Monday, December 28, 2015

At 5pm on Christmas Day I was over my in-laws house and I was alone in the basement. My brother-in-law was cooking, my wife and sister-in-law were talking and drinking and Nyles was running up and down the stairs causing chaos and mad confusion. I had a red cup full of Crown Royal Black, and I was watching the Golden State Warriors defeat the Cleveland Cavaliers and then I saw this commercial:

Now, before I gush over LeBron and this commerical, let me say that I can't stand the man as a basketball player. I respect his abilities, his once-in-a-lifetime talent, and his two NBA titles. But he tortured my beloved Washington Wizards in the mid 2000s, and I simply cannot forgive that just because his star has shone even brighter since that time, while the Wizards have basically been treading water. Rivalries are forever. I'm an Eagles fan, which means I hate Washington and the Cowboys (even though Washington just ended our season). 75 (The same rule applies to the rivals of the Wizards: LeBron and the Cavs, the Chicago Bulls, and maybe the Toronto Raptors. I am stingy with my compliments of other teams/players, but I have to give LeBron props for that commercial for several reasons:

1) He did a commercial about Cleveland. I may have been born in Manhattan, but my dad and brother were born in Cleveland, and my mother and aunt currently live there (my mother was actually born in Akron like LeBron). I have an uncle who lives there as well. At one point I my grandmother and other family lived there, but sadly they have all passed on so I don't visit quite as much. But from 1975 (when I was born) to about 2003, I went to Cleveland at least twice a year (from 1978-1980, and 1982-1984 I actually lived there). Cleveland is far from the most glamorous of cities, but there is a certain blue collar work ethic (as there is in a lot of midwest cities) that commands a certain degree of respect. LeBron was born in Akron and considers that to be his real home, but he plays in Cleveland, and he understands that work ethic, so this commercial in an odd way, felt like an ode to my family history. That may sound like a bit of stretch, it is more palatable to look at it that way, than it is to just be giving LeBron endless props.

2) Public Enemy got some love. Public Enemy was voted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame back in 2013, and given the political nature of their lyrics, one would think that their music and legay would be pretty popular right now in these politically charged times--but that has not been the case. I've loved them since I was a young impressionable 13 year old watching the Night of the Living Baseheads video on Rap City. Chuck D wasn't the best of rappers, but he has the voice of a preacher, the intelligence of a professor, arguably the best producers on the planet, and a DJ who only talked with his hands. Their mainstream poplularity faded in the 90s, but they are huge overseas (that theme has been the case with black culture since the 1920s) and they tour year-around. LeBron used one of their most popular and controversial songs for his commerical, and hopefully that is a catalyst for folks young and old to re-visit their music.

3) The message. LeBron looked straight into the came and rapped, "Black to the bone, my home is your Welcome to the Terrordome". The "my home is your home" was an ode to Cleveland/Akron and the "Welcome to the Terrordome" part was an ode to the workout room, and to Public Enemy depending on the way you look at it. But for LeBron James, who arguably one of the biggest and marketable athletes on the planet right now, so look squarely into the camera and say, "Black to the bone", that is a big deal. Most elite-level athletes--most famously Michael Jordan are not 100-percent comfortable with using their sizable platform to send messages great and small to the masses. LeBron has spoken about about Tamir Rice, and Trayvon Martin with no hesitation or fear that he may lose his endorsements. He's seemingly comfortable with the level of blackness he allows the public to see, which is refreshing. But again, the way he says "black to the bone", even down to the scowl on his face while he says, sounds like a man who is damn near defiant about his blackness. Just scroll up to the video again, start at the 1:09 mark, and just watch for yourself.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Young Nyles and I attended the Wizards/Grizzlies on Wednesday night in the the pouring rain and summer-like temperatures. I came home from work, walked through the door, and Nyles' first words to me were, "Daddy I don't want to see the Lizards, I want to see John Wall." I stopped myself from laughing, and clarified that we were going to see the Washington Wizards and John Wall, but no lizards would be present. He repeated that he did want to see the lizards, and I again assured him that the lizards would maintain their distance.

My wife dropped us off at the game around 6pm, which was an hour before the game was to begin. I wanted to walk around the arena so he could look at the floor, get some pizza and snacks (and I got me some wine), and I wanted to buy him another Wizards jersey (he had no interest in getting another one because in his words, "Daddy I already have John Wall's jersey"). Point taken son. I did take him to meet my main man Kyle from Truth About It (aka my editor), who had some nice things to say to him. The last thing we did before we took our seats was to go down to the court, where we said hello to Mr. David Aldridge. My son was desperately trying to find John Wall, but he was back in the locker room, which caused my son to have a mini-meltdown. Luckily for me, the game was getting ready to start.

If you've ever been to a Wizards game--or any NBA game for that matter--you know that the pregame player introductions are filled with fireworks, fire, loud explosions, etc. I completely forgot to warn Nyles about the pyrotechnics, and when the first few fireworks went out, he clutched me as hard as I was clutching my wine. He begged me to take him home, and since he wouldn't shut up about it I was 90% percent sure I wasn't going to see the game at all. Then John Wall was introduced, and Nyles started smiling and jumping up and down. Thank god.

First Nyles was just fixated on what John Wall was doing, why he passed the ball, why he shot the ball and why he was sitting on the bench, instead of playing on the floor. Once he realized Wall was going to be on the bench for a minute, he actually started to take note of the other basketball nuances going on during the game. He liked the dunks, he noticed when someone passed the ball, he knew certain players were taller than others, and I did my best to fill him in. I cannot tell you how good it made me feel to be sitting there with my son--in an arena where I normally cover games--explaining what basketball is all about. My dad took me to my first basketball game when I was 12 years old, and by that time, I was an expert about everything related to basketball, except what it was like to watch live. But my son was hanging on my every word, he told me he loved, he was jumping all over me and he had a great time--until halftime.

At halftime, Nyles told me he was tired and he was ready to go home, and I decided not to torture him anymore. As we were walking out, one of the older workers at the Verizon Center told me that at Nyles' age, one half of basketball was all he could take, and I agreed. I called an Uber with a car seat (which is expensive as hell), and we headed back home. As soon as we got home, he hyped up the game to my wife, and said he couldn't wait to go back to another game, even though he just pressured me to leave the one that was still going on, I told him we'll go again.

Good times.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Today is my youngest son's fourth birthday party. I am not overly emotional and sentimental about it this year, but I am definitely happy. Just this morning, while we were on our way to the grocery store to buy cupcakes for his classmates, young Nyles held a serious conversation with me--at 6:40am no less--about the type of cupcakes he wanted for his birthday. Apparently chocolate cupcakes are not good enough for his underdeveloped palate, and he only wanted cupcakes of the vanilla variety. Duly noted little man.

We pulled up to the grocery store at 7am, walked over to the bakery section, and of course there were no vanilla cupcakes in sight. In fact, the only cupcakes I could find were Christmas-themed (and chocolate), and I figured those would do the trick, so I grabbed them and headed towards the checkout line. I had not taken but two steps when young Nyles started screaming at the top of his lungs (again, at 7:05am) talking about how bad chocolate cupcakes were, and he wanted vanilla. I politely explained that there were no vanilla cupcakes and he continued to lose his shit over my alleged oversight. Then he took his screaming up a notch, and I firmly grabbed his shoulders and explained to him what the options were: 1) Chocolate cupcakes or 2) No cupcakes and an ass-whipping at 7:06am on his birthday. He wisely took the first option, while still trying to mumble under his young breath about vanilla cupcakes. After school was over, my wife told me that he ate chocolate cupcake at school, but he still bitched about dearth of vanilla.

Even though it is slightly annoying, this will be my lasting memory of Nyles' fourth birthday. He asks lots of questions, he has lots of opinions, and his four-year old mind now has the ability to articulate these things in a semi-competent fashion. My dad told me this moment would come, and he told me it would be rewarding, but I had no idea he would be as right as he has been. I used to sit and watch him, and wish that he would talk to me about any and everything, and all he did was stare at me. Now he stares AND talks, and it is awesome.

Tomorrow, I will be taking him to his first Wizards game, and that should be awesome.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Friday afternoon I received a call from a job recruiting agency regarding an individual who used to work for me named Nelson. She asked me the usual questions about my job title, how long I managed Nelson what his duties were, etc. When she got to the question of why Nelson left, I politely told her that Nelson did not leave, but instead he was fired for poor performance. She paused a bit, asked me was I sure, and then I proceeded to go down the laundry list of things Nelson did wrong. The recruiter was taken aback by my honesty, and quickly decided to bail on any further Nelson inquiries. The conversation then switched to me.

She asked if I was looking for a job, and I explained to her that I am always listening and looking, and she asked me a bunch of questions about my background, my salary requirements and where I’d be willing to work. I put a stop to her line of questioning just as quickly as she bailed on inquiring about Nelson. I told her that I had no interest in being pursued on the tail end of a call that was initially made with someone else in mind. She was a bit taken aback, and perhaps I was being a bit persnickety, but she respected my wishes and called me back later in the day. I appreciated that.

When she called, she told me about two jobs. One is a managerial job (I’d be in charge of 10-15 people), it is in litigation support (I’ll spare you the details), and I would be making $15-20k more than I make now, which SOUNDS awesome. But the job itself sounded boring as hell, and I know I would be selling out for the money, which would have been fine about five years ago, but not now as I am trying to figure out a way back to writing. I hope I don’t regret that decision.

The second job is a technical writing position that isn’t available until February or March, and it is only a 5k raise, but it is everything I want. There’s writing, there’s researching, and there is ZERO managing involved. The only catch is this recruiter was hell bent on trying to make me take the managerial position—I suspect there was more incentive for her company. She spent 2 hours on Sunday (during football no less) trying to get me to take that damn managerial position, and she even had her manager call me to sweet talk me. I didn’t take his call, and I didn’t call her back, I just decided to sit on his for 24 hours.

I want that writing position and I will wait for it, I am 85% sure about that. But still, I find myself wondering if I am making the correct decision…

Friday, December 18, 2015

I really want to see the new Star Wars movie in my living room--preferably at 9am, when the kid is at school and the wife is at work. I would be perfectly willing to pay $15 or whatever "they" are charging these days, except I wouldn't buy a ticket, I would just pay a PPV-fee like I would for a boxing or an MMA match. Instead of popcorn, I'd have waffles, fruit, veggie sausage and all the mimosas I could get my non-Jedi Knight hands around.

In preparation for this bless-ed event, I would watch all of the Star Wars movies in order--to clarify for you lames, not in the order they were released, but in the order they are meant to be consumed. In fact, just to ensure that I was knee deep in the Star Wars culture, I may watch the cartoon Star Wars Rebels. It lacks the intensity and the complexity of the regular Star Wars franchise, but there are more episodes than there are movies, so it'll do. It is the equivalent of drinking sparkling cider when you really want champagne. Yes getting drunk is more fun, but every now and then you need a break. Not the greatest of analogies, but you get it.

What I do NOT want, is to sit in the movie theater with a bunch of kids, nerds, neophytes, and drunken fools, to watch this new movie. The last "hot" movie I went to see in a crowded theater was Michael Jackson's "This Is It" and it wasn't enjoyable, although I did get to meet Dick Gregory so it wasn't all bad. People were laughing too long and I missed key lines in the next scene, there was applause which is so not necessary in a show that isn't a live play or concert, and people brought their stupid ass, young kids in the theater, which just further hindered my ability to hear pertinent details.

Look, I've been watching Star Wars since I was five, and Empire Strikes Back is my favorite movie all time...

**sidebar on** My top five movies of all time in order are:
1) Empire Strikes Back
2) High Fidelity
3) Mo Better Blues
4) The Fugitive
5) Aliens (Love Jones used to be in this fifth spot, but I think the great soundtrack made me think higher of the actual movie than I should have)
***sidebar off**

and when you've been watching a movie franchise your entire life, you develop an intimate relationship with it. I don't want to share my enjoyment with anyone, let alone 200 people in a theater. I mean yes, in a perfect world, I'd rent out an IMAX theater and watch it solo (no pun intended) but that ain't realistic. I really want to watch this in my living room, and I am hoping after 3 weeks, when this money made from this movie eclipses Donald Trump's net worth, "they" will offer a watch-Star-Wars-in-your-living-room option. Maybe I should start a petition...

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The next time someone asks me why I don't like Drake, J. Cole and a slew of other newer rappers, I'm going to send them the song I'm about to link on the bottom of this paragraph. It isn't that I don't think the newer guys (with some exceptions..Kendrick, Lupe, Big KRIT, etc) have talent, it's just that I'm used to a certain level of rhyming. Is that so wrong?

Here is DJ Premier featuring Black Thought and Royce

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

My son's fourth birthday party is this Saturday at a kids indoor playground called "Pump It Up". Basically what will happen is the kids (I think 8 of them are coming) will bounce around on a bunch of inflatable devices for about an hour, then they will eat cupcakes, pizza and go home. The whole ordeal should take around two hours, and hopefully Nyles will be appreciative of the efforts of his parents (mainly my wife).

The past few years Nyles' birthday party has been at his in-laws house, and he's been surrounded my friends and family. He really wasn't cognizant of what a party was and how important they are in order for little boys and girls to survive. Since his third birthday, he's been to at least five parties, and he has seen first-hand how much joy these glorious parties bring the faces of his peer group, and he is on board. He's been talking about his birthday and an accompanying party all damn year, and even when my wife and I tell him his party is forthcoming soon, that still isn't soon enough. He's money, he's ready to party, and he's all growns up:

Anyway, I have decided to put together a playlist for this Saturday's party. Sadly, I cannot play this list while the kids are playing around, but I can play it during the cake/cupcake/food portion of the afternoon. I have made many playlists during my day, and there are many different types. Sometimes I make lists for people because I want to put them on to the type of music I listen, I've made playlists to impress people with my musical taste, and I have made running playlists to help me stay angry while I run. For young Nyles playlist, I had to forget about the songs I know and love, and strictly put the songs on he likes. Here is the list:

Kendrick Lamar - Alright (the clean version): Nyles doesn't understand the lyrics, but he sings the shit out of the chorus which is enough for me right now.

Pharrell - Happy: Remember how "Nuthin But A G Thang" was THE party anthem in 1993? That's how "Happy" is for kiddie parties. Your party simply is not credible without this song in the rotation.

Fun Fun Fun and Despicable Me from the movie Despicable Me 2: If you've seen the movie, you understand how catchy these songs are. If not, don't click on the link. Save yourself.

Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae): I have no comment except to say my son likes it

Doobie Brothers - Minute by Minute: My son loves the chorus and he frequently sings it in the tub

Michael Jackson - Human Nature/Smooth Criminal: Kids love MJ, which is weird to type, but it is true

Foreign Exchange - Asking for a Friend: He likes the house beat and the repetition of the word "Work" at the beginning of the song

Vince Guaraldi Trio - Linus and Lucy/Christmas Time is Here: Seasonal songs that Nyles loves are a must

Drake - Hotline Bling: Again, no comment

In Summer/Let it Go/Do You Wanna Build a Snowman from the movie Frozen: See my comments about Happy

Oh Cecilia (You're Breaking My Heart): This is a song that my song learned in music class at school. The lyrics are a little mature for 3-4 year olds, but it's catchy as hell.

We'll see how this party goes on Saturday.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

I sat up in here on Friday saying I was going to write everyday, and I totally forgot that I would be celebrating my anniversary which would severely hinder my ability to author a blog entry. So now I am back.

I am in line for a promotion at my new job, and the guy who is recommending me to take this new position, asked me to forward my resume, so he could present it to HIS boss. I forwarded the most recent copy of resume to him, and I waited to hear some good news. Two days later my guy called me and said I needed to rework my resume, and when I asked him why, he told me that his boss took one look at my resume and said, "This guy is not a manager, he's a writer." I chuckled when when I read that.

The resume I sent over was the one I send out when I am trying to get a writing position (sports or technical writing). I lead with my writing accomplishments with basketball and other jobs that I have held, and I backload the resume with my managerial positions. 99-percent of all the jobs I've applied for are related to writing, because frankly I have no desire to manage people anymore. I mean any fool who reads this blog can see that I operate best in a sparsely-populated vacuum, not a scenario when I am the center of work people's universe. Unfortunately, managing is where the money is, and I know I'm not supposed to follow the money, but I have a family and lots of bills, so for now writing will be on the side, until a lucrative position in the field reveals itself unto me. I digress.

The timing of hearing that someone seeing my resume and thinking that writing is my calling came the same day of me making my grand declaration to write every damn day. Not to turn this blog into some type of Stuart Smalley affirmation, but I know I can write well enough--whether it is technical writing, sports writing, book writing--to sustain myself, but I have not pursued it as fervently as I should have. At least I had not until last week. This "he's a writer" comment is yet another kick in the ass, and confirmation that I'm on the right path.

With that being said, go read my latest article.

Friday, December 11, 2015

I got married five years ago today at 3pm on South Beach in Miami, Florida. In attendance on that glorious day were me, my wife, a minister, and my friend Janelle, who recorded the entire thing. About five minutes after the ceremony was over, we were joined by cheerleaders who were practicing on the beach, and some people jogging by who were nice enough to speak and yell their congrats. It wasn't big, it wasn't extragvant or expensive, it was just us. My wife, Janelle and I went drinking afterwards, then my wife and I kept right on drinking until the next morning when we went Jamaica for the honeymoon. We were supposed to go to the Dominican Republic, but they had a cholera outbreak, and neither one of us wanted any parts of that.

In some ways that wedding and everything that went with it feels so damn long ago. Back in 2010, my wife and I were free to do whatever we wanted within our financial means. We drank, we hung out late, woke up late, and it felt like party time--well as much as it can feel like party time when you're in your mid-to-late 30s and you have a job. Now? We have soccer practice, swim lessons, PTA stuff, quality time with Nyles, work, and little time for ourselves or each other. It takes the juggling act from hell to pull this off, and I should not complain because millions of folks doing it everyday, but I will complain because a)it's my blog and b) this struggle still feels relatively new to me.

I say all this to say that I am still happy I got married. There have been struggles, short arguments, extended arguments, cursing, loving, joking, parenting, consoling, etc. I am not an easy person to live with and neither is she, but for five years we have done our absolute best to navigate through these tricky, yet rewarding waters. I'm glad I got married at 35, because I'm quite sure I wasn't ready in my 20s and early 30s. When folks ask me should they get married, I just ask them to be sure they like the person, because that's a huge deal. When she's on her period wearing porous drawers, a scarf and pants that look like Wolverine got to them, you still have to enjoy conversation and the smaller things.

Ok now I'm preaching, so let me shut up. It is my anniversary, I am happy, be happy for us goddammit.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

So I went to the doctor's office a couple of weeks ago and he informed me that my cholesterol was too high, and I needed to get my ass in gear. I have a follow up appointment in mid-February, and in the interim he gave me a relatively low dosage of cholestrol pills to take, and he told me that I have to start working out consistently the way I used to do in my mid 30s. He also said that it wasn't about vanity, fitting my clothes better or preparing to strut on the beach, but this was about extending my life. His tone was quiet serious, and I got the message loud and clear. As of the day after Thanksgiving I'm running, I'm swimming, I cut out most dairy (need soy milk for my Starbucks), and I've cut back on the alcohol (although in fairness, I mostly drink wine and per my doctor, that isn't causing any cholesterol elevation). As my wife said to me yesterday morning, working out now has to be like brushing teeth, showering, eating, etc. It isn't an option, it is an absolute necessity.

This workout urgency sounded very familiar to me, considering I have been equally negligent with my writing, as I have both casually and not-so-subtly mentioned on this here blog several times. Yes my plate is full of family, kids and other shit, but surely I can fit writing into that same tight spot (pause) where I am currently fitting my workouts. As I told the young Hampton University student I am now mentoring, if you want and aspire to be a writer, you have to do it each and every day, until you achieve a certain level of mastery. And even then, when you think you've mastered it, you'll read something like this, and it'll humble you and make you realize you ain't there.

***Sidebar**If you didn't click on that link I mentioned in the previous paragraph, you absolutely should. Even if you aren't a basketball fan, you can still appreciate how Jackie MacMullan tells a story, and weaves in and out of paragraphs with an effortless eloquence. Yes she's been doing this for 33 years, and yes she has way more access and cache' than I do, but I was still in absolute awe of her article, and I realize I have miles to go before I catch her. But I will catch her my friends, believe that**sidebar off**

The purpose of this particular entry is for me to pump myself up to blog every damn day from now until infinity. It can be short, it can be long (pause again), it can be heartfelt, it can be superfluous, but something has to be written between this four laptop walls. I need to start thinking and sinking into the paper like I was ink, I need to be trapped in between the lines, and when I finish the line, I cannot escape, I have to keep writing. That is my pledge to myself and tangentially to you people too.

Friday, November 27, 2015

First off, I had a wonderful Thanksgiving at my house with my mother, my brother, my sister-in-law, my nephew and of course my wife and Nyles. . We watched the parade, we told jokes, we watched the kids do crazy things, we cooked (by we I mean my mother and my wife), we ate, we drank (by we I mean my brother, my wife and I), and by 11pm everyone had left and I was sleep. The only two people I did not talk to were my son Carlton (who is in Marine boot camp) and my father who most likely did not want to call or return my call, because my mother was at my house, and he knew that she would find a way to get him on the phone. My mother is still pressed for my father like that, and it is painfully awkward to watch and listen to at times.

I love seeing my family, and I loved the 5-mile run I did before dinner yesterday, which helped me feel guilt-free about the copious amounts of food I ate at dinner. I stayed off social media yesterday too (except to send this ironic picture up on Instagram), and I just decided to enjoy my family, the football and stay in the moment. That is refreshing to do sometimes.

But what I DON'T like to do is to come to work the day after, and listen to other folks tell me about their bullshit Thanksgiving. I don't care about your family, I don't care that you want to know how good (or bad) my day was, I don't care about the baller-ass spread of food your old ass mom or grandmom cooked for you and your 34 family members, and I damn sure don't care how full you got (like you were just SO shocked that you ate lots of food on Thanksgiving like that day does not come every f**king year). Just come to work, put your head down and power through the work that is on your desk.. The advantage of coming to work on the Friday after Thanksgiving, is to enjoy the quiet, the peace, the solitude, and the ability to accomplish more while the attendance is sparse. If you're all up in my face for 20 minutes with Thanksgiving tales of joy and woe, it directly impedes my ability to maximize work productivity and blog creation--I have been trying to write this blog for 45 minutes now, and I keep getting interrupted with some variation of the same questions:

How was your Thanksgiving?
Did you eat a lot?
Did you see lots of family?
Did you see the games yesterday? (of course I did motherf**ker, everyone saw the same three games)

My apologies for being so crotchety so early, but I felt this warranted a good rant. And now, I present a song full of Ghostface rants:

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 believe 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?

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

About a month ago my mother called me and said she was going to see Wynton Marsalis perform in Cleveland. As I have detailed in this blog many times before, my family and Wynton go way back to 1984. He was an up and coming trumpet player from New Orleans who learned the ways of the jazz Force via Art Blakey and the Messengers, and my brother and I were 9 and 6 years old respectively, just learning the ways and nuances of jazz. We took a picture, we bonded, and all was well.

Three years later my family moved to Maryland, and one Saturday four years after that, we went to Blues Alley in Georgetown and had a reunion with Wynton. He was there with his new and improved band, and I was a 15 year old trumpet player who played in both the jazz and marching bands. I brought my mouthpiece, Wynton let me play for him, we took more pictures, and he suggested that if I wanted to get better that I a) needed to practice every day and b) I needed to buy Bags Groove which was a Miles Davis album featuring Milt Jackson, Sonny Rollins, Thelonious Monk and others. I practiced every day until I made the basketball team, at which point I promptly ditched the trumpet altogether (a decision I regret to this day). And I didn't buy Bags Groove until last summer, and it was damn good.

I fell out of contact with Wynton until 2009, when I noticed he was coming to the Kennedy Center. I reached out to his people, let them know my connection to Wynton, and they told me that I could come backstage after the show. Of course, the night he was scheduled to perform, I was also scheduled to cover a Wizards game. At that point, I was in my first season covering the team, and I was paranoid about missing any games, so I ditched Wynton (a decision I do NOT regret), and respectfully sent a email explaining my absence. His people reached out to me and said that my invitation was an open one, and I could come back the next time. I haven't been able to go to a show yet, but I will...hopefully.

So when my mom told me she was going to see Wynton in Cleveland, she asked me to put her in contact with the same folks I had contacted. It worked like a charm, and she got a chance to go backstage and she even took a picture:

While she was backstage she showed Wynton pictures of me, my family, my brother and his family etc. Wynton remembered that I played the trumpet, and my mother promptly told him that I had quit, but Wynton still wanted to talk to me. He took my mother's phone, sent me a text that said "Man, call me tomorrow". I didn't understand the text when I first got it, because it was from my mom's number, but she promptly called me and told me what I had happened. I was pumped.

Now, much like that scene from the movie Swingers, when the fellas were debating how long to call a woman after you get her number, I didn't know whether to call Wynton the very next day or wait. An immediate call would seem pressed, but waiting was just as dicey, because he meets 4000 people daily and he could forget about me and the conversation he had with moms. I called the next day around 4pm and the convo went like this:

Him: Hello?
Me: May I speak to Mr. Marsalis
Him: Yeah, who's this?
Me (slightly stuttering): This is Rashad Mobley, you met my mom last night
Him: Yeah I texted you last night on her phone, what's up man? Hey can you call me back?
Me: No problem when?
Him: Later today is cool
Me: no problem

He didn't hear me say no problem, because he had already hung up the phone. Maybe he had a lady in the room, but why would he answer the phone? I was slightly intimidated and disappointed, but I pressed on and called him around 5pm, but he didn't answer, so I left a brief message. A week later my mom suggested I call again because he's a busy man, but when I did, he answered, acknowledged that he knew me, and asked me to call back again. I called back and got voicemail. I sent a text last Monday as my final attempt, but to no avail. I ain't contacting that mfer again, and yes I'm salty.

I told my mother that Wynton was probably caught in the moment, and decided to text me that night because my mother is nice and persistent. But left to his own devices, Wynton probably doesn't give a good goddamn about me, unless he sees me at a show, and we can talk face to face. So the next time he comes to DC, I will commence to semi-stalking him once again. In the meantime, I still like his music, I'm still annoyed he hates hip hop, and I'm even more annoyed (but not surprised) about the cold shoulder. These things happen right?

Friday, September 11, 2015

I used to be mildly apologetic for my lapses in blog productivity, but that shit is now over and done with. Life has been happening since last I wrote, and for the most part there have been a series of fortunate events.

First off, my wife and I were fortunate enough to get Nyles into one of the schools we chose for him in DC's crazy game of Charter School Lottery. At first, we thought we were going to have to endure yet another year of $800 a month daycare, and then last Friday, we received an email indicating that young Nyles had been selected. It was not as if the daycare where Nyles had been attending was bad or substandard in any way, but it was a church daycare that didn't have the academic structure we wanted. That's not a knock on church daycare in general, and I definitely wasn't knocking the great job the daycare did with Nyles from 3 months to 3 years. But it was time to leave and he did.

The wife and I hyped the new school experience all through Labor Day weekend so that Nyles would be locked in and ready to go on his first day, rather than being super-emotional and whiny as youngsters are wont to do on their first day. Nyles was already going to be starting a week later than the other kids, so it was important that he hit the ground running as much as possible, and he did just that. He didn't cry, he wasn't clingy, and he immediately took a shine to both the teacher and the teacher's aide. His first day was Tuesday, today is Friday, and he STILL has more energy than the 14 other kids in that class. Thank God the teachers have to deal with him all day and not me.

Last night was Back to School Night, and for the first time since my older son's high school graduation in June, I felt old. Me, the wife and Nyles were sitting in the school auditorium with parents, teachers and administrators, listening to upcoming school year events, and it just felt surreal. There's a certain youthfulness that kids bring to their parents, and that's all well and good. But in some respects while I was sitting there, I realized that I'm not a little boy or a young man anymore, I'm a full grown adult with a kid in the military and a younger kid whose life I have to help shape and mold. It isn't a scary thought or one I plan on backing down from, but man I felt every bit of 40 last night. So I drank a healthy dose of wine while I watched football..

Tomorrow, I will tell my Wynton Marsalis story. That's a little something we like to call a tease.

I recently re-bought this on tape for nostalgia's sake, and when it wasn't properly rewound, I realized why I left the tape genre altogether. The music is still great as is this song:

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 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.


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...

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

I really wish people would shut the hell up about Donald Trump and the things that flow so fluidly out of his mouth. This is what he does. He's an older, white and rich Kim Kardashian. He's the equivalent of a bus driver who drives to the stop, waits until the kids get right near the door, and then says to no one in particular, "Watch this!", as he drives up one more block to make the kids run, because he knows they need him. I won't say that it is 100-percent impossible for him to become president, but it is highly unlikely that we will ever have to say President Trump.

The Republicans don't like him, but they won't renounce him (save for a McCain diss) because he keeps the pressure off of all of them. The Democrats can't stand him, but they have to be careful with how flagrant they are with their vitriol, because then Trump will come after them. And then the media--who look absolutely foolish in all of this--keep interviewing and reporting Trump's every speech, tweet and Facebook post. If folks left him alone, it would drive him crazy how little attention he was getting, and he would fade into Bolivian as the great Mike Tyson said.. People should just stop feeding the animal, and let him go.

One more thing, when I turned 16 and got my driver's license, my father sat me down and had a speech with me about the police. He told me that I was smart, bright, articulate, blessed with a decent sense of humor, but I was also very much a black (young) man. We were living in the affluent Potomac, Maryland at the time, and he told me that a young, black man driving around those streets could be a target. He told me that if I ever got pulled over that I needed to act like the cop was my father. He told me say "sir", look the cop in the eye, don't joke or make small talk unless it was initiated by the cop, and for me to keep all personal commentaries to myself. I told him that felt an awful lot like selling out, and he said it wasn't about that, they were simply survival tactics. I made a mental note.

Sure enough, I got pulled over twice in the first month of driving, and only one reason was legit. The first time, the cop said my rear light was out, but when I got home I had my father check and it was fine. The second time, I left the Kemp Mill Records (on Rockville Pike for those you in the DC area) without my lights on and the cop pulled me over, but only gave me a warning. Both times I took my father's advice, even though in the back of my mind, I wanted to say some smart sh*t. I never forgot that advice my dad gave me. I used it five years later when I got pulled over trying to make it to Hampton (from D.C.) to see my oldest son's birth, and I used back in December when I got pulled over twice in an hour span (once in Maryland the second time in PA) for speeding. In that instance the PA cop was mean as hell, kept his hand on his heat during the whole stop, and looked like he would have loved to stir it up with me, despite the fact that my wife, son, brother, sister-in-law and nephew were in the car. I remained calm, and drove away.

Now I'm not foolish enough to believe that talking "perfect" would keep me from getting killed, beat or tasered, but I am about the law of averages, and I figure if I do my part, the risk isn't non-existent, it is simply lowered. So when I saw the tape of Sandra Bland talking to the cop, I cringed a little. She was clearly irritated and the cop was being a dick with the whole cigarette request, but I was wishing she had suppressed the smart mouth and just danced long enough for her to drive away, call her girls to complain, and maybe file a complaint in hindsight. She didn't deserved to be roughed up and she didn't deserve to die or be killed (I suspect it was the latter, but the Duke lacrosse rape case has taught me never to be sure), I just wish I'd have been in the car with her, so she would have had a fighting chance. Most cops are good, some are bad, and others snap at the drop of a hat, and use the weapons they were issued which work in tandem with any temper or anger issues they may have. We all have tempers, but when you're a cop with power, a badge and guns, things get real. It is a bad combo, and it is my job to lay low.

I said this to close friends, and I'm blogging about it here, but I know some folks disagree or will say, "It doesn't matter how she acted, she doesn't deserve to die or beat", and obviously that is the case. All I'm saying is that there was a point when she could have danced, and she chose not to, and I wish she hadn't. Now she's dead, and no cops--not the one who beat her or the ones who allegedly killed her--will be brought to justice. It is impossible to have nuanced discussions sometimes, but I am trying anyway. We can be justifiably mad over the way cops are killing, beating and harassing brown folks. We can also do our best to teach our kids (and adults) some survival tactics. Perhaps I'm wrong, but while you're reading my blog you're trapped in between the lines, and you'll escape, when you finish my lines..

That was heavy..

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

So yesterday young Nyles and I were in the car on our way home from daycare, and Kendrick Lamar's "Alright" came on my iPod. My son loves the chorus of this song, and since I'm all about keeping the boy happy in between daycare departure and bedtime, I let him listen to the song. Unfortunately, the only way he can hear this song is if I play God with the volume. When Kendrick is rapping his verses, I keep the volume low enough for only me to hear, and then when the chorus comes I blast it as loud as Nyles' three and a half year ears can take, but there's only one problem. The chorus to that song contains a quick, but very noticeable "nigga":

Nigga, we gon' be alright
Nigga, we gon' be alright
We gon' be alright
Do you hear me, do you feel me? We gon' be alright
Nigga, we gon' be alright
Huh? We gon' be alright
Nigga, we gon' be alright
Do you hear me, do you feel me? We gon' be alright

Now Nyles has no earthly idea what that word is right now, plus all he sings is, "We gon' be alRIGHT" (and yes he puts extra emphasis on the "right"). Still, I feel like a substandard parent by dangling "nigga" all up in the car (Suge Knight voice) which is basically daring him to regurgitate it in the most inappropriate of settings. I don't even use the word that much, so I damn sure can't pass it down. The solution, and man is it a depressing one, is that I am going to have to buy and/or play via Spotify, the clean version of Kendrick's album.

Now way back in 2000, I dated a woman who had a son around the age of 12, and she used to buy clean, Wal-Mart version of every rap CD, and I used to chastise her. I used to tell her that she should either buy the dirty version or not buy it at all, because even with the clean version you can clearly guess what curse word what should have been uttered. She insisted that wasn't true and that her conscience was a lot clearer knowing that if her kids picked up the cursing habit, it would not be because she let anything go language-wise in her car. Silly 25 year old me did not get that, but 40 year old me hears that logic loud and clear. Nyles doesn't know curse words, nor can he decipher what would have been said, he just wants to sing, "We gon be alRIGHT", and far be it from me to block his blessings. My oldest son's mother did no such thing, which may be part of the reason why he's posting questionable rap lyrics on his InstaGram page...or maybe that's just a function of him being 18 who knows. I digress.

Lost in all this fuss is that "Alright" is damn good song. It's like this year's profane, rap version of Pharrell's "Happy". Yeah he mentions guns, hostility due to police brutality and frustration, but he ends every verse with the affirmation that everything will be alRIGHT. The song surely isn't a panacea for all that's going wrong right now, but it is a start.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Last night I was sitting in the living room with my wife, when she asked me if I knew my son was leaving Marine boot camp this weekend. She just happened to be on Instagram, and noticed that my son had told his Instagram friends that if they wanted to talk to him, they had to do it by this weekend, because he was going to be gone for 13 weeks. Harmless enough right? Wrong. Wrong.

Granted, ever since my son's graduation from high school last month, I knew that magical boot camp date was coming. So at least twice a week for the past several weeks, I've been asking Carlton if he had a date, and every time, he'd tell me "not yet Dad" or "I'm still waiting". I felt bad for pestering him, but I know how forgetful and negligent he can be at times, so I kept asking anyway. So imagine my disgust when I get this magical date via my wife looking at his Instagram page (I hope it is as ridiculous to read as it was to type). I immediately texted my son to ask him why he'd forsaken me, and his response was something Theo Huxtable would say to his dad, "I just found out earlier in the day while I was playing basketball."

Now when I reached out to him it was 11:25pm, which means he found out at least four to five hours prior, and he STILL decided to type that heartfelt Instagram message before informing the very person who has been on his ass about it the last few weeks. I want to punch him in his mouth before he goes to boot camp--and I actually told my wife I was going to do as much last night--but this morning I realize that was just misplaced anger on my part. I was more upset about yet another Instagram post where my son quoted a rap song and said, "He f**ked b**ches". Such a classy young man. Boot camp will straighten up some of that filth I hope. I still wish he had gone to college, but oh well. He has to find his own way.

When I typed Theo Huxtable, I almost decided to type a few words about Bill Cosby, but I don't have the heart. He's a brilliant man who entertained me for years, and has been a great advocate for education, kids, etc. But he's a creepy f**k, and that part of his life has now made it into the first paragraph of his bio/obituary (sounds mean, but if you think every major newspaper hasn't started and edited Bill's obit, you are crazy). It is sad, but I don't feel sorry for him at all. He's had a full life that is ending badly.

Go buy that new Bilal. It is called "In Another Life". The wife and I went to see him in concert last week, and he was amazing.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

So late Saturday night, I had the house to myself, and I was watching a boxing match on my laptop (NBC-4 kept interrupting the match to discuss the stormy weather, so I opted for the uninterrupted online feed), while sipping on an IPA beer. I got up off the couch to order some pizza, when I dropped my phone on the floor. It was slightly cracked but still functional so I proceeded to order food, text my wife, etc. An hour later, I looked at the phone and it would not work at all. The little light would flash indicating that I had a text/email, but I couldn't see anything else on the phone. I turned it off, turned it back on, but nothing worked.

Now I was angry for two main reasons. One, the next day was Father's day, which meant without my phone I would miss out on all the wonderful Father's Day calls and texts that feed my fragile ego. Plus it would stop me from calling my dad, my brother, etc. But second and most importantly, I hate being without my phone even for a few hours. I text, I get on the Twitter, I play Words with Friends and Scrabble, I look up things on google to prove my wife wrong, and I take pictures of my son Nyles to share on Instagram and all that. Perhaps it isn't good for me to be that dependent on my phone, but hey, I'm conditioned to be that way. Even my condition is conditioned...

Sunday morning, I headed to the playground with my main man Nyles, and I noticed that I was much more attentive to him. I wasn't looking for a photo op depending on what he was doing, I didn't zone out and start fiddling with my phone when he starting playing with other kids. I halfway talked to other parents (ok not really), and I really didn't miss my phone at all. Still, that afternoon, I headed to the Sprint store by house to get a new one. They told me I had to wait until Wednesday, I said that was bull, and they said I could try my hand at the corporate store--in Silver Spring, just 15 minutes away. Mind you, I initially left the house without showering with a T-shirt, basketball shorts and no drawers on, thinking I'd run down the street, get a phone and go back home. No such luck.

So I got in the car, and drove to Silver Spring smelling like the outdoors with my junk swinging and bouncing around like kids in a moon bounce. I walked in the Silver Spring store, explained my issue, and they took my phone to see if they could repair it, and told me to come back in an hour. So now, I decided to venture to a bar down the street, and I was careful to sit alone so that I wouldn't call attention to my attire. I didn't have my phone, so I had no f**king clue when an hour had elapsed without asking the bartender what time it was. After 90 minutes, I went back to the Sprint store, only to have them tell me that my phone couldn't be repaired and I had to order another one, which wouldn't arrive until Wednesday--the same b.s. I heard at the store five minutes away from my house. I ordered the phone, and took my ass home.

When I got home I went on Facebook where most of my friends and family are, and wrote the following message:
I broke my phone and the new one won't be here until Wed. So if you contacted me to wish me a Happy Father's Day, if you called to say hello, or if you just called to moan and make suggestive sex noises in my ear, just hold out a few days.

For those not on Facebook, I emailed them, I used my wife's phone or I got on the iPad and used FaceTime. I was proud at my resourcefulness, but I was still hella pissed to be phoneless. The "inconvenience" continued on Monday when I couldn't use my Starbucks app to get me a Monday-morning beverage. The sad part is that now on Tuesday morning, I'm (almost) used to being phoneless--except I have family in town and trying to coordinate with them is a pain. I say all this to say that I am woefully dependent on my cellphone, and it is a sad sight to see...