(Cash Rules Everything
"I'm gonna give it to you straight, 'cause ain't nobody gonna sugar-coat shit in this world for you, or give you a damn thing. Anything you want you gotta make it happen for yourself.
"A woman's approach to life should simply be: Get in, get yours, and get out! Life is too short and there's too much money out here to be makin' to be wastin' time with a Negro who ain't got nothin'!"
I was just six years old when my mother told me that. She didn't teach me much, but Juanita Day's specialty was making money and men--old ones, young ones, ugly ones, fine ones (like my daddy), but never lazy-no-money-havin'-cheap-watch-run-over-shoe-wearin' ones.
Juanita was one woman who didn't let anything or anybody get in her way, either. I never saw her pick up a Bible or set foot in a church, but she believed God created two types of people: those who want what you have, and are always scheming on you; and those who want to align themselves with you because it looks good on their social resume (in other words, the how-can-I-be-down-wannabes). Juanita said the best way to avoid both was not to trust anybody.
I've pretty much followed that philosophy my whole life. It works well in my line of work, where everybody's beautiful, fabulous, and paid. Some are genuinely decent people, but a lot of the others are trapped in that superficial lifestyle of "bling and bullshit."
They're quick to say things like, "Oh, Destiny? That's my girl!" or "Yeah, me and D are tight!" The whole time, those same people are hatin' and trying to snake me out. That's why I never get too personal. I'm a businesswoman. I play the game to make my money.
To me, honesty and loyalty are two of the most admirable qualities a person can have, and only a handful of people I know possess both--Ainee and Uncle Charlie; my two best friends, Izzy and Rico; and Josephine, who in my adult life has become something of a surrogate mother to me. And then there's Jenna. I guess you could call her my protégée, but that seems a bit too formal. She's really more like an extension
of my extended family. For them, I'd give my life. Everybody else can kiss my ass.
I don't give a damn if you're on fire and I'm the last person on earth with a bucket of ice water. If you're not one of those six people I just named, then, like Flavor Flav said, "I can't do nuttin' for you man!
" You probably think I'm some cold-blooded bitch. Cold-blooded, no. Bitch . . . sometimes. We all have our days.
Maybe some psychoanalyst would say, "Destiny Day's perception of life and relationships is such, because of her dark and painful childhood." I agree my childhood wasn't as innocent as most small-town girls. I mean how many girls are born in what my Granny referred to as "the den of sin"? That den of sin otherwise known as East St. Louis, Illinois. A small, predominantly black town that's a spit's distance across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, Missouri.
The best part of East Boogie (that's what the folks from St. Louis called it), was that it had some of the most talked-about after-hours partyin' in the Midwest. People would say, "Watch your back and your pocketbook in East Boogie." But they'd bring themselves right on across the river and get their party on 'til the moon lost its fight with the sun.
I remember for the most part regularly hearing gunshots, walking on those dirt sidewalks in the blazing-hot summertime, and folks sounding off about crooked politicians. But it wasn't so bad. The good thing about small-town living, particularly in the black community, is that everybody knows each other and they look out for you.
As a kid, it seemed like everywhere I went--the neighborhood grocery store owned by Mr. Earl and Miss Bird, whose breasts were so big she always looked like she was on the verge of tipping over; one-eyed Winky down at the gas station, who used to sneak a peek up Juanita's skirt when he fixed our car (he always gave her a discount when my daddy wasn't around); and Miss Stella over at the beauty shop who had booty for days (her breath smelled like cigarettes and stale beer, and she talked real loud and liked to be all up in your face)--they all knew my name was Destiny and who my mama and daddy were.
I didn't spend much time in East Boogie, though. By the time I was ten years old my fairy tale had come to an end. Reason: drugs, the typical ghetto tragedy. That's the breaks, right? But don't shed tears for me. We've all seen this movie before. When you're livin' foul it catches up to you . . . eventually.
Juanita Hayes didn't have any family. One might say she was a wanderer who wandered right into Carlton Day's life. Lore has it that she came from the Southside of Chicago by way of Detroit. How she ended up in a lil hell-raising town like East St. Louis, I'll never know. A woman without a past, who gave a church boy hope for the future.
Carlton had a kind, innocent spirit that provided the right amount of security for what the whispering folk (you know, those same good people at the grocery store, the gas station, and the beauty shop) called a "loose woman." Juanita was too much for him, no matter how hard he tried to keep up with her. He just couldn't.
I never looked at Juanita and Carlton like a child does a "mommy" or "daddy." They were more like a big sister and brother. There's a whole lot more I could say about them, but I'll just sum it up like Rod Stewart did in his classic, "Young Hearts": Young hearts be free tonight
. / Time is on your side
But time wasn't, and I don't want to talk about it anymore. Would you?
Nah . . .
New York, and who I am now, are a long way from Miss Roxy's fried-chicken-and-tripe sandwiches and Juanita and Carlton getting high out of their minds. At thirty five years old I've got a lovely life. I'm at the top of my game as the premiere party promoter in New York City, smiling all the way to the bank, and free of male drama. I set the rules with the men in my life, and they either play by them or they've gotta go.
Juanita told me that when she first looked into my eyes she saw I was destined for greatness and that's why she gave me my name. Carlton, on the other hand, was just happy I had ten fingers and ten toes. Destiny Day . . . pretty cool name, right? It fits. I may be like Juanita when it comes to money and my insatiable thirst to fill my cup of life to the rim, and swallow it in one huge gulp, but let me be clear, I'm not like her. I'm never going to make the same mistakes she made.
Disk OneTo the Beat Y'all
1 LADIES FIRST
2 LET'S GET IT STARTED
3 PUMP UP THE VOLUME
4 DON'T BELIEVE THE HYPE
5 THE BREAKS
6 WHAT A MAN
7 YOU CAN'T PLAY WITH MY YO-YO
Josephine is a stickler for time and hates it when I'm late for tea. Maybe I should call? On second thought, I'd rather not hear her mouth twice. I stepped off the curb at 140th and St. Nicholas and scanned the Avenue. A few gypsy cabs race back and forth, but they're all occupied. Not even the occasional yellow taxi is in sight. I'm thirty minutes late and these Jimmy Choos were not made for walkin'.
I check my watch, zip up my mink-lined leather jacket, and slip on a pair of oversized Jackie O sunglasses. Although the sky's bright and clear, looks can be deceiving. Today's crisp fifty-degree temperature is a reminder that March is a lot closer to January than it is to July. Mother Nature can be extremely unpredictable this time of year in New York, and tomorrow she could blast us with a dose of snow and freezing rain.
I think she does it just to remind us that she's still running thangs. Ahh, the power of being a woman. We can change our minds any damn time we please and nobody better say a word. Therefore, since Mother Nature tends to be hormonal, a girl must be prepared in the City at all times. Your Birkin bag has to be stuffed with extra amenities like a pashmina, flip-flops for an impromptu nail-shop drop, and a compact umbrella, amongst other necessities--baby wipes, tampons, perfume, hand sanitizer, and condoms.
My cell phone rings. I hurriedly fish through my bag to answer it (the downside to toting around all those lovely amenities). By the time I find it, the screen reads: Call missed
. It was Malik. I hit redial, but I get his voicemail. To further irritate me, somebody just nabbed a cab with my name on it, barely two feet away, because I was too busy fussing with the phone. Shit
My voicemail alerts me. I hit the message retrieve button.
You have one new message . . .
Malik: Hey, Mama. Shit's been crazy and I'm in DC in the studio, 'bout to head to Atlanta. I get back tomorrow. Hit me on my Blackberry. I lost my other cell.
I roll my eyes. The usual.The Lowdown
Identity: Malik (meaning "King") Sekou Jaru, aka hip-hop record producer and all-around music-industry power player. Godson of late jazz great Miles Davis. Son of famous jazz musician/producer "King" Jaru, founder of Jaru Note Records, whose producing resume is a who's who of greats in the jazz world.
Status: Single, probably for life. A sista's cool with that. Nice and simple is how we both like it.
Just the facts: Minimal Baby mama drama, gives the fierce sex-down, likes to splurge on baubles for Destiny, and his ice is always twinklin'. He has that hustler mentality that drives me mad crazy.
Hearing Malik's rugged voice did what it always manages to do . . . put a tiny smile on my face. We've been hanging out for almost a year, the longest time I've ever dated a guy. We aren't exclusive, I'm always going to keep me a couple on the side, but I guess I'd have to consider Malik my "main squeeze."
At last, a gypsy cab pulls over and I'm on my way. The sound of native tongues chanting faintly pumps through the car speakers. I instruct my soft-spoken African driver where to go and lean my head back, thinking about Malik's message again. I've told him over and over, we've got a good thing with no preset guidelines. Just have some respect for my time. When I see him tomorrow, I'm going to give him the biggest hug and longest kiss, right before I punch him for leaving town and not telling me.
I see The Uptown Tea Cafe just ahead at the corner of 118th and Madison. The rattle-rattle-thunder-clatter of the well-broken-in Lincoln Town Car slows to a stop, and I pass the driver six bucks and exit.
The Uptown Tea Cafe always gives me peace of mind. I try to get my fix of chamomile, controversy, conversation, and calm regularly from Josephine. Honey, Josephine Rosalita Williams-Eliott-Schultz-Sanchez, also known as Dame Josephine, is something else and summed up simply, quite a woman of the world. I want to be just like her when I grow up. Josephine is a pint-sized punch with a figure that's almost as good as mine. I said almost
Much props to thirty-five. My body isn't as fabulous as my best friend Izzy's, that girl's got the metabolism of a twelve-year-old. However, it's pretty tight for a woman who's five years from crossing yet another major threshold where gravity, by all known reports, is likely to take a major stab at my self-esteem. I just have to keep my good eye on the carbs. A solid size eight is what I like to be. Since thick is the new thin, I'm definitely keepin' some meat on my bones.
Dame Josephine's creamy toffee-colored skin has that eight-glasses-a-day glow. She wears her hair in one long braid down her back. I've never seen a stitch of gray up in there either. The few faint crow's feet around her eyes and her bony, slightly wrinkled hands are the only giveaway that she's seen as many sides of life as she claims she has.
I met Josephine during my brief stay at NYU. One day Izzy and I stumbled into a cute little coffee shop and Spanish bakery in the West Village (hence the Sanchez, her fourth marriage). Josephine was cussing out her then-husband Mario right in front of all the customers and wasn't the least bit embarrassed.
After she finished laying him out, she turned right around and it was business as usual. I thought it was cool how this spicy woman, dressed in a flowing Spanish-inspired skirt and a T-shirt, and draped in a colorful shawl, wasn't taking any mess off her man. She became my instant surrogate mother.
I pushed open the cafe's large, ornate antique doors and removed my sunglasses. The Uptown Tea Cafe had a cozy opulence with its mahogany wood interior and furnishings and plush velvet seating. I headed straight to the back of the room to a small round table that was surrounded by three low, stuffed chairs. It was on an elevated platform and enclosed by long velvet drapes that were pulled back.
"You're late!" Josephine said, entering the room from the kitchen. When somebody made Josephine mad, she let the world know with her no-time-for-the-pleasantries attitude.
Known Marriages: Four (my hero!)
Age: Unknown. She's got a secret hookup with the Fountain of Youth. I gave up trying to figure out exactly how old she was years ago, but concluded she must be in her early sixties, because she talks about participating in sit-ins during the Civil Rights movement, and the day Dr. King died, and working on the Poor People's Campaign.
Occupation: Spiritualist, activist, diva, and owner of The Uptown Tea Cafe. Life is her muse.
Dame Josephine flowed through the room with a youthful glide, dressed in her usual, what I call oasis glam. Today she was wearing a Japanese kimono-style top, loose pants, and sequined slippers. I was about to give an explanation, but I couldn't get my mouth open before she cut me off.
decided that I wasn't going to speak to you, but then that Negro Abraham Paul decided to lose his damn mind and traipse around here like he was some kind of royalty. I almost kicked him square in the behind when he asked me if his ex-wife could come and stay with us for a while until she gets on her feet. Then he made some stupid joke about how 'Maaaarvelous' it would be to be surrounded by all the women he's loved. The nerve of him! I'm not his concubine!"
Excerpted from Last Night A DJ Saved My Life by Lyah Beth LeFlore. Copyright © 2006 by Lyah Beth LeFlore. Excerpted by permission of Broadway Books, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.