First of all, I have been to more than a few places and met a great many people over my lifetime (remember I am "seasoned"). Plus in my work, I spend time with politicians, higher ed Presidents and a myriad of other personalities who can make you think you have seen it all, heard it all, and very nearly done it all. Yet, in the span of one afternoon/evening of quality time, Rashid Darden, author of Lazarus, managed to let me know the best is yet to come. We share a number of commonalities (I will let you ponder which ones) that probably led to our meeting. I can tell you that one attraction is our deep and abiding love for the characters in his premier novel. But I digress.
The place: Washington, DC - a place that I have traveled to for business, pleasure and family excursions since 1969. You would think that over that length of time, I would have seen so much of the City. And yet, seeing it with Rashid and through his eyes gives the District a whole new experience to be enjoyed. From Dupont Circle (a shout out here to Lambda Rising Bookstore) to his alma mater, to a great conversation over a honey vanilla latte (he ordered water) at Borders Bookstore, Rashid opens you up to new experiences.
The people: From bookstore owner and assistants to members of Alpha Phi Omega to kids in his neighborhood to his family (his Mom serves up a heavenly coconut pie), it is obvious that people who know him, love him. But this is the man who gave life to Adrian and Savion and told their story so vividly that you had to know that the author was a loving, spirited character himself. With hugs aplenty from his admirers, this young man is recognized in the community and has an incredible memory to recognize folks on the street from his journey. Ever the businessman, he whips out his business card and encourages folks to visit the Old Gold Soul website as he promotes Lazarus. Rashid is easily the valedictorian of the freshman class of gay, black authors that include Brent Dorian Carpenter, Alphonso Morgan, Frederick Smith, and Keith Boykin.
The sights: From his neighborhood, we watched July 4th fireworks. The sparkle not only came from the pyrotechnics that burst above our heads, but also from the sparkle in Rashid's eyes as he took note that for a few moments, his neighborhood kids could be kids again dazzled by the mini explosions around us, and his neighborhood parents could connect with their kids as they too looked toward the sky and briefly escaped the problems that become daily distractions.
The conversations: Did we talk about Lazarus? You bet [among other things ;-)]. Does he know where it will all lead? Definitely! Should readers stay on this literary train through the sequels? Unequivocably YES!! In the words of the O'Jay's Love Train - 'Cause if you miss it, I feel sorry, sorry for you.
Rashid, when you read this - A great big hug and thanks for a memorable day. Much love frat. '06 & peace.