Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Usually I like to go see movies on a weekday around 11 or on the weekend during the earliest available matinee. I don't like crowds, I don't like teenagers, I don't like post-movie applause, I just want to be able to think and draw my own conclusions on the movie, and sometimes crowds do not allow those types of deductions to take place.

My persnickety demands where movies are concerned, combined with the difficulty my wife and I have finding a sitter to allow us to go see a movie---especially when we'd rather go out and drink and do something festive once we finally fine someone to watch Nyles--pretty much means that my movie attendance over the past couple of years sucks. The only movies I've seen recently are the ones my son wanted to see, which basically means I have to fight between going to sleep and playing on my phone.

I could not apply my wishes and demands to the Black Panther movie, because my wife really wanted to see the movie during the first weekend, since everyone was talking about it. It wasn't that I didn't share her eagerness, I just really wanted to control the outside variables, since I knew this was supposed to be a movie of great importance.

As you can imagine, I did not get my wishes. I bought tickets for Sunday evening show (8pm to be exact) and I purposely picked a theater that served wine, so I could ramp up the Black Panther experience. But when I arrived at the theater, I learned the bar was closed. I didn't lose my cool though.

The wife and I arrived at 7:15 for the 8pm movie, and when we got to the theater where our movie was playing, there were already approximately 30 people already waiting and we just got behind them.

**Sidebar: Lots of black brothers and sisters used the release of the Black Panther movie to dress in traditional---or at least what they believed to be traditional--African garb. I get the sentiment, it was a cool, unifying gesture to see, but I wasn't doing that sh*t. I loved seeing all the black and brown folks on the big screen, but at the end of the day, it was just a movie. A movie that may open the doors for black and brown people on and behind the camera, but a movie nonetheless. I didn't need any African-ness (if you will) but for those who did, God bless them*** Sidebar off***

Everyone was let in around 7:45,and I went to get popcorn and beverages, while the wife saved my seat. We had chosen a spot in the upper left corner, so I could sit in the aisle, in case something went down (you'd be a fool to not think that way these days), but when I arrived back at my seat, we were surrounded by loud ass teens who looked to be between 15 and 17. Still, I remained calm. The kids actually weren't that bad once the movie started, but they were a bit too loud and dramatic for my taste. I'll be returning to my traditional matinee times going forward.

I won't say too much about the movie, because I don't know who has or has not seen it. The cast was great, the acting was good, the African vs African-American story line was rich with conflict (which would make a great writing assignment for a college/high school class), the strong female roles were refreshing and it was one of the better Marvel movies I've seen. I didn't like the reliance on the usage of CSI and at times, the movie dragged a bit, but I feel like I'm nitpicking. Not since Blade with Wesley Snipes and Marvel's Luke Cage, have I seen such bad ass black superheroes. When my son gets a little older and I feel like he can deal with the effects of movie violence (lots of questions and bad dreams), I'll let him see it too.

Friday, February 16, 2018

It took 43 years, but this morning I finally had my first white-woman-clutch-her-purse-when-I-walk-by moment.

It was around 6:15am, and I was in the midst of my 5-mile run around Northwest Washington DC. I had headphones in my ear, but the music remained at a relatively low volume, so that I could hear everything going on around me. At that time of morning, there are other runners/walkers, people driving and walking to work, homeless people sleeping, peeing or wandering, and insanely large rats jumping out of unsuspecting places to scare the shit out of me. Quite a motley crew right?

I was running by a well-lit but quiet section of DC when I spotted a woman walking and talking on the phone. My head is always on a swivel while I run, so I saw her a good 30-45 seconds before she saw me, and I immediately noticed that she was talking loud on the phone, and not paying attention to her surroundings. I didn't give it much thought, because my plan was to run by her without making any eye contact, so I didn't startle her.

But about 10 seconds before I was to run by her, she saw me. She didn't stop talking on the phone, and she didn't appear to be startled--in fact she gave me a half-smile, which was nice, but not necessary. I began to nod my head at her, and then I noticed that her hands had gone from her pocket to her pocketbook. Not only were both her hands holding on to her pocketbook for dear life, but she also turned her body slightly away from me, as I ran by her. I really started to stop and say something rude but 1)I was way too tired and my thighs were burning way too damn much for me to do anything menacing and 2)That's all I needed was for a cop or another citizen to see me berating a woman (a white woman at that) from afar. That wouldn't end well.

But here's the thing that gets me. I was clearly running. I had a water bottle in my hand, headphones in my ear, and I was sweating like Kevin Garnett in a postgame interview. How the hell does one pivot from being in workout to robbery mode? I can understand being cautious when it is dark and early in the morning, but this woman was talking LOUD and not looking around for almost a minute before she saw me. Not to mention, if I really wanted to rob her, the clutching and turning technique would hardly be a deterrent--she'd still get got.

Honestly, the clutching part didn't bother me (yes it did) as much as the body turn. She decided that that the clutching only scratched the surface, so she had to slightly turn her body away to seal the safety deal. It wasn't even a full turn, it was just enough of a turn for me to get annoyed.

Again, I tried really hard to look at it from a woman's perspective, but I can only do that up to a certain point. I felt some kind of way about that, but on the positive side, what better month for it to go down right?

Thursday, February 15, 2018

When I tell people I"m not a Drake fan, they tend to think I'm hating just to hate, or I'm just hell-bent on hating any millennial hip-hop music, and that is simply not true. I like some of J Cole's work, I like Kendrick Lamar, and I even like some offerings from 2 Chainz (it pains me to spell it that way) and A$AP Rocky (I'm equally pained by that spelling).

Drake has always felt, sounded and looked artificial to me. He sounds like a brother from Canada who has been given a long-term assignment of trying to sound like a brother from the South. He raps one way but that stands in stark contrast to how he sounds on interviews or even hosting Saturday Night Live. I think when he sings he sounds more authentic, but it sounds hella nasal and not particularly pleasing to my snobby ears. To that point, my main man Bomani Jones says that if you think of Drake as a singer who raps, and not a rapper who sings, he becomes easier to tolerate. I tried that and he still sucks...for the most part.

Two years ago when I was shoe shopping with my son Carlton at Foot Locker, I heard this song come on through the store loudspeakers:

His rhymes in that song sounded believable and not forced, and even the singing was tolerable. I remember telling my son that this would be the only Drake song I liked in my life. My youngest son likes "Hotline Bling" so I play that a lot, but when he's not around, I'm not really a fan of that song. Over the past two years, I've heard lots of Drake songs, and they were all lukewarm to wack to me, until today.

I was listening to a Pandora station, and an older Drake song called 0 to 100 came on:

Now, parts of this song still sounded contrived and not at all like a brother from Canada, but the combination of the beat and Drake's flow, reeled me all the way in. I wore this song out today, and even gave this song a spot in my elusive workout playlist. I still don't like him, and he'll never convince to buy an entire album/cd/tape, but for now, I respect his ability to win my if he really cares if a 43-year old likes his stuff.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

So on this Valentine's Day, I think I'd like to focus on my wife. I usually keep her business out of this blog because 1) this blog is supposed to be about me goddammit and 2) she really doesn't like for me to put her business out there, and for the most part I have respected her wishes. I will do no such thing today.

The wife has had quite a difficult year. Her mother is in the midst of some pretty debilitating nerve pain that we saw up close when we visited her and her husband in Minnesota, and my wife is concerned about that. Then last month, her favorite uncle died suddenly and unexpectedly and we had to attend that sad, sad funeral. Not to mention, that uncle was her father's youngest brother, and now she's increasingly worried about her dad, which is totally understandable. Older people are obsessed with other people's deaths and funerals for some odd reason, but that doesn't necessarily mean they know how to cope with them.

And lastly, my wife has spent the last five months at a job she really can't stand. There's always a learning curve when a new job is involved, but this boss seemed hell-bent on significantly shortening that curve and berating my wife for falling short. At first, she handled it and chalked up to newness, but eventually that great attitude turned to anger, which turned to stress, which turned to all out tears--and considering the list of things she was already enduring in her life, you can imagine how difficult it was for her to get through the day. She loves me and she loves our son, but there was only so much cheering up we had in us. A change in employment was needed and luckily for us, one came last week and it has served as a catalyst for good vibes.

She's still worried about her mother and father, but she's able to deal with that stress with a clearer perspective now that a new job is on the horizon. Plus, she has a five-day weekend before the new job starts, and she'll be able to enter this new situation with a clear head and justifiable excitement. It doesn't hurt that she'll be working with an old boss, who knows and respects her work ethic.

I don't know if the wife will read this, because let's face it: ain't nobody really checking for my blog on a regular basis anymore, since I write about as frequently as the arrival of Halley's Comet. But she'll stumble on it eventually, and when that magical day comes, she'll (and everyone else who reads) will know how happy I am for her. Also I wrote a condensed version of this in her Valentine's Day card, but I realized I had more to say than Hallmark would allow, so now I've empty the to speak.

Monday, February 12, 2018

So earlier this morning, my 20-year old son Carlton was shipped to Afghanistan, where he'll be until November or so. While he's gone, he will most likely miss the birth of the child that his wife will give birth to around that same time. God-willing, when that healthy child is born, I will be a goddamn grandfather at the young and tender age of 43. How is that for an opening paragraph after dwelling in a blogless existence for two months?

One of my least favorite expressions is "unpack" but in this specific instance, it feels apropos to use that phrase, so let's unpack each of those bombs I dropped in the previous paragraph.

I've known for several months that my son was going to be deployed, but for the longest time, he had been pretty tight-lipped about the destination. And given that he's in the Marines, I knew better than to pester him about something like that. But about a month ago, when I visited him, he told me that his nine-month stint would be divided between Norway and Romania. Both of those countries sounded a bit innocuous to me, but I didn't pressure him. I learned he was going to Afghanistan not through a direct conversation with him but via a conversation with his mother last Friday. He didn't have the heart to tell me directly, which I get.

First I sat there in shock and told myself that missions like this were exactly what Carlton prepared for, and I needed to man the f**k up. Then, almost involuntary, a montage of memories with my son from birth to 20 started to play on an endless loop on the Summer Jam screen in my head, and that served as the catalyst for my tears. I cried and cried at work, and as luck would have it, my boss called me mid-cry. I got my shit together long enough to not sound like a babbling idiot, but I ended up telling him why I was somber, and thank god he understood.

Last Sunday, just a few days before I found out about the Afghanistan deployment, my son told me that his wife was pregnant and I was going to be a grandfather. I don't agree with their decision, due to the volatility of their relationship and from my vantage point it feels like this was a save-the-relationship child, but he and his wife are grown, and far be it from me to interfere with their affairs and their reproductive organs. But again, to be a grandfather at 43---even though I want a healthy child to be brought into this world--is difficult for me to wrap my mind around. As I told a friend of mine, now I have to wear an ascot, keep a few extra buttons of my shirt open and smoke a cigar, per the grandfather handbook.

I am proud of my son, don't get me wrong. He's 20 years old, he and his wife are homeowners, he has a steady income and they are about to bring a child in the world. But in my mind, he is still a child, and based on what I know about them both, they simply aren't ready to be parents. Then again, who among us is really ready to take on that large of a responsibility? I was 22 when Carlton was born, and I had a degree, no money, no property and my sources of income were a job at Stride Rite and substitute teaching. He'll find his way I'm sure, but I worry about him. But I will be supportive and helpful, because that's what parents--specifically fathers--are supposed to do.

Thanks for humoring me and welcome back to the blog. This is the 12th year of its existence.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Last night my son's school had something called a "Showcase", where the entire class of 23 students, convened to basically show the parents what the hell they've been doing all semester. The kids recited lines about an expedition they went and then (they basically interviewed students and faculty, wrote down their responses, drew pictures of who they interviewed and then drew a school map to indicate where in the school this teacher---it was VERY cool) explained it to the parents via a 30-minute long presentation. The teachers did an excellent job of instilling confidence and a work ethic in these kids and it showed in the final product. Not one kid messed up any of their lines, and when it came time for each kid to show off their drawings, their maps and their interview questions/answers, they did so gleefully. It warmed my heart as a parent and as a member of the school community. My son is in damn good hands.

This concludes the positive portion of my blog entry. Now I have to get dirty.

One of my son's best friends in kindergarten is Jayson, and their behavior patterns are virtually identical. He's mercurial, he's silly and he can be a bit handsy at times. Sadly, Jayson's parents--particularly his mother--are annoying as hell. They ask questions about my son but the motive behind their questions is always to show off what THEIR son is doing, rather than really hear about mine. They also go to church eight times a week, and they turn their noses up at my wife and me, because we don't attend at all.

15-20 minutes before the Showcase began, my son was fixing his bowtie and tucking in his shirt, and out of nowhere Jayson hit Nyles in the back of the neck. It was a total sucker punch. Nyles's first instinct was to hit Jayson back(per my instructions) but I held him back for two reasons:

1 - Jayson's mom jumped in and pulled her son away, and I didn't want Nyles to accidentally hit Jayson AND his mom
2 - The showcase was going to start in 15 minutes and I didn't want Nyles or Jayson to be flustered during their big moment

But what I DID do is pull Nyles aside and ask him to hit Jayson the next morning before class started. My wife immediately swooped in and told me that I should not be instructing my son to do such things. On one hand, I agreed with her because my son has a birthday party this weekend and both Jayson and his parents will be in attendance. No one needs that kind of drama at a kiddie birthday party, but at the same time, I don't want any kid having one up on my son in the punch department. He needs to win or at least break even, but out of respect for my wife, I kept the peace...until this morning.

Since I preside over my son's drop off at school (my wife does the pick up) I knew that I could have the last word when it came to dictating my son's actions. My son walked into class today, removed his hat and gloves and I told him that he should hit a) hit Jayson before class started and b) tell the teacher and Jayson, that his daddy asked him to do that, since Jayson hit him last night.

When I told my wife about it later, she vehemently disagreed with my action, and told me that I should not have done any carryover retaliation from last night, and I think she might be right. I just don't want folks getting comfortable with hitting my son and thinking that repercussions aren't around the corner. But I also don't want my son getting in trouble because of crazy directives from his dad. We'll see what happens.

Also, shoutout to the two black fathers (there are only four of us in my son's kindergarten's class) who showed up to this kid-friendly showcase, smelling like weed. That's always a good look in an elementary school.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

When I woke up this morning and started scrolling through my phone before I got out of bed, I noticed a picture from Questlove's Instagram page. Apparently he went to the Janet Jackson concert in Brooklyn last night, and in addition to meeting and speaking with Janet, he got a chance to speak with Randy Jackson--someone he credits with inspiring him to drum:

Dude. Randy Jackson is the PRIME reason I chose the drums. All of @TheJacksons were superheroes but Randy was one of the first drummers/percussionist I’ve ever SEEN on tv. So watching a kid drum on tv w his magic brothers was like ***mind blowing***—-(actually i got in trouble once for trying to remove the legs from my father’s keyboard player’s #Wurlitzer trying to play it like a keytar just like Randy did during the #Destiny album period) Like I was mid convo w his sister and then **whoooosh** I vanished like *snap* (“jan, uh I love talking to you but your brother is the only Jackson I haven’t met and HE started me being drummer so I’m out!”) he gave my Jacksons 78-80 logo shirt props. This was without a doubt the best day EVER. Janet was pulling the deep cuts out the woodwork (@flytetymejam you didn’t tell a mug bout #TwentyForeplay!) definitely a must for the die hards (well, nothing from 1st two albums #DontMessUpThisGoodThing is too awesome to toss aside, that song STILL is a miracle in the clubs—-but zero complaints here. This is THE MOST hype I’ve seen a crowd at a concert dancing like no one is watching since—-well...Prince) & meeting Randy (@randyjackson8 NOT @randyjackson dog) was just the ultimate. #StateOfTheWorldTour

A post shared by Questlove Gomez (@questlove) on

Questlove did what Questlove does and told a long story of how Randy Jackson touched his life, and it was a damn good read. But it also made me think of my own personal Randy Jackson story. No I never met him in person or talked to him on the phone, but I do have a funny (at least to me) story to tell.

Back on September 7, 2001, there was big concert at Madison Square Garden, and it was a tribute to Michael Jackson and his 30 years as a solo artist. Usher, N'Sync, Chris Tucker, Beyonce, Muhammad Ali, Bobby Brown, Elizabeth Taylor, Michael's brothers and sisters and countless others were in the audience. Michael himself was there as well..but barely. After he died eight years later, in one of the many documentaries chronicling his struggle with prescription drugs, we learned that MJ was basically in a drug-induced haze the entire show--in fact he had to be awakened out of that haze in his hotel room and reminded that he had to show to do. It is amazing that he was able to summon an above-average show out of that haze, but it is sad that as far back as 2001, prescription drugs were wreaking havoc on his life on and off the stage.

Anyway, towards the end of the show, Jermaine, Jackie, Marlon, Tito and Randy joined MJ on stage so they could breeze (and I do mean breeze) through a medley of their hits. I'd argue that outside of seeing MJ peform "Billie Jean" the crowd had specifically gathered to see MJ and his brothers get down, and get down they did. They did "Love You Save", "I Want You Back", "Dancing Machine", "Shake Your Body Down to the Ground" and others. But my favorite of the night, which happens to involve and incident between Randy and MJ, was "ABC".

About 20 seconds into the song, everyone starts singing the chorus, and right afterwards, Randy starts singing, "You Down with OPP?" which is the Naughty By Nature song that sampled "ABC" (sorry for insulting your collective intelligence). If you know anything about MJ, you know that he is a control freak and perfectionist, and I'm sure he did not appreciate Randy sullying the reputation of the Jacksons and that quality song by bringing up a song in "OPP" which basically about doing the nasty with someone who is not yours. The camera doesn't show MJ's reaction the first time Randy says it, but 26 seconds into the song, the camera shows MJ staring at Randy, just daring him to say it a second time.

Sure enough, Randy does that dumb shit again, and this time MJ--who rarely breaks character or shows anger on or off stage--literally walks directly towards Randy with bad intentions, and Randy has to push MJ away, but not before MJ threw him a few more death stares. Five seconds later they transitioned to another song, so there was no residual anger, but man was it fun to see MJ uncut so to speak.

My story isn't as good as Questlove's but I still like it. Here's the video: