an off day and although we had a meet and greet later that evening, we had all day to do whatever we desired.  I spent most of my morning writing and recounting the days that passed. When Tek woke up and Buckshot came back to the apartment we went to get something to eat. Figub was still in his room resting while we went out to explore. We didn’t have to go far because all the eateries were literally right there as soon as we walked out the building. It reminded me of when I was a kid on Delancey Street, where they would have guys stand outside every store and solicit people to come in their shop to spend money.

The only difference, besides it being years later in a foreign country, was that they used attractive women to lure you in promising the best food experience in town. We just wanted to get some good ole American Style breakfast, you know, pancakes, eggs things like that. Then we passed by a place called Blue Bird Cafe, that had infectious cakes and pies in the window and Buckshot was magnetized. I admit he has an eye for spotting certain things which remain less obvious to most of us and although I am not a heavy dessert guy, I was also taken by the display.

We decided on the Blue Bird Cafe. We all ordered the same thing, pancakes, eggs, toast, needless to say the service nor the food was satisfactory and we all left disappointed. Buckshot was admittedly frustrated, being the particular eater he is and he was sure that this spot had the goods. "How could you f*ck up pancakes, eggs and toast?" (laughs).

The service obviously wasn’t geared for full breakfast guys like us. I say that while examining the room as other patrons have their coffee, croissants, cakes and pies. It took our food a minute to come out and then we only received the eggs. Then several minutes later the pancakes arrived as if they had to have them made at another secret location.

The pancakes were small silver dollar style which I love, with fresh fruit, which was the best part and a tiny ounce size cup of syrup. Buckshot wasn’t as pleased, he was a bit disturbed as to how late the service was, how cold the eggs were and how much syrup they gave him or should I say how little they gave him. We laughed as Buck began to rant on. Although I agree with Buck, I knew we were far away from the comfort of what we were used to and I was enjoying it all. 

We met up with the rest of the guys back at the apartment and began to map out the plans for the day. There was a meet and greet scheduled as well as dinner and radio. We had some time before our engagement so we rolled up some weed and began conversing on several topics and landed on the topic of food. Buckshot is very particular about what he eats, whereas Tek and I are a bit more flexible even daring.

We told them about our recent encounter at the Blue Bird Cafe while Buck stressed the lack of syrup. Dj Nadir and his partner began talking about their experience with various cheeses and honey. I admit my experience with cheese is extremely limited let alone putting honey on it, so while I was not totally tempted I was still intrigued. Although we joked about their weird choice of taste, we were the ignorant ones, I thought.

They were speaking about cheeses I never cared existed mostly because I was content with what I thought I already liked, but being a student of life, I began to wonder what it be like to try something outside of the box and besides, we’re only talking about cheese and honey.(smirks) 

The meet and greet was held at this bar where they had an area set up for us. We signed autographs, took pictures, sold some PNC tee shirts and a few CDs, had a few wacky drinks since they didn’t have Hennessy, overall, it was pretty cool. These were the people we would see front stage at our show the following day.

When it was time to eat we walked to a spot which DJ Nadir had reserved. It was the holiday season and they were filming what appeared to be a Christmas production on the streets needless to say the scenery was very movie-esque. When we got to the restaurant which was reserved we were disappointed. I forgot to mention that DJ Nadir is sort of a health nut and he doesn’t eat certain foods. Im not sure if he is a vegetarian but he spoke of healthy eating and the place he took us to reflected that, well sort of.

They only had a few dishes on the menu and it was more like a sushi bar with out the sushi. It was stuff like brussell sprouts and hummus which I love and thats just what I could recognize, I personally need a little more in order to call it dinner besides that I knew Buck and Tek weren't gonna eat any of this stuff.

We went to a spot called Spiler which had quick dishes like assorted hot wings, fries, fried shrimp, etc. and tons of drinks. This was a safe choice for us as it was getting late and everything was closing. We went back to the apartment, ate our food then Buck and I proceeded to go to the radio while Tek stayed behind.

When we got to the radio they had some dope old school gear that reminded me of D&D Studios back in New York City, needless to say the guys weren’t prepared. None of the gear actually worked or maybe these weren’t the regular guys who operate it so we had to wait on another guy to bring in equipment to record us.

I was a bit frustrated because they were rushing us to get there and they weren’t ready. We finally decided to work with what we had which was our best bet considering that the other guy never showed up. We made it work then retired back to apartment. 

Tomorrow night is the show at Godor and I still haven’t seen any of the sights so I asked DJ Nadir to show me around before the show.

clockwise from top smoke & chili, wine, almond

clockwise from top smoke & chili, wine, almond

Around noon DJ Nadir came to our apartment with the cheese, honey and bread. He had three kinds of cheeses, Almond, Wine and Smoke and chili flavored. I tried each cheese without honey at first and then with and found it surprisingly good. Tek was reluctant at first but he eventually tried it. Buckshot wasn’t going anywhere near it. 

DJ Nadir, his friend Tomek and myself went out to see the sights while Tek and Buck stayed behind. They asked me where would I like to go and I responded, "I don’t know Im not from here, I just wanna see something other than the inside of my room". They took me to the Parliament and then to Heroes Square.

Im grateful for that experience because we travel to so many countries yet never get to see the sights, inner city or its Monuments. I was determined to change that this trip and I did if only for a short moment in time. We only had very little time before the show and there was a lot of traffic so we decided to head back and get ready.

Smif-N-Wessun & Buckshot, Black Smif-N-Wessun, Sean Price Tribute Live at Godor Budapest, Hungary

The show was a great turn out. The energy was electric and the fans were pleased. Another win for the home team. Tomorrow we drive to Linz or should I say later today and we have another show tonight. May the force be with us.

 

By General Steele

TONY AND EARL

I have just recently been reunited with my uncle Earl referred to nowadays as Ptah Amen. He’s only one year older than me so we’re more like brothers than uncle and nephew. He’s just coming home from completing a 22 year sentence in prison on an initial sentence of 20 years to life. He went in around the time I dropped my first album Dah Shinin’ so he never got to attend any shows or studio sessions. He was and still is a great influence in my life and I am glad to have him home. Home is where the heart is and we came a long way from 131 Belmont Avenue in Sethlow Projects where we grew up together. 

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As kids, before Steele or Ptah we were just Tony and Earl. I lived with my parents and two brothers on the 14th floor while Earl lived on the second floor at Grandmas house, where all the action was. Rule was always ahead of his time, as his asiatic attribute connotes, Intelligent Ruler God Allah. During his last prison time he officially changed his name to Ptah Amen. He is responsible for people like Supreme, Top Dog, Rockness, Lidu Rock and many of us learning the 120 or the Lessons of the Nation of Gods and Earths or simply The 5% Nation, amongst other plus degrees exceeding religious theologies. He exposed us to this very early on but unfortunately, he went to jail for a 1 to 3 year sentence.

When Ruler returned, after his first jail stint, the nieghborhood had changed. We had moved from the projects but life didn’t get any easier. At that time crack was still king and pretty much every urban black and latino family was heavily affected by this epidemic, Ruler was also a victim of this systematic trap. He was never a guy to pursue money or fame, he was more family oriented. He would hustle and then give his earnings away to his family, friends, etc., he never cared much for material things. 


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Ruler became an integral part in one of the most notorious drug crews in Brooklyn, but his entrance into the drug game was as innocent as any others and his dedication and loyalty would prove to be both his making and undoing ushering a magnificent transition of growth and evolution but not without a great deal of sacrifice and suffering. Some say no pain no gain and if that be the case then Ruler has endured more pain than the average person should have to bare. We saw a lot as kids, probably more than we should have to at such a young age but it’s those experiences that make us the men and women we are today. 

He’s my idol because of his strength and his undying love for what is right. I can only hope to possess such genuine atonement with nature. I know its odd to hear for most, considering that he is a convicted felon, and we know how young black males like to glorify jail culture, but I’ve had the honor of being around some great minds and learning the most valuable lessons from folks some would deem as degenerates of society. 

Some of my best lessons came from folks who actually lived in the harshest conditions. Many want to write off the dopefiend, the crackhead or the drunk, the convict, the war vet, the homosexual, the blacksheep of the family. Many want to condemn children for growing up as victims and making choices no child should ever have to make. Many would deny that the playing field is layered with racism, fascism, classism and all kind of isms  nonetheless we find ways to co exist with-in this social kaleidoscope. 

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Although Ruler and I stand at opposite ends of a particular spectrum we share inbred similarities not to mention the same astrological sign of Sagittarius. It means a lot for me to be reunited with Ruler at this time and just to have him free from prison bondage. Since he’s been home he’s been impressively focused. He’s always been super focused to me but I can only imagine the pressure he has, not only from re-adjusting to current day society but from personal aspirations, family and friends as well. 

 

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To rehabilitate or to be rehabilitated requires one to be willing to change or even to see reason for considering change in the first place. Ruler, Ptah, Uncle Earl has always been a beacon for change in my eyes. When you listen to my lyrics on my debut LP Dah Shinin you will hear his influence thru out as well as LPs and songs to follow. 

 

After 22 years of talking via letter or kite, by phone or on 2 hour prison visits, we finally get to build one on one, on several topics of life. There is so much I want to ask and say and there is so much he has to offer. Rule expressed his interest in sharing his experience with others which inspired me to come up with some questions to ask him pertaining to his time in prison. I wanted to have a conversation that wasn’t too opinionated or too esoteric. I chose to build on the inter-connection between Hip Hop and Prison culture. 

Ruler spoke with the poise of a scholar,  poignant and considerate. This would be the first of many deep conversations that we would share publicly. I look forward to learning about his prison experiences, how he managed to stay strong, what methods he used, the programs he was a part of, the people he bonded with, the politics of prison industry, the school to prison pipeline, religion, astrology, etc. Rule has always been a vast source of knowledge and information. As kids he studied the lessons of the 5% Nation Of Gods And Earths, The Bible, The Holy Quran, The Bhagavad Gita, Egyptology, Numerology, Spirituality , to name a few, and this was as teenagers and young adults. He was also into boxing and the arts of self defense so he studied all the great fighters as well asprinciples of the Art Of War.

 

In the streets, I witnessed Earl transition into Ruler and in prison, Ruler transitioned into Ptah Amen, not just a name change but a life transformation, an inner growth. Sometimes we go through things that make us bitter toward our experiences but Ptah illustrates a heightened evolution as if he was freed of all human burdens ready to embrace his newfound path. He once said to me during a visit, “I didn’t make a mistake, it was a trap that was set from the beginning.”  To some it may sound somewhat unrepentant but I understood it in a broader scope, being fully aware of the challenges we faced as children from home to school and within the community as a whole. Poverty and drugs was very prevalent in my neighborhood as in many African and Latino communities. Many were unable to avoid the allure and temptation of the drug culture, hence the trap is set.

Unfortunately this trap has claimed the lives and souls of young and old alike. The crack epidemic destroyed whole families like a plague offering no relief or rescue from its death grip. Former President Ronald Reagan declared a war on drugs, while oddly enough, figures in his establishment were directly responsible for the import of drugs and guns into the United States.  This war, like most wars drew many casualties. Ptah fell victim to the trap that was set and was severely punished for his transgressions.

Instead of damning the system that condemned him, he faces life with the positive outlook of an explorer on a quest for new land and experiences always open to constructive conversation as opposed to the introvert who has been conditioned not to trust, not to love and clings to every principle of survival. His energy is vibrant yet calm, his vision is clear and his mind is stable.

I understand that the transition for him is still a work in progress as it is for us all but his discipline has shaped him into a divine sculpted model for change. Ptah was a model prisoner, sharing his wealth of knowledge with many fellow prisoners, guards and civilians alike. He was respected and adored on the streets, in prison amongst friends and family which still holds true today.

I had the pleasure of attending a function with Ptah where I got to meet some of the dedicated people responsible for the advocacy of his release. Prior to Ptahs release he was denied twice at his parole hearings, which is an issue many inmates face. With the help of these volunteers, through The Parole Preparation Project, associated with the National Lawyers Guild-NYC Chapter Mass Incarceration Committee , Ptah was released in August 2015 and now gets to celebrate his first birthday, Thanksgiving and Christmas amongst his family and friends after 22 years of prison bondage.

Adam Murphy, Ptah (Ruler) Amen, luna G. Montano and her brother

Adam Murphy, Ptah (Ruler) Amen, luna G. Montano and her brother

 

I look forward to learning from Ptah whatever he chooses to share from his life experiences as I look forward to sharing my experience with him, the way we both have with so many others over that last two decades. Welcome home Ptah, you are truly a gift and an asset to us all, thank God for bringing you back to us, Amen.

For me, it gets to be just plain ole Tony and Earl again. I love you unc’.   


BY GENERAL STEELE

FREEDOM OF SP**CH

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Permission to speak freely…denied!

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I write this in light of the case involving Latausha Nedd aka Eye Empress Sekhmet. For those unaware of this case, Latausha Nedd was arrested for making “terrorist threats” against officers in an open letter on her YouTube page. She called for open season on cops and crackers and is accused of assaulting or what they call endangering the welfare of a minor. 

In a separate case 33 year old Ebony Dickens was arrested in Atlanta Georgia for a Facebook post she published urging death to all white cops.

In the case of Latausha Nedd not only did she deny endangering the welfare of a minor but she insists her threats weren’t that serious stating that, “its just YouTube.”  A judge disagreed when she was denied bail on the more serious charges. Some argue this is a case of Freedom Of Speech others call it an outright Act Of Terrorism

Latausha’s case involved the FBI and the US Marshall in association with The Joint Terrorism Task Force or JTTF. As the investigation continues in both cases it  appears that these women have already been tried and convicted if not by their own words but by the media and the understandable fear that grips many of us in the Land Of The Free. There have been many cases to date that argue freedom of speech and/or freedom of expression. The question we have to ask as Americans is, “What are the parameters of these freedoms?”

America has often had tension with different Nations around the world specifically in the Middle East. More recently there have been many acts of terrorism committed in United States adopting the phrase Domestic Terrorism. Sadly it is not new that America has experienced many cases of domestic terrorism. For example The Wall Street Bombing in 1920, The 1963 Bombing of the 16th St Church in Birmingham orchestrated by KKK members , The Oklahoma City Bombing in 1995, the Harvard University graduate and former math professor Theodore Kaczynski aka The UNABOMBER, the FORT HOOD shooting with Nidal Malik Hasan in which FBI was aware of disturbing activity online but never deemed it a threat not to mention the South California shootings of 2013 involving Christopher Dorner, The bombing in Boston and the mass killing of churchgoers in 2015 by Dylan Roof to name a very few.

Dylan Roof

Dylan Roof

We can examine Free Speech, The United States Constitution or The Patriot Act but I wish to appeal to the common sense and how many Americans truly comprehend the consequences of expressing your ideals and even act upon them in this current day. Do we understand the boundaries of freedom of speech and expression? How many Americans have even read the United States Constitution? and how does it even apply in this current day and to whom?

Not all Freedom of Speech incidents involve acts of domestic terrorism. There are instances where art is the assailant to crimes yet to be committed. As in the case of rapper Tiny Doo who is facing prison time for rapping about gang affiliations or Cameron D’Ambrosio who was arrested for posting a rap lyric on Facebook which was deemed a terrorist threat.. There are several more cases where rap lyrics where used to arrest and even convict in a court of law. 

Brandon 'Tiny Doo' Duncan

Brandon 'Tiny Doo' Duncan

Cameron D'Ambrosio

Cameron D'Ambrosio

One debate is that the people targeted are a disproportianate amount of minorities specifically African Americans and Latinos. I think we need to closely examine the margins of what actually is free speech in America. Is it what we assume it be or is it just some idealistic concept to pacify the more aggressive advocates for change in community, policy and government. Some argue that freedom of speech doesn’t exist anymore due in part to the terrorist acts of 9/11 which set off a chain of events spawning new laws and amendments. Two major results of this is The United States Patriot Act and Homeland Security.

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I don’t profess to be an expert on this issue I am merely opening a dialogue for an intelligent analysis of incidents that catapult this Government and the people into domestic strains and forces us to change the value or at least test the values that many have died to preserve namely The Constitution and the basic rights of all people and the citizens of the United States of America. There are people who believe what they do is right and they will die to protect their beliefs their ideaologies and their God given freedoms. Who can actually say who is wrong or right and what outline do we use to come to this conclusion.

Here are some of my ideas of domestic terrorism:

police harassment, intimidation and brutality

poverty

child abuse

domestic violence

drug abuse

homelessness

joblessness

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This is not to berate any form of violence or injustice committed against any living creature or any damage done to any property based on an ideology or belief of an individual and/or group. This is not to incite every patriotic nut to debate their love for their country. One can arguably say that many of us if not all want to live in a country where freedom is free and not at the cost of young lives. Many believe it is right and even honorable to die for what you believe in.

Is it possible to truly express yourself freely, without causing harm to others and what constitutes harm also how do we gauge the level of seriousness in the case of verbal and/or physical threats?  

In 1775 Patrick Henry said, “Give me liberty or give me death!”

In 1989 Chuck D of Public Enemy stated, “Our freedom of speech is freedom or death…”

By General Steele

MY TIME IN EUROPE part2: THE CITY OF WINTERTHUR

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October 25th, our train arrives at Winterthur. The weather is beautiful. Figub (our deejay for the tour) was met by his parents. They had made plans to meet prior to our arrival. They seemed pretty cool. The dad was laid back while the mom was bit more energetic. They were both pleasant folks and Figub has a cool vibe as well so I can see where he gets it from.

Tek, Buckshot and myself jumped in a cab with the promoter whos name is Sam. Sam resembled the Spanish actor from CSI (laughs). He was cool but he appeared a bit reserved. Figub and his parents walked to the hotel because it was only 100 meters from the train station. We stayed at The Park Hotel. The rooms were very comfortable and the ambiance was tranquil down the music playing mildly thru the hotel speakers. There was a park located right next to the hotel and in the middle of the park was a building that resembled a Greek Revival style home with 3 figures resembling lions with wings on top each corner of its roof supported by four columns finished by a fountain in front, perfect for a photo op.   

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We only had about an hour before sound check so I began to unpack my bag and get my gear ready for the show. Normally we don’t get a lot of time to prepare so we have to think on the move and anything can happen so its best to be safe than sorry. We all met in the lobby. Tek was down first then myself followed by Buckshot. We proceeded to walk to the venue which was only a few meters from where we were staying. It was a lovely day and the walk was refreshing. We arrived at the venue located in what appeared to be some type of square in the center of the town. There is something that draws me to the old fashioned architecture of the homes and the design of each individual city. It allows the mind to travel and imagine what it was like or what it would be like to live in some of these places.

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The name of the club we were to perform at was Albani. It was a small space that holds about 250 to 300 people. The sound check went well the guys had some coffee and Buck and I had some cough cough (laughs). Sam then took us for food. We were all indecisive but we agreed on pasta. Sam made the reservations at this Italian restaurant but when we arrived they mysteriously hadn’t receive our reservation. We had to come up with a plan b quick because it was Sunday and the shops closed early plus we had an early show that night and we couldn’t afford to waste any time. 

There was a hamburger spot close by but we decided to dine at this Thai spot which was suggested by Buckshot. I’m not a big fan of Thai food but it turned out really good even better than the initial choice of Italian food or burgers. I kept it simple and ordered the chicken fried rice and a seafood salad with squid. Everything was great. I tackled what I could and wrapped the rest up in a doggie bag for later. 

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We went back to the hotel to get ready as time was of the essence. Luckily I already chose my outfit for tonight. I just had to change clothes and go. The venue was jammed packed and there were people still outside. we had a few minutes to prep before we got on stage. We made a toast with Hennessy, Buck rolled a spliff and after that it was showtime. 

It was a small stage so we were up close and personal with the audience. Sometimes those venues are better because they're more intimate than the bigger stages. The show was a success everyone went above and beyond. This was only show three but we were all convinced this may have been the best show thus far. We still have nine shows left so its still too soon to make a fair assessment .

We fly out to Budapest in the afternoon leaving us a few hours to kill after check out. Once we checked out we went to find some food. We decided on the burger joint we skipped the previous night. It was empty but the doors were wide open. This could never happen in New York, I thought. Eventually a young lady emerged from the back. She took our order and began to make the food right there behind the bar. She was a one woman army. 

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The food was okay, it was burgers and fries so there was nothing special although I've had some special burger and fry combinations in my travels. We ate then we proceeded back to the hotel where we met up with Sam for the last time. He put us in a cab and bid us farewell. He seems to be a cool guy. He was thorough with the business and took care of us well so there are no complaints on my end. I look forward to doing business with Sam again. We need more good promoters that aren’t afraid to work hard. 

 

We arrived at the airport on time. When we checked in they informed us that we had to pay for our check in luggage. They were also giving us a hassle about the weight of our carry ons.  It was a bit of confusion but we ultimately paid the fee and proceeded to our gate. When we got to the gate a flight attendant announced that the flight was overbooked or overweight and offered 270 francs to whoever would give up their seat for a later flight.

 

I thought about it but the team wouldn’t go for that. That’s one rule that we have practiced for years. Maybe Figub would make the sacrifice. We decided its best to stay together. The flight is short as opposed to the time it would have taken if we had driven. Everything worked out, give thanx and praise to God. We have the next two day off in Budapest. I’m looking forward to the rest and hopefully we get to see some cool sights.

 

Flight check prepare cabin for take off. Budapest here we come. Stay tuned for more.

 

General Steele

10/30/15

 

MY TIME IN EUROPE part1: THE CITY OF MONTREUX

Today is Sunday October 25th. On Thursday the 22nd we flew out to Zurich Switzerland from John F Kennedy Airport for a 2 and half week tour. Tek and I just returned from Europe a few weeks ago but this time we go out with Buckshot. We were on a 2 week run where we visited Barcelona, Madrid and Vitoria which is in Spain. We then moved on to Poland for a week and we finished in London. That run was a little challenging for us as we had to switch up our normal regiment, needless to say we accomplished the mission but not without a few glitches.

I've been looking forward to this trip since the last one partly because the obstacles that we overcame on that particular trip gave me the confidence to take on whatever the next mission would be. To be honest, I was thinking nothing could be worst than what we just went thru but in all fairness, it wasn’t all bad there just were a few turbulent moments.

I made sure to pack all the necessities in advance. I always manage to leave something behind no matter how much I plan ahead. This time was gonna be different so I thought. For the most part I had all angles covered. I was looking forward to performing with Buckshot and Tek and I was anxious to leave New York . I was getting a bit overwhelmed by some of the nonsense that goes on in my day to day and I was in dire need of a break from it all. 

The flight on Delta was great. I pretty much slept thru the majority of it. I missed dinner but I woke up in time for breakfast. The flight time was 7 1/2 hours. I think I slept for about 5 hours. We also had tvs in the headrest so we were able to watch our own personal programming. This was useless to me but I was able to catch a good 40 minutes of AntMan and it was actually pretty good. I have to be honest I don’t think I would’ve seen it otherwise. Im not a real big Antman fan but I love most things Marvel. Its one of the movies you have to watch on a plane. 

The flight was smooth. We arrived and went thru customs without a problem. Our ride was a Suburban which looked like it may have been from 2005 or so . it was a special edition. I have to point this out because the last trip Tek and i was on was a rough one as i mentioned before.

We had a packed flight with no tv and no catering services for 7 1/2 hours, it was atrocious. Guess we can be a bit spoiled but we couldn't predict the lack of hospitality and professionalism not to mention space. We were jammed seat to seat, knee to knee, elbow to elbow. Our current flight on Delta was much better and more accommodating. It wasn’t a full flight so we were able to stretch out even more.

We arrived on time and our ride was on time and they both spoke some english which was fantastic. On the last trip we had a few issues with the language barrier particularly when we arrived in Madrid. Our driver and his partner spoke absolutely no English and we pretty much were dropped at the hotel with little to no information until it was time to go to the venue. 

On our current excursion we were instantly treated with respect and greeted with hospitality in the form of mary jane. What better way to end a long flight (laughs). We had approximately a 2 hour drive to the city of Montreux. We've never been to this city before.  We were staying in the Old City of Montreux. It looks like something out of a fable. The architecture was stunning. I can hear Cynicals voice in my head, urging me to absorb as much as possible and take advantage of my experiences. I began to film whatever I could. On the last trip I managed to leave my converter for my camera so I was unable to transfer footage and I had to minimize what I was able to capture. Needless to say I missed a lot of amazing sights.

I was determined to document this trip. I thought it would be cool to keep a journal of our experience as things happened in real time. Right now we are on a train headed to Winterthur. We have an early performance tonight. This is day three and the third show and all is going well. I must admit its awkward performing without our usual deejay Logic, I miss his element. We have this guy from Berlin filling in who's pretty good. His name is Figub or Mario. It took me two days to learn how to say his name. He is cool though. He hung out with Tek and I after the show last night.

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After our concert we got the word that Young Guru was spinning in the same town. We thought is was only right to stop by and kick it with him and just vibe out to some New York tunes. He got busy on the turntables as usual. Tek and I went with the Figub and a few guys we met at our show while Buck stayed back at the hotel. 

I have to point out that we had been drinking Hennessy at our event and when we arrived at the following event we were downing Vodka and Red Bull mixtures. Figub had a tough time getting up the next morning but at least we didn’t miss our train. The show in Montreux went well and the venue in Meyrin was pretty dope as well. The club was pretty sexy, it was designed sort of like a pit and there was a huge screen on the side wall. There where three guys operating cameras streaming to the screen. Normally this is only done at large festivals so it was a nice addition. 

The promoters for both shows were very cool. They took care of the business and kept us updated on all current movements. We had very little to be concerned about and we were able to concentrate on the task at hand. 

Even the food was pleasant. At least Tek and I enjoyed our first dinner in Montreux. Buck on the other hand had to adjust his order. He initially ordered the crab and the seafood pasta. The crab was this monstrousscavenger which I immediately knew was going to be a problem. Buck is a particular eater some may even say picky. At the time he was outside taking in the sights. I said to Tek,” wait till Buck sees this crab.” I had to get his reaction on camera.

When Buck entered the restaurant his eyes focused on this creature which was to be his food and he made the exact response I had predicted. He took one look at this odd looking delicacy and uttered confusingly, “what the …..” Tek and I immediately started to laugh. We have had many experiences with Buck and his choice of food so we were prepared to be entertained.

Tek and I both ordered the seafood salad which was awesome . It came with small clams, mussels, shrimp and squid. I also had a tomato cream soup which was amazing. Buck was having minor issues. He totally was not going to eat the crab and his seafood pasta had the same seafood we had in our salad. Buck was not a fan of the assorted seafood so he chose to take out everything except the shrimp. The waitress was trying to persuade him to try the crab but was unsuccessful. Tek and I actually tried it and it was pretty good and very fresh maybe a little too fresh for Bucks’ taste (laughs)

After dinner we went to see some of the sights. The Old City of Montreux is beautiful. It is a mix of old chateau homes blended with some modern architecture. Our escort stated that we were in a very culturally rich part of the city. We actually went to visit an old castle at a place called Chateau De Chillon. I took a few pics then we went back to the hotel. Normally we don’t get to see the sights when we travel due mostly to time restraints but this trip would be different. I planned on taking advantage of whatever free time was available and I was determined tho document this trip.

The hotel in Montreux was the Tralala. It was a famous hotel frequented by many musicians. Montreux hosts an annual jazz festival in the summer. The hotels decor reflected the soul of the establishment. There werepictures of famous musicians on every wall. There was a huge photo of the late great BB King right behind reception. When we arrived they made us complimentary tea making us feel at home immediately. The rooms were more modern. It was designed like these new micro rooms. Everything was small and quaint which was cool because we all had our own space. 

It worked for what we needed and the vibe was cool. I had this enormous picture of this singer performing live at a concert staring at me from the wall adjacent to my bed. It was a little weird but it was cool it didn't trip me out too much. The entire design was small and then you have this oversized photo of this guy singing to you right in front of your bed, freaky (laughs).

Needless to say I enjoyed my stay there. In the city of Meyrin it was slightly different. We stayed by the airport so we were a bit secluded. The hotel was the Nash Airport Hotel. The design was also small but it was comfortable. I slept like a baby. The food was on point too. In the early part of the day I had grilled salmon and in the evening after the show, we all had baked chicken and rice.

On the drive from Montreux to Meyrin we took a slight detour to enjoy some of the magnificent scenery. Our escort took us to this cliff overlooking a huge vineyard and a few cottages. It also overlooked a body of water that stretched to an island of mountains. The view was breathtaking. We began to joke about how miniature we are in the global spectrum. We also wondered what kind of species could be living atop those mountains. Would we finally get to see the Yeti (laughs)

We had a blast. So here we are now at day three riding the train for 3 1/2 hours. The scenery is tranquil. It provides a perfect reading or writing atmosphere plus we didn’t have to go thru security or board a plane with all this heavy luggage. It's a change in the norm but I welcome this break in monotony. Planes, trains and automobiles.

We have approximately an hour left so I am going to film some the sights and then maybe read some pages of the 48 Laws of Power. Stay tuned for more to come. 

 

General Steele

N.Y.C NOISY YORK CITY

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  I LOVE NEW YORK, THE BIG APPLE or THE ROTTEN APPLE as some have affectionately coined it. I love the food, the busyness of the people, the diversity, the adversity and most of the things that go on in a city like New York. I even like to see the yellow cabs racing to pick up fares throughout the city although its still challenging for black males like myself to catch one. 

After several failed attempts I finally got lucky. I told the cab driver, “thank you for picking me up sir.” He replied back, “of course I'll pick you up, I am a cab, I am supposed to do that.” I then reminded him of the inbred and the systematic racism and prejudice that is endured by many minorities and people of color. He begin to explain why cabs are afraid to pick up young black men and in his words, most are simply afraid of being robbed, hurt or even killed. Thats understandable but I still found this prejudging a bit misplaced considering the fact I was with my girlfriend and my teenage son. 

Living in New York one can become accustomed to the most biased practices. He was attempting to make sense of the senseless. I am not saying it is senseless to be afraid to work as a public servant. People put their lives on the lines in all sorts of professions. NYPD works very hard at what they do. There are some bad apples for sure but I don't condemn the entire institution based on a few incidents that showcase disdain and brutality toward minorities and African Americans especially.

Don’t forget the FDNY. These people are superheroes. They literally run into danger to save lives as do our EMS and ambulance workers. Even jobs like cashier or store clerk can be very dangerous but it doesn’t make sense to judge or be afraid of every individual that comes into your establishment or to think every young black male is going rob or assault you. If fear compromises your duties then maybe you need to consider another occupation.

Anywhere there is a disproportionate amount of impoverished people there will be heightened levels of drugs and crime. There are some very scary places in New York as there are some frightening people as well but I try not to allow my wisdom and personal experience to dictate my actions toward people. We all have a little bit of prejudice and bias within us. I once heard a young African American girl say “black people cannot be racist.” Although I understand this concept, I don’t totally agree, but thats a matter of opinion in dialogue and could result in a long lasting debate. 

We don’t always have to be right at the sake of someone else being wrong all the time. There is a balance or imbalance within us all. I try to focus on the balance more but they often come as a package deal. At times I catch myself complaining about everything from the rude people, crowded subways, slow drivers, fast drivers, bikers, people who play their phone like we all want to hear what they are listening to, slow service, you name it. 

For the past month or so I have been waking up to demolition. There are 3 construction sites directly across the street from me and dozens of cranes elevated throughout the neighborhood. They call it gentrification. What disturbs me the most is the noise. I’m getting old, lol. I enjoy peace and quiet although my profession is far from that concept. I work around loud music, loud people you name it, lights, cameras and constant action so sometimesI like to meditate and decompress. No phone, no computers, email, social media, etc. just nature. Turn off, turn down, reboot and get my mind ready for the next mission. While constantly being reminded of the phrase, “turn down for what?”

I woke up yesterday very angry and didn’t know why. After analyzing my situation I had to assess that it was due to lack of sleep or lack of peaceful rest. I couldn’t concentrate due to the noise not to mention the construction was literally shaking the foundation of my building. I couldn’t stand being in my own house with all the noise. I got into a few arguments with friends, I lost me appetitethen I started to drink alcohol, my entire mood was disorientated. I decided to go to the park which I enjoyed until I got tired of undercover cops driving by looking at me as if I was peddling drugs or something. It was uncomfortable so I decided to go back home and deal with it.

When I woke up this morning it sounded like the world was ending. Of course I don’t know what that sounds like but if I had to imagine, it would sound exactly like what I had to endure. The banging, the drilling, jackhammers, saws,  traffic on the block due to congestion, car horns blaring, a drunk and a crackhead trading obscenities, fire trucks, cop cars and ambulances whizzing by sirens screaming. I can’t forget to mention the neighbor who likes to play music which seems like all day long or the one who likes to blast tunes from his horribly disturbing sound system. 

Once in awhile they would play a good tune but when you add that on top of everything else, it’s just noise. Not to mention some of that stuff is just sounds like crap. I felt like I was going crazy this morning. My focus was off. My meditation was disrupted. Lets just say I woke up on the wrong side of the bed for the last 30 days or so. 

What is it about us New Yorkers that we are able to coexist in organized chaos?  What is it about the drama that magnetizes, mobilizes and oddly at times stabilizes us? What is that resilience? That drive…NY

Although there are several places to go in New York where you can relax and chill, it still has this hint of anxious energy. New York keeps New Yorkers on the move at times oblivious or unsympathetic to anything else around them in a state of tunnel vision or maybe they're just texting while walking. Especially when you walk thru Midtown and witness the hustle and bustle on Wall St. If you don’tknow how to walk you may very well get trampled. 

New Yorkers and tourist alike enjoy the noisy, busyness of this great city. It seems what makes this city bad, are many of the same things that give the city its color and character. The song says “If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.”  Thank the Chairman, Old Blue Eyes for that. I like the Jay Z version Too lol. He couldn’t have been more accurate. This is a tough place to live but its a beautiful place to live as well. Although I get overwhelmed at times by the chaos it also makes me who I am. Strong, proud, confident, resilient, crazy, loud and boisterous New York. I am a part of this city and it is a part of me. So in the name of the legendary Chuck D, "BRING THE NOISE." 

by General Steele