Invading MySpace

Call it passe if you like. But for small-town folks like me, this Web site is a better link to reality than Facebook.

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She said the same people who dog her the loudest for liking the same sex like to dabble themselves. "It seem like everybody is coming out the closet," she said. "I never gave a damn cause it's my life, and I see people for what's on the inside and not the out. My mama tell me like this: " 'Baby, you grown now. Mama can't tell you what to do. But if you like it, I love it. And I love you, too.'"

Her mama is my half-sister, and it makes me a little sad that I hardly know her, either. As far as Lil' Mizzy is concerned, suffice it to say, I don't have a meaningful relationship with anybody like her in my present life.

There's more to the world, she's confirmed, than life as lived on Facebook.

She has no qualms about letting it all hang out on the Internet or in this article. "I lay it out there and keeps it real," she told me in a recent note. "Even though we never met face-to-face, you are my uncle, so you should be able to ask me anything." That touched me a little bit. She wants to write books, just like her author uncle, and you know I liked that. Intriguing youngster. Her photos show a woman hard in ways Ohio never did make me.

My extended family has migrated far and wide, and I almost never see any of them. I haven't even been back to Ohio in almost a decade. Now, when I think about Ohio—if I think of it at all—I consider what it must have been like for Toni Morrison, growing up thoughtful in a small, industrial town like Lorain.

These days, forget about draining 40s or Wild Irish Rose. On a great day, I'm draining a good bottle of wine outside a cool London pub. Here I am, living it up in LaLa land, but compared to my niece, I'm Barbie-doll soft. Out of touch.

As I clicked through her fierce photo album, I reconfirmed that my family's got some crazy-ill street characters in it. Some of whom I could actually fear. And this one could be the wildest. Yet, recurring throughout the album is an undeniable sweetness in her eyes, a trait from my father's side.

This utterly utilitarian proof is there—right on MySpace. It's very nice to know my niece, if only in the post-Friendster sense. But my new acquaintance also makes me wonder if it is my hometown that has really changed or if I just have a new window to see it through.

Donnell Alexander is co-author (with Bruce Williams) of Rollin' with Dre (One World/Ballantine, 2008). His forthcoming book is The Chronic: The Last Album that Changed the World (MTV/Simon & Schuster). He has yet to come across anyone he knows on XTube.

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