Thursday, August 20, 2015

This may seems minor to all of you people, but this morning at Starbucks, I finally got someone to correctly spell my name on my Venti cup of Soy Green Tea Latte. For years I've had to either accept the way the Starbucks barista took their axes out and butchered my name, or I'd have to spell it out painstakingly slow so they heard all six letters. If I didn't coach them on how to spell my name, they would come up Rashaad, Rashed, Rashid, Richard, Rachad, Rashard, and other bastardized versions of my great name (no disrespect to the readers who have those names, but come on, you know my name is better). I can't even chalk these misspellings up to race because black, white, Hispanic, Indian, Ethiopian and Asian Starbucks employees jacked up my name and NEVER spelled it right. That changed today.

Today, this young brother from Bed-Stuy (and I'm assuming he's from Bed-Stuy, NY because he had a big ass tattoo on his neck), took my order, then my name and wrote it on the cup. Now at the time, I couldn't see what he wrote, because my cup was still behind the curtain while my drink was being made. And when I heard the barista say, "Venti Soy Green Tea Latte for Rashad", I fully expected to be viewing yet another destruction of my name. But when I took the cup, my main man from Bed-Stuy Do or Die spelled it correctly. I went back to cash register, stepped in front of a few people (who tried to be mad, but f**k them), I dapped up Bed-Stuy, and I said, "My man!". I almost said "my n**ga", but 1) As much as it seemed appropriate, that's not really my style and 2)There were way too many non-black folks around, and that's just not a good look.

He asked why I was dapping him up and I told him no one at Starbucks had ever spelled it right until now. He laughed, adjusted his Starbucks hat a little and said, "Come on now, it ain't hard to spell Rashad, I watched the Cosby Show!". It's funny his mind went there, because I always reference Phylicia (or Ahmad) Rashad when I'm trying to give folks an idea on how my name is spelled. At this point, the folks in the line were getting restless, so I laughed, gave him an "Alright man", and walked out. I found myself wondering if I had said the "N" word would that have offended folks in the line more or less than the Cosby pill references I wanted to make to Bed-Stuy. I'm glad I said neither and I'm even happier my name was finally spelled right.

I heard this song on VH-1 Soul for the first time last week and I was hooked. I knew nothing about the song or the group (the group is called the Internet) and I decided to buy the album. The album is above average, but this song is the standout in my opinion





Tuesday, August 18, 2015

I haven't really discussed this in a minute, but I have not been consistently swimming in almost a year. There was a time (five years ago) when swimming every day was part of my workout regimen and I loved it. In January of 2009, I had no clue how to swim and by August of that year, I was doing 1-2 miles every other morning and it felt great. But after marriage (slightly) and kids (greatly) the demands on my time increased as did my fatigue level. Although it may read that I am blaming my wife and child, I am not, I am simply using them as scapegoats as to why I have not been swimming with vigor and regularity. At one point, I discontinued my membership to the Jewish Community Center (JCC) where I did my swimming. The rationale was, why pay $60-70 a month, when I wasn't using their pool, their gym, their b-ball court or the wonderful activities they have.

I got the desire to swim again at the end of June, and I decided to venture out to another pool that was just 2 minutes from my house (the JCC is about 10 minutes). That pool started at four feet and went down to about 11. The pool I was used to swimming started at 4 feet and ended at 6--that's the type of comfort a relatively new swimmer needs. I'm a good swimmer, but I ain't swimming in water that's 12 feet deep, that's just something I will NOT do at this point in my life. I gave up on swimming and decided to get my workout fix via running and skipping rope.

But yesterday, I decided enough was enough, and I re-joined the JCC, and this morning I got back in the pool. The lifeguard, who I made a mixtape for a few years ago told me he missed me and asked how things were going, as did a couple of other people. It was the closest thing to walking into Cheers that I've felt in a long time, and it made me feel like I did the right thing by re-joining. My actual swim sucked big time because my stamina was off, but my form was good...baby steps. I'll be slim and trim in no time...

Next time I blog, I'll review the N.W.A. movie, "Straight Outta Compton". I think I'm the only person who hasn't seen it yet. Oh and today is my father's 65th birthday, and this is his favorite song ever:



Thursday, August 13, 2015

I do believe I have cried three times today, and the chances are high it will happen three more times today. My first-born son Carlton turns 18 years old today, which for means old age for me and legality for him. Both are equally scary.

In a little over a week, he will finding his way as a man at Marine bootcamp in South Carolina. He impressed me by getting great grades in high school, and he humored me by filling out college applications and getting into Old Dominion University. But I think he wanted to go to the military all along, and at some point I got tired of fighting him, and I helped him the best way I could. I have family in the military so I know the various fates that meet folks who join the military, and I'm just praying that he'll not only land on his feet, but he'll thrive.

But today, there's a montage of his last 18 years playing in my head. I remember bringing him home from the hospital, I remember the $100 speeding ticket I received driving from D.C. to Hampton when his mother was in labor, I remember feeling scared, clueless, slight regret, awe and lots of love when I saw him. I also remember his bad behavior, smart ass mouth and the ups and downs I went through with his mother. But I suppose every parent with an 18+ year old child can tell similar stories. I'm just happy my story has been positive thus far...and I want it to stay that way which is why I keep getting on his ass about condoms and InstaGram abuse...but at this point he has to learn his own lessons right?

One day I'll show him this blog, so he read just how crazy his dad is. But I digress, I can't even get emotions in check enough to write a smooth, coherent entry....happy birthday son.

Friday, August 07, 2015

I have no official entry today. Just check out this hilarious new Foreign Exchange video entitled, "Asking For A Friend":

Thursday, August 06, 2015

The song "Secret Garden" came on my iPod yesterday as I was walking home from work. If you don't remember, the song came out in 1989 on Quincy Jones' "Back on the Block" album (and yes back then they were albums), and the song featured (in order of appearance): Barry White, Al B. Sure, James Ingram and El Debarge. The song used to be a staple during the slow grooves portion of parties I used to attend, and now the song has been relegated to the slow jams portion of your local radio station. Or perhaps people are still using this song to woo the panties (or boxer briefs if I'm being PC) off their mate.

I haven't heard the song in awhile, so I found myself breaking down the song way more than a man should be doing as he's taking a relaxing walk home from work. I will break the song by vocalist and say a bit about the arrangement overall.


Barry White

Big Barry kicks off the song by saying "Tell Me A Secret" in that big booming baritone of his, which used to make the ladies go wild. I will readily admit that if my voice were as lush and deep as Barry's, I'd have wooed women with substantially less effort than I ended up having to use with my regular, gravelly voice. At this point of the song, the music--which consists of a cymbal, a guitar, and some keyboards--are sparse, and off in the distance. This serves as a perfect contrast to Barry's deep voice, and then Al B. Sure comes in and ruins it..

Al B. Sure

Al B. Sure is the Randy Jackson of this particular group. Normally when people want to heavily downplay the importance of someone's accomplishments they like to invoke the name of Tito Jackson, but that's some bullshit. Tito is a great guitar player and well after the Jacksons stopped performing, he had a second career as a studio musician. Randy Jackson was a freeloader. You don't believe me? Look at this clip and notice how he chose to do some foolish dance, as opposed to singing "We Are The World" with everyone else.

Anyway, the only reason Al B. Sure was invited to sing on this song was the fact the he was the "hot" guy at the time. "In Effect Mode" had been released one year earlier, and Al B. was tearing up the charts (and the acid washed jeans he frequently wore) with hit after hit. Quincy Jones probably felt like the other three gentlemen did not appeal to the younger crowd, so Al B. was called in to save the day. During his brief appearance on this classic song, he had two effeminate "Ohhhs", he tried to overly use vibrato which clearly was not his strength, and he ended up being a supreme waste of time. Unlike the other three vocalists whose voice could be heard even when they weren't singing lead parts, Al B. was on for about 40 seconds and then he was not to be heard from again. Good riddance buddy.

James Ingram

Mr. James Ingram is a professional singer. He's done duets with Linda Ronstadt, Anita Baker and Patti Austin. He sang background on MJ's "PYT", and he's been the closing vocalist on songs as well (see that same We Are the World clip I linked earlier). Whenever Quincy Jones makes an album, he makes it his business to include Ingram in some way, shape or form, and this song is no different.

I remember Johnny Gill telling a story about his appearance on New Edition's song "Boys to Men", and he said that he tried his hardest to sing his ass off on that song, because he wasn't given very many parts to sing on the "NE Heartbreak" album. And if you listen to Johnny on that "Boys to Men" song you know he was not lying. Well James Ingram sang verses on "Secret Garden", like he was an American Idol contestant trying to get to Hollywood He started soft, hit the high notes, had a few impressive runs, and just made the song even more adult than Barry White had done with his voice. He also successfully washed the nasty taste of Al B. Sure right out of the listener's mouths (yes I'm aware of everything wrong with that sentence).

El Debarge aka "The Debarge" as Black Thought called him in this song

El's appearance as a lead vocalist on this song was just as brief as Al B's, except he actually left you wanting more. El's vocals are smooth, not overdone, and you just picture him swooping in and stealing the girlfriend/wife of any man at that moment. Granted, El's background vocals are strewn all over the damn song, and he blends perfectly with Al B., Barry White and James Ingram, so the listeners don't feel totally shortchanged, but still, I wanted more.

El ends his verse by saying, "I can keep you satisfied..make it alright...all night", and then it is as if there is a 3some going on, and he tags out, and tags Barry White back into the mix. Again, Quincy got it right by contrasting the light voice of El with the strong masculine voice of Barry.

Barry White (again).

Barry's first appearance was simply him doing the "Barry White", which is to use his deep baritone to woo the ladies. In his second appearance, Barry actually got a chance to croon. He's on old-school singer and most of his lines involve him doing that old school singers always promise to do. "I'll take care of you", "I'll do it all night", "Let me get you in the mood". If anyone else was saying these things, it could easily be labeled as corny. But Barry's the deep-voiced crooner, so he can get away with it. Plus, right when you think you've had enough of his deep-voiced begging, El Debarge comes back in to sing the chorus

The rest of the song goes like this: El Debarge sings and ends every sentence with Barry White's famous phrase, "Sho' you right". Barry White continues to talk that non-sensical crap in that sexy voice of his, and James Ingram presides over it all with his infamous closing runs. It is a great song and the co-writing credits go to Quincy Jones, El Debarge, Siedah Garrett (co-writer of MJ's Man in the Mirror and co-singer in MJ's "I Can't Stop Loving You) and a little someone I like to call Rod Temperton who wrote Rock With You, Thriller, Off The Wall, Lady In My Life, Tamia's You Put A Move On My Heart and George Benson's "Give me the Night". All that star power (even Al B. Sure) in one song and it is awesome. Please get yourself reacquainted with this beautiful song:



Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Every now and then I feel guilty that my wife and I will not be giving Nyles another sibling (he technically has my older son Carlton, but they are 14 years and 180 miles apart). As I'm quite sure I have chronicled in earlier blog entries, the wife had a difficult time with her pregnancy with Nyles, and we knew that we were going to be one and done, but I suppose we could have pushed the issue or even adopted a child, but ultimately we decided that young Nyles was quite enough. So naturally, we have given some serious though to getting a dog, which is the logical progression from wanting another child right?

The plan is to get him a dog around four or five, so the dog will ideally live until he's 18 and gone off to college. This will give him and the dog a good strong 14 years of memories, good times and growth and when the dog inevitably dies while he's in college, Nyles will have his studies and maybe a loose woman or two to assuage the loss of man's best friend. I don't want the dog dying while he's still living at home, because then I'd have to buy another one, which means my wife and I would be stuck doing heavy lifting, scooping and eventually grieving when the dog dies while my wife and I are in our 50s and already terrified of our own deaths. Who wants that kind of convoluted existence in their glory years?

I never had a dog growing up, because my dad shut that all the way down from birth to 18. My wife had a dog when she was young, but her dog was killed when according to her father, a pack of wild dogs attacked their family dog. That is the funniest and most asinine story I've ever heard, but my wife, her dad and everyone else involved swears by it. There's no such thing as a wild dog. There are wolves, foxes, and dingos, and none of those were in Maryland where my wife grew up. Someone shot that dog accidentally and tried to clean it up real nice and hide the truth like a Waller County cop. I digress.

The point of this rambling blog entry is to say that this morning as I completed my 6-mile run at 5:30am, I saw a man who looked to be around 35 years old with his dog. The dog had just ventured into the grass to do his duty (pun intended), and the man could not find the magic spot where it had all gone down. He did his best to look with his naked eyes, then this grown ass man activated the light on his cell phone to locate the pile of greatness the dog had left behind. Once he found the spot, he kept the phone light on, laid the phone down, got out his plastic bag, and delicately placed the mess in the bag. I was laughing at how determined this man was, and the dog was looking at his owner as if to say, "Better you than me champ!". I love my son, and I love my dog, but if you think I'm going on a poo scavenger hunt on public grass at 5:30 am, you have me all the way f**ked up. Fish make good pets too.

This video I'm about to post is some serious nerd sh*t that I searched for one night when I couldn't sleep. It is Michael and Janet Jackson's background vocals from the song Scream. Now these aren't just background vocals from the entire whole song, these are the background vocals you can faintly hear during the chorus. It is Janet and Michael singing together beautifully and I love it. The vocals start at the 1:56 mark and they repeat intermittently throughout this video. Once you listen to that over and over, then go listen to the real song and hear how they were worked into the song. It's beautiful thing.





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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

My son Nyles, the playground, and the other kids who play there have had a great relationship the past couple of years. There are plenty of toys, cars and trucks at the playground, there's a slide, a jungle gym, swings, and most importantly a sprinkler which is activated when someone--usually a kid--puts his handprint on a small column, which allows the water to shoot everywhere (it is actually quite thrilling to watch). Occasionally kids who are too old or young will show up and try to take over the playground and every now and then, there are adults who unlawfully consume adult beverages while their kids are playing, but for the most part it is a lovely experience.

The wife and I usually take Nyles there for about 30 minutes, which is enough time for him to get the excess energy out of his system, interact with his peer group, and then work up the necessary hunger it takes for him to eat lunch/dinner before taking the type of nap that even hibernating bears would envy. I'll admit it doesn't always work out that neat and tidy, but that's the plan each and every time. My wife talks to the other parents at the playground trying to make new friends, and I usually keep my distance myself from that bullshit, while keeping keen eyes Nyles, who pulls five or six daredevil moves per playground visit.

Anyway, this past Sunday, Nyles was busying himself with this fancy truck, when this kid came up to him and tried to take it. Nyles politely, but forcefully took the toy back, and then this kid slapped Nyles in the face. It didn't hurt Nyles and it didn't knock him back, but it damn sure startled him. He said "Ow", and started to hit back, but the kid's mom swooped in, made the kid apologize, and then I begrudgingly stepped in and told Nyles to accept the apology. Nyles kept saying he hit me, and he had the look of a boy with revenge on his mind, but in a civilized kid's society, revenge is supposed to give way to constructive lessons to be applied going forward. I know that, the kid's mom knew that, and eventually the kids will understand it.

Two minutes after the one-sided fight, my son was pushing his truck around the playground with reckless abandon as he's wont to do. I usually tell him to slow down so he does not run over the feet of an adult or a child, but when I saw that his path seemed to be leading directly to the kid who hit him, I decided to stay out of the way, and see how this played out. Much to my delight, Nyles ran right over this kid's feet, then stopped the truck, stood straight up, and said, "Sorry" to the kid. The kid went running and crying to his mom, and I looked at the mom with a smirk on my face, gave her a shrug and then I also apologized. They left shortly thereafter.

I told Nyles not to run over anyone's feet anymore unless they hit him first. Thank God my wife wasn't there, because I may not have gotten the satisfaction of manipulating some of the variables the way I did. It's the little things that bring me joy...