This week I saw life in a complete circle of pain and pleasure. The pain comes, if you keep on living, and how it’s usually balanced out by the pleasures of living. My pain came from visiting two friends in the hospital. One is middle age and the other in his senior years. One was near death and the other, hopefully, just going through some of life’s adjustments.
Life twists us up, and I tell you, it is not the old friend in his seventies who is near death. It is the one near my oldest son’s age, in his ﬁfties. That was my latest pain. My pleasure was discovering a place called, “The Institute of Musical Arts and Spoken Word Studios.”
I can’t help but think about these two events as being like a good meal with the basics of trying to make sure you get the protein, a certain amount of carbohydrates and not too much salt. Then you have your dessert for pure pleasure.
It is my duty as a Black man to tell you that their illness was due to cancer. Cancer is not something that discriminates. It can be in children or the elderly. Our job is to keep getting checked and make sure that it’s not living with you. And you need to work with your doctor to make sure that you’re doing everything to try to beat it.
At my church, we had a seminar on prostate cancer and I learned that if caught soon enough a man can get treated and survive it. The seminar was supported by the City of Hope staff for which we are thankful. On a personal note my preference would have been a doctor who spoke English as a primary language, as it was very hard to understand him.
Back to the pleasure part of this article, The Institute. I discovered that The Institute was founded by Ray Clark who was an engineer, who later went to law school and opened a successful law practice, utilizing The Institute as a law ofﬁce. Today it serves the dual purpose of being a performing Arts Center by his daughter who maintains the legal practice. His daughter, Dawn Clark Johnson, is following in her father’s footsteps as a lawyer. The history of the place tells us that luminaries like Ike and Tina Turner performed and/or recorded there, as did Marvin Gaye, to name a couple.
There was a certain magic feel about the place to me. I was there primarily to see an old friend from Bakersﬁeld, Helen Brown, perform there. I was blessed to see her in a play called
“But I like Birthday Cake.” Five women actors took us through their youth days to their days, today. We heard lines like the teen aged girls bragging about wearing their mother’s bras. Teenage boys saying things like, “They call me coffee because I grind so good.”
We heard lines like a father who sent the neighborhood kids home by saying, “Let’s play cat and mouse. Everybody go to your house.” There were stories about Black folks and dogs and how grandma was calling the family dog her “grand dog”.
The players were older women who I am sure get a kind of therapy entertaining themselves and the crowd. As a note Helen’s son, Chris Brown, is an actor who has a number of movie credits to his name.
I had a great time. If you want to put some spice in your life, give The Institute a call (323- 300- 6578) and get the next event and to enjoy the players.