Wednesday, September 05, 2018

So yesterday, I found myself sitting in a Starbucks waiting for my car to be serviced. They told me it would take about 2-3 hours, and I didn't feel like going back home or going anywhere else, so I decided to kill some time on my laptop while I drank some tasty, overpriced coffee.

When I set foot in there, the line was at least 25 people deep, so I decided to secure an open seat by an outlet first, while I waited for the line to die down. I took out my laptop, my phone and my computer charger, and I sat down to begin my job search (yep, still unemployed).

I had been sitting down about 10 minutes, when this lady who could not have been any older than 30 years old came up to me. I could tell she was nervous and a bit tentative, but that didn't stop her from moseying her ass on over to me, so that we could have this inane conversation:

Her: Excuse me sir and good morning. Um, you cannot just sit here in Starbucks without purchasing something first

Me: (while looking at the long line): Well if you allow me to cut to the front of the line, I'd be glad to buy something, do you think you could do that for me?

Her: (laughing): No sir, I definitely cannot do that

Me: (definitely not laughing): Well can you tell me what the difference is between me waiting for that line to die down while I'm on my laptop, and me standing in that long ass line?

Her (stammering): Well I don't know

Me: I didn't think you could, so would you kindly service the 25 customers waiting in line? I promise you I'll join them soon but for now, I need you to leave me alone or find a manager

She turned red, then she walked away. The manager made an appearance and I saw him talking to the woman who harassed me, and he later came over and apologized. I told him I like my apologies in the form of copius amounts of free drinks redeemable at any Starbucks location. He obliged. He also clearly must have asked the young lady to come over to me to apologize because she did so reluctantly. After she apologized, I told her it was ok because she clearly didn't know any better. She gave me a dirty look but she knew better than to provide any type of nasty retort because 1) she might have been fired and 2) I'd have gotten much more profane and personal with my insults. All parties walked away unscathed.

Now, I know I should have lost my temper a little more and maybe I should have made a bit more of a stink about this woman's behavior, but I didn't have it in me. After all, I was already pissed that my car was in the shop (at the dealer shop no less) and I was being overcharged for some simple repairs. Initially I felt like a sell out, but I'm at peace with my actions.

I was in Bethesda, Maryland which is diverse (and affluent) for the most part, but this particular was White and Asian only. I was in that Starbucks for nearly 2 hours and no one who looked like me set foot in that place at all. I grew up not to far from the neighborhood, so I know how to navigate those murky waters, but I was a bit surprised that this young woman would come at me like that.

Just goes to show you that even when you're unemployed, some good, homegrown discrimination can still find its way in your lap.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

I am on day 21 of employment, and I have no problems admitting that it is starting to weigh on me just a bit. Just yesterday, I had what I thought was the perfect job lined up. They saw my resume, a Project Manager was 100% sure that my skillset as a writer was something he was looking for in a technical writer, and the salary was even more than I was making at my previous position. I was pre-screened, we had a bit of a conversation, and last Friday we made plans for me to come in and interview on Tuesday (today) at noon. The recruiter I spoke to said that he'd send me an email with details in terms of who I should report to, the time I should come, the address, etc. That was at 3pm on Friday.

Monday morning came, and I didn't think it was too alarming that I hadn't receive an email, because Mondays are usually full of bullshit office small talk, useless meetings and an abundance of emails. I haven't been unemployed that long that I cannot remember that game. But Monday morning turned into Monday afternoon, and by 4pm I still had to yet to hear from this employer--so I called.

When the dude answered the phone he apologized for not calling me sooner, then he informed me that the job I had visions on claiming, was $20-25k less than what I wanted. In the next breath, he mentioned two or three other jobs that he would consider me for (one of which I'm waiting to hear about now), and I'll admit I was optimistic that he had something else ready for me. But I was sill pissed that I was the one who had to initiate the dialogue, especially I was informed that an email was forthcoming.

So that's where I am. I went on a third interview with an employer yesterday, and it appears that an offer is forthcoming, but that job starts Nov 1st which means I'll have to sell crack and write freelance articles by October 1st (I'm kidding, but not really).

I've also discovered that the question, "So how's the job search going?" annoys the shit out of me, and makes me wildly defensive. I know people mean well and they just want to see if their assistance is needed but I feel like job updates are something I should initiate. They should not be provoked. Of course I could end all this b.s. by simply being employed once again.

I'm working it.

It has been a few days since Aretha died, but I can still post my favorite song right? I love the drum break down in this song, and I also like how effortlessly she rides his beat. She was a once-in-a-generation talent, and thank God her vast music catalog is still around for all to hear/see/digest.

Monday, August 13, 2018

My son Carlton turns 21 years old today. I have actually had to stop and say that out loud more than a few times. Twenty f**king one. He just got back from overseas, he's married with a child on the way in October, but I still consider him to be my young man.

21 years ago on this day, I was working in Stride Rite and substitute teaching on the side. I was living in Fairfax, VA, and my son's mother was living in Hampton, VA. She called me around 1:15 in the afternoon to say that she was going into labor---two weeks early mind you--and I jumped in the car to head her way.

Two hours later, I was on the side of the road after being pulled over by a Virginia State Trooper in Spotsylvania County. I was going 81mph in a 65mph zone, and as soon as the cop came to my window, I told him that my son would be born any minute, and his mother was in labor. He looked me and said that was a heartwarming story, but that didn't give me carte blanche to speed---especially in Virginia. I took my ticket and kept right on speeding for the next hour.

I went right from the highway to the hospital, and after signing some b.s. paperwork, the nurses made me wash and scrub my hands, before putting on a hospital smock or whatever it is called. I was told that my son had been born just 30 minutes prior to my arrival and he was resting in the incubation room. That didn't make me cry.

I saw him laying down in the incubation room with his outfit on, and his little beady eyes were just darting all over the room. That didn't make me cry either.

But as soon as the nurse lifted my son out of the incubation tray and put him in my hands, I looked at him, he looked at me, and I just started bawling. My mom and Sara's (my son'so the grandmother) mom just walked away so I could have my moment.

It's the little things you know?

And even though I am quite sure I have mentioned this story and the song I'm about to post below, I don't care. It never gets old...but I do..

Here's the picture that was taken an hour after I arrived to the hospital:

And here's the song I played to young Carlton as we left the hospital:

And here's my son--the Marine--just a couple weeks ago before he came home:

Monday, August 06, 2018

So I am almost a week into unemployment and my feelings are mixed so far. On one hand, you never realize how much of a break you need (and never get) from working until your hand is forced by the evil monster called unemployment. I applied for jobs last week, and I tied up loose ends with my previous employer, but I also got a chance to write and binge watch a little Mad Men. I thoroughly enjoyed that.

Conversely, when Monday morning came, and my wife and son were getting ready for work and school respectively, I felt like a supreme loser. I had an interview scheduled for this morning but it was postponed due to some unforeseen family emergency. So instead of sitting in the house while continuing to apply for work, I "ventured" over to a coffee shop in an effort lift my spirits. It really isn't working, but I'm out of the house so that's good right?

The one good thing that has happened is that my son Carlton is finally home from overseas after being gone since last year. I get to to see him and his pregnant wife next weekend, and I could not be happier. It is still bullshit that I am going to be grandfather at 43, but it will be fulfilling to sit with my son and his wife as they prepare for parenthood.

In the meantime, if you're reading this, and you can help me get a job in the technical/sports writing field, send me an email and let's go business:

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

So, I lost my job today.

At the beginning of June I was laid off because the government neglected to fund my position along with about five or six others. Luckily for me, I was able to land on my feet shortly afterwards, because an old boss of mine found a slot for me at the same company.

So for the past month, I've been helping to write and organize proposals, which was a skill I hadn't used in a few years. Yes my boss was a dick and a half, and my commute took time away from my family in the evening but I made things work, because it beat being unemployed. Plus I was still looking for another job.

But today my good luck ran out. One minute I was sending an email to one of my colleagues, asking her to meet with me about the veracity of the boilerplate language on my company's proposals, and the next minute I was summoned to my boss's office.

I thought he was asking to attend some type of impromptu meeting, so I brought my lemon zinger tea, my pen and a notepad. I got two steps away from the office, and saw my HR representative in my boss's office, and I knew I was doomed. I was told that for budget reasons, my position (along with others allegedly) was being eliminated. My benefits ended immediately, I was offered the dreaded COBRA option, and I was also told that I have a severance coming in a few weeks. I asked a few obligatory questions, and I rolled out without shaking the hands of my boss or my HR rep. Yes I was angry--although I later called Ms. HR lady and apologized for not being respectful.

I was angry for about a good two hours but the beer/wine helped numb that pain. Now I'm looking and applying for jobs, accepting paying sportswriting gigs, and trying to do the things that responsible adults who have just been fired do. I haven't been unemployed since the summer of 1998 when I was 23 years old, and even then I found a job within a month.

But yeah it sucks.

By the way, go read my latest collaborative article.

Monday, July 16, 2018

I have made it known on more than one occasion that Rakim is my favorite rapper. I know that Jay-Z is more prolific, and Black Thought may have better rhymes and Ice Cube may have better stories, and Eminem may be more technically sound, but when Rakim pulls off a thoughtful, symmetrical rhyme, I feel oddly fulfilled considering I get no personal or financial gain. I have felt that way since 1987 when I first heard him, and that feeling has lasted 31 years.

But the reality about someone my age (43) having a favorite rapper who is 50 (as Rakim turned on January 28th) is that there are long periods of inactivity. Yes there are tours and yes there are greatest hits collections, but when most rappers get close to and even pass the 50 year old threshold (the exceptions are Chuck D and Jay-Z) it is rare to hear new music. And up until a few weeks ago, Rakim was no exception.

He had been doing tours and lectures all around the world, and I'm sure he solidified his elevated status with established fans and won over some previously ignorant fans, but there had been no new music for over almost 10 years. I actually went to see him during one of those tours, when he showed up at the Blue Note in NYC backed by the legendary Roots crew. He looked good (Rakim was never a great live perform, but his stellar rhymes served as the perfect misdirection), he sounded good, and he teased new music, but nothing happened. And don't even get me started on that failed Dr. Dre/Rakim collaboration

But a few months ago, I was minding my own business on Instagram (which is as oxymoronic of a statement as I've made in a while), and I noticed that Ali Shaheed Muhammad just casually posted this clip of Rakim rhyming.. Muhammad (along Adrian Younge) helped score the first season of Luke Cage and for Season 2, they decided to bring Rakim into the fray.

Now I don't know if an album is forthcoming or if he will continue to work with the Muhammad/Younge duo, and frankly it doesn't matter right now. What does matter is that Rakim Allah resurfaced to make some damn good music in 2018. It's the little things...

Monday, July 09, 2018

First off, I write for Forbes now, so please go read

Second, my friend Nichole wrote a book, go buy it

Now, I would like to profess my profound appreciation for single parents--both male and female.

I am currently in the fourth of a six day wife-less stint, meaning it has just been my son and me during that span. So allow me to get the politically-correct touchy feely stuff out of the way.

I love my son and I love it when we have extended one-on-one time. Since his mother has been out of town on "business" in sunny Orlando, we've watched Black Panther, learned the Wakanda greeting, played the game Trouble, talked about the pretty girls in his summer camp, listened to Barry White's "Playing Your Game Baby" over and over and we even practiced the breaststroke in and out of the water. Occasionally, he'll hit me with a "Daddy I miss Mommy" and I promise him that we'll talk to her via FaceTime at some point during the day. This is quality bonding time and one day both of us will look back on this fondly,

But man..having to be the center of my son's attention during his every waking hour is some incredibly draining sh*t. Even when he's doing something that should seemingly be all consuming like playing games on the iPad, he has to call me over every 30 seconds by saying, "Daddy look at this!" or he'll regale me with a detailed explanation about the superpowers of one of his many toys/action figures. I humor him because it is hard to shun those big beady eyes, and the accompanying excitement, but damn. Sometimes I want to watch the World Cup, or NBA Summer League or wild porn--and he makes it nearly impossible to sustain any meaningful momentum doing anything of those things---until he goes to sleep of course and by that time, I'm tired too.

But nothing epitomizes my frustration more than what went down in the grocery store.

If you've ever taken a kid under the age of 10 to the grocery store, you know that kids absolutely go bonkers. If they see their favorite cartoon on a random balloon or cereal box, you are forced to hear 5-10 minute monologues about why they should absolutely get the cereal AND a toy. If they see their favorite food, they will pick it up, shove it in your face, and give you yet another monologue about how life itself will cease to go on, unless that food makes its way into the cart.

Even if you successfully squelch the kid's desire for toys and random food, that kid will run, skip, jump and cartwheel down every alley in the store. And with my son, you get an added bonus of learning every time he passes gas--not because you hear or smell it, but because he loudly says to anyone within earshot, "'SCUSE ME I PASSED GAS!' I told him that I admire his honesty, but sometimes, that info needs an inside voice. He agrees with me once, and then the cycle begins again.

So after I endured all of those antics---the type of antics a six year old is supposed to pull by the way--we finally get to the checkout line which of course was long as all get out. We waited in that line for a good 15 minutes, but it was fun, because we told jokes, did dances (I don't know what the dances are called, but I know I saw Donald Glover do them in this video.

But right as the couple in front of me was finished paying for their groceries, my son announced that he had to pee. Now here I am with a cart full of groceries, no wife to watch them for me, 6 people behind me eager to skip my ass and get their groceries paid for and out of the store, and a panicked look on my face. So the first time I heard my son say what he said, I straight ignored him and kept taking my groceries out the cart. So my son saw my neglect and raised me with an even louder, 'scuse-me-I-passed-gas like voice and said, "DADDY I DON'T WANT TO PEE ON MYSELF, CAN WE GO TO THE BATHROOM?"

At this point, if I don't take him to the bathroom, I'm 100% sure that Child Protective Services or ICE (they are interchangeable) would come and get me. So I politely ask the clerk if he can keep ringing me up so I don't lose my space in line, and thankfully he said yes. The people behind start huffing and puffing quietly, but they knew better than to turn the volume up on that sh*t too much because a) there's a kid involved and b) I had the look of death on my face just waiting for someone to say something while I was in the midst of this wife-less week.

Thankfully the bathroom trip was quick and efficient, my groceries were still being rung up by the time we returned, and no one was harmed. Still, the stress of the whole experience made me appreciate those folks who don't have a spouse or partner to returning to them at all. God bless y'all. I hope you keep plenty of bible, alcohol or weed (or all three) within arm's reach at all times. Lord knows you need it.

I mentioned earlier in this blog that Nyles and I have been jamming to Barry White's "Playing Your Game Baby", which means that I also have to play the clean version of Black Moon's "I Gotcha Opin remix" as well. One day, I'll post a video of my son rapping along with Buckshot Shorty while screaming, "DUCK DOWNNNN!":