Tuesday, November 10, 2015

As I have alluded to many times on this blog, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is my main man, my second hero behind my dad, and I am in absolute awe of his accomplishments on and off the basketball court. When I found out via his publicist Deborah Morales (yeah I'm name dropping someone you've never heard of) two years ago that Kareem would have an HBO documentary based on his life, I nearly begged her and HBO to either a) let me be involved or b) let me get an advance screening. They only obliged on the latter, and but that was still enough to assuage the angst of not being more involved. That being said...

The documentary, which I highly suggest you watch two times if you have not already, was a supreme disappointment to me. Most of what was covered in the documentary was already covered in great detail in his autobiography Giant Steps, which came out in 1983. Yes there were interviews from Billy Crystal, Bob Ryan, his longtime friends, Herbie Hancock and even the great Quincy Jones, but they were merely pontificating on details I already knew about.

In fact the only detail that was discussed in the documentary that I was previously in the dark about was regarding his scratched cornea in the great Game-of-the-Century matchup against Elvin Hayes in 1968. I always thought Kareem was simply outplayed, but his eye hampered him, and he later avenged that loss in the NCAA tournament. Hearing that made me smile and re-affirm Kareem's greatness, but it was not enough pacify me. Not even close.

I called my father the next day to get his take on the documentary, and before I could bait him with a question, he also had complaints about the regurgitation of common Kareem knowledge. We both did a little pontification of our own about the omission of what makes Kareem unique--his post-basketball career. Kareem has written history books, children's books, he's written reviews on jazz and movies, he's had columns with Time and ESPN magazine, he's started a foundation, he's been very vocal about his fight with leukemia, and as recently as two months ago he had a public spat with Presidential candidate, Donald Trump. Yes Kareem was a great ball player (I'd argue one of the five greatest ever to play the game) and that should be celebrated but a documentary (in my opinion) should be a little more thorough, and appeal to a broader audience--not just basketball fans. HBO is known for their sprawling documentaries, but they fell short this time. Perhaps I need to start begging folks to let me do the sequel.

I highly suggest you go on over to my main man Sabin's blog, and read the series of entries he wrote on OutKast (pronounced OutKast). He nailed it.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

My son Nyles and I walked to school this morning, which was about 10-percent annoying and 90-percent gratifying. Yesterday, as we got ready to drive to work, Nyles expressed an interest in walking to school, and I shut his ass down. It was Monday morning, I was tired, and he wasn't exactly doing the best job of being a good listener, which would have turned a 15-minute walk into 3-hour affair. This morning he was good, and aside from him being distracted by the acorns, garbage trucks, and red/green lights, we had a nice time. That was only the second time we've done that walk, but I may start doing this every day. It saves gas, I don't have to find parking, and I'm sure as he gets older the quality of our conversations will only improve.

The walk was also mildly therapeutic for me. I have been struggling with my emotions since Saturday night--the night before my son Carlton left Marine boot camp. It is funny leading up to the day, I wasn't very emotional at all. I would talk about the occasion like it was just another day in the park. I helped Carlton get ready, we joked about him having to cut his hair, and it never dawned on me that there is an emotional component to all of this.

Saturday I tried to call him via FaceTime and he didn't answer, so I headed to the Wizards/Knicks game, hoping to catch him later. As I was halfway there my wife told me that Carlton tried to call back via FaceTime, so I turned around, came back home and had a 20-minute conversation with him which was excellent. I covered the game, did my journalistic duties, came home, got ready to go to bed, and then it hit me like a Mike Tyson uppercut. I cried and cried and I had to call my father at 2am (he's in Phoenix so thankfully he was wide awake) and he temporarily calmed me down. But all day Sunday and yesterday, I had these 5-10 minute crying fits. Finally last night, Carlton called me to say he had arrived, and that he'd only be able to write (not call) between now and late January. That conversation made me smile, not cry, and I think I will be ok.

Back to the therapeutic part of the walk...walking with Nyles--as well as playing and talking with him, make me appreciate the little day-to-day operations of raising a 3-soon-to-be-4 year old. I didn't have that with Carlton, and judging by how quickly things have gone with young Nyles, he'll start shunning me for girls or sports in no time. So the innocence of this morning's walk was very calming. Carlton's innocence will be beat and dragged out of him during boot camp--just like it would have been in college, although in a slightly less harsh way. That's what happens between 18 and 22 right? That's a bitter pill to swallow, but I'm doing it slowly (pause). As I told my wife the other day, being an adult is difficult. It's rewarding, fun and better than being a minor, but man it is difficult sometimes.

My main man Sabin, in our discussion about the demise of Grantland, told me to step up and do more with writing in the sports department, beyond my normal Wizards-related duties. He's stepped up and developed a website and written a new book of fiction. The last time he challenged me, I learned how to swim in 3 months. I already know how to write, I just have to take that leap, or as Herbie Hancock said to Questlove, "walk that stage".

Thursday, October 08, 2015

I walked into work this morning feeling pretty damn good, because my son and I--although we usually drive--took that 20 minute walk from our house to school. We talked about behaving, listening to his teachers, garbage trucks, dogs and squirrels. He was unusually cheery and I felt good about our conversation. That's almost enough to make me overlook how much of an ass he was acting last night when he complained about his blankets, the temperature of his room, and how he couldn't sleep in Mommy and Daddy's bed. He's in the midst of this weird temper tantrum phase, and it testing my patience big time. But I digress.

I came into work looking forward to punishing the cantaloupe that has been looking so juicy and succulent, but while I'm in the kitchen, my co-worker traps me into having this conversation:

Her: Good morning
Me: Good morning
Her: Do you notice anything different about me?
Me (noticing the ridiculous-looking bouncy curls in her hair): Yes I see you got your hair done
Her: Do you like it?
Me: No
Her: Excuse me?
Me: No I don't like it, but I'm pretty sure you didn't have me in mind when you did it so...
Her: I can't you would be so rude

She walked out after her last sentence, and that conversation happened around 8:50am. It is now 9:29, and I have heard her tell that same story to two other women in this office, and they both have given me disapproving looks. I stand by my reaction.

This is why you don't go fishing for compliments especially with co-workers. I saw her hair before she saw me, and I instantly knew I didn't like, but I had planned on keeping that bit of information to myself. I get haircuts, I get new clothes, I grow a beard, then a goatee, or maybe an Artis Gilmore, and I don't expect compliments or ego-stroking. If I get love, I'm appreciative, but it is not a prerequisite from folks I work alongside.

Maybe she doesn't have a man or woman. Maybe she's having a bad day, or maybe she's just feeling supremely confident because of the fresh look. I don't know, but I cannot give out false compliments at age 40. Everyone else has complimented her, so maybe it's me. Or maybe they value keeping the peace and ego-stroking over telling the truth. I don't know, am I wrong here?

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

The home visit was not nearly as bad as I thought it would be. By the time I got home from work and walked in the house, Nyles was hiding behind a wall, while his teachers and my wife sat in the living room. I thought I would be annoyed that I didn't have a chance to change clothes, sip wine, kiss my family and relax, but I was surprisingly pleasant and effusive. I walked in the door, and the teachers said hi, allowed me put my bag down, and then they fired away. His teachers asked my wife and me where we were from, where we went to school, and how long we have lived in the area. That was actually a smart disarming tactic on their part, because when it gets right down to it, who doesn't like to talk about themselves right?

After the introductory salutations, his teachers transitioned to what their expectations were of us as parents and of Nyles as a student, which was useful. Per the website that the teachers maintain, we are supposed to get Nyles so say certain words, discuss certain scenarios, and we basically have to be an extension of the lessons they teach in the classroom. Now, I'm no dummy, I did teach before and I know that parent participation is absolutely crucial to a child's success, but I'm also a sleepy-ass parent who is juggling many things, so this type of reinforcement was helpful. Meanwhile, during this entire conversation, Nyles refused to come out in the living room to join the rest of us. I went back to convince him to come out, but he basically told me to go f**k myself.

The wife and I asked if Nyles was behind at all considering he started two weeks late, and they marveled at how quickly he was able to close the gap, which was comforting. I gently made fun of both teachers are not giving Nyles a star outside of the classroom. All of the other students had stars labeled with their name, but young Nyles had neither a star nor a name. I let this slide for two weeks, but when I had the teachers in my house, I called them out, and they assured me it would be up soon, they had just been swamped. It is worth mentioning that it took them another week to put that damn star up on the wall, but it is there. The irony? This morning I picked Nyles up and showed him the star, and he "accidentally" kicked another star off the wall, which made me laugh.

As the teachers were leaving, they asked Nyles if it was weird for him to see his teachers in the house, and he said yes. They then asked if he was ready for them to go, and he said yes again. Of course, as soon as they left, he ran to the window, waved goodbye, and raved about them both. Typical kid.

The moral of the story? There is none. This visit may not have been as bad as I thought, but that won't stop me being a raging pessimist. That's my business, that's what I do.

This song has nothing to do with my blog, it was just in my head, and I loved it in high school. Little-known fact? The Bomb Squad, mostly known for producing the militant Public Enemy and the menacing Ice Cube, produced this silly song:

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Today, as is the norm with some DC public schools, my son's teacher and co-teacher will be paying a visit to our home. I first learned of this on back-to-school night, and I cringed at the thought of strangers sitting and chatting in my home. I actually thought since my son started school late, that maybe they would forget or skip us, but not so much. They coordinated today's date with my wife, and then this morning as I dropped my son off, Ms. Donaldson(who wants to be called Ms. D) said loudly in front of other parents, "I'm coming to YOUR house tonight Rashad." I said ok and got the hell out of there as soon as I could.

***sidebar** I don't like calling her Ms. D. It's perverse and it lends itself to smartass, inappropriate jokes that I'm tempted mask in code words so I can tell them in front of the children. Who needs that kind of temptation every morning? And won't it teach the kids more letters and pronunciation if they have to say her entire name? I do give her credit for calling me "Rashad", and not "Dad" like the folks at daycare did. Adults should use proper names. Even at 3, Nyles knows my first name, but he also knows that we ain't the Jacksons, which means he is never to call me that. Gold star Ms. Donaldson. **sidebar off**

The purpose of these home visits is to help the kids and parents feel more comfortable. Nyles will get to see his teachers in his natural habitat, which means he may be more comfortable talking and sharing with his teachers. His teachers--even though the visit is approximately just 30 minutes--may pick up on some tiny nuances or eccentricities that Nyles has, which could assist them in relating with him in a more personalized way. And for the parents, having the teachers in the home is a way of getting personalized attention and uninterrupted questions and answers. God knows teachers can't really concentrate in the classroom with kids, parents and other teachers all up in their face. So basically I'm saying that the home visit is a win for all parties--but man does it offend my personal, hermit-like sensibilities.

The visit is at 6, I get off work at 5:30, which means all during my 10-15 minutes walk home, I can't think about relaxing, sipping on something and playing with my wife and child. Instead, as if I'm headed to a Wizards game, I have to be "on" and interview/attentive mode. I need to have material written down, I need to listen to the teachers' questions and be armed with follow up statements, and I need to make sure my kid doesn't act like a natural fool. I asked my wife if it would be ok for me to sip on wine, and she said absolutely not. I tried to say that sipping wine in the home was way more classy than beer, Hennessy, or Schlitz Malt Liquor, but she still shut me down.

Now I have to be uncomfortable in my own home with no libations after a long day of work, while suppressing my anger and my inclination to say, "The f**k y'all want?". I'm sure this will go better than I think, but right now, I'm expecting gloom and doom and I'm keeping expectations low. That's best for all parties involved.

Addendum: After reading my blog, the wife sent me this article, which gives additional reasoning for the home visit approach.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

So my big mouth got me in a bit of hot water this morning..

I was standing about a block from work waiting to cross the street, when a woman with a knee brace walked in front of me and attempted to jaywalk. Not only did the sign clearly say "Do Not Walk", but the timer indicated that she had a good 35-second wait time to sit (or stand) through before she could legally cross the street. I don't know about you, but if I had a brace on me, I would be painstakingly careful and detail-oriented to prevent anything from a) re-injuring my injured knee or b) causing my other knee any harm. But that's just me and my rigid value system I suppose. It wasn't even a subtle knee brace either, it was big bulky Bernard King knee brace. I digress.

So Bernard King gets about halfway across the street, realizes she doesn't have a shot in hell at making it across, so she comes back, while having to dodge yet another car in the process. When she got back to the curb with the rest of us sane, mere mortals, other people were saying, "Oh my god, are you alright", and "Please be careful". At first I wasn't going to say jack because I knew it would be smart and inappropriate, but as my curb-mates kept heaping on the sympathy, I just couldn't resist. So I quietly, but firmly said, "Where did you think you were going anyway, with your broke ass knee?"

Now, keep in mind when you have headphones on, you're never really quite sure just how far your voice can carry. I know this because when I go to Starbucks to order my drink and give them my name, the staff never seems to hear me until I remove my headphones and project my voice. So when I said my comment, I thought no one would really hear except Bernard, but of course my voice picked this occasion to be bionic, and everyone on the damn curb heard and gave me a dirty look. Bernard gave me a dirty look and decided to talk some jive to me:

Her: What the hell did you just say?

Now there were three ways to handle my retort. I could have:

1) Apologized for being smart, and started full backpedal mode

2) Say what I said in a less mean way, while capturing the sympathetic sentiment that everyone else on the damn curb had adopted

3) Repeat what I said with the exact same mean inflection.

Sadly, I chose to double down and say it again.

Me: I said where are you going with your broke ass knee, you know you can't run or move quickly

Her: I don't think that's any of your f**king business

Me: You're right, in the meantime, get on the curb with the rest of us

Her: Excuse me?

Now at this point the sign said "Walk", and I walked right by her, pointed at the "Walk" sign, and said, "It's showtime, tread lightly sweetie". I put my headphones back in, but not before I heard her say, "F**k you!" I can't even blame her, I should have shut up, minded my own business, and let it go. But seriously, she should have followed the law and waited, after all the Pope is here, show some respect.

I'm going to see this woman on Saturday, and I am pumped:

Thursday, September 17, 2015

No official entry. Just the original demo of Stevie singing "I Can't Help It" before he gave it to Michael. You don't need last names do you?