So what is Ordinary Brown?
Ugh, okay, so I have to tell a story.
When I was a kid, my brother and I were latch key. This was not strange.
It was the 80s, all kids were latch key.
What was strange was that I was by myself… and I wasn’t at my grandmother’s house. I’m not sure why, but my brother was not with me. And rather than be with my loving and late grandmother, I was left home alone, with nothing to do. And I loved my grandmother (once calling her my perfect person), so for me not to be with her meant that everyone was busy beyond belief and little 10-year-old me was just going to have to tough it out alone.
Now remember, this was pre-Internet, so all I had was my imagination and the hulking, buzzing idiot box I and my brother parked ourselves in front of everyday after school.
So on this day, I decided to watch the Muppet Babies.
First off, I was around 10 years old, so @$#@$ you. And second, it was the 80s, and again, we were living in a different time.
I remember the episode had to do with the M-babies (M-babies? M-babies, that cool?) expressing how they felt about each other. Rowlf apparently wasn’t about that life. And while the other M-babies couldn’t figure out what his deal was, I understood perfectly.
I don’t express my emotions well. I didn’t then, and I don’t know. I don’t know why, maybe I got it from my father.
But I got Rowlf, I understood him.
By the episode’s end, when everyone had given up on figuring out why Rowlf couldn’t just express himself like a decent dog-shaped human being, it was revealed: He’s just better at singing.
So he sang a song that — to this day — I still remember.
It was called, “You’re Special to Me.”
I’m not really athletic, I keep on falling down/
I’m not a dazzling blue or green…I’m ordinary brown.
Those lines hit 10-year-old me so hard. One, because…I wasn’t very athletic and I did a lot of falling down. But two, because (in my mind) I wasn’t that special. I wasn’t as smart as my white classmates and I damn sure wasn’t as cool as my black classmates. I was just ordinary, brown…me.
I was so entranced by the song that I wrote it down and memorized it. On the spot. Now, remember again, this was pre-DVR. I rushed for a sheet of paper and pencil and began my journalism career with a blistering 101 tutorial in shorthand. I wrote it all down, verbatim. I memorized it and practiced it, and practiced it, until I got it right.
There was just one problem: I had no one to sing it to.
So I called my grandmother.
I didn’t really think anything of it.
Hers was the only phone number I knew. And who else would I call and sing a song called, “You’re Special to Me” if not her?
So I called her up, just f@#&’n geeked.
I don’t know man, maybe I was just excited that I’d finally get to say something that I normally wouldn’t say thanks to someone already saying it…in song form.
So she picked up and I just went in. I was closing my eyes, clutching at the air like the Force MDs, I was Get.Ting.It! Old school!
And like I said, I wasn’t thinking anything of it. I’d assumed she’d just laugh at me.
I didn’t know I’d make her f@#&’n cry!
As an adult, I understand now. But as a 10 year old, I had no earthly idea what I’d done. I thought I’d pissed her off or something and apologized profusely. Christ, just don’t tell my parents okay?!
No, she told me, the song was just very nice.
She said that she was happy that I’d thought of her.
But in my mind, who else would I call.
It was the first time I had ever emotionally affected anyone with my words. I hadn’t created them, but I had wrote them down, I memorized them and blew them like bubbles out into the world so they could happen to haphazardly wrap themselves around somebody’s perfect little grandmother, a whole phone call and entire area code away.
Look man, there’s just so much going on in the world today. There’s so much death. And a lot of the people who are dying are ordinary.
However, it’s only in hindsight that we see how powerful “ordinary” can actually be. Because it was ordinary people who marched on Washington, those were ordinary people who stood up in Stonewall, those were ordinary people in Charlie Hebdo, in Furgeson and in Baltimore.
Ordinary Brown is the term I use to describe the average person, regardless of race, who stands for what he or she believes in. The Mr. Who-was-that, I-don’t-know nobody-important who nonetheless stands with determination and conviction for a cause or passion.
This will be a political blog, it’s a literary magazine, it’s a creative outlet, it’s an emotional haven.
So it was no wonder that one night, at 2 or 3 in the morning, after I turned off the news and began pondering whether any of this was at all worth it, when I was thinking about a name for this thing I’m attempting, a voice reached out from the back of my mind to say, “just be little ordinary you.”
And so I did.
(In case you’re an 80s baby and you just want, like…all the feels)