Monday, May 02, 2016

My father lives in Phoenix, Arizona now which means the time we have together is significantly less than it was when he lived 30 minutes away from me in Columbia, Maryland. I have been saying I was going to get out to visit him but something always comes up. In fact, the last two times I saw him he was here in the DC area on business for a few days, and we would have time to spend only a few hours together. It was better than not seeing him at all, but it fell far short of the type of substantive visits I am used to experiencing with my dad.

A couple weeks ago, I received an email from the University of Pennsylvania regarding their annual Penn Relays track meet. I initially forwarded the email to my brother and my father, in hopes that all three (four when you throw in my nephew) could go on a road trip. Sadly, my brother and nephew were unable to attend, which meant my dad and I would be going alone.

The first thing I did when I realized my dad and I would be road tripping was make a playlist based on the songs he said he liked (I blogged about some of his list here) The Thursday before the trip I enjoyed a few glasses wine, I rolled up my sleeves and I got knee deep in Tidal (which I only joined because they had all the Prince songs that Spotify lacked) and I made an 140-song playlist of songs my dad loves. It was an arduous task, but the wine helped as did me anticipating my dad's reaction to hearing some of these songs. I included all of the songs he initially sent to me, then I added some songs I knew he had omitted. The plan was to talk to my dad while being serenaded by all of these lovely songs.

I went to pick him up from his hotel at 8am, and then we took that two-hour drive to Philadelphia from Washington D.C. We discussed family, sports and music, music, music. There were songs from Quincy Jones, Dianne Reeves, Lalah Hathaway, The Temptations, Sly and the Family Stone, James Brown and even Beyonce--my dad loves Beyonce's song "Love on Top", because he says it reminds him of songs female artists sang in the 70s. He gets a pass for that, because every time one of the other songs came on, my dad would have some type of accompanying story or memory with the song, which is why I wanted to put this list together in the first place. I wanted to learn, I wanted to talk, and mainly I wanted to be a son around my father. It sounds simple and borderline corny, but most of my life is about me being a manager at work, a father to my sons and a husband to my wife. Occasionally a brother needs a a change of pace and that time with my dad provided that.

Once we arrived at the Relays we turned into two track and field fans. We had our stopwatches out, we analyzed all of the relays, we talked to some of the folks around us, and of course we marveled at the thousands of Jamaicans in attendance--they come in droves every year and this year was no except, even without Usain Bolt in attendance. We saw Sanya Richards Ross, Justin Gatlin, Jeremy Wariner but sadly no Allyson Felix who my dad has a huge crush on. I realize most people aren't track fans, so hopefully one or all of those names look familiar, but if not I wouldn't be surprised. It was fun, and we sat in 60 degree weather for nearly four hours watching race after race.

On the way home, we talked a little about track and field, a little about Prince, but most of the ride was us talking about his favorite memories of his parents and the circumstances surrounding his divorce of my mother. It was deep and a little emotional at times, but it was exactly what I wanted out of a day trip. I love my dad and I still consider him to be my hero. And on a slightly less corny note, I highly suggest that everyone go on a road trip with one or both of their parents. It is truly a beautiful experience..

And now a selection from my dad's playlist:

Friday, April 29, 2016

When Prince died I posted a video of him playing a guitar solo during "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" at the 2004 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. Here is a brief article by some of the folks involved in making that happen.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016


Young Carlton, my oldest so who is currently in the Marines and stationed in beautiful San Diego, California is all over the damn map. He informed me this past weekend that he wants to marry his girlfriend when he comes home, which will be in three to four months. My son will be 19 in August and his girlfriend is 17 and still in high school.

He informed me of this minor miracle via text message and I immediately asked him to call me. I had to be very delicate with the situation because I did not want to alienate him simply because I vehemently disagree with this premature decision. But at the same time, I was not going to talk to him like everything was rosy either. He called me, I asked him if she was pregnant and he said no, then I asked him why he wanted to marry her now and his response after a long pause was, "She's stuck with me through all of this." In case you're wondering what "all of this" is, it is her ability to "endure" the 6-7 months Carlton has been at bootcamp and two assignments and in the Marines--that is hardly a feat of strength.

I didn't discourage him, but I did tell him that he needed to make and spend his own money, develop some personal preferences and do a bit of self-exploration before marriage (aka see how many women he could safely have sex with while donning that Marine uniform). He's basically gone from high school to the military (after turning down college) which means he has been insulated from the evils (and pleasures) of the real world. And now he wants to marry someone more sheltered and naive than he is? Not good. He said he felt strongly about the marriage, and I said I would support him, but I think he's making a huge mistake. We agreed to disagree but I suspect some time between today and when he comes home this whole marriage thing will lose steam because....

Yesterday Carlton texted (didn't call) and told me that he didn't know about "this". I once again asked him to call me and I found out "this" was the Marines. He is bored with his current assignment which involves lots of menial tasks and waiting--none of the excitement he thought he was going to immediately get into. I explained to him that he was more than welcome to quit the Marines, but he needed a plan, considering he'd have no money, no job, nowhere to live unless his grandparents (and not on my side) took him, and all he would have is a girlfriend, who would eventually leave his ass. Then I explained to him that every job has slow periods in the beginning and the military is no different. He's getting paid, he has free room and board, he's going to start working towards his degree soon, and surely he can endure a little inconvenience. He kept complaining, and I just kept explaining the consequences and the realities of quitting. We got off the phone and I still don't know what he's going to do, but I'm going to be mildly relentless with him.

I begged him not to go the military last Spring and I strongly urged him to attend Virginia Commonwealth University where he got accepted. He calmly told me that the military is what he wanted to do, and before the VCU registration/housing deadline I asked him was he sure and he said "hell yes". From that moment on I shut up about college, and I made sure he talked to people, family members and friends who were either in the military or recently retired. He was buoyed by those conversations and he basically doubled down on wanting to go. So now, about 8 months later, when I hear this quitting b.s., I shut it down. I won't disown him if he quits, but I won't give him a dime of money--only support and pep talks. It will hurt me to do that, and it feels a touch unfair, but if those lessons aren't learned early, adulthood will be a bitch.

That being said if he quits and has a plan to get back on his feet, I will support it 100%--if he stays single. My father supported me financially in college, until my girlfiend--who I made the ill-advised decision to live with--left me abruptly. My dad said, "I told you not to do that", and he said I had to figure my own way out of it. I was student-teaching, working and barely making ends meet for 3 months but I did it and I graduated. I never asked my dad for money again, and I'm glad he taught me that lesson, but that's me talking 20 years later. While I was going through, it was an everyday struggle to a)make ends meet b) stay sane c) focus on school work and d) get laid. All four things were important to 21 year old me. Carlton may have to learn similar lessons...but again, I hope to God he powers through and sticks this out.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

I'm not writing anything about Prince's death. It feels way too surreal and frankly, everybody on god's green Earth has written something on him--most of it was pretty bad. However there are three stellar Prince-is-dead articles that I suggest you read:

1) Alan Leeds - Prince's longtime manager

2) Questlove - A longtime Prince admirer

3) Bomani Jones - longtime Prince admirer

Also, Questlove (via Twitter) brought up a creepy point yesterday about how the words to "Let's Go Crazy" seem to serve as a bit of foreshadowing to how Prince died--especially when you factor in the alleged use of painkillers. Enough of that though.


So this past weekend my wife and some of her Morgan State buddies hung out and relived their college glory. Young Nyles and I hung out and did fun stuff like go to the movies (to see Zootopia) play baseball, a little soccer and we also watched the Smithsonian channel. Sadly, he caught a little bit of a cold, so our plans to hang out all Saturday were slightly derailed, but we had fun nonetheless.

My wife returned home with one of her friends, and this friend (who lives in NY) had a special request for my wife and me via her sister (who also lives in NY). That request was for us to buy her 3 bottles of Mad Dog 20/20 to bring back to NY. If you're unfamiliar with Mad Dog 20/20, it is a glorified wine cooler, malt-flavored beverage, that you basically have to be over 50 to drink--although my wife's friend and her sister are in their early to mid 40s. I've never touched the stuff, but I have male friends of mine who have, and I'm pretty sure they were dangerously close to becoming sterile as a result. It isn't a drink you should indulge in every day, but I suppose on special occasions you can really dig in and go crazy. I bet it goes good with a bucket of chicken too.

Anyway, I was asked to go to the liquor store and purchase this fabulous malt beverage and it gave me pause. The normal liquor stores I frequent wouldn't dare carry Mad Dog 20/20--partly because it isn't considered classy, partly because of the clientele they could attract, and mainly because the demand for it is hella low. I normally buy wine in semi to fancy stores except during football season when I may venture over to the beer section. Malt-flavored, Bartles and James type beverages aren't really in my wheelhouse, which meant I had to venture over to the "package sto'". The package sto'(as it is called in the South) is a place where you can get rudimentary groceries, play the numbers and by cheap wine, beer, liquor, cigarettes, cigars and phone cards to call overseas. I only go to that store when a) it is time to play the Lottery and b)when all the other stores are closed. They don't have good wine there, and sometimes kids (ages 10-21) tend to hang around there and clog up the store buying insane amounts of candy. I don't need that headache, I just want my f**king wine and I want to go home.

Due to my wine/liquor snobbery I was hesitant to fulfill my wife's friend's request to purchase Mad Dog at the package sto'. I was worried about the looks I'd get from folks when I plopped those bottles on the counter, but I ended up going anyway. The first trip I made to the package sto, I headed to the back of the store, procured a bottle of Mad Dog and placed on the counter. As soon as I did that, this older black man and another black woman--both of whom were playing the lottery--looked at the drinks, then looked me and gave me this look that basically said, "Word?". I looked at them and said (in my head), "Word!!". The guys behind the counter took my money, slightly smirked at me, and then I got the hell out of there.

I walked back in the house with my one bottle of cherry-flavored of Mad Dog with a tremendous sense of accomplishemt. I had stepped out of my comfort zone and brought home a drink I would never drink in a million years. Then my wife told me that I was to buy 3 bottles, not one, and I had to go back to the goddamn store. I walked back in there, got two more bottles which looked like lime Kool-Aid and placed them on the counter. This time, there were two women in line playing the numbers and one dude waiting for cigars, and they all gave me the same incredulous look. I didn't even bother trying to explain myself (via my facial expressions), I just paid, ignored the smirks from the guys behind the counter, and rolled the f**k out.

I realize I sound real bourgie right now but I don't give a damn. I suggest you go out and buy, then taste some Mad Dog and get back to me.


Prince - Breakfast Can Wait (Official Video) by Prince-Official

Thursday, April 21, 2016

No words right now, because it is still too raw. But here a badass performance of Prince's from the 2004 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony for George Harrison. Prince murdered this solo to Harrison's, "While My Guitar Gently Weeps":

This video never gets old...and it is still true in 2016. Black folks don't appreciate jazz(an art form we created), but would rather listen to watered-down smooth jazz which is perfectly respectable if you're an individual who never heard real, intricate jazz played live or recorded. Conversely, white folks like smooth jazz but they LOVE real, authentic jazz. Of course there are exceptions to this rule but the next time you go to a jazz show, do a mental count in your head and get back to me. And yes I'm biased, because I absolutely love jazz music and I don't get how everyone doesn't but I especially don't get how the watered down smooth jazz is more appealing folks. It is like drinking Riesling over a fine, 2011 Coppola Merlot. Anyway, back to the video:


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

I have absolutely no clue who I am voting for, and frankly these are the worst presidential candidate options since I first voted in 1996. A friend of mine who is from Ireland said to me, "Are you telling me that these are smartest minds/politicians that your country has to offer?" I told him that smart people (with some exceptions) know to not dip their toe in the murky political waters. I also told him that in my opinion, this year is not about good, smart politicians, it is about (allegedly) changing the system and the political landscape as a whole. The intent is a sincere one I'm sure but the the cast of characters we have to choose from simply cannot carry out that mission.

I don't doubt Donald Trump's intelligence in the business area, but his approach sucks. All he had to do is be sane, slightly contrarian, learn 10-12 pertnient issues plaguing the country, and lay out 4-5 comprehensive (and realistic) plans of action, and he'd have the whole country in the palm of his hand. If he lost the bluster, the ego, the race-baiting, the rowdy crowds, and just plugged into the people (rich, poor and in between), he'd be the man over Mrs. Clinton, Bernie, Cruz and everyone. There is a void there and I thought he had the tools to fill it. But he cannot get out of his own way, and he's mucked it up completely. He didn't read the running-for-president manual, he knows nothing about delegates, issues or being presidential, he race-baits, and he has zero accountability. He still gets plenty of votes because he talks a good game and other candidates on the Republican side were blindsided by his ability to basically play the dozens. But he ain't presidential. Personally, I wanted Chris Christie, but then he fumbled the nomination away, and went all Anakin Skywalker on me by going to the dark (Trump) side. His political career is over.

Speaking of Trump, what's with the coded language of "Make America Great Again"? What is the "America was great" timeline and when did it stop? When Obama was elected? During 9-11? I want someone to make me a Great America timeline so I can view with my own 41-year old eyes when we as a country, were vacillating between great and not-so-great. If someone can do that, I'd vote them in a heartbeat.

I would write a paragraph on Ted Cruz but there's no need. He has a face, I'd love to kick repeatedly, and he seems woefully out of touch with his ultra conservative views. He is smart and he's a great debator, but that just means I'd want him representing me as an attorney, not as the leader of this country.

Bernie Sanders is a great activist and the fact that he has rallied all of this support basically out of nowhere cannot be ignored--he's just coming around in the wrong year. This is not the time to overhaul the system and start over, even though he makes great points of why we need to do just that. This country's econonomy is not ideal but it is better than it was in 2008 (part of that is Obama, the other part is just the natural ebb and flow of the economy) and for right now, stability is more important. I'd be happier if he were trying to figure out a way to fix this country's bridges, highways, trains, etc, because that is becoming a major problem all over this coutry. See the DC Metro. Plus, and I'm wrong for saying this but oh well, but Bernie is 74. His Vice Presidential choice will be like the backup quarterback of any NFL team. It will be a matter of when, not if they will get in the game.

Hilary Clinton is easily the most experienced politician in this limited field which gives her an advantage as does having her still-beloved husband campaigning for her. But Hilary comes off as smug, and she has a little Trump in her, because she'll seemingly do anything for the black vote (Trump does anything for any vote). Plus she has the stench of Bengazi and mishandled emails all over her. I think if her past was a bit cleaner, she'd be rolling over Sanders and would be the overwhelming favorite over Trump. But as it stands right now, it looks like it'll be the established, slightly crooked woman against the business man who knows nothing about politics and everything about self-promotion.

I'll eventually make an educated choice and vote, because not voting is just asinine, but this is just sad. If Trump wins, it'll open the door for more dumbasses to try and run for president, instead of leaving it to the "professionals". If Clinton wins, and more of her past transgressions come out--or if she does something shady while in office, the voting public will be disappointed and frustrated once again.

That is my political breakdown. Yes it is flawed and oversimplified in spots, but for the most part I think I'm right...


Monday, April 18, 2016

I have one main thing irritating me this morning, which isn't bad considering it is a Monday and work is kind of busy already. It is Starbucks related and it has been bothering me since Sunday afternoon.

The wife and I went to Starbucks yesterday and we both ordered a Venti Soy Chai Latte--she wanted her drink to be extra hot, I just wanted mine regular. The two Starbucks folks (allegedly called baristas) were in the midst of a conversation about fatigue. One woman was talking about tired she was, and the other was hoping she didn't get reported by a customer who caught her falling asleep on the job. So right away we know we're dealing with two employee of the year candidates.

One of the baristas asked my wife two times if only one of the drinks needed to be extra hot, and my wife said yes both times. Of course the woman didn't hear either answer because she kept running her mouth. The first drink was ready and I asked the barista if it was the regular drink or the extra hot one and the following conversation started:

Her: I thought they were both extra
Me: No, just one drink
Her: Oh, well I thought they were both extra hot and I already made it, so you can just put a ice cube in the second one, trust me, plenty of people do it.
Me: No thank you I don't want a ice cube
Her: Ok well do you want the way it is?
Me: No
Her: So you DO want the ice cube?
Me: No
Her: Well I'm sorry I didnt know only one was extra hot, I was trying to compromise and offer you an ice cube
Me: So making it the way I want it isn't an option?

At this point, my wife and I had to go pick up our son and there wasn't time to sit there and argue so I just took my drink and told her we'd try again next time. Of course she didn't hear me because at this point she was bitching and moaning to her co-worker. Mind you, her co-worker already knows me from my weekday morning trips to this same location, and she looked at me as if to say, "I'm sorry". I wrote an official complaint to the Starbucks-powers-that-be, and I expect some sort of compensation.

First off, who the hell wants ice cubes in a hot drink? There is no way in hell that the Starbucks bylaws allow their precious baristas to just drop cubes in hot drinks. How do I know this? In most Starbucks I visit, if they mess up the drink even a little bit, they offer to remake it--no questions asked. The solution to an error that THEY made is not to use a half-ass solution that THEY came up with. That is a piss poor way of handling things.

Second, this Starbucks has a handful of women (I'm sorry to say who are black) who act like each Starbucks customer first called them at their respective houses, and then called them into Starbucks and forced them to make a drink at gunpoint. There are no "good mornings", "good afternoons" or even "hellos". All I've gotten is a brusque, "Welcome to Starbucks, what's your order?". I am far from high maintenance, but I do expect some simple customer service, but sadly, I've gotten used to their negligence. What I will NOT accept is people half-assing their jobs or just flat out being lazy. Me and my little $5 deserve better.

The sad part about all this is that the manager is the epitome of class and whenever she is behind the counter I get nothing but first class service. Perhaps she needs to do a better job of hiring staff...or maybe she's tried and this is the best staff she can hire. I feel like a snob typing this entry, because at the end (and beginning) of the day, we're talking about coffee/tea/hot chocolate. But goddamn, have you actually tasted Starbucks? It's the best Jerry, the best.