375Cryptically teletyping native Sugarhill Mumbo Jumbo til no longer empty

Dear I,

Sometimes feels like life like in writing all flys by so fast U just grab 0.01% ... kinda like a dog trying to drink from a firehose or particles in a bubble chamber ... so much to proSSES + stick in its right place ... to figure what's relevant to our SSES project + if so where does it fit ... or maybe put it in something else ... + what's leftover spills here onto 5cense w/ some overlap or not time will tell.

Seems our generation is unique in that we learned to write by hand + now we write on computers, even in journaling ... must be a gap in processing, a sort of disconnect to our childhood, whether good or bad doesnt matter cuz it just is what it is. As Stanislas Dehaene says in this NY Times Article (1 of the things we bookmarked a while ago to prosses here): «When we write, a unique neural circuit is automatically activated. There is a core recognition of the gesture in the written word, a sort of recognition by mental simulation in your brain.»

... + incidentally we in no way endorse the NY Times, in fact we quit our subscription recently ... got tired of their elitist condescending attitude ... final straw was when they said a week or 2 ago (on the front page under the heading 'news analysis') something like «Eataly, unlike the nation, is orderly + polite.» Where do they get off calling a whole country impolite? + also feel like ½ the shit is paid advertising in the guise of news (like the above article 'about' Eataly) ... Native Advertising as they call it ... a topic John Oliver recently addressed on his new show, citing the Orange is the New Black NYT ad disguised as an article about women in prison ... funny they picked that show as OITNB really bothers us, the blasé campy tone + blurry lack of realism ... like they can't decide whether they want to be a serious show addressing issues about women in prison (which could be interesting + informative) but then they digress into shlocky slapstick skits no better than Reno 911. Makes us want to altogether shun media of all types, both news + entertainment as we don't know who to trust anymore + nothing seems believable or relevant (tho admit we are currently hooked on The Leftovers) ... not that everything has to be believable, but u at least got to suspend disbelief + if it's not credible on the playing field of reality then it at least it has to be mythologically or metaphorically meaningful.

Anyway, back to writing, by hand, which we've been doing a lot lately in writediting 'SSES" 'SSES" "SSEY' ... in transcribing our brother-½'s handwritten journals sometimes it feels we lose something not showing the native script, so at times we include actual snippets, original pages ... which not only gives flavor beyond just the typed words, but lends a certain authenticity. The episode (#8) we are currently working on is partially in a Telex font cuz it's around the time we 1st member seeing a Telex machine, at our father's office ... we'd just stare at the ghostly machine-head as it typed ... our 1st concept of a news feed—always wondered who was doing the feeding, what was on the other end. Would of course like to use an actual Telex machine but instead we're cheating, using some sort of retro font simulation (which we'd do here but it's too much trouble). U probly have to see the context to get what we're talking about ... but not quite ready to share excerpts here, maybe soon ...

In real space-time (Maphattan), we ventured further north up into Sugarhill ... in the fringes of our backyard, far enough (2 stops) that we took the subway to the starting point.

waiting for the train (still in our hood)

The thing about walking so systematically is it forces U to stop + see even what U may have passed before 100x in a different light. U don't always need to travel far + wide to discover new things ... sometimes U just need to look deeper into your own backyard. The beauty of the island of Manhattan is that it's a self-similar microcosm of the entire planet. Here's the route we took (Sunday, August 10):

Broke up east + west sides up cuz of Jackie Robinson park running down the middle like the ridged backbone of Manhattan, getting up into the neck where it juts out. East of Edgecombe is pretty crappy ... 1 of the 1st times we've contemplated skipping streets cuz we were concerned about our welfare. We've been thru some sketchy areas, but some of these streets were both sketchy + desolate, a bad combination. We recently walked all the way thru the Bronx + it felt safer than these streets. Then again, nowhere in NYC feels unsafe compared to other parts of the country (specially Ferguson, MO ... if U are black), it's just a matter of it being less familiar.

alley somewhere in the east 140s


bricked up bldg (east 140s)


1 of many 99¢ stores


1 of many impromptu watermelon stands


1 of many churches

14 years in NYC will leave a certain «don't fuck w/ me» look on your face ... if U live here U know what we're talking about, specially on the subway U just try to look neutral + not make eye contact, dress like u are going to the gym. When we're in Maphattan mode our look softens up some to not only make us receptive to tidbits of conversational information we might soak up, but a certain humility goes a long way ... almost as if U need permission to pass thru, if just a subtle nod of approval. In some cases (like old men chilling on their stoops) it seems expected U give some sort of salutation, which always is well-received when given. Just like when U say buenas tardes in small towns in Mexico, a typical response is pasale.

east 150s


if u don't want graffiti, hire graffiti-turned-commercial artists (Tats Cru)


new bus depot (work in progress)



stopped at Charlie's Fried Chicken (above) ... a little hole in the wall white people rave about it (gets a 27 in Zagat) ... been meaning to go for some time now but nothing else around this far up Frederick Douglass to give U an excuse. It was good of course, but we're not sure we'd notice the difference between this + Popeye's. Hard to screw up fried chicken (sure some people would shoot us for saying that). They (Charlie) claims it's «pan fried», but we snuck a peak into the kitchen + wouldn't qualify what they were cooking with as old-school cast-iron frying pans so much as industrial-sized deep-frying bins (albeit not as deep as your standard deep-fryer). + the sides were cold + gross.

intersection of St. Nick + 155 as seen from ...


«if u build it» space @ 155 + St Nick

W/ a belly full of chicken pushed on to the westside, stopped at 155th + St. Nicholas (pretty much the heart of Sugarhill) to check out the If You Build It xhibit housed in the building above. We've walked/run by before as it was being constructed + always wondered what the deal was w/ it + now we know ... thanks to the No Longer Empty organization (that put on the exhibit). No Longer Empty curates site-specific installations, often in buildings under construction like this 1, that forges connections between architecture, art + the community.

commodifying smiles (Nari Ward)


intertubed art (w/ JFK baggage claim tags)
+ view of NYCHA projects (on the old Polo grounds) + a distant Yankee Stadium

As is often the case, the bldg wasn't nearly so nice on the inside as out (opposite of our living situation). Inside was a combination of office/apartments + some of the xhibits were inside the actual apartments (that felt a bit cramped + rough around the edges, window space compromised for external aesthetics) ... at times voyeuristic + creepy, like going to an open house, as if the apartments were lived in.

part of full apartment installation by Kameelah Janan Rasheed


John Lawson


Iliana Emilia Garcia

We lucked out really as this was 1 of the last days the xhibit was going on + we just happened to be maphatting this hood. Continued on to the western chunk of our grid ... far more intresting, specially around St. Nicholas or Riverside ... in between was hit or miss. Even tho The Sugarhill Gang are from Englewood, NJ, U should listen to them while U read this post.

on top of Sugarhill


west 155th where it goes under Riverside drive down to the river


decapitated chickens in Trinity cemetery

Went into the Church of the Intercession cuz we'd heard about some crypts in their basement ... we reported the above chickens to some guy who worked in the church + he sighed + said 'not again' ... as if such voodoo sacrifices are a weekly occurrence. We asked him about the crypts + he was kind enough to take us down. Just like in Rome, if U go into churches + ask around U might be taken into otherwise secret chambers.

church of Intercession


down in the Intercession crypt (ashes housed in those little boxes)


they have Jazz concerts in the crypts on occasion

+ speaking of churches + voodoo rituals, just officially released The Luminol Reels by Laura Ellen Joyce. Here's the trailer she made for it (which even features a chicken bone).

So now we're caught up from the backlog from when we briefly considered submissions last summer ... maybe this means we'll open them back up soon? We'll see ... 1 thing we know for sure is that we'll no longer publish copyrighted works ... the concept of copyright offends us on a deep level + we want no part of this antiquated system. Lately we've had the US copyright office + library of congress on our case (we've managed to ignore them until now), demanding we send them 2 'best' copies of every book we've ever published, that it's the law. As we told them, we don't mind the idea of having Calamari titles in the Library of Congress ... all they have to do is say 'please' ... but instead 2 different people have been harassing us, saying it's mandatory, instructing us to do it, not asking. How did this ever become a law? Does no 1 else take issue w/ this? Seems insane that our govt is in the bizness of telling us what we can or can't do w/ art. Anyway, might have more to say about this later as it's really been bothering us ... but for now back to Sugarhill/Hamilton Heights ...

St. Nick's Pub


monument to Ralph Ellison at Riverside + 150 (across from where he lived)
(+now his remains live in the above Trinity cemetery along w/ Ed Koch + some of the Astors)

Appropriately enough, we just happen to be reading Ishmael Reed's Mumbo Jumbo ... not that he's from Harlem, but the book mostly takes place there ... drama centers around PaPa LaBas' 'Mumbo Jumbo Kathedral' at 119 West 136th (in the jurisdiction of our last uptown outing) ... not that Reed fact-checks his geography—in 1 place in the book he makes reference to the intersection of 125th street + 8th avenue which no 1 now refers to it as such but calls it Frederick Douglass north of 110th (+ between 57th + 110th it's Central Park West) but ok, maybe back in 1972 or in the '20s (when the book takes place) they called it that. Reed also says Teotihuacán is in South America ... when last we checked it was near Mexico City. Nit-picky yeah, but goes back to what we said about credibility ...

... then again, part of what makes the book so mind-altering is it's Pynchonian balance tween skewed historical fact + fiction ... nowadays we have the luxury of Wikipedia to fact-check (like did U know Warren Harding had black ancestry?) The experience is quite disorienting, like being spun around + let go in the middle of a bustling street + U don't know where or when U are ... maybe U are afflicted by Jes Grew, a sort of cultural virus afflicting African-Americans at the turn of last century, making U dance crazy Ragtime like a chicken running round w/ its head cut off ... there's plenty of that speaking of (making the above cemetery find serendipitously strange, blending our own reality w/ that of the book) ... allusions to chicken feathers + blood here + there + voodoo rituals + other occult influences. Evidently this shit still happens, not just in books.

Also, like us, Reed doesn't spell out numbers but writes the actual # ... doesn't make sense to us when some 1 spells out numbers ... we have concise symbols for them—1 for ea #—why not just use those? + Reed experiments w/ various fonts + formatting, weaving in images + even at times writes by hand (getting back to what we were talking about at the beginning of this post). Here's a page to give U the idea:

page 203 from Mumbo Jumbo

Sometimes as we flâneur Harlem we wonder what the experience must be like for African-Americans living here ... not your stereotypical 1s, but regular joes like us, soft-spoken into things like reading + art + eating healthy food ... which there are plenty of, but they get overshadowed by the dominant thug/hip-hop or $-dumbed pop culture parodies propagated by the likes of Jay-Z/Beyoncé. It's probly comparable to living around a bunch of loud frat boys or trailer trash.

There's scarce room on this planet for quiet, thoughtful people of any race, but seems it'd be specially hard if U were black ... if U are not an active participant in this culture— the dominant paradigm that quickly becomes a minstrel parody of itself over + over again—if U don't speak in ebonics + wear your pants beltless below your ass then U are selling out ... drinking the cracker Kool-aid. Per Reed:

«And when he was quoted as saying, "The Negro should be the Negro and not an imitation White man," what did he mean by that? Was that some kind of code he was giving to Blacks? You know, how they talk sometime you don't know what they're saying and as soon as you find out they done gone on to something else.»

Seems Mumbo Jumbo is a call to action to this particular demographic, the progressive independents capable of thinking outside the black box—giving rise to the likes of Percival Everett + Bad Brains—those aware of their place in history, but at the same time able to rise above + think beyond black or white, beyond the typical NBA/hip-hop expectations ... how to still have roots in the primitive + be afrofuturistic at the same time. Basquiat was perhaps another prime example of this (the modern primitive), tho arguably he sold his soul ... not in the vein of Robert Johnson, but Basquiat sold out to the white devil (Warhol).

As Reed reflexively says: «We will make our own future text. A future generation of young artists will accomplish this.» This very future text is Mumbo Jumbo.

an assault to the senses (speaking of native advertising)

Forgot to mention on the last walk that we found a baseball which seemed relevant since we were in a Dominican neighborhood where a lot of baseball was being played. So we got to thinking we'd like to collect at least 1 artifact or souvenir from each walk, representative of the hood ... + appropriately enough this walk we scored a domino, laying stray on the street ... lots of guys in these parts playing dominoes + dice + also some other game like marbles but they flip these little disks. Still trying to figure out the significance of 0 | 4.

Maphattan artifacts thus far


nothing to see ... move along


abandoned ruins of the Harlem Renaissance

P.S. 186 was also around here, but not much to see from the street w/o trespassing. Better to go Atlas Obscura ... btw where we source some of our beta before hitting the streets.

145 + Amsterdam

Then ducked underground to get home.


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