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    Tearz, aka Julian 'Tone' Foster, Photo by Michael Hanlon

    Tearz, aka Julian ‘Tone’ Foster, Photo by Michael Hanlon

     

    bill berry:

    Welcome! Our readership may not have picked up on the fact that you are multi-named to go along with being multi-talented. So, for the purpose of our conversation how do you want me to address you, and then can you share the other names that some folks may know you by? You addressed the significance of Tearz in your published aaduna bio but what was the thinking behind the pen name for your novel?   I know…I am throwing out a bunch of questions to shift us into overdrive and we are just getting started. However, I think you can handle soft and hard questions with a gracious spirit and a finesse that most writers may want to emulate. So Tearz, what’s up, talk to me?!

     

    Tearz:

    Tearz: Hello Bill! You can address me as “Tearz” because we are showcasing the poetry/spoken word part of my personality…LOL. I have three common names, “Tearz” as I addressed previously is my spoken word/poet name, on the street I was known as “Tone” (which comes from my real name Tony) and the final would be “Julian Foster”(my author name). The name Julian Foster comes from me combining my middle name Julian with my biological mother’s maiden name. I am an adopted child and had the pleasure of seeing and meeting my mother for the first time when I was 32. I learned that her maiden name was Foster and wanted to include that part of my history into my pen name; guess it’s my way of showing respect to where I come from. The name is a constant reminder to me of the origins of my complex nature, the proverbial paint that I draw from, when creating.

     

    bb:

    What prompted you to seek your biological mother when you did and were there circumstances that prevented you from pursuing that part of your biological history before your actual quest for your birth mother? Can you share her reaction and the reasons that she had to place you for adoption? Do you know or have you met your biological father?

     

    Tearz:

    Umm…well I would say it’s something that I always needed to know. I think a lot of adopted children go through that. You feel like a piece of you is missing. I think if anything it was fear that prevented me from doing it before. The not knowing how she would respond and if she would be receptive, so I’d say I had to build up the courage to do it and have the strength to be able to accept and stomach whoever and whatever I encountered. There was also the concern of how my adoptive parents would react. Not wanting them to feel rejected or betrayed or unappreciated or whatever goes on in the minds on that end of things. My mother’s reaction was ….we’ll let’s just call it “laid back” LOL….I think she didn’t know what to expect from me. I think at first, she thought there would be feelings of resentment and anger…but I let all of that go. (Don’t know if you can print this) but she walked in the house (I was there before her waiting) she looked at me, gave me a hug and then asked me to come out on the porch, where she lit a blunt(marijuana), passed it to me and we just sat there…looking at the sky, not speaking. We’ve never really talked about the “Why’s” but from all of the paperwork and police reports I can tell you that she had a VERY hard life when she was young. She was on drugs and a prostitute and spent A LOT of time in prison for various crimes that range from murder to theft to federal forgery charges. As far as my biological father, I was born in April and he was killed in a robbery attempt January of that same year. All I know is that his name still rings bells throughout the toughest neighborhoods in Pittsburgh (They called him “Cigar”) and the story is he was a pimp, bootlegger and all around street dude. So when it comes to some of the darker, more seedy stages of my life, you can see I got it honest! LOL. But I’ve never dug too deep with my mother, I can tell that there is A LOT that she is not comfortable talking about and/or sharing, so I leave it at that for now. I honestly just enjoy the relationship we’ve developed now and to be honest, overall (it’s kind of weird) we talk like we’ve been friends for years! I learned that I have 8 brothers and sisters (met most of them) and the older ones are ALL “night owl” types. It’s not uncommon for my mother to call me at 4am or later and be like, “What’s up!? I knew you were still awake…!” LOL

     

    bb:

    Sounds like the familial relationships are solid especially between you and your Mom. Forgiveness, understanding, and being sensitive to someone else’s pain and life struggles go a long way towards positive healing. As you moved into man/adulthood were you able to escape most of the unfortunate issues that your biological parents had to deal with? And tell me about your adoptive parents. What kind of folks are they?

     

    Tearz:

    Yea, the relationship we’ve developed is pretty good. I would say that I have had my run and bouts in the street. I was a member of the Gangster Disciples street gang for years and have been involved with a lot more than I would dare to share openly here…LOL…but God is good! There was an old man that hung in one of the neighborhoods, when I was in the street. He would always say, “God looks out for fools and babies…” and I think he was right about that one! So I’m blessed to be here when a lot of my friends were killed or incarcerated for life, or sentenced to death row. I’m thankful every day for him preserving me and shielding me from a similar fate. My adoptive parents are a totally different side of the spectrum. My adoptive mother was an elementary school teacher, (have to credit her for my love of reading) and my father was a district manager with Union Carbide. I would call them, WAY more conservative people, who stressed education and becoming successful…to a fault at times…LOL

     

    bb:

    Redemption is always a very positive path. I suspect there are many more folks who are trying to shed a former life but often are not given the societal chance. Interestingly, aaduna has published work of incarcerated writers housed in the Auburn Correctional Facility, a maximum security institution. I’ve taught workshops at ACF to inmates whose crimes were horrendous, committed at a young age where bravado and “being the baddest MF” was key; been to inmate performances; walked the yard at night, and felt the clanging of iron bar doors being open and then immediately locked once you passed through. So, you were able to transition to a different person. How do your life experiences to date frame what you write about especially the recently published novel, Before I Wake, which I have not yet read? Tell us a little about the novel.

     

    Tearz:

    That’s actually a good question. (You’re pretty good at this…LOL). I would say that I bring All of my life experiences into everything I write. Whether poetry/spoken word or my debut novel. I’ve always believed that the more honest one is when creating and the more courage they have to share what’s in the depths of them, the more their work will relate to other people. I find that the things that you have the most doubts about sharing or writing and you say to yourself, “maybe I shouldn’t say that, or maybe I shouldn’t tell that story…” are the VERY things that people will approach you later on and say, “I’ve always felt that, but could never find the words to express it….”. So I’m pretty open and honest and I don’t hide anything when I write or perform. It’s therapeutic for me actually. I feel that the brutal honesty in the spoken word arena, is what separates it from rap which in a lot of cases is very showy and “look at me..” etc. I am always in search of a better way to express my angst and pain…”the endless pursuit of perfection” and along that journey to find myself and articulate my life and idiosyncrasies and passions and faults, I’d like to believe that others are enlightened as well as entertained. I would like to believe on an even grander scale that it encourages or inspires others to do the same.

     

    As far as the novel, you kind of hit it on the head when you said, that a lot of people are trying to shed a former life but often aren’t given the societal chance. My novel, “Before I Wake” (by Julian Foster) is about a young girl who is trying to come of age and make her way through an urban gauntlet that will test everything from her heart, spirit and better judgment to her sexuality and sanity. I wanted to give the reader an intimate look at a young person that is submerged in this environment. Too many times you just see stories on the news, where a mug shot is flashed and you get pieces of a story, but you never get the background information. People are dehumanized through the media constantly and labeled “gangsters”, “drug dealers” or “thugs” then written off and stashed away in a correctional facility for the rest of their lives. I wanted the reader to connect with this character who is lost and misguided and then to ask themselves, “What if that had been me or my life?” “How would I have turned out?” A lot of people have no idea how much some of these young kids are exposed to and how little guidance or positive interactions they have. I wanted to show that side of things, especially from the female perspective. I worked as a Sentry (security guard) at an inner city high school here and the things I witnessed some of those high school age girls experience and have to deal with was beyond extreme. I basically used my own life experiences, but created a character to go through those things. The book is VERY authentic down to 90% of the characters being real people from the west side of this city. One of the main characters “Cry,” is currently serving five years in Taconic Correctional, so the story is definitely authentic. I’ve always felt that because of situations and circumstances that unfortunately for a lot of people that come from this demographic, it’s over before they even get started and by the time that they are old enough and able to see the “error of their ways” it’s usually too late. My hopes are that readers are moved to react to this crisis. If people are affected or appalled or offended or saddened (the content is very graphic) then that’s a good thing! Now, let’s do something about it! The book is available on Amazon and I would love for you and anyone else to check it out and let me know what you think.

     

    bb:

    I will get a copy of the novel and let you know my thoughts and reactions since we have committed to presenting more of your spoken word in one of the 2015 aaduna issues. But here is the dilemma I have based on what you just shared. What do we (society, parents, teachers, preachers, guardians etc.) do to stop or even decrease the ongoing “gangsta mentality” that appears to have permeated most young people by the time they get to high school? And this is not necessarily a poor or lower class problem since middle class young folks get caught up in serious drug addiction [heroin, meth, painkillers, binge drinking etc.,] felony crimes, and a life that the larger society perceives as having no meaningful direction.

     

    Tearz:

    I had a feeling that question was coming…LOL. I kind of set myself up for that one. I won’t pretend for a minute to have all the answers. What I would say is based on how I felt and what I saw from other people that were engrossed in that lifestyle. For me I think it started with not feeling as if I belonged or was really loved. I carried a lot of issues through life that stemmed directly from my adoption. Those coupled with a confusion, anger and resentment were the perfect breeding ground for me to be seduced by the lifestyle and the “camaraderie/family” that it promises. I would think that each individual has their own set of issues and reasons as to why they are drawn to certain things or more susceptible. But overall I think one of the main ingredients that ran through us all was hurt…..hurt and pain caused by something and/or someone. We were all broken when it came right down to it. The ironic part about it is the hardest “gangsters” are usually the most sensitive people, they feel EVERYTHING so deeply and in my personal experience they had all been through Hell. The overall feeling that “nobody gives a “F” about me, so now I don’t give a “F”…..” etc. Or I was hurt and taken advantage of so why not hurt or take advantage of someone else. In a sordid way, “I want someone to feel what I feel…” follow me? Of course that mentality is steeped in dysfunction and everyone knows that’s not a healthy mantra to feed yourself, nor does it engender a healthy outlook on life and others, but one has to be given the opportunity to evolve and grow into knowing that. It took me a long time to realize, that the only person I was really hurting was myself!

     

    I read somewhere that education is not about putting something into a child, it’s about bringing things out. I would go farther and say that, to a degree I feel the same way about parenting. You’re absolutely right, it’s not just a poor or lower class problem, but when a child (from any background) feels disconnected and disenfranchised, whether it’s done on purpose (as in an abusive situation) or just out of neglect, the stage can be set for that child’s life to begin the proverbial downward spiral. Every person has needs and if they are not being met, it’s only natural that the person/child seek those things out. I’ve always said that we all have holes and what we choose to fill them with, is rarely, if ever as good as what really belongs in them in the first place. Again I don’t have a “magic answer” but I do believe, a lot of it starts with parents, teachers etc. LISTENING to children more, taking the time to learn them as an individual, instead of being so quick to shape them into whatever the aforementioned group thinks they should be. I hate to sound cliché but I do believe it starts in the home. There will always be peer pressure and rap music and a host of other things that society will blame as “the problem”, but those exterior forces need an opening and an opportunity in order to take hold of a child. A parent’s job is to prevent those opportunities and to guard those openings, (if any) with their life.

     

    As a professional that worked in the field I came across these types of kids every day. It’s VERY hard to reach a child who has adopted this mentality. A definite uphill battle, that’s for sure! I’ve had kids say, “My momma don’t tell me what to do, so you ain’t either!” LOL….What do you say to that? I remember arguing with kids to go to class and then having to discipline them, (which of course makes matters worse) and I left the situation thinking, “this kid doesn’t even realize that I’m trying to help him! If he goes to class, gets good grades etc…that will help him!” But I will share this, as an indication of the mentality and some of their backgrounds. A kid gets in a fight at school, calls their family, cousins etc. By the end of the school day their whole family and half the neighborhood is outside ready to fight kids and whoever else. We usually ended up having to call the police to have them taken off of the property. Now, fast forward to, “meet the teacher night” or “open house” (with over 1,300 students that attend the school), two sets of parents show up for the whole four hour event! I hate to sound apathetic and nasty, but at the end of the day, “Apple trees produce apples….” It’s a sad truth. My boss, a vice principal at the school would say, “You’ll think these kids are crazy and wonder what is wrong with them, until you meet their parents….!”

     

    bb:

    You cite problems, issues, and possible solutions that might take at least 1-2 generations to carve out and make work, or we wait for some external, foreign disaster that will force all people to bind together for a common good and survival. Least I trivialize those issues, I will not give examples of doomsday scenarios. But frankly, on a very basic and simplistic level, movies and television have captured those survival issues and quite possibly made serious concerns, trivial matters for most people. Let me just try to shift you in another direction before we bring this heavy conversation to a close. Tearz, what do you do for fun, relaxation, a good time? And what about you personally…single, children, pets…?

     

    Tearz:

    Yes, that’s a long deep conversation. It seems the more you talk about it the more problems you seem to uncover. A very layered issue. But what do I do for fun? Hmm, I read a lot! As they say, “If you want to be great, study the greats” so I read a lot and study the writing styles of different authors. As I stated above, I am still kind of going through a transition in my life, where for once (after all these years) I take my writing seriously and actually see where it will take me, without distractions. I’ve had to cut ties with a lot of people for some of the reasons we spoke on above, so it’s been an interesting time for me. It’s like starting all over. “You can’t soar with the eagles, if you stay clucking around with the chickens” that was another thing that took me a long time to learn. I am single, (Heeeey ladies….!!LOL) and I have 3 daughters, 19, 17, and 12. I don’t have any pets, although I’ve flirted with the idea of buying a Toucan. LOL. How many people’s houses have you been to that have a pet Toucan? I think that would be cool! (I heard they are hard to care for though, so the jury is still out on that one.) I plan to get back into performing more as well. I haven’t been on the open mic scene in a while, so I’m long overdue. I love watching independent films. The IFC channel is one of my favorites. I tend to be drawn to offbeat characters and quirky personalities. My favorite movie is “Basquiat” about the artist Jean-Michel. I’m in the process of writing my next novel, so for now I’ve been kind of a recluse, just reading and watching Forensic Files.

     

    bb:

    Your points are on the mark. Eagles, chickens…well, chickens never get to observe a panoramic 360 degree view of what’s ahead from all angles. Three daughters…good for you! Toucan? Go for it. I have two hairless cats that most folk who have seen them, can’t quite grasp that reality in the moment. Well, this has been a pleasurable conversation but even good things come to an end…eventually. Do you have any advice that you want to pass on to our readers? After that I will engage you in what I use to close conversations, namely, my game of “this or that.”

     

    Tearz:

    Um yes, it was a good talk! Any advice….let’s see? I would say, never give up on your dreams and above all, never be ashamed of or hide your authentic self. The people that can’t or won’t accept you for who and what you truly are, are not meant for you in the first place. “Those that find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming” ~Oscar Wilde~

    bb:

     

    You start strong, you end strong. I like that, and thank you for taking the time to chat with me. It was informative and set pathways for a future discussion. OK, now for some silly fun. Pick one item from each question and do not spend any time thinking through your answer. Here you go:

     

    Elevator or Escalator?

     

    Elevator

     

    Nurse or Physician Assistant?

     

    Physician Assistant

     

    Screenwriter or Actor?

     

    Actor

     

    Frightened or Terrified?

     

    Frightened

     

    Charlie Brown or Christopher Robin

     

    Charlie Brown

     

    Vampire or Werewolf?

     

    Vampire

     

    TV or Cinema?

     

    TV

     

    Paper or Plastic

     

    Plastic

     

    Spontaneity or Planning?

     

    Spontaneity

     

    Lone Ranger or Zorro?

     

    Zorro

     

    [The answers from Tearz are red.]

    ♦  ♦  ♦

     

    Read Tearz spoken word poetry:   http://aaduna.org/fallwinter2014/poetry/tearz/

     

    Click here to read additional conversations:  http://aaduna.org/fallwinter2014/conversations/

     

    Click here to read conversations from previous issues:  http://aaduna.org/summer2014/conversations/

     

    ————————————————————————————————————

    Message from Bill Berry, Jr

     

    When aaduna started, I did an interview process titled “E-Viewpoints” with contributors. The purpose was to construct a wider audience for aaduna writers and artists while providing our readership with a better understanding and glimpse of the individuals who penned the poetry, fiction, and non-fiction and created the diverse array of visual arts. For a variety of unplanned reasons, I took a hiatus from that initiative. But now, I am back with “Conversations.” The plan is to chat with current and previous contributors and delve into aspects of their background that you may find intriguing and uplifting. I hope you become a regular follower of this series of “Conversations” and continue to enjoy the work of the individual that I have a chat with. The intent is not to be “in your face” but enable you to savor the nuances, expectations, and challenges that aaduna contributors face as people, just like you and me.  I think you will find “Conversations” interesting, maybe provocative, and enlightening. I hope so.

     

    Stay Creative,

    bill

    Conversation with Tearz

    February 10, 2015