Wednesday, April 12, 2017

I just heard that Charlie Murphy died. I know the Chappelle show is where his reputation blew up beyond belief, but I appreciated his understated, but funny role as a bouncer in Spike Lee's, "Mo Better Blues":

Friday, April 07, 2017

I was in my room getting dressed for work this morning, when I made the necessary decision to turn from MSNBC — where they were chattering incessantly about the United States bombing Syria — to ESPN where they were talking about something decidedly more sanguine: A tradition unlike any other…the Masters.

Initially, the Masters coverage was just white noise as I continued to put on my casual Friday gear for work, but I stopped in my tracks when I realized ESPN was looking back at the 1997 Masters — also known as “The Tiger Woods Coming out Party”. Via interviews and old footage, ESPN covered the 1997 Masters round by round letting the viewing public know what Tiger was thinking and more importantly what his impact was on current and older golfers. Of particular interest to me were the words from Lee Elder — the first African American golfer to play in the Masters.

Right before Tiger’s final round in the ’97 Masters, Elder talked to Tiger and told him that this round would be the most difficult round he ever had to play. Not because he had 18 more holes to endure and not because this was his first major tournament, but because this victory wouldn’t just be about a green jacket, it would be about representing older African-American golfers who had been had been denied access to August National where the Masters Tournament was played. Elder also remarked that the much of the Augusta staff (cooks, maids and groundskeepers) were also African-American, and stopped what they were doing to fully take in Tiger’s triumph.

At this point, I was no longer getting dressed, I just stood half-clothed in front of the television completely transfixed. They showed Tiger’s signature fist pump after he made his last putt to win the Masters, then they showed him take that methodical walk to his father Earl, who had been teaching Tiger to play since the age of 3 (he was 21 when he won the Masters). Tiger got to his dad, hugged him tightly, and then they both started crying.

And then I did the same in my half-clothed state.

The wife saw me crying and gave me a hug, which was both needed and appreciated. As I explained to her later, I wasn’t crying because Tiger and his dad were crying, and I wasn’t crying because Earl Woods has now gone on to glory. I was crying because I’ve been there before.

I’m no professional golfer and I am certainly not an elite athlete, but at numerous points in my life, I’ve accomplished things that made me feel like a champion. And since I credit my father with arming me with so many of the tools I use in life on a daily basis, he is usually the person I want to interact with first when I achieve those personal milestones.

That’s not a slap in the face to my mother, my wife, my brother or my friends, it is just the ultimate compliment to my father, who is still very much alive and teaching me lessons. So when Tiger won the Masters, and made that beeline to his dad so they could share that cathartic moment, I felt that emotion too. I cried 20 years ago when I first saw it, and I’ve cried every time I’ve seen it since then — including this morning.

But this morning those tears were more plentiful than usual because my mind went to another dark place, which isn’t easy to discuss. I allowed my mind to jump to the future and what I would do if I achieved a moment of great personal triumph and my dad was no longer around to share it with me.

I thought back to the 2006 British Open which was Tiger’s first major tournament after his father’s death. Tiger was stoic and surgical during the tournament, but the minute he won, he went to his caddie and broke down crying.

Afterwards Tiger admitted that not only was he emotional because his father had passed away earlier that year, but he was also sad because winning without his father around was a personal milestone, and he wished his dad was around to share in that accomplishment as well.

I’m not an overly morbid person, but I know that type of moment is coming my way sometime in the future, and although I don’t have to handle it publicly the way Tiger did (and still does), I hope I conquer those moments the right way. The way my father has prepared me for my whole life.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Last Sunday after a glorious afternoon filled with whimsy, brunch and mimosas, I made my way to the record store to do a little digging in the crates. The wife had left me momentarily to go thrift store shopping and my initial intent was to hit up a sports bar to watch some NBA basketball while I waited. But lo and behold the record store caught my eye, and I simply could not pass up the opportunity to build on my collection.

Usually when I walk into a record store, I like to block off 30-45 minutes of time to look at each and every record to make sure I'm not missing on any hidden gems. But this particular record store had copious amounts of heavy metal and alternative records, which isn't bad music at all, but I'd prefer my vinyl to be old soul music. I know that sounds weird, but I equate vinyl with my father's collection, and he had jazz, smooth jazz and lots of R&B. Now I certainly have made some exceptions (Sting and the Police come to mind) but for the most part I stay in my narrow lane. I digress...

All of the R&B-ish records were in the first three rows of records, and I was able to whip through them in about 15 minutes and I made three choice:

1) Around the World in a Day - Prince

2) The Manhattans - Greatest Hits

3) Migration - Creative Source

I almost bought an Isley Brothers album too, but I couldn't remember whether I already had it in my collection, so I didn't want to chance it. (**sidebar** I really need my whole collection on some type of organized list so I can reference it whenever I go to the record store. Perhaps I'll make my son do that on a rainy/snowy day ***sidebar off***). I took my three records and walked up the cashier so I could meet back up with the wife.

When I got to the counter, the guy behind the desk said it was unofficial store policy that all the patrons tell a story behind each of the albums they wanted to purchase. I'm sure some folks resent having to take an extra step before spending their money, but this request was right up my alley. In fact, there was a time in this here blog, when all I did his pick records out of my newly-acquired-from-my-dad collection and tell back stories behind them from my point of view. Not only that, when I picked out the three aforementioned records, I had specific memories and thoughts in my mind. Allow to share:

Prince - Around the World in a Day

First and foremost, this was Prince's first album after the giant Purple Rain, so similar to Michael Jackson's Bad album, expectations and stakes were sky high. Michael chose to make an album with the intent of topping Thriller, and he fell woefully short--even though Bad is a great album (except for Just Good Friends). Prince decided to take a sharp left turn and make an album that was nothing like Purple Rain and he succeeded. My favorite song on the album is "Condition of the Heart and my favorite lyric in that song--a lyric which used to drive my main man Sabin crazy with in college--was, "I'm blinded by the daisies in your yard"

Besides it being a great album, my dad used to play "Around The World In A Day" every time he took my brother and me to soccer practice/games. He played it front to back over and over again, and I thank him for that.

The Manhattans - Greatest Hits

Whenever my parents were feeling amorous, which meant my brother and I had to go bed insanely early so we wouldn't hear them being disgusting--the evening would begin with my father playing The Manhattans. He would cue them up and playfully sing to me and my brother, and then turn his attention to my mother. He'd sing, they'd dance and my little 8-10 year old eyes wanted no parts of the sight. But clearly it made an impact because I am still a big fan of the group to this day. Years later I dated a cousin of Gerald Alston (the lead singer), but that was nearly as beneficial as it should have been.

My favorite songs on that album are "I'll Never Find", which reminds me of sitting on a beach with clear skies and an adult beverage and "Don't Take Your Love", which in the last 18 seconds, features some of the most fantastic levels of begging you've ever heard:

Migration - Creative Source

I'm sure this is a fantastic album, but I bought it for one song which contains a five second passage, which was sampled in one of my favorite rap songs ever. The Creative Source song is called "I Just Can't See Myself Without You", the section that was sampled comes around the 2:10 mark:

Just in case you were unable to figure it out, the song is by Freeway, Jay-Z and Beanie, and it is called "What We Do". I challenge you to listen to this song without nodding your head in violent fashion:

Anyway, the dudes at the record store we impressed by the detail in my stories and they "let" me buy the records sans incident. I appreciated their level of snobbery and it reminded me of a scene out of my favorite movie High Fidelity:

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Allow me to tell you a story about the selective generosity of men.

Today, as I was driving back from my morning swim around 6:45 am, I was stuck behind a Deer Park delivery truck for 4 stop lights. If you know anything about Deer Park trucks and delivery trucks in general, you know that they have little time to waste. Their trucks are full of water, there are deliveries to be made, and the last thing they want to do is dilly dally on the road en route to their next stop. Failure to make a timely delivery potentially could lead to an angry call to their boss, and no one--delivery truck guy or not--wants that type of heart to rain down on them at work. It simply is not a good look.

So the Deer Park delivery guy made it through two stop lights sans incident, and when he got to the third light there was a bit of trouble. The light was green, but there were three cyclists taking their sweet time to get across the street. These cyclists clearly had a red light, but as we all know, cyclists operate under the anarchy creed, and they proceeded to make it across the street at a leisurely pace. The Deer Park drive lost his shit and started both yelling and cursing at the cyclists, who strolled across the street with the looks and movements of individuals who had an abundance of indifference. The Deer Park driver and I ended up scurrying across the street, and we barely made it through the yellow light, but we stopped when we got to the fourth and final red light.

While I was sitting at this light, I noticed there were scantily-clad prostitutes walking around the area (hardly unusual this time of morning). Some were getting out of cars after their "shift" was over, others were longingly peering into cars and trucks hoping to get a new shift started. It is still surreal to me that these ladies opt for this risky behavior, as opposed to selling that thang on craigslist, backpage, or in someone's DM where these things typically go down. But I digress.

Just before the light turned green, this Cadillac pulled up on the other just across the intersection where the truck and I need to be, and he started soliciting the services of the prostitute. They were about 30 seconds into their back and forth when the light turned green. The Deer Park truck was in front of me, and there was no one behind me, so we were the only two people waiting for this transaction to go down. I fully expected this driver to lose his mind and start honking, yelling and cursing at this dude, who was preventing us from progressing on our respective journeys by trying to negotiate and sweet talk his way into some early morning ass from a lady of the night.

But the Deer Park driver did no such thing, and I followed his lead and stayed quiet too. It wasn't like Mr. Deer Park and I were trying initiate our own prostitute conversations because we weren't. And it wasn't like I was in no hurry to get home so that my son and I could get ready for school and work because I was. But I also was amazed at the patience of this Deer Park dude not even a minute after he screamed on some cyclists. After a minute, the prostitute (and her friend I might add which meant this dude was about to really come up before work) got into the Cadillac and drove to some clandestine location I'm sure. My Deer Park friend and I missed the light and had to wait another minute for the next one.

So what did we learn here? Men, no matter how much of an inconvenience it may be for them, will never block another man's attempt to get laid--no matter how illegal it may be.

Lesson over.

Monday, March 27, 2017

My son has been taking swim lessons on and off the last several months, and most of those lessons have come from someone we'll call Kris (his real name). Kris is a graduate student at George Washington University, and he has a fantastic rapport with me and Nyles. He was late to one lesson and he had to cancel another lesson due to train issues but for the most part things went smoothly with Kris as our instructor.

Since Kris is a college student he is a flight risk on some weekends and especially during spring and winter breaks, so when those times came I had to improvise. I reached out to LaJuan, who had been Nyles's first swim instructor before scheduling conflicts forced us to switch. She suggested her daughter Brittany, and I was a little leery of switching swim instructors for a third time, given how kids--especially Nyles--are so married to the idea of structure and uniformity. Brittany quickly assuaged any doubt I may have had.

Kris is a good instructor but he let Nyles dictate the terms of the lesson. If Nyles cried and said he didn't want to do something, Kris would simply move on to another part of the lesson until Nyles stopped crying without revisiting it later. He also allowed Nyles to talk out of turn about subject matters that didn't have a damn thing to do with the swimming lesson. Brittany started the lesson by taking Nyles out of his comfort zone, which pissed Nyles off at first, but it also built his confidence for any additional challenging maneuvers later in the lesson. If Nyles attempted to talk about any of the fascinating things five year olds love to discuss, Brittany would humor him momentarily, and then force him right back on topic. And when it came to the actual swimming, Nyles was more confident and making larger strides with Brittany than he was with Kris.

So last Saturday when Kris returned from his latest trip and sent me a text to confirm our lesson time, I sent him a return text and basically told him that I appreciated his services, but I decided to go with one of his colleagues on a full time basis. It wasn't mean or snarky, just very matter-of-fact.

I got no response.

He sent his initial text at 10:05am, I responded when I saw it at 11:44am, and he hasn't said a word to me since then and it is now Monday morning. At first I tried to be cool and act like his response wasn't necessary, but I am pissed and I plan on calling/emailing his boss. I pay for swim lessons, and Kris isn't an independent contractor, he works for the Jewish Community Center where Nyles has his lessons. He may not have liked what I had to say, but at the very least he could have said "Thank you" or "I understand" or even the tried and tried passive aggressive response "no worries". Instead he's been hitting me with a two-day silent treatment which is what I would expect out of a jilted lover. Now I know I have a temper and sometimes that causes me to have unrealistic expectations about situation, but I do believe I'm in the right here in wanting a retort from Kris.

Am I right?

Thursday, March 09, 2017

I have been watching sports intently for approximately 37 of the 42 years I've been on this precious Earth. The players I grew up watching are retired, dead, coaching or in someone's studio waxing poetic about what they think they know regarding the sport they've been around their entire lives. At some point towards the end of each player's playing career, the athletic prowess they had been able to summon with relative ease gradually started failing them.

The great players like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant were able to diagnose the onset of the old man's disease and make adjustments not visible to the naked eye in an effort to extend their dominance. The more marginal players were helpless against the strong gravitational pull of aging---like a piece of food trying desperately to avoid the garbage disposal before succumbing to their inevitable fate and falling down the sink. Perhaps I'm being a bit morbid here, but for any athlete on any level, the loss of athleticism does indeed represent a form of death. The part of their lives which has provided joy, financial relief and mental stability is fading away, forcing them to think about phase two of their lives at an age where people in the "regular" world are just hitting their stride. That isn't an easy reality to get used to at all. Speaking of regular people...

In the past month or so, I have noticed that I am aging. The same watchful eyes that used to notice the signs of aging in my favorite athletes have turned against me, and I'm noticing things going south with me. To be fair, I'm not 50 or 60 years old which when more demonstrative declines in physical appearance start to really kick in, but that is of no consolation to me because I am starting to notice subtle things.

My hairline is starting to erode in the corners, which directly affects how low I can wear my hair. It used to be I could rock my hair at a relatively medium length with a strong shape-up. Now, either my barber has to push my hairline back to achieve that look that I'm used to (which has me looking like a crazy man) or he has to cut it extremely low, which is fine, but it means I can't wait as long in between haircuts. As a result, I have decided to re-grow my beard as a diversion. If I'm Rick Ross-ing it with the facial hair, surely no one will notice that I'm LeBron-ing it up top right?

I've also noticed that I cannot workout once or twice a week in an effort to maintain the figure that I'd like to have. I have to eat right, exercise, sleep, be positive, and even with all that I still may not lose as much weight as I did when I was younger. And if I step up the intensity of the workouts, I may lose weight at a rapid clip, but there will be hell to pay in the soreness department.

Last month at the request of one of the people I write with, I joined a 3-on-3 basketball league. Now to you the reader, 3-on-3 sounds like a relatively low impact brand of basketball, and if I'm keeping it real (is there any other way to keep it?) I too thought this would be the case---but I was dead wrong. Full court 3-on-3 basketball is a grueling affair, especially when the two other team members who are supposed to be the reserves, do not show up and I have to run for 40 minutes (there are two 20-minute halves). Last week that happened and the next morning every part of my body was sore. But it wasn't just the soreness which kicked my ass, it was the length of time it took that soreness to disappear. As I am typing this damn blog entry, my ribs, my back, my patella tendon (I googled to figure out that part of my body) and even my neck are still hella sore, and the next game is on Sunday. When I was younger, I'd be sore two days, then I was ready to roll.

Again, I'm not old, I'm not suffering any serious illnesses and to the naked eye, my appearance is the same. But I look at myself naked in the morning every day, and I'm noticing little things that make me depressed some days, I won't lie. Everyone deals with this, so I shouldn't take it personally but it is indeed an adjustment, and I thought that writing about it would make me feel better and I was wrong.

Happy Biggie Day folks.

Monday, February 27, 2017

When I was younger and an event of consequence came on the television (a Michael Jackson video, the PBS series Eyes on the Prize, or Monday Night Football) my mother and father allowed me to stay up late and watch. At the time I felt 100% entitled to watch these things on television, and I didn't even think about how much I was throwing off the rigid schedule my parents had spent time carefully crafting during my formative years. All I knew was that my program(s) was on ,and goddammit I wanted to see it.

Now that I'm an adult with a five year old child, I have much more an appreciation for what my parents did in terms of setting bedtime guidelines and deciding when to take their feet off the gas a bit. My son starts reading at 7:30, is ready for a night time shower/bath around 7:45, and he is usually in bed by 8pm. He used to attempt to put up a bit of a fight during every step of the night process, but he's resigned to his fate, and realizes he cannot change it.

Monday night was a bit different. My son was in bed by 8pm, and afterwards the wife and I prepared to eat dinner so we could watch the Oscars. Two minutes before the Oscars officially began, Robin Roberts--via the ABC broadcast--showed a tweet of Justin Timberlake and she mentioned that he was going to open up the Oscar show. Now at that point I realized that he was going to open the show with his song, "Can't Stop The Feeling" from the movie Trolls, which are Nyles's current favorite song and movie respectively. Since I knew he loved the song, I hit record and I felt good about myself, since I knew he'd watch it the next day with a smile on his face.

Then I felt bad for being such a slave to my bedtime routine, and I decided to travel back to my youth, when my parents took the foot off the gas. I ran into my son's room, I picked him up (something I don't do too much of lately because he's heavy as hell) and I sat his happy ass in front of the television just a Justin Timberlake starting singing. Nyles danced the whole time with a huge Kool-Aid smile on his face, and he was in his own world. After the performance, I carried him back to bed, he said, "Thank you Daddy", then he went to sleep.

Mission Accomplished.

Can't Stop the Feeling is Nyles' jam! AKA the Trolls song. Dad let him stay up to see #oscars opening number.

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