Monday, October 17, 2016

When I picked up my son up from aftercare on Friday afternoon, the woman in charge pulled me aside and informed me that she had to speak to my son about hitting folks. Apparently while all the kids were outside, Nyles got a little handsy and hit this kid a few times. I told her thank you and my son and I walked back to the car. Once we got back to the car, I asked him what happened and he said that a kid had hit him twice on the playground and he was retaliating. I told him that was no excuse and then I politely reminded him of the rules of engagement where fighting is concerned: No hitting unless someone hits you, then you hit them as hard as you can, and go tell the teacher what happened. No exceptions. He said he understood.

My wife cringes when she hears me say that to Nyles, but that advice is absolutely necessary in the mean streets of Pre-Kindergarten and aftercare. I've seen firsthand how kids around that age just hit people randomly and they keep going if they don't get a sufficient amount of resistance. I also know that the adults in charge rarely see the kid who hits first, just the one who keeps retalitating. So I figured the best thing for Nyles to do in those situations is to retaliate, get his money's worth with the hit(s) while doing so, and then tell the teacher: a)yes, I hit the kid b) I deserve whatever punishment you hand down, but c)he definitely hit me first. Who knows how well this will work, but I'd like to give it a try. I can't have the aftercare and Pre-K staff thinking my son is a troublemaker.

So this morning before I left Nyles in the classroom, we had a brief meeting by his cubby and I reminded him of the rules where hitting involved. The conversation went like this:

Me (whispering): So no hitting right?

Nyles (also whispering): Right daddy

Me: And if someone hits you, what do you do?

Nyles (at the top of his lungs): HIT THEM BACK!

Me (still whispering): Please whisper man. And after you hit them what do you do?

Nyles: (back on the whispering wagon): Tell the teacher.

I did not know that Nyles's teacher was within earshot, but when I turned around, she was standing over there laughing uncontrollably. I gave her the background story about what happened in aftercare, I asked her if Nyles had ever hit anyone in class (he hasn't thank god), and asked if she was ok with the advice I had given my son. She said yes she understood but her face told a different story. She'll get over it though, I can't have my son turning into some punching bag. Once he gets a smart mouth like his dad, he won't have to hit anymore...hopefully.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

I lost a friend of mine from high shcool yesterday at the age of 43. I use friend loosely because we were cool on FB, but we never messaged one another and we haven't had an actual face-to-face conversation since 1991, when I was a junior and he was a senior. But as my wife said, during one snapshot in my life, this dude and I were cool. We'd see each other in the hallway, and he'd make fun of me, I'd make fun of him, and that was our dynamic. For a short period of time, we even played on the same basketball team. I was the point guard, he was the power forward--although football was really his sport. He left two kids and a wife behind. He was leaving messages on Facebook on Monday night, he got up to to work on Tuesday morning, went to get breakfast with his co-workers, and died right there at breakfast. The shit is just heartbreaking man. But life (not his) allegedly goes on right?

Rod Temperton also passed away yesterday at the age of 66. You can explore his resume here.

Here's one of my favorite songs of his. If I could sing, I'd sing it to my wife:

Monday, October 03, 2016

As my main man Sabin told me while we were still in college, there is no sexier way to start a song, than the way Toni Braxton did it here:

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

I manage about 30-40 people here at my job--four of them are in my office and the rest are strewn about in another offices around D.C. I've asked them to let me know via text whether they are going to be late or completely absent from work, rather than sending an email or leaving a voicemail at work. As a matter of personal preference, I like knowing what challenges lie ahead work-wise before I get to work, instead of being surprised once I arrive. Being married and having a kid has forced me to shed my anarchal ways and be a bit more regimented and organized and the pre-work text is part of that process.

So after I dropped my son off from school, I got back in the car and I noticed I had the following text from one of my employees:
FYI - There's a sick passenger on the Metro

First off, for those of you who don't live in the DC area, the Metro is our subway system. Anyway, I looked at the text message and I wanted to throw the phone through my car window. This person gave me an update as if I was on the train while it was sitting still, and I was wondering why it wasn't moving. But even in that circumstance, Metro would be required to tell passengers what was being done to solve the issue, how long it would take and they would at least give an ETA for when the train would leave. That is what responsible adults do.

But this assclown just told what was going on the Metro without giving me an estimated arrival time, a promise to update me later, and they didn't even let me know where they were. To make matters worse, this person was, they had never sent me a text message before, so I had no clue which of the 30-40 people I manage this really was. I also resented the fact that they didn't preface their bullshit update with a "good morning", a "Hi Rashad", or a "I hope all is well with you". I don't expect those type of friendly salutations because I'm this person's supervisor, that's just the proper thing to do with a colleague, a friend or anyone who you haven't previously seen or spoken to since the day started.

I was irritated at this point, so my response to this text was, "Thanks for the heads up, what time do you think you'll arrive?". I didn't get a response and it is now 10:46am. I suppose I should do some investigative work to figure out who it is, but frankly, I don't give a damn. Everyone always says don't sweat the small stuff and don't like small things ruin the larger day ahead. Whoever said that didn't account for petty folks like me. That is almost as irritating as folks who jaywalk with their heads buried in their cellphone. The lack of etiquette strikes again....

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

In sports there are times when a matchup looks like a mismatch on last season when the Cleveland Cavaliers played the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors had Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala and Draymond Green, and the Cavaliers had the great LeBron James and not much else (Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love were out with injuries). LeBron and the Cavs fought hard and led the series 2-1 after three games and then the strength, talent and health of the Warriors eventually overpowered them, and Golden State won the title.

I was 90% sure the Warriors were going to win when I started watching the series but I watched anyway because it is sports, I love basketball and anything can happen on any given night. This same logic does NOT apply to Presidential debates.

Trump and Clinton have shown me what they are capable of, who they are as politicians and people, and what their strengths and weaknesses during this agonizingly long campaign season. There are no surprises, no oh-my-god-I-didn't-know-that moments and nothing to make me change who I'm going to vote for with the election a little more than a month away. So while I didn't judge or silently antagonize people who chose to watch the debate via their living room, a house party or in a public forum, I was not going to be participating. Half the people I talked to weren't watching to be swayed or to be educated, they just wanted to see a good show, which is yet another issue I have with this 2016 election. Lots of show and flair, and not enough substance, judgement and integrity. Besides, the show I wanted to see was on ESPN, via Monday Night Football. And right now as I type this it is 9:55 am, and thanks to the Internet, my co-workers and the Today show, I know exactly what happened so I'm good. Hopefully you don't judge me.

* * * * * * * *

The best and worst parts of being a parent were on display this morning as I walked Nyles to school. Two seconds after we got out of the car, Nyles spotted a kid that he knew and he sprinted towards him while calling his name. The kid was just as excited to see Nylees, but the father looked a bit terrified that his kid was talking to mine. I won't attach race to the reasons this white dude looked terrified because I was equally as terrified at our kids talking--and it had nothing to do with race. I just don't like talking to other parents in the morning, in the afternoon, during PTA meetings or ever. They ask invasive questions, the small talk is maddening, and ultimately I end up losing focus on the REAL task at hand which is my son. So I'm glad this dad "got it" and left me the hell alone. If our wives had been in attendance, they'd still be chatting about b.s.

So once the dad saw that our kids were going to be knee deep in a conversation about Star Wars, he decided to walk two steps faster with his daughter right next to him. Meanwhile, my son and this other kid were breaking down the seven Star Wars movies in an efficient 5-minute span. They established that Princess Leia was pretty, Darth Vader was evil and good, and R2D2 could not talk like a human because he was a robot. It was fascinating. I mostly stayed quiet, but every now and then I used my 40 years of Star Wars knowledge to play fact checker, but I'm pretty sure they didn't listn to a word I said. I'm just proud that 1) My son is a Star Wars fan and 2) Other kids seem to care what he has to say. And as a bonus, the dad left me alone, which made it a great f**king morning..until I got to work of course.

If you're having a rough morning, put headphones on, turn the volume up and play this song:

Monday, September 26, 2016

As I have previously mentioned in this blog, my son's school is right next to a Planned Parenthood facility, which means protestors are prone to make cameo appearances. It had been a good two weeks since any protestors appeared in front of the school, and I was happy about that. I'm all for principled, peaceful protests, but I don't like the creepy abortion pictures, and frankly neither does my son. Plus I don't like explaining life's issues five minutes before I have to drop him off for school. It just isn't a good way for him to start his day of learning.

Today, there was a protestor without the creepy pictures, but she still managed to be slightly disruptive in her own way. She had one big sign which said, "Stop Abortion Now!", but then she took it a step further and used colored chalk to write messages on the very sidewalk the parents and kids had to take en route to school. Some of the sidewalk messages were, "Babies Being Killed This Way", "Baby Murders Over Here", "Have A Good Day Baby Killers". Some of the kids just kept walking and didn't read the messages. Some kids could read, and read the messages out loud then asked their parents what that meant, other kids (like my son Nyles) couldn't read all the words, but the bright colors were intriguing so he asked me what it said, why it was written on the sidewalk and who wrote it.

The woman who wrote the message was sitting on the grass in front of Planned Parenthood making yet another sign, and I pointed her out to Nyles. He asked me why she wrote on the sidewalk, and I told him she had a message she wanted every one to see. I didn't tell him what the words said, and I damn sure wasn't about to fit an abortion/anti-abortion discussion into the 50-foot walk we had into the school. Luckily for me, as soon as he got closer to his school, all Nyles wanted to discuss was his new haircut and his even newer lunchbox. Crisis averted.

But some of the other parents I saw as I left the school and walked back towards the car were not quite as lucky. I heard kids ages 5-12 ask what abortion was, what Planned Parenthood does, and why protesters are always in front of the building. To properly set this scene from the parents perspective, imagine that it is Monday morning at 8am, you're already thinking about work-related matters, you may or may not have a hangover from the drinking you did during Sunday brunch or Sunday football, and it is taking every ounce of your remaining strength just to walk your kid to school and be on your merry way. And then all those plans fall by the wayside because one lone anti-abortion protestor decided that today is the day to write messages in colorful chalk all over the damn sidewalk. Your kid is asking questions and getting stressed out, and you can't exactly ignore their questions because that isn't great parenting, but you can't pull your kid aside and give them the straight talk you'd like to give, because the start of school casts a pall over all of that. It is a jacked up position to be in, and every parent I saw--regardless of their politics--looked like they wanted to strangle this girl with the garden hose that was in the grass next to her. Thanks to this girl, my four year old will be an expert in both sides of the abortion argument very early on in the game. Thanks protestor lady.

By the way, am I even allowed to use the word "abortion" that many times in a blog post? I feel like I've set off some Beetlejuice-type alarms here.

Friday, September 23, 2016

I am having barbershop issues again.

Over the past few months, my barber Stan has begun to show signs of slippage. He's about 56 years old, which is unfair to mention, because his slightly advance age was never an issue the past seven years I've been going to him. But it definitely seems to be working against him right now. He pushes my hairline back too far sometimes, and other times, he doesn't keep my beard as full as I'd like, which leaves with me with a bullshit Taye Diggs-in-the-movie-Brown-Sugar beard instead of the Issac Hayes beard my face has come to know and love. It had gotten to the point where I had to antagonize him before my haircut and give him specific instructions, then I had to follow that up with mid-haircut instructions to reinforce my preferences. Most barbers hate that and Stan is no exception, but I have no desire to walk around with a jacked up haircut for two or more weeks, so I do what I must.

The only reason I didn't ditch Stan months ago is that my young son Nyles loves "Mr. Stan", who is the only barber he's ever known. Stan jokes around with him, gives him a lollipop after every cut, and they end their transaction with a firm, intricate handshake. I must admit it is rather cute to watch, and I'm about maintaining a certain routine--but not at the expense of my hair and beard game.

There is another barbershop that is right on my way to work, and once things started deteriorating with Stan, I made it my business to try this new shop to see how I liked it. The first time I went to one barber and just played it safe with a shape up. The second time, I went to a different barber and entrusted him with my pre-going-to-Miami haircut and he nailed it. The new barbershop was a nice mix of young and old, and there are 8 barbers who work in there. The downside is that I always have to wait at least 30 minutes, which I never had to do at my old shop. I"m not a patient man who needs and loves to soak up the barbershop atmosphere. I like to get in and out--especially when Nyles is with me. Some of the barbers have told me to make an appointment, which I may try again. The last time I tried all of the barbers I liked were booked up for 2-3 days. Still, this shop has potential.

When I came back from Miami at the end of August, I decided to give Stan one more chance at redemption. Nyles and I got up at 8am on a Sunday morning like we usually do, and by chance, we saw Stan riding his bike about five minutes away from the shop. Stan explained that he had gotten fired from the shop, and he had relocated to another shop which was five minutes away. We agreed to meet him at the shop at 9am, even though it meant we had to kill an hour's worth of time.

**Sidebar** My barber's I-got-fired story goes like this...Apparently, one of his main customers came up short when it came time to pay the bill, and Stan said it was ok and let him go. Normally what Stan does in that situation is 1)Use his own money so the cash drawer didn't come up short at the end of the night and 2) Tell the manager, so he was aware. Well on this particular day, Stan didn't replenish the drawer or tell the manager, and he was accused of stealing. He was put on probation for a week, then he was fired. Something tells me there is more to the story, but when someone is in charge of cutting your hair with clippers and your beard with a straight razor, you don't make them uncomfortable in any shape, form or fashion***sidebar off***

Nyles and I set foot in the Stan's new shop, and immediately I was crestfallen. The shop is in a less desirable part of town and inside it looked rundown and smelled like a pack rat's closet. The barber chairs were clean, as were the razors, blades and clippers but everything else in the shop looked suspect. Nyles, who has neither tact nor couth, said, "Daddy it's dirty in here", and just asked him to sit his ass down in a spot I carefully chose for him. To make matters worse, it was 9 in the damn morning, but the owner of the barbershop felt the need to blast some profane rap music (I think it was Future). I asked Stan if he could ask the owner to turn it down, and the owner did so very begrudingly which pissed me off. Luckily for me, Nyles wasn't paying any attention to the words, but the last thing I needed was for him to bring home a curse word or two for my wife to hear. No one wins there. I left the barbershop, I watched he and Nyles do their normal strong handshake ritual, and then I told Stan I'd be back next week. I haven't been back since.

But yesterday, I tried to do an afterschool pop-in with Nyles at the new barbershop, and there was at least a 45 minutes wait, which was not going to work. I went back at 9am this morning when they opened, and there were 4 barbers working, but they were all accepting their appointment customers. I asked when the non-appointment barbers would be in and they said by 9:30, but by 10, they hadn't showed. I left out. Clearly, I will have to make appointment, which is difficult to do with a 4-year old. For now, we will be going back to Stan on Sunday morning..I think.

I resent my old barber for first slipping at his craft, and then getting himself fired, which has put me into some sort of weird limbo. I resent my new barbershop for placing emphasis on appointments, rather than the old-fashioned walk-in, which is how new clients are built. I wish I could find a good barber, who could just come to my house every Sunday morning, cut my hair and then roll out. That would be ideal.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

This morning as I waited to cross the street and fulfill my Starbucks fix (I got a Venti Soy Flat White this morning and it was delicious), I saw two girls in school uniforms. The looked to be around 11 or 12 years old, and they were knee deep in conversation as they waited to ross the street just like me. One girl kept both hands on her backpack straps while she talked, and the other girl was eating a bag of Doritos.

**Sidebar** Ever since I was young and school-age, it always annoyed me when kids ate chips for breakfast. When I did my student-teaching and my "real" teaching it annoyed me even more. I know some kids have the type of home life where any kind of food that was available--be it chips, funions, donuts, etc.--was an acceptable form of breakfast. But I also know that a lot of kids--and this is something that was true of kids who were white, black, hispanic or Asian--either weren't taught good nutrition, or they simply ignored the good nutritional value of cereal, toast or oatmeal, in favor of nasty ass chips at 8am. I see adults doing this at my job and it is equally are folks who smoke cigaretts at 8am. Why is it necessary to smoke a jack before breakfast? I don't get it.**sidebar off**

Once Dorito girl was finished with the bag, and her hands and face were full of chip residue, she looked left, then right, then dropped the bag on the street. Her classmate said, "Girl, you lazy", and then looked back at me very quickly. I had my sunglasses on, so they couldn't tell where I was looking, but please believe my eyes were glued to their illegal act. Once the "walk" signed flashed, Dorito girl kicked the Dorito bag in front of her classmate, and her classmate kicked the bag under a car that was waiting at the red light (the driver of the car was on his phone and oblivious to the entire operation). Then they both turned and looked at me while they crossed the street, and I just kept walking. Once they crossed the street, they went one way, I went the other, and that was the end of our interaction.

As I walked into Starbucks, I felt like I had failed every young person, by not speaking up and giving a 30-45 second long diatribe about the importance of respecting the streets of Washington D.C by not littering. I really wanted to say something, but the following scenarios played out in my mind:

1) What if I started lecturing the girls on their bullshit actions, and they got animated and/or upset? Anyone within earshot would certainly understand my plight and they would try to calm down the situation. But anyone out of earshot would see a grown ass man harassing two young girls, and they might think I was doing an Anthony Weiner impression. That wouldn't end well, any my well-intentioned point would get lost somewhere

2) This entire incident took place one block from my house, which means it is quite possible the parents, siblings or relatives could have been laying eyes on these girls. They could see me talking to the girls, come out of their house, and scream (or worse) on me for disciplining their children, and somewhere during their rant, they would surely utter the phrase, "you don't know them like that, those are my kids". Or they could make a mental note of the interaction they saw, and then confront me later that day during my walk home. Again, no matter how much of a public service I thought I would be performing, parents and family are overprotective--and given all that's going on in the world, I cannot blame them...however

My four-year old son knows that littering is bad and that it will not be tolerated. If we are walking down the street, and he sees any type of litter on the ground, he begins the following line of questioning:

Who left that there?
Why did they leave that there like that?
Who is going to pick it up?
Whoever left it there is a bad person?

I appreciate my son's vigilance, and the first two times I get hit with these questions it is entertaining and sweet, but by the time I heard this for the sixth or seventh time in a 15-minute span, I'm ready to mute his ass and strangle whoever left the trash there. So if you're in DC and you're thinking of littering, please don't, for my sake.

But on a much more serious note, it is rather sad that I cannot innocently talk to some kids about something they did wrong. I wouldn't have preached and I wouldn't have been mean, I would simply asked them why they did that, and if they minded picking up the Dorito bag. If they said no and did not kick the bag under a car, I would have gladly picked it up and thrown it out. If they had been receptive to my lesson, that would have been a win-win. And given that so many kids at impressionable ages are lacking in so many of the basic values they should learn at home (I'm not trying to sound like Bill Cosby here, I am just speaking strictly on what I observe during my walks/drives to my son's school), a helpful word from a harmless adult wouldn't be so bad every now and then.

I suppose I should have had the courage to power through the negative consequences in an effort to get my message across, but I opted to err on the side of caution this time. Maybe if they were boys, I'd have been bolder..I don't know.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

I received an email from one of my exes last night, and without cutting, pasting and showing you people what was said verbatim, I will summarize: I was thinking of you, I miss you, I hope all is well, and the tried and true phrase, "No need to respond". That last sentence is what motivated me to blog.

I'm not in the business of reaching out to folks, telling them that I miss and think about them, and then requesting that they suppress any urge they may have to respond. I only reach out to folks who I want to reach back out to me (except at work of course, when I WISH folks wouldn't respond just so I'd have fewer headaches). I suspect the "no need to respond" was sent for the following reasons:

***sidebar*** Before I get to those reasons, I am pretty sure that someone is ready to make the observation/comment that I should not worry or burden myself with such frivolities--and you may very well be right. But the foundation of this 10-years-and-counting blog has been to obsess, bitch and moan about the most inane of things, while peppering in sports, social commentary and humor with lots and lots of music. I know that my logic is flawed sometimes, but hey, so are our two presidential candidates (that's a bad comparison). ***sidebar off***

1) She really doesn't want to hear back from me

Perhaps she has become a free spirit who takes a mental stream of consciousness, puts it on paper (email) and sends it out without ever wanting any type of feedback. For these types of people the writing and eventual sending of messages is cathartic and once it is gone, they cease to think or obsess about what brought them to that point.

2) She's dipping her toe in the water

It is possible that she has more she wants to say and share with me, but she doesn't want to completely reveal her hand until she knows I am down to play ball. This is the equivalent of a heat check in basketball. For those unaware, a heat check happens when a basketball player hits two difficult shots in a row, and then tries for a third to see if a) the first two were lucky or b) they are in the zone, and anything they throw up will definitely go in the basket. If they miss the heat check attempt, they return to playing within the confines of the coach's game plan. If they hit it, they will shoot every time down the floor (See Kobe's 81 point game from 2006)

3) Mouse trap

She's overestimating the power she has, and she thinks that this simple email will be enough to get me to reach out to her and get the gang back together--also known as "catch me slippin'". The "no need to respond" is the equivalent of a woman saying she's sleepy, but then takes all of her clothes on her way up the stairs, leaves her bedroom door open, and the peeks to see if you've followed her. It's a trap.

***Sidebar part deux** Derrick Rose, formerly of the Chicago Bulls and currently of the New York Knicks, uttered these words during a deposition related to a case in which he and his boys are accused of rape. Try not cringe while reading this:

“We men. You can assume (we’re having sex with the woman),” Rose said in the deposition right before he was traded to the Knicks. “Like we are leaving to go over someone’s house at 1 a.m., there's nothing to talk about.”

Now, I've talked to men and women who share this sentiment and fully expect to f**k or be f**ked if midnight (or later) visitation is agreed upon. I have also known men and women who change their minds or just flat out don't share the sentiment that Derrick Rose so (un)eloquently laid out. But, if you are being deposed for a case where you and your boys have been accused or rape, maybe you don't want to say it like that. Maybe you reach into that elusive eloquent bag of yours and say something better than, "She knew what was up"...

I wish I could be an advisor for some of these youngster as they navigate their way through life as an NBA star. I don't care how many friends a guy has, at least one or two of them have to be common sense guys to say, "Hey man you sure you want to do this?". That question alone--from a trusted friend no less--is sometimes the difference between doing something dumb, and going back home to joke about what you might have done. It is very fine, thin line. ***sidebar part deux off**

And no, I"m not responding to that email I received from the ex.

Now, some music. And yes, in case you were wondering, I do walk around and randomly say what Baby says from 1:46 to 1:48. It makes no sense but it is some empowering sh*t to randomly say to no one in particular

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

A couple of weeks ago my mother was on her way back to Cleveland after spending Labor Day with my family, but before she went home, she decided to take everyone to brunch--Busboys and Poets to be exact. We talked, we laughed, my wife and my mother commented on how terrible the coffee tasted, and my four-year old son Nyles was knee deep into the iPad.

After brunch she paid the bill, and we were all headed out of the bookstore when my mother noticed a few books on display near the front of the restaurant. If you've never been to Busboys and Poets, it is 80 percent restaurant, 20 percent bookstore. The diverse display of books are displayed in the front of the restaurant, and then there are seats, chairs and a bar. My mother somehow missed the book display on our way in but it definitely caught her eye as we left. She saw three books:

The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl: This book is by Issa Rae, who I have known since 1991, when I used to hang out with her older brother. My mother and Issa's mother are still friends to this day. My mother knew Issa had a book out, but she still did a double take when she saw it.

Writings on the Wall: Searching for a New Equality Beyond Black and White: This is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's new book on race matters, and my mother foolishly asked me if I knew it was out. I was responded "hell yes" minus the "hell". Cursing at your mom--even at age 41--is ill-advised

Michelle Obama: A Life: My mother read this already and suggested I do the same. My book queue is about 15 books deep, but I'll read it eventually

Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement: My mother is in the midst of reading this and she told me I need to do the same. I may give this book special privileges and move it on up on my 15 book deep queue.

After my mother looked at these books, she walked out of the store and we headed to the airport. But while observing my mother--who has a Ph. D, is a former English teacher and has never met a book she couldn't conquer--I realized how much I missed bookstores.

You see back in the day, I would spend hours upon hours in Borders bookstore. I would buy a book, a magazine, some coffee, and then I'd pick another book I wanted off the shelf and read. If a member of the Borders staff approached and attempted to harass me about reading a book I had yet to purchase, I would show off what I had purchased already as a deterrent. It worked like a charm, 100-percent of the time. And the thing about it was...I wasn't the only person doing that. When I looked around, there 10-15 other men and women doing the exact same thing.

Sadly, this was 5-10 years ago before Kindles, iPads and reading-books-via-cell-phones had really taken off. There were books, bookstores and hundreds of people willing to spend hours upon hours in Borders, Barnes and Nobles, etc. When I was single, I would even put my snobbery to the test and take women on official dates to a bookstore to see how they reacted. If they picked a book or a magazine and got comfortable, I knew I had a winner. If they were impatient, fidgety and acted like flight risks, I would judge them slightly. That was one of my litmus tests.

I miss bookstores man. Libraries are cool, but they are a little stiff and antiquated--plus they don't serve beverages and the magazines are never up to date. The Borders I used to go to not only had books and beverages, but one time I saw Dianne Reeves and Terence Blanchard perform a mini-concert there as well. I felt cool, avant-garde and hip all at the same time. I want that old thing back...

Friday, September 09, 2016

My son Nyles started school last week at a wonderful charter school in the Northeast DC called Two Rivers. Last year, my wife and I were a part of the Charter school lottery and we didn't find out until the third week of school, that my son had been accepted to Seaton Elementary school. Two Rivers had been on our wish list, but we fell just short. This year, Two Rivers was our first choice and we knew early on that Nyles was going to be in attendance, so there was no headache or worrying.

In the weeks leading up to the first day of school, the staff of Two Rivers PCS reaffired that my wife and I had made the proper decision for Nyles. His new teachers sent a letter Nyles where they briefly introduced themselves and included headshots so we'd know what they looked like. I put that letter on the wall in Nyles' room so he would know exactly what he was in for the first day of school. There was a typo in the note they sent to Nyles, but my wife said I should let that slide (but I really haven't), because the gesture was so nice.

A couple of days before school started, my wife and I went to meet the new teachers in person, and they seemed very genuine, caring, and young as hell, which made me feel old(er). They were a little stiffer (in terms of their demeanor) than the teachers Nyles had the previous year, but academically, I had no doubt that my son Nyles was in good hands inside that school. Outside the school is an entirely different story.

Directly next to Two Rivers PCS is a Planned Parenthood facility which is scheduled to open very soon. There are construction workers around the building making cosmetic changes, but for the most part that facility is ready to open--more importantly, the words Planned Parenthood are visible in big bold letters, which attracts protesters.

Every day last week and once this week (today) Two Rivers called my wife and I with a recorded message saying that protesters were around the Planned Parenthood buildling with explicit photos. Two Rivers suggested that parents use the back entrance to enter the school if we did not want to subject the kids to such things. I hadn't seen any protesters until today, when I saw a lone woman standing in the front of the building with a picture of an aborted fetus, and it was about as disgusting as it sounds. A Two Rivers staff member positioned herself slightly in front of the sign so the kids would not see it, but it was clearly visible. Luckily for me, Nyles and his four-year old beady eyes, fixated on a dog that was behind us. Crisis averted...for now.

The bigger issue is, whose bright idea was it to build a Planned Parenthood next to an established school that houses Pre-K to 8th grade students? I am not here to speak on my views about abortion and Planned Parenthood, because a) no one cares and b) that's not the point here. The point is that Planned Parenthood establishments are always fodder for protestors with creepy signs and angry axes to grind. Sometimes the protests are done respectfully, other times they are met with violence--sometime of the gun variety. If I know that, I'm quite sure the powers-that-be in Washington DC know that as well, and yet, that building is still sitting right next to the school.

In fairness, when my wife and I first researched this school, we knew about the Planned Parenthood situation, and we decided to power through and apply anyway, because their academic reputation was just that strong. Perhaps I have no right to bitch and moan about an issue that I knew good and goddamn well could affect me and my child daily. But why the hell do I have to make that kind of decision anyway? Why couldn't they put that Planned Parenthood next to a church, or a liquor store or a CVS?

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

I have been covering the Washington Wizards and the NBA overall for nine years, and during that time I've easily attended over 100 games, which means I have had to listen to our bless-ed National Anthem over 100 times. I never put my hand over the heart during the anthem, but I do find the flag on the Jumbotron screen and look at it. While the anthem played, I would think of my family who fought in the military, I would think of September 11th, I would think of unequal and unjust things in this country, and by the time my mind wandered through all of those topics, the anthem was over, and my mind went back to the business at hand--an NBA basketball game. I didn't devote one additional thought to the National Anthem and my actions during it, until the next time I had to stand up, and then I would repeat the aforementioned process.

While I was standing and thinking, there would be appromixmately 15,000 other people in the Verizon Center standing for that National Anthem too. The journalists (including me) stood up for the anthem but had their eyes glued on their computer screen as the typed last minute notes and read last minute inside information about the upcoming game. The Verizon Center support staff kept an eye on the fans to make sure no one got rowdy and out of control. The players, coaches and officials on the court either kept their heads bowed or their eyes fixated on the flags in the arena. The camera men and women, who represented various television networks, panned around the arena to get the facial expressions of the players and coaches during the anthem. And the fans? They had their own cameras out trying to zoom in on their favorite player, or they were whispering to the person sitting next to them about someone else in the arena, or they sat still just watching the flag or they just yelled "Go Wizards!" out randomly. So what's my point you may ask?

People are outraged that Colin Kaepernick is choosing to sit down during the National Anthem to protest the injustices in this country. But if these same people momentarily took their eyes off the flag during the anthem and watched what other folks were doing, there would be plenty of residual outrage to be had. In fact, people's attention spans are so short these days, I don't know how the hell anyone can be expected to stand while flag-staring for for 2-3 minutes (depending on whether a black woman is singing or not). People look at their phones, they look at the woman with the big ass, they try to make eye contact with their favorite NBA player, they cautiously look at other fans to make sure someone crazy isn't lurking. THAT is the reality. People have this false notion that when the National Anthem starts playing, everyone is in a catatonic state and overwhelmed by a surge of patriotism. It doesn't work like that and yet that very notion is 100-percent American.

Furthermore, why is the National Anthem played prior to American sporting events anyway? During the Olympics I absolutely get it. You're competing away from American soil against teams and individuals from all around the world, and if you win a Bronze, Silver or especially a Gold medal, you want that moment. At that moment it doesn't matter how jacked up some of the country is, all that matters is that YOU have won your event and your victory is representing the country at that moment. You can cry, stay stone faced, keep your hands at your side, or raise your black fist in black power, and it really doesn't matter, because that's your moment. But to play the anthem on a random Wednesday night when the Milwaukee Bucks are playing the Wizards at 7:30 pm, where is the need for the anthem? It isn't disrespectful to the country, it is just flat out not necessary. Play the anthem at the big events (the Super Bowl, the NBA finals, World Series, etc) but not ALL the time. Who needs that much damn patriotism?

And most importantly, when and if the outrage over Kaepernick not standing subsides, a more substantive discussion about the conditions which led to him not standing needs to commence. News headlines from 2016 are strewn with injustices against the police, black people, the poor, women, etc, and at some point, real live solutions and discussions should happen. That's way more productive than folks being emotional and in their feelings about standing and sitting. Kaepernick or someone he trusts, should take the next step and talk to some cops, some military folks, some black folks, some white folks and start working on closing the gap between what he wants and what is currently happening. Perhaps that'll encourage others to do the same, and it'll put the focus back on the issues, not the anthem, which is so stupid.

I'm stepping off of my soapbox now. I do encourage you to read this article by Bomani Jones and this one by Kareem. They both tackle these issues eloquently.

And De La Soul's new album came out last week and you should go buy it, and then watch this behind-the-scenes documentary:

Friday, August 12, 2016

My wife usually makes my son's lunch the night before daycare, and then the next morning she packs in it his backpack, while I get him dressed, get his teeth brushed, etc. I ran 5.6 miles in 80-degree-6-am-heat this morning, so I didn't have energy to wake my son up, get him dressed, or any of that. My wife, despite being tired her damn self, got him dressed and ready for school, and I decided to fight through my exhaustion to load his lunch in his lunchbox, then his backpack. Why did I do this? One, my wife was moving quite slow this morning, and I knew if she was tired and getting Nyles ready, surely I could push through the effects of my morning run and take care of business. Two, the wife and I are going out of town on vacation next week, and I'm trying to do everything I humanly can to make sure I get "taking care of". Sorry for the visual.

Anyway, while I was loading my son's lunch, I took time to look at his Washington Wizards lunchbox, and I instantly got nostalgic as I was trying to figure out how to neatly put all of his items in this tiny little box (Yes I'm aware of the ambiguity going on here). First I imagined what my son goes through when he first opens the lunchbox. Does he take out all of the items at once, or does he take one out at a time? Does he prop his lunchbox up like a little fort, or does he not appreciate the artistic quality of a lunchbox while he's stuffing his face? I probably should ask the daycare staff, but there's no way they are attentive to that level of detail with kids running wild.

Between age 6 and age 11 (I switched to brown paper bags at that age) I had two lunch boxes: He-Man and Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. No one was impressed with my He-Man lunchbox and I remember being frequently made fun of as a result, which is why it didn't stick around too long. But I got much mileage out of that Star Wars lunchbox. It had Luke, Vader, Jabba the Hutt and others on the lunchbox and then the thermos had Ewoks on it. My mother would always put a little napkin in my lunch with a message like, "Have a great day and I love you", and as sweet as that was, I quickly whisked that napkin out of public view, because I was terrified that my "enemies" would clown me.

Once I started eating, I'd empty my lunchbox, stand it up so that the lid was laying flat on the table, and the remainder of the lunchbox formed a slight fort (read: barricade) which shielded me from my elementary/middle school colleagues. All I drank was apple juice back then, so my Ewok thermos stayed full. Sometimes I'd drink directly out of thermos so no one would ask me to share my juice, and other times I would be dainty and pour the juice into that little ass cup that came with the thermos. Sure it feels a little silly to write a detailed blog about this in hindsight, but at the time, I cherished my little lunchtime ritual.

One day, one of the older kids, who brought his lunch in a brown bag, came over to me and starting clowning me first about the smiley face my mother put on the napkin, and then about me still bringing a lunchbox to school at the old age of 11. I went home, but that lunchbox away and asked my mother if we could buy a lifetime supply of brown bags for lunch going forward--she obliged. The smiley-face napkins did not stop until high school though. I kind of miss those.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

I am torn about this article and this picture:

On one hand, it makes me smile that the biggest athlete on the planet right now (at least until Usain Bolt runs this weekend), took the time to hit up a black Atlanta barbershop to get his pre-Olympic haircut. As any man will tell you (black or white) a pre-big event haircut is absolutely important. It boosts a dude's self-estem and makes him feel invincible, and that is half the battle when tackling an event or in Phelps's case, a world-record setting mission. Phelps veered away from his usual barber--as I have written about before, that is risky business--and stepped into the foreign world of black barbershops. Not only did he get a cut, then he decided to give them some major league shine by posting the name of the shop and a picture of the staff, on his Instagram page. I have no doubt that between his Olympic performances the past few days and the aforementioned ESPN article, that picture has gotten millions of views and perhaps that barbership has seen a favorable uptick in business.

Not to mention, in this era of weird racial relations, it is nice to see a white dude and lots of black dudes combine organically sans incident. To his credit, Phelps seems like a cool enough dude and I have no doubt that this isn't his initial foray into the world of black-ish culture. On the surface, what I've written so far should be all I have to say about this issue. But there's always a but..

I don't know whether I'm overly sensitive about race (of course I am) or if my occasional black man rage is out of control (entirely possible) but the picture and the article (ironically enough the ESPN article was written by folks from The Undefeated, which is primarily a group of black writers writing about black and black-ish issues) has a Bill Clinton feel to it. Allow me to explain.

When Bill Clinton was the President, black folks (not me) loved to toss around the narrative that Clinton was the first black president. Some folks said this because he loved watching basketball, was seemingly "cool" with black celebrities, and cheated on his wife with reckless abandon and seemingly no remorse. Others like Toni Morrison were a bit more eloquent about their reasoning:
After all, Clinton displays almost every trope of blackness: single-parent household, born poor, working-class, saxophone-playing, McDonald’s-and-junk-food-loving boy from Arkansas. And when virtually all the African-American Clinton appointees began, one by one, to disappear, when the President’s body, his privacy, his unpoliced sexuality became the focus of the persecution, when he was metaphorically seized and body-searched, who could gainsay these black men who knew whereof they spoke? The message was clear: “No matter how smart you are, how hard you work, how much coin you earn for us, we will put you in your place or put you out of the place you have somehow, albeit with our permission, achieved. You will be fired from your job, sent away in disgrace, and—who knows?—maybe sentenced and jailed to boot. In short, unless you do as we say (i.e., assimilate at once), your expletives belong to us.

Either way, the implication was that certain white folks were more down simply via their tangential brush with broad black culture, was always insulting to me. I have no problem with that on the surface as long as there is some substance and authenticity behind it. If you're into the barbershops and the music, please stay for the more substantive issues like brutality, inequality, etc. You can't cherry pick the great parts of black culture and extol them via in Instagram page, unless you are equally as passionate about the issues plaguing those same people. That's like me constantly talking about Michael Jackson's "Thriller", "Bad" and "Off The Wall" albums without properly acknowledging that "Dangerous" and "Invicible" were weak(er) sauce. I'm an MJ fan so I liked it all, but I embraced the strengths and his glaring vulnerability. Perhaps I shouldn't compare black culture to MJ, but it was the most accessible example in my mind at the time.

Again, I could be acting like a sensitive, hit dog, and if that's the case, I am quite sure someone will hit me up via email to put me in my pace. Maybe I should relax and be happy Phelps has no fear in shouting out black folks who helped him out. Or maybe my condition is so conditioned that I cannot get out of my own way. Either way, I'm glad I wrote about it.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

The PGA Tour (that's golf for those unaware) used to have this slogan a few years ago entitled, "These guys are good". It was basically a nice way of telling people who THINK they can golf, that as easy it may look on television from the comforts of your living room couch, this is NOT easy, and our guys are professionals. I cannot play golf so I couldn't vouch for the accuracy of that statement, but I know folks who play, and they tell me all the time how difficult it is to master the sport.

There needs to be a similar disclaimer flashed on the screen before Olympic swimming.

The past three days I have been watching Olympic swimming, and I have been feeling quite inspired by the likes of Michael Phelps and Kate Ledecky. I'm not a competitive swimmer by any means--in fact I just learned to swim in 2009--but I'd like to think that with each passing day, my form, speed and endurance are approaching Olympic levels (they aren't). This morning was the first time I've been in the pool since the Olympic competitions started on Saturday, so I couldn't wait to get in there and prove my theory correct. Mind you, I had just played 3-on-3 basketball about 12 hours earlier so my arms and legs felt like I had anvils tied on them, still I just knew I could be a world beater in the pool.

I typically swim a mile in the morning, which doesn't lend itself to swimming like a sprinter. I swim at a nice measured pace, and then I try to pick it up the last 200 meters or so. But this morning I acted like a jackass, and immediately started swimming swiftly with my heavy ass arms and legs. After 150 meters, I felt like I wanted to stop, but I convinced myself I was not a quitter. After 400 meters I was exhausted, my pace had slowed significantly, and I had serious doubts about how long this swim was going to last. I tried to blame it on the basketball I had played 12 hours earlier, but that was a horseshit excuse, I just forgot that my name is Rashad, not Michael Phelps. Usually when I'm struggling in the pool, I created a false rivalry with someone else in the pool to push myself. But the only person in the pool was elderly woman who looked like she was rehabbing her legs or something. She was swimming slowly and she damn sure wasn't thinking about challenging me.

Eventually I got myself together, took a deep breath and finished my mile swim in my normal pace. I was completely drained (which is why I'm sippig coffee right now) and my arms and legs are still heavy and sore. Now that I'm four hours removed from that experience, I can honestly say I got a damn good workout. I also can say that those swimmers train for months and months, at the expense of their jobs, friends, family, girlfriends, sex, etc. I'm just a brother trying to work, be a dad/husband, have lots of sex, and keep my ass in shape by running and swimming--clearly not the same thing.

Those guys and girls are good.

Friday, August 05, 2016

A couple days ago Will Smith was on Steven Colbert's late night show, and as these shows tend to do three or four times a night, they went to commercial. Will and Colbert were having a regular off-camera conversation and the band broke into an instrumental version of Will's 1991 hit, "Summertime". Will talked to Colbert a little while longer, and then he mosied over to the band, picked up the mic like an MC is wont to do, and this happened:

Will is corny, he's an actor, he's a husband, he's a father, he's insanely rich, but we came to know and love (some hate him too) him as an MC, and I found myself smiling at the relative ease with which he slipped right back into that mode. Even more gratifying than Will's actions were the crowd's reaction to him spitting the first few verses. They clapped, the rapped along, they stood up, and they were basically in the palm of Will's hand---a good MC wouldn't have it any other way.

Whoopty damn doo for Will, but that's not why I'm writing about this.

For years there have been rumors that Rakim ghostwrote that song for Will and for years Jazzy Jeff has vehemently shot those rumors right down. Eric B(Rakim's longtime partner in rap) said that he originally made the beat for Rakim, but he ended up giving it to Will. Since Will knew the song was originally for Rakim, the story goes that he decided to write his rhymes and recite them with Rakim's speed and cadence. I'm not saying that Will didn't write the first and third verses of the song, but the second verse...that's Rakim all day long.

Look at some of the first and third verses and notice that words Will tends to rhyme are at the end of the sentence:

Here it is the groove slightly transformed
Just a bit of a break from the norm

It's late in the day and I ain't been on the court yet
Hustle to the mall to get me a short set

Break to ya crib change your clothes once more
Cause you're invited to a barbeque that's starting at 4

Fresh from the barber shop or fly from the beauty salon
Every moment frontin and maxin
Chillin in the car they spent all day waxin
Leanin to the side but you can't spead through

I'm not knocking Will's flow and cadence because I've been a fan of his from the start. He's one of the few rappers who doesn't take himself too seriously while managing to mix in a message, some fun and a little lyrical dexterity to boot. But Rakim--who in my opinion is still the greatest of all time--is held in such high regard because of his complex rhyme schemes. He may rhyme a word at the end of the sentence, but he also rhymes within the sentence as well. Just look at the difference in the rhyme scheme for this second verse:

School is out and it's a sort of a buzz
A back then I didn't really know what it was
But now I see what have of this
The way that people respond to summer madness
The weather is hot and girls are dressing less
And checking out the fellas to tell 'em who's best
Riding around in your jeep or your benzos
Or in your Nissan sitting on lorenzos
Back in Philly we'd be out in the park
A place called the plateau is where everybody goes
Guys out hunting and girls doing likewise
Honking at the honey in front of you with the light eyes
She turns around to see what you beeping at
It's like the summers a natural aphrodisiac
And with a pen and pad I compose this rhyme
To hit you and get you equipped for the summer time

Either Will studied Rakim's style to a T and decided that imitation was the highest form of flattery, or he had Rakim write that verse for him hoping no one would know the difference. My vote is for the latter. Even the sentence, "The weather is hot and girls and dressing less" sounds like something Rakim would say..that's how he gets down. And yes, I have wasted an entire blog entry on this topic, because I feel that strongly that Rakim ghostwrote that. It doesn't detract from the greatness of the song, and if Rakim was paid to keep quiet about that, we'll never know. But I know...

And now he's a song by Will that I know he wrote all of, and I love it:

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

This morning after I dropped my son off at daycare, I was riding next to this older black couple who looked to be in their early 60s. The husband was leaning back a bit in the driver's seat and he had on a mesh, trucker hat with Hilton Head written across the top. He didn't bother to pull down the hat, it just kind of sat on the top of his head---similar to the way Denny Green used to wear it. If you're wondering why I'm going to this level of detail to describe this man's hat, it's because this is the prototypical older black man look. He's cool, he's driving a big body car, he's in no rush, and he's wearing a hat that has no chance of making it even 50% down his head.

In the passenger seat was his wife, and she seemed to be reading some sort of magazine, and every now and then she'd attempt to show her husband something in the magazine, but he looked about as disinterested as I am when my wife tries to talk to me about the Bachelorette. That didn't stop her from sharing though. And if you're wondering how I was able to observe this level of detail while I was driving, it is because a) I'm observant/nosy b)the traffic on this particular stretch of road was moving slower than a slow snail's pace and c)there are always cops out and about around Catholic University (which is near my son's daycare) so no one is exactly doing a Dale Earnhardt impression.

At one point we were all at the red light together, and these two older woman--who were power walking and chatting at the same time (there are no malls in DC, so they can't mall walk like the suburban old folks can)--recognized the older couple in the car, and all of a sudden everyone's face lit up in big smiles. The previously non-plussed older man with the ill-fitting hat, smiled and passionately waved to the two older black women (perhaps he wanted to holler), and his wife first smiled, then hugged and clasped hands with the two women. I didn't hear the brief conversation, but I feel fairly comfortable in saying that "I know that's right", and "Yeah girlfriend" were uttered at least once. Then the light turned green, everyone said their rushed goodbyes, and the older folks turned right and I kept straight. My creepy observation time was over.

But what made me smile was seeing the laid back, carefree attitude of these older folks. They weren't on their phones, they didn't look frenzied with frayed nerves, and they didn't even need to listen to the radio and find that perfect song to play during their drive. They just drove, talked, read magazines(something folks rarely do outside of barbershops and hair salons) and they cherished the company of their peers. All of my grandparents are dead, but seeing these folks interact reminded me of how my grandparents may have conducted their day-to-day business. I wasn't sad thinking of them, just happy that I had a posthumous look into their former lives.

My parents are getting old, but I know for sure they don't have interactions like that. My dad is even more anti-social than I am, and if he saw someone he knew walking down the street, he'd probably would turn the volume up on the Temptations song he was listening to, and roll the windows all the way up. My mom is chatty as hell and speaks to everyone, but her head stays buried in her phone and she lives more of the aformentioned frenzied lifestyle--I wish she'd slow down, but she does things her way.

Also, I need to stock up on ill-fitting hats, so I can transition nicely into old(er) age.

This is one of Anita Baker's early songs and she absolutely kills it, but if you close your eyes and listen, this easily could have been Toni Braxton's song as well. Also the bass plucks and the horns are pretty cool too (shoutout to jazzbrew).

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

My father doesn't read the paper every morning like he did when I was younger. With the exception of the Sunday New York Times which he still reads faithfully, he just doesn't see the value in reading the paper anymore because a)He lives in Phoenix, Arizona where the daily paper is nowhere near the caliber of the Washington Post and b) the day-to-day quality of newspapers overall has subsided a great deal. People reads the paper less, so circulation and advertising is drying up, which means that money for salaries is dwindling as well. It is quite sad for both my father and me because we used to read the paper front to back, and we both felt smarter as a result. Not so much anymore.

So now when my father wakes up in the morning, he opens up his laptop and goes to three main sources for news: NPR, BBC and (one of those doesn't belong I know). He goes to NPR for the stories, the music and the interviews, he goes to BBC because they cover stories that the US ignores and sometimes they provide different viewpoints for stories this country has covered to death. And finally, my dad goes to because that's where he grew up, and he likes to connect with home sometimes. His mother, his father, and most of his friends have passed on, but reading about Cleveland fills that void..kind of. Im noticing that getting older leaves a lot of voids in one's life..but I digress.

Yesterday morning after logging on to, my father stumbed on an article about the Hough riots of 1966. Hough was a rough part of East Cleveland, and my father lived there the first 10 years of his life. As with most major cities in the 60s and early 70s, there was racial tension in that part of Cleveland, which triggered destructive riots. My dad sent the article to my brother and me, because he wanted us to step into the virtual time machine and see the issues that he had to deal with back then. He sends my brother and me at least 10 articles a day, and if I'm being honest, I only read 2 to 3 of them, but I took time out to read this article, because I could tell it was important to him.

After I read the article, we started an email exchange where I was asking him about Hough, his feelings on it years later, and whether he felt like it was the hood, or if it felt like a close-knit commmunity with some extraneous issues. He told me that he visited Hough back in 1996, and he also shared his feelings about how drastically different the neigborhood looked and how sad it made him. I am going to step aside, and let you read what he wrote:

I felt some sadness that a part of the first ten years of my life was gone, including the apartment buildings where we lived, my first two schools, the junior high school field where we played ball, League Park where the [Cleveland] Indians played in the early part of the 20th century and where the Browns practiced when I lived in the area, the movie theater the kids in the neighborhood attended after church, and this little store that sold the best french fries (in a greasy brown paper bag) known to human kind! The new houses felt soulless. I guess there was no way anything new could match my childhood memories. We didn't call it the "hood" back then, they were slums. Based on where friends of my family lived, I knew our neighborhood was not as nice as theirs. That said, I didn't dwell on the differences. It was a relatively safe and nurturing environment. The worst substance abusers I was aware of were the local winos, who seemed harmless to all but themselves. We also did not have serious gang violence. While I never had a lot of stuff, we always ate well and lived under a roof. I hate to sound so basic, but I was raised to understand that money beyond the basics was not the norm for our family. Only in retrospect did I label my old neighborhood as a ghetto, but even then, that was merely a physical description. Unlike some inner city neighborhoods of today, it seemed the inhabitants of my old neighborhood had a great spirit and sense of optimism

Then I asked him how he felt when we moved the affluent city of Potomac (Maryland) and how he juxtaposed those feelings of finally "making it" with where he had come from in the Hough section of East Cleveland:

I could not have dreamed of a house like the one we had in Potomac. When growing up, I never even saw such neighborhoods. It was a consequence of segregation, both other and self imposed. I didn't think we had made it, but we were doing OK. We made a good living, but had yet to accumulate wealth, so I was not overwhelmed with our status at that time. Beginning in my freshman year in college (at Columbia University), I have had numerous moments of reflection about my past and how far I had come/was going. I still have them. It keeps me grounded and motivated. Before I left for college, I ran into some friends on Kinsman near Mount Pleasant BarBQ. They were standing around a mailbox and said they were saving a place for me whenever I failed at something. Obviously, I still remember that incident nearly 50 years later, and it still has the same impact on me: fear and motivation.

One should not overly dwell on the past, but put the memories into their proper context. The past is your foundation and can provide excellent lessons for your current and future existence. One thing I have learned is that there is a huge difference between looking at something as an adult versus as a child/youth. The first time I returned to my junior high school, I was amazed at how small everything seemed. Context, indeed

That is all. Kareem, Dwight Gooden and James Worthy (in that order) are my athletic heroes, but my dad is and will always be my "real" hero.

**Sidebar** It is also worth mentioning that my father grew up and played high school football with ESPN's Tom Jackson, who appears looks like he is on the verge of retirement.

And now, a song from the "Do The Right Thing" Soundtrack back in 1989 which seems to fit perfectly in 2016:

Monday, July 25, 2016

I know I am supposed to be watching the Democratic National Convention right now, but frankly I do not give a damn--I didn't watch the Republican National Convention either. In past years there have been dramatic speeches--Barack Obama in 2004 and Clint Eastwood with the chair in 2012--but even with those I didn't watch them live, I just watched the noteworthy highlights on youtube, Twitter, etc.

Both conventions seem like one big ass pep rally meant to rally the troops and convince the people in that party--who are already three knees deep i their conviction anyway--that world and party domination is nigh. No sentences are spoken without being interrupted by applause, no incorrect facts are truly checked, and it does nothing to unify the country. I get that it is still necessary, but I will sit this one out...except for Thursday when Kareem Abdul-Jabbar speaks. There's no way in the world I'm missing my hero talk.

I wish that both parties had used their platforms to constructively discuss the issues (police brutality, violence against police, international terror, Flint, MI and the possibility that other cities are dealing with water contamination, etc. But that won't happen this or any other year. Just wishful thinking on my part.

In other news, New York Times Columnist Bill Rhoden, who is one of my favorite sportswriters (and the author of $40 Million Slaves), retired over the weekend, and I dig the classy way he did it. Thanks to my main man Sabin for bringing it to my attention. Read it here.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Yesterday while I was on my way into work, I read about the online harassment actress Leslie Jones was receiving because of her role in the movie Ghostbusters. THe movie, which I have no interest in seeing because I saw the original and barely liked it, has been the target of both justified and unjustified criticism. Some folks don't like the all-female cast, some folks don't think an additional Ghostbusters movie should have been made, and other people just flat out don't care for the movie.

But for some reason Leslie, who is tall, dark-skinned, black, and has strong features, has been the primary target for those "haters"--specifically those wonderful Twitter haters who sit at their desk and type mean things knowing they can walk away unscathed. As you can imagine, Leslie's feelings were deeply hurt and she temporarily separated herself from Twitter. I was a bit surprised because she's a comedian, and usually they have quips and comebacks for days, but she is still a human being who is relatively new to the limelight, and even if she wasn't, no one deserves to be on the receiving end of that type of racist, sexist language.

Later that same day, I noticed that Melania Trump--wife of Donald--was also being harassed online for her speech on the opening night of the Republican Convention in Cleveland. I didn't watch (I don't plan to watch either Convention because they are just self-indulgent shit shows for the most part), but apparently Mrs. Trump decided to "borrow" lines from Michelle Obama's 2008 Democratic National Convention speech. Considering her husband has done nothing but antagonize Barack and his birth certificate from day one, it was a bit odd to see his wife spitting lines that had been not-so-ghostwritten for her, but she did it and it backfired.

All day yesterday, regular people and celebrities were making fun of Mrs. Trump, and it was ruthless. They made fun of her background, her lack of intellgience, the ill-fated speech, and after awhile it was just cringe-worthy. I'm not a fan of her husband's politics and rhetoric, but I have nothing against Mrs. Trump, and it was painful to watch her being dragged through the mud due to her performance on a stage that she clearly is not used to. Soledad O'Brien was a voice of reason in all this madness when she said that Mrs. Trump's content was garbage, but her deliver was excellent. Then Soledad was harassed on Twitter, but unlike Leslie Jones and Melania, she had no problem fighting back.

I think both examples of harassment are cowardly and wrong. I'm not exactly a nice person and lord knows that I've been mean in my day, but usually it is a) justified and b) face-to-face. Twitter,
Facebook, InstaGram and the comments section of online articles, have given idiots (and smart people too) a platform to say and type the first bit of mindless drivel that comes to their minds or fingers, sans any type of real consequences. Back in the day, if you truly had hate or opposition in your heart, you had to sit down and pen a letter to the editor. You had to actually make a commitment to write something sanguine and well thought out, and then you had to hope that the newspaper or magazine was impressed enough with your offering to print it for all to see and read. That doesn't mean that there wasn't opposition, it was just smarter and easier to swallow than a 140-character, abbreviated rant that ends with the person hitting "Enter" or "send". This isn't the only area of life that has been dumbed down in recent years, but this seems to be the one rearing its ugly head the most often--especially during this Presidential election.

Last Friday my electricity went out from 5pm on Friday afternoon to 4:45 early Saturday morning. It was just Nyles and me at home, and all we had was a laptop, a USB with kiddies movies on it, 3 candles, 80 degree heat with no AC, my phone that was 47% charged and each other. No internet, no television, no iPad, limited light, just each other's company. It forced us to talk, joke around and laugh, and then once he went to bed I read this book, and I took my ass to bed as well. I remember how much smarter (tired and hot) I felt in the morning after my unintentional electronics detox. Perhaps that's the cure for online idiots running rampant...

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

I've been feeling trapped lately and it has prevented me from writing anything about the issues going on in our convoluted country right now.

I have black friends who unfriended me on Facebook because they felt like I wasn't vocal enough about the police brutality cases which have gone down recently. Apparently, they think it is necessary for me to be vocal online among a group of folks who I have handpicked to be my "friends", because that's the thing to do. I did not acquiesce, I just temporarily shut down my Facebook page. The shit was flooded with pompousness anyway, and I needed a break.

I have white friends who stayed silent on the police brutality--which is well within their right, because I did too--but then broke out their pom-poms and cheerleading skirts when the cops were tragically. The broke out the blue and all lives matter slogans, they called on Obama to help the police and they said a bunch of stuff that was true, which didn't make me mad. I asked them why they were silent on the civilians being killed, and they got all intellectual on me and said that "we don't know all the facts".

I agree with the spirit and the feeling behind "Black Lives Matter", but I hate their disruptive approach, because it isn't helping anyone. Not in this current climate anyway. Like it or not, emotions (and stakes) are high, white and black folks are angry, and in order to heal, everyone needs to make some damn concessions. Black Lives Matter folks should relax on the protesting for now and come up with tangible ways help fix the broken judicial system--starting with cops. White folks should get their head out of the sand and realize that if they help black lives matter folks AND cops, the solution(s) will come quicker and less blood will be shed on both sides. The good cops should have a safe space where they call out the bad cops who are messing up, without having to worry about their job, their lives or being shot at by crazy folks who lack real problem-solving skills but seem to have an abundance of guns and ammo. And the politicians--both locally and nationally--need to stop the financial corruption, the grandstanding, the holding up of meaningful legislation, and start doing their job by coming up with solutions, suggestions and plans of action. That's why they get elected right?

Right now, it feels like everyone I listed in that paragraph above is just running in place. No one wants to compromise, everyone wants to be heard with varying degrees of forcefulness, and there's an undercurrent of pain and anger on all sides. I thought the President and former President Bush did a great job in Dallas yesterday, by setting the stage for judgement-free conversation, but who knows if anyone will take the bait. I just know that it sucks when no one wants to talk or listen, they just want to judge and pounce. You don't have to agree with me---in fact there's a whole lot in my blog that folks don't agree with--but I'm sure you still read because you respect my ability to explain my point.

All I know is I have two sons, 4 and 18 and I am scared to death what they are going to face from other black men, cops, terrorists, etc. I don't have the answers to all the problems, I just have to do my job in raising them to be critical thinkers and doers while navigating through this crazy world. But it isn't easy.

Sorry for rambling, and if I've offended you with anything I wrote, I suggest you a)leave my blog or b)scroll through my archives and find something equally as offensive to be mad about.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Two significant events have happened in my life since last I blogged, and I will attempt to address them in today's latest blog entry. I've started and stopped this particular blog about 54 times over the past week or so, and each time real life steps in like Dikembe Mutombo and prevents me from finishing. I shall try again to just that.

The first big thing that happened two weeks ago was my son's graduation from Pre-Kindergarten. I have no problem admitting that at first glance, the whole concept of a Pre-K graduation sounded ridiculous as hell. Their attention spans are basically 30-seconds long, it was in the middle of the morning when most adults are supposed to be at work, and the kids will have more substantial graduations as they get older, which are way more meaningful. That being said, graduation was awesome.

My son, his classmates and his two teachers performed a song that I do not remember, they got their names called one by one, and then they closed the ceremony with this song My son saw me as soon as he and his other classmates walked into the auditorium, and he could not stop smiling. I heard him tell his other friends, "There's my mommy and daddy!". During the ceremony he pointed at his mother and father, he strutted across the stage, and he kept that million dollar smile on his face. All the kids were happy, the parents tried to navigate that balance between being proud and taking pictures like paparazzi. I can't say I want to do this every year, but considering this was my son's first year of school, it was rewarding.

90 minutes after the ceremony was over, I hopped on a bus and headed to New York. My main man Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was being interviewed by Walter Mosley and the New York Public Libary. The NYPL asked Kareem to show up and talk about his latest book entitled, "Mycroft Holmes" which is now in paperback. They asked Kareem who he wanted to be interviewed by, and he said Walter Mosley, who also had a new book out entitled, "Charcoal Joe", which is the latest in the Easy Rawlins series.

For approximately 90 minutes, Kareem and Mosley traded stories about writing, their past, Muhammad Ali, the shooting in Orlando, religion, jazz and race. Kareem is usually reserved and a bit shy, but Mosley asked the right questions to get him to open up, and Kareem was up to the challenge. My favorite exchange is when Mosley asked Kareem who his favorite mystery writers, and aside from Mosley, he named folks who I had never of in my life. Kareem then asked Mosley that same question, and he paused, then he told the audience that most writers lie about their influences. He revealed that most writers want their colleagues and their readers to think they are deep, so they bring up some obscure or seemingly deep authors. Mosley then admitted that his two biggest influences were Nancy Drew and the Marvel comics series.

After the talk, I went and bought Kareem's book, and I started to remind him that I had interviewed him back in 2009, but I didn't want to be "that guy", so I went another way. First I asked him to sign his book for my son Nyles and he did, and then I asked him to recommend a jazz artist I should be listening to, and he gave me the name of an 11-year old prodigy named Joey Alexander from Indonesia. I said thank you, he said you're welcome and that was that.

I had so many more things I wanted to ask Kareem--in fact I felt the same way after my 2009 interview--but it wasn't meant to be. I'm still hoping that one day, I'll get 30 minutes of uninterrupted time to ask him about jazz, basketball and everything else, but who knows if that will happen. But considering that day started with my son graduating and it ended with me getting an autographed book from Kareem, I gotta say it was a good day.

Monday, June 13, 2016

I couldn't write about Ali's death at any point during the last week, which sucks for someone like me who fancies himself as some kind of a writer. Every time I turned on the computer or the television, there was someone I respected, writing or discussing Ali and it was making me gun shy about writing any damn thing. From Bryant Gumbel to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, to Jeremy Schaap, to Jim Brown to Bob Costas, to Tony Kornheiser, there were respectful athletes and journalists, who were discussing Ali's legacy and what he meant to each one of them. And I was in awe every time.

I remember when Phife died, I was pissed that certain news outlets were covering his death strictly as a news story, rather than an emotional event that they felt passionately about. Looking back, I don't know why I expected news outlets to do anything more than what they are paid to do, but the fact that I irrationally wanted more just speaks volumes to how much Phife's (and Tribe's ) music meant to me. Phife started his career in 1988 when I was 13, and it ended prematurely in March of this year when I was 41. In between that time he made a bunch of amazing music that served as the soundtrack of part of my life. That seems quite corny and cliched but it indeed the truth. That is why I appreciated the memorial service that was done in Phife's memory. All the people who spoke about Phife, actually lived in during his era of relevance. These weren't second-hand stories or things people heard on the Internet, they were authenthic, heartfelt stories...which brings us to Ali.

I wasn't fortunate enough to have been conceived during Ali's dominant, talkative, militant time. In fact, the first time I saw Ali fight it was in 1980, when he fought Larry Holmes.. Holmes, who had been Ali's sparring partner at one point, was young and in his prime, while Ali was slow as molasses, barely a shell of his former champion self, and based on what we know now, he was in the embryonic stages of Parkinson's. The fight was so bad that at one point Holmes would hit the defenseless Ali, and then look to the referee and beg him to stop the fight. The ref never stopped it, but eventually (and thankfully) Ali quit.

My father cried during that fight, and at five years old, I really did not understand why he was crying. When I asked him, he took me to his room and showed me two Sports Illustrated covers: This one after he defeated George Foreman and this one after the last Ali/Frazier fight. My dad said he was used to seeing Ali as a frontrunner or coming back from adversity, but he was not used to the sedentary Ali who was hit repeatedly and no longer had the ability to be elusive. My father said Ali was a hero of us, and that fight signified the end of relevance in the ring. From then one, I knew Ali was someone I need to learn about.

Since then, I've read book and articles, I've watched documentaries, I've listen to men and women in older generations, and I've even watched fights, and I feel like I know the man, and more importantly I know the effect he had on people. I know he was hated by some and loved by many, and I appreciate how he empowered so many of the adults who have helped raised me over the years. But I'd be selfish and foolish if I sat here and waxed rhapsodic about the good old days of Ali, when I wasn't there. I'd much prefer to leave that to folks who were there, and I can appreciate from afar.

By the way, 11 years ago today Ralph Wiley, who is still my second favorite writer behind John Edgar Wideman, passed away. Back in 2002, he wrote a brilliant article on OJ Simpson that I highly suggest you read.

Friday, June 03, 2016

No real blog entry today just two morning observations:

1) I was at the water cooler just now trying to fill my bottle for the day, and one of my female colleagues got there before I did. Me being the gentleman that I am (sometimes) I stepped out of the way and allowed her to get water first. It kind of annoyed me that her water bottle was half full, and I was wondering why the hell she was even at the water cooler already, but I stayed silent. As she bent down to get more water, some of the existing water in her bottle spilled all over the little lever that has to be lifted and pulled in order to get the water to come out. She apologized, adjusted her now 3/4 empty bottle and went down to try again, but since she had spilled water everywhere, her fingers keep sliding all over the place. The following conversation happened:

Her: Jesus, it is so wet I can't keep my fingers on there

Me: You said what now?

Her: Oh my good that sounded so pervy didn't it?

Me (in my best DeNiro voice): A little bit

Her: Well it is wet

Me (grabbing some paper towels): How about you take both of us out our misery and wipe it down and try it again. This is weird

Her: Good idea

I am quite proud of myself for taking that elusive high road, because the minute she said that pervy sh*t, I wanted to hit her with a "That's what she said", but she's an attorney and there are way too many attorneys around her to be that reckless.

2) Right before I walked into the building, Quincy Jones's (it was originally written by the late James Moody) "Moody's Mood for Love" came on my iPod, and I forgot what a beautiful song it is. Brian McKnight and Rachelle Ferrell sing lead, Take 6 handles the background vocals, and it is just a beautiful song where everyone can sing, and it is they are having an internal competition without getting all Patti Labelle on the song. Check it out:

Thursday, June 02, 2016

On my way into work this morning, I received an email from the Kennedy Center regarding a Marvin Gaye tribute concert this Sunday at 8pm (the same time as Game 2 of the NBA Finals, which is not smart). The lineup is pretty impressive: Whoopi Goldberg will host it, Babyface will sing, as will Audra Day, Ledisi, Jussie Smollett (from the show I don't watch, Empire), Valerie Simpson (her husband was Ashford), BJ The Chicago Kid, Mary Wilson (her former group was The Supremes) and Leslie Odom Jr. (who is playing Aaron Burr in the hit musical Hamilton), and others.

I'm not necessarily a fan of all the artists I listed, but I do know that each one of them can carry a tune and they have made enjoyable music that I have purchased in the past and probably will purchase again in the future. I preferred Ledisi the jazz artist more than I do Ledisi the-semi-crossover-singer, but this is not a bad lineup at all--except for one thing: Marvin F Gaye will NOT be there to sing.

Marvin had a unique sound. He could beg, he could croon, he could demand that you pay attention to his sexual desires, he could get deep and observational, he could make a song where he says, "I'm gonna give you some head for two straight minutes, and most importantly to me, he sang layered background vocals like no one I've heard. Those are the traits people have come to know, love and respect, and that is why Marvin's music is timeless. No one listed in that tribute concert is going to appeal to the audience's emotions the way Marvin could if he was in attendance.

Babyface is my main man who sings beautiful love songs, but let's be real..he's a little soft. The time to listen to Babyface is on the night of your wedding (if you're sober) when you want to make sweet love to your spouse. You can listen to Marvin's music in the car on the way back from playing basketball, and just storm in the house and give it to your spouse on the coffee table while they are watching television and doing meaningless things on their phone. If it was a Stevie Wonder tribute, I'd be ok with Babyface. Not for Marvin though. There are also a lot of women in the lineup who will be singing, including Valerie Simpson who co-wrote some of Marvin's hits, which is beautiful. But I don't need to hear a woman singing Marvin's songs. It isn't sexist, there are just some male artists (like Teddy P) who should always have a male covering their songs, to maintain the essence of the song. Granted, I suppose there are some songs like "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" and "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" which have been covered by women before, but still, I want to hear Marvin, and I cannot, thanks to his dad gunning him down way too soon.

This same reasoning is why I have grave concerns over the Prince tributes that will coming down the pike over the next year or so during the BET Awards, the Grammys, American Music Awards, etc. I don't mind if the Wendy and Lisa, the Revolution, Rosie Gaines, Sheila E, The Time, and Questlove are involved in the tribute, because they all have played with Prince and received that elusive stamp of approval from him before he died. But there are a select group of singers who can do his songs justice, and they may not necessarily be tv-friendly, ratings grabbers, which is what television is all about. It is rare that I've seen a tribute for an artist that I liked..usually they just make me want to run and hear the original singer's catalog, and who knows maybe that's the secret motive any damn way.

And now, the aforementioned, "I'm gonna give you some head" song by Marvin Gaye called, "Soon I'll be Loving You Again". At the 1:07 mark of this song, he tells the woman that he's never given head before (which was a f**king lie Marvin), and that he would gladly make her the first one. 46 seconds later, he goes from being shy about the head-giving to just repeating "I'm gonna give you some head" for the last 90 seconds of the song. You don't really need headphones to hear it, but put them on anyway for the full effect. And then when you get home, repeat that same phrase to your man/woman, and thank Marvin(and me):