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.