Back in the Day: Credit Cards

I went to the pharmacy the other day to pick up my prescriptions. I paid with my credit card in the usual fashion: I slipped it into the chip reader and entered my code. My fingers hovered over half of the card sticking out of the machine as I waited for “approved” to appear on the screen.  I was done in seconds. If it would’ve declined, I’d have used a different card, no bother. But it wasn’t always this easy. 

In the 1980s if your credit card declined, the clerk cut up the card right in your face! I remember this one time my family was in the checkout line and the man in front of us was paying with a credit card. He wore a pastel blue blazer with rolled-up sleeves and popped collar ala Crocket and Tubbs. He rocked on the balls of his feet as the clerk scanned the pile of items on the rotating belt. An inquisitive child, I watched as the cashier went through the items, wondering what he’d make with frozen waffles, steaks, potato chips, and beer.

He held the shiny plastic card by the edges as he handed it to her, so everyone in line could see the American Express logo. That little green card was the ultimate status symbol back then–even I knew that as an eight-year-old kid.

The cashier grabbed a clunky machine from the other side of the register, put the card on the metal surface, then covered it with a slip of paper. She slid the arm back and forth, then called the number on the back of the card for verification.  She was on the phone for a few minutes punching in numbers and giving information. The man stood there nodding at people, adjusting his collar.

The next bit happened so fast that I swear I would have missed it if my chin wasn’t resting on the edge of the counter.  The cashier hung up the phone, grabbed a huge pair of black-handled scissors that had to have been the inspiration for Edward Scissorhands, and cut up that man’s card.

“Your card declined.” The cashier said once the deed was done.  She tossed the pieces in the trash. I swore I saw a hint of a smile on her face.  The man stared dumbfounded at the cashier and the scissors. He left the store red-faced and flat-collared.

Could you image a clerk destroying someone’s card for lack of funds today? I would be so humiliated! I’d have to leave the store and never come back. 

How would you react?



The Secret Life of Trees

I feel good today!  While I didn’t get up early like I wanted to, I did go for a walk around my complex and that has warmed my blood and my imagination.  I love living amongst all these trees. Scientists have recently “discovered” that trees have a consciousness and form vital relationships with the trees around them.  This is not news to anyone who has spent any real time surrounded by trees. IMG_1770

The trees around me take special care of each other and the life forms that depend on them, including me.

Temple of the Free (Prince Dream #6)

December 29, 2017

I was walking up the street in what looked like our old neighborhood in Monrovia, California with a woman who looked Asian or South American. She had light brown skin, almond-shaped eyes, and straight black hair. She walked beside me quietly, hands clasped behind her back, rather pensively. She was a slender woman, just a few inches taller than me, wearing a white top with small flowers outlined in gray, a green cardigan, and slacks.

As we were walking, this neon pink body board flew out of the sky and hit her on the head. It came out of nowhere! She wasn’t hurt, just stunned. She still didn’t make a sound—just looked around with her hand on her head to see if it was raining surfboards.

Turns out some kids were messing around, catapulting the plastic board down the block on a giant slingshot type device made from crates and other scavenged materials. They came running down the street to retrieve their board, laughing and cheering about how far it flew that time. There are about five of them between the ages of seven and ten.

It was a summer day. The boys were so full of excitement and joy—it was beautiful. I couldn’t fully appreciate their joy in that moment because I was furious! I railed at them for their irresponsibility. I said my friend could have been seriously hurt. I demanded to know where they lived so that I could tell their parents. The boys agreed to take us to their home—with no hesitation actually—so we continued walking up the hill as a group.

We arrived at a traditional Japanese-style house on a hill overlooking a large body of water. It was a simple dark brown house with rice-paper sliding doors and a covered porch around the left side of the house. It had a teak walkway. The back part of the house was on pillars going into the water. It was quite serene.

There were three or four long lines of people standing in the front yard waiting to get in. The grass gradually gave way to paving stones surrounded by blue-green moss and small puddles, then rocks and water. It was almost like a moat. We took our place in line, although I was surprised that we had to wait since the kids lived there.

As we got closer to the house, the stepping-stones became uneven, slippery rocks that swayed in the surrounding water. I was so afraid of falling into the water; it took all my effort to just keep my balance. There was an “unseen” man who helped us navigate each stone. He was never visible; just a reassuring arm across the back guiding us along the path. I can still feel him pressed against my right shoulder. It was like being held by my mom when I was scared.

Anyway, we went in as a group, me and the five boys. I think the other lady was there as well, but I don’t quite remember. Inside it was like a regular old house with plaster walls and brown carpet. It reminded me of our house in Mount Washington, CA. There were people everywhere! We walked through a few rooms full of art and music and books. The house was a bit messy. It wasn’t disgusting or anything. it just looked like you could be really comfortable there.

We were guided through two rooms and a hallway by one of the “unseen” men to an interior room where Prince was sitting on a small black leather couch reading the newspaper. It was spread out all around him. He leaned against a couple of pillows. His left leg was bent on the sofa and his right leg was on the floor. He didn’t have on glasses. His hair was cut in a tapered pixie bob with long sideburns or side bangs? (I don’t know what those things are called).  He was wearing a kurta, a long white linen shirt from India, with collar embellishment and matching pants. His pants had long slits up the side so that his legs were free. He was barefoot.

It was a small room, ideal for thinking and creation. There were books stacked on a desk, art on the walls. Papers were everywhere. The windows were high and provided great light but no distracting views. I didn’t see a piano or other instruments, which was surprising. There were about seven people in the room with Prince but he wasn’t talking to them. They were socializing, eating, and admiring the wall art, before exiting through an exit door in a small hallway just passed the sofa.

The boys ran over to say hello to Prince. He closed his paper, chatted with them for a minute, then he asked me if I’d like to sit down. Oddly enough though, he didn’t move his foot so it was touching the small of my back as I sat. I tried to move closer to the left arm of the small sofa, which was now swarming with little boys, but it was no use. I couldn’t get away from that foot.

I hate feet.  I don’t like looking at them and I certainly don’t want them touching me. But what could I do? It was Prince. I couldn’t ask him to ‘move his nasty foot’ or be all extra and push his foot out of my way.  So I sat there stewing in my discomfort. I will say, though, that Prince’s leg was surprisingly smooth, for such a hairy man.  And for some reason, I remember him wearing a gold ankle bracelet.

We never did talk about the incident with the body board. Instead, we talked about music, games, and anything that popped into their young minds. One of the boys started singing.  When I asked the name of the song, they looked at me like I had farted.  Turns out it was a Prince song. I was mortified (not that I know all his songs—I don’t. But hey, dream rules are different.)  They all laughed, then the boys went off the play in another room and I got up to look at the art on the wall.  I was about to make my way through the exit door like the others when Prince called me over.

He said my name, ‘Eryka.’ I heard it as clear as day. My heart stopped. Prince has said things in my dreams, but he has never said my name before. If I had died in that moment, that would have been just fine with me. I went back to the sofa and sat down next to him.  He was sitting half-lotus and I was sitting side-saddle, so we were facing each other.

Prince handed me a book and asked me if I’d read. I hadn’t. It was a small white paperback with black, gray, gold and a bit of green on the cover. The title was rendered in bold black letters. I’ve racked my brain but I just don’t remember the name of that book.

Prince took some change out of his pocket: seven pennies, an old dime, and a nickel and put it into my hand. He took back the nickel and asked me what did I have for him. I rummage through my purse (where my purse came from I will never know) and I found a quarter and I gave that to him. Prince gave me the book, which I put it in my bag. I sat there for a minute looking at him. I think I was expecting words of wisdom, directions or something, but he just smiled at me and went back to reading his paper. I took that as my cue to leave.

I didn’t leave through the exit door like the others. I went back through the house and out the front door. The unseen man helped me across the rocks and water again. The lines of people were all gone as was my friend. The children stayed with Prince.



©2018 Joy of Eryka

The Dye Job (Prince Dream #3)

February 6, 2017

Last night I dreamed of Prince again. It wasn’t an elaborate dream like the spaceship, just Prince hanging out with me. We were lying on the couch listening to music. It was soft jazz music, I think. I was lying almost on top of Prince and he had his arm was wrapped around my shoulder.  My heart was aching. I was lonely and I felt worthless. My head was resting on his chest just under his chin. He was so warm. I told him I missed and he held me tighter.

I was crying but tried to catch my tears before they fell on his white suit. It was an immaculately cut suit, made from a wool that was simultaneously warm and cool.  His hair was relaxed and cut in a shoulder-length bob with face-framing bangs. He was wearing a handmade white beret in a snowflake pattern. It was made with silk/wool lace-weight thread using a “00” crochet hook. The work was so fine that it draped like woven cloth; only a true master could achieve this effect.  I want to say beret glowed, but that would be hyperbole. It was radiant that’s for sure.

“I feel like a failure,” I said.

Prince squeezed my shoulder again and said: “You’ll feel better if you do something to your hair.”

Next, the dream flashed to a kitchen with dark wood cabinets and mustard yellow floors.


burgandy hair

I don’t know whose house we were in–it wasn’t mine. Prince was standing next to the open refrigerator holding a highball glass of dark red liquid. He was about to drink it and I tell him to stop because it’s toxic.


He says “then why are you putting it in your hair.”

And somehow (you know how dreams work) I could see myself standing at the sink with a blue towel draped around my neck and a burgundy afro on my head.  It looked ridiculous! Prince laughed and I woke up.




©2018 Joy of Eryka

Prince Bearing Gifts… (Prince Dream #2)

January 2, 2017

Before I went to sleep last night, I prayed, well I asked Prince, Octavia, God, Yemoja anyone to help me with my writing—to help me see a story through to completion.

Well! Last night I had another Prince dream. He was wearing all white suit with a white cashmere trench coat and I was in red robe and pajamas. Prince was bearing gifts: a big handful of them. We were in a 1980’s ranch-style house with lots of dark wood and tiles and a sunken living room. It wasn’t a house I’d ever lived in, but in the dream, it was my home.

He was sitting on the sofa and I was on the floor surrounded by gifts. They were wrapped in beautiful paper with elaborate bows and what not. I didn’t open them all, but I do remember one was a box of chocolate.  We chatted for a few minutes eating candy, then Prince got up to leave.

As he was adjusting the collar of his coat, he said: “You know this means I’m done with you, right?” I protested of course.

“When people ask me for gifts, I give it to them; then I’m done with them because they just want something from me.” He said walking toward the door.

I tried to give the gifts back but he wouldn’t take them. I ran outside after him, begging him to come back and visit again, be he just popped his collar and got back into his RV.

It was also white and kinda rusty, which is surprising for an immaculate brotha like Prince.  I banged on the door, wailing for him to come back inside for just a few more minutes. Finally, he let me into the RV.

It was an absolute mess! He said I could clean up for him—which I did, gladly.

We started down the road. Prince was driving and singing, I don’t remember the song, I just remember being amused at seeing him handling the large steering wheel. The collar of his white coat still popped to perfection. I was washing dishes.

Then I heard a toilet flush. This middle-aged white man came out of the bathroom. He was balding with that ring hair around his head. He had watery blue eyes and a weather-worn face. His name was Earl I think. He was wearing a red and black checked shirt and jeans. He looked like a farmer. Earl looked at me and said. “He let you on too?”  He had a befuddled smile on his face. I was going to ask him where were we going, but I woke up.




©2018 Joy of Eryka

The Spaceship (Prince Dream #1)

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Last night I dreamed I was a terrestrial time-traveler.  Well, not really time travel, it was like we could move from place-to-place by going to sleep in what appeared to be a motel room.  Different rooms, of course.  I say “we,” but I don’t remember who the others were.

The last time we tried to move there was a five-year-old little girl with us. She was wearing pink footie-pajamas and had a melodious laugh. She reminded me of every little girl in my family–including me.

We were staying at a bed-and-breakfast run by this older couple somewhere in the county.  It was quite lovely with vintage handmade furniture and objets d’art past from mother to daughter and then again. We tried to move that night, but it didn’t work.  I woke up early and discovered people were out of their beds. You see, we had to be in bed for the move to work.

I found the little girl lying happily under the bed singing songs and eating candy.  She had an amazing story of her own to tell.  She said someone came to her in the night and took her up on a big ship and had her sit in a little chair. The beings were really big, too big to sit in chairs.  She described them, but I forgot what she said. They asked her a lot of questions, gave her candy when they finished. They tried to put her back on the bed but missed a bit.  She thought under-the-bed was interesting so she stayed there checking it out.

We tried to move again the second night.  I kept the little girl with me in my bed to make sure she went to sleep.  I checked on the guys before going to bed.  They were there as well, not sitting out watching the stars like the previous evening.

That night, the room started to shake and furnishings were lifted into the air.  The heavy bed slid across the floor, mirrors crashed to the ground or was it the wife’s great grandmother’s Havilland china? The men came to our room to make sure we were ok, especially the little girl. We continued our ascent into the air as a group.

Then out of nowhere, Prince showed up.  Yes, the Prince. He was young with feathered hair like the cover photo of his second album, Prince. I don’t remember if he was wearing a shirt or not. He asked if we had anything better to drink that whiskey. I gave him an apple; he seemed to be happy with that.  He asked how we were doing.  Then said everything would be fine once we got into some better clothes.

Chatting with him made us forget the fearfulness of our current situation.  In fact, we were now looking out the window at the people below.  It appeared we were on a ship—a spaceship to be exact.  It was one of the big round ships with steam-spitting values and rust spots, but it got the job done.  I looked back at Prince to tell him what I was seeing but he was sitting in another row far behind me, headed in a different direction.  I signed that I loved him. He signed back that he loved me too and then he signed that he loved the world. Then his ship or his part of the ship, went way.  He went away.


This dream was quite comforting. I was glad that to see Prince again.  I was surprised to see him, exceeding grateful for his presence.


©2018 Joy of Eryka

Inner Memphis…

Last Summer

I met Eso Tolson and Siphne Aaye last summer. Artistik Approach performed at Spillit the same night I told my Prince story.  After the show, we were hanging out and I noticed his shirt said, “Embrace Your Inner Memphis.” He told me it was his own design and told me the story behind it.

Go get a shirt!


I was still adjusting to living in Memphis and I couldn’t fathom embracing it. So when he suggested I buy one of his shirts my response was a crisp, “Hell No.” I’m sure folks could see snowflakes. Eso laughed it off and then we all went to dinner.

Last Friday

I went to the Choo Restaurant to check out Siphne’s latest mural, Connected. It is a series of train and travel-related vignettes on the side of the restaurant facing the tracks.  I can’t wait for the unveiling! Eso was there, along with Darius B. Williams and Averelle Mondie–the very same people I met that summer night.

While I was hugging Eso’s neck, I asked: “Do your shirts come in a ladies’ cut? Unisex shirts make me look like a linebacker.”  I am quite sure I heard the Universe giggle.

Eso suggested I stop by his table the Connect901 Holiday Pop-up shop and try a shirt on


Inner Eryka
Photo Credit: Darius B. Williams


before I asked him to special order one for me. I did and I loved it!  I bought a large shirt, then graphic designer Ryan Stewart cut the shirt on me.  I call it the “Chopped and Screwed” version. It was such an amazing experience! I felt so beautiful. Then Darius B. Williams went and snapped the fly ass picture of me and it was over! You couldn’t tell nothin’ me anything for the rest of the night.



Inner Eryka

I suppose I have embraced my Inner Memphis. My family is originally from Memphis.  My first memories of life are in this city.

My storytelling roots were established in a wild strawberry patch thriving on the rhymic hum of my granddaddy’s air conditioning at the house on Brantley Road. It was one of the first places I visited when I returned to Memphis in 2015. FYI, you do not want to show up *unannounced* at a house in South Memphis waxing nostalgic about how your grandfather poured the driveway and raised three generations of your family in that house. Just don’t.  I’m sure I didn’t get my ass kicked because I had my very pregnant cousin and her baby in the car.

I rediscovered my strength and my voice here. Memphis demands your best if you want to thrive on her shores. I’m up for the challenge, are you?



Day of Thanks

I spent Thanksgiving with my uncle’s family this year and we had such a great time. It was good to see my cousins again. My aunt Diane is the best cook on the planet!


I ate so much food, I nearly fell asleep at the table!  Then I took home two plates of food, so I have been in a food coma for the past few days.  So it’s back to green smoothies, kombucha and baked chicken for me!  I was so focused on eating I forgot to take pictures! But here is a picture of my smoothie.



TIL: Poetry Behind the Veil

Last night on Cambly, I met a poet, a real one. He was born in Saudi Arabia with passion and agony etched on his tongue and a hole in his heart. We spoke for an hour through the veil of a black video screen–as many people from the Kingdom do to preserve modesty in the nakedness of the Western World.

He shared his poetry with me English, then in Arabic. His work is patient and melancholy like a desert wind. It aches of  life observed but not lived.  It bleeds beauty.  He prefers classical Arabic words to modern ones. Says the modern words don’t have the same feel. He is right.

Unfortunately, I am one of a handful of people have ever heard his verses.  As a child in he frolicked in literature, dreaming only of poetry. When he turned 16, his parents told him he was to be a surgeon. Poet is not a profession, they said. So he went to medical school. He would scribble verses in his journal or on his phone. He would discard most, other he’d forget…he was a surgeon after all.

But his body began to crack under the weight of his drowning spirit. He is still in the medical field, but no longer a surgeon.  He sounds happy about that. He is writing more poetry now; he shared those sparse verses with me with the intention of deleting them as well.

I begged him to save them, perhaps publish them in English under a pseudonym, so his family wouldn’t freak out.  He agreed to keep them, but that was all. He sent me a link to the song, the Coffee Cup Reader, which an essential song in Arabic culture. This is the short version, the full version is about more than two hours long.

Needless to say, I am quite interested in learning more about Arabic poetry and perhaps learning Arabic as well.  I think it will make me a better writer.


TIL: The Power of Poetry

imagesI’ve often wondered how Iran held on to its language and culture after the Arab invasion in 633 AD. Arabic is the dominant language throughout the Middle East, yet somehow Iran still speaks Farsi and held fast to its culture.

Well, I learned how this was possible last night. I was on Cambly talking to a student from Iran and he told me the story. He said that while Iran did adopt the Arabic writing system they kept Farsi shahnameh 1as their primary language because of a poem called the Shahnameh.



The Shahnameh, which took Persian poet Ferdowsi 30 years to write, is the longest epic poem written by a single author in the world. It details the history of the great Iranian kings. It is written entirely in Farsi and is held with such national pride, that after the Arab invasion, the Persian people clung to this poem as a pshanameh for kidsart of their national identity and some say it is the sole reason that the Farsi language is still in existence today. While they did adopt the Arabic writing system, they were not letting go of Farsi because of the Shahnameh.

Children are taught to read and write using the Shahnameh. Older students memorize passages from it.

Power to the poets y’all. Power to the poets!