Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Right now, I am sitting in a hotel room in Savannah, GA, awaiting United States Marine Corps Family Day in Parris Island, South Carolina. Tomorrow, I will see my son Carlton for the first time since he left for boot camp in October, and he'll be participating in a series of exercises, and then there will be a special family day ceremony. On Friday, he will officially graduate from boot camp, and he'll be going home (to Hampton, Virginia) for approximately 10 days, before he's shipped to Oklahoma, where he will begin his assignment.

I have no problems admitting that I was less than thrilled about his decision to join the military, but I'm over it now. He made it through boot camp, he is well on his way to being a full-fledged Marine. I'm glad he finished what he started, and I'm even happier that he still wants to get his degree via the military. He will definitely need it. That is the good part of this trip...not on to the bad.

I had a choice between staying in Beaufort, SC and Savannah, GA, and I chose the latter just because South Carolina hasn't had the best track record in the Negro department as of late. I know that is quite the sweeping generalization to make but frankly, I don't give a damn. I drove eight hours here from DC, and I don't want any bullshit going down. That being said, Savannah isn't that much better, at least not where I am currently staying. There is a shady looking biker gang revving up their motorcycles outside my window, and I got funny looks in both the grocery and liquor stores. I know how to keep a low profile and I know how to defend myself if need be, but it is a little unsettling being here solo. I will get over it though.

The second uncomfortable part of this trip is the mixing of families. I am here. Carlton's mother (Sara) will be here tomorrow, but she is estranged from the rest of her family. Sara's ex-husband, along with Carlton's half-brother, will also be in attendance, as will Carlton's grandparents and uncles on the other side of the family (not mine). The family day ceremonies end at 10:30 am and by 3pm, he has to return to his Marine duties, and the relatives will be kicked off the base. During those 4 and a half hours, Carlton has to figure out a way to spend time with all of us separately, because if we do it together it will be painfully awkward. I feel badly that he has to make those kinds of decisions during his big day(s), but I am going to make it easier for him, by telling him that we can spend time together Friday, not tomorrow. No need in complicating his life further...besides we'll see each other next weekend.

Ok, I am done complaining, plus I am exhausted...

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

First - Read my latest article right here.

Second - Go read this blog post from my main man Sabin about Rakim Allah

Third - Listen to my wife's podcast about the Bachelor right chea. I'm not a fan of the Bachelor but she is, so I'm supporting her, not the show. I may or may not have used the phrase "dumb bi**h" 5 or 6 times while watching that show. Misogynist? Hell yes. Off base? Not at all.

There are positives and negatives to having a birthday in the month of January. It is far enough away from Christmas that people actually feel like gift-giving again, plus most folks have had two paychecks since they last Christmas shopped so the money and gifts floweth. Not to mention, the NFL playoffs are always in full swing around this time of year, which just kicks the party possibilities up 10 to 20 notches. Also, if I never mentioned this before, I share a birthday with Questlove--he gave me birthday shoutout on Twitter a few years ago.

But the bad part about having a January birthday is the weather always finds a way to upstage my big day. When I was younger, way before this global warming concept came to fruition, Januarys--whether I lived in Cleveland, Detroit, Connecticut or Maryland--were filled with snow and bitter cold. I can remember several birthdays when I would make plans to throw parties, then I'd look at the weather and my parents would forewarn me that it wasn't going to happen for me. Then my birthday--or the day of the week we chose to celebrate my big day--would come and go and I'd have no party. Yes my parents, my brother, sometimes girlfriends, did their very best to make me feel special despite my abandoned plans, but I'd still feel sad.

One year the plan was to invite 10-12 of my friends over to my house for a big football game in the snow. The weather called for like 5-7 inches of snow, which was far from crippling, and I just knew that we would still be able to play a game. Instead, we got closer to 20 inches, and nobody's parent would let them out of the house to play football with me. I remember not even wanting to watch the playoffs on Tv..I was just that devastated.

This year, I don't have a party or anything fancy planned, but my wife and I plan to send the kid to his grandparents house for the weekend. There is dinner, happy hour and brunch with mimosas planned, as well gifts and just the freedom that comes with being able to act like an irresponsible adult sans the presence of a child. I've been looking forward to this weekend all year, and then a couple days ago I get word that the worst snowstorm of all time threatens to descend on my house this weekend.

The storm is scheduled to start on Friday--which is when we were going to take my son to his grandfather's house, and last until Sunday. The lowest snow total I've heard is 8 inches and the highest total I've heard is two feet. Keep in mind, I live in Washington DC, where 3 inches of snow sends everyone to the grocery and liquor stores. I am not a happy camper right now. Not only are my birthday plans in peril but I may have to spend a three to four day weekend stuck in the house with a 4-year old hellion who will surely have a severe case of cabin fever, no matter how creative mommy and daddy get with devising activities for him. Scary, scary stuff.

I realize there are bigger problems to worry about like the Fresh Prince cast beefing about Oscars, Palin and Trump linking up, and Flint, Michigan's dearth of a clean water, but my birthday is important too right? Actually let me get serious, that Flint situation is a)terrible and b) not going away anytime soon. As one of my writer friends said, it feels like the 2016 version of the Tuskegee Experiment..

But I digress. My birthday is tomorrow, I'll take my head out of the clouds after that. By the way, the lyrics to this song are elementary, but I always thought the beat was hardcore...

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The night of Friday, February 5th, 2016, I will not be going out to party, drink or watch basketball. I will come home from work, play with Nyles until he falls asleep, and then eat dinner with the wife. At the conclusion of this dinner, I will retrieve the fine bottle of wine that I will have purchased earlier in the day--most likely a Francis Coppola Diamond Black Claret 2013--and I will sit my ass down to watch Spike Lee's documentary on Michael Jackson.

Spike's first documentary on MJ focused solely on "Bad"
, and I have watched it at least 10 times since it came out back in 2012. I appreciated because Spike did more than just regurgitate the same MJ stories I had heard so much about up to that point. He interviewed dancers, engineers, Quincy Jones, Bruce Swedien, horn sections, video directors, background singers, Siedah Garrett, and he even used older interviews from Mr. Jackson himself. Spike took the attention away from MJ the freak show, and he placed it firmly on what should have always been emphasized, and that is the music and the dancing. If you have not seen that Bad 25 documentary, go to itunes, purchase it, carve out 2 hours of your time, and take it in (that's what he said).

This new documentary focuses on the period of time between the the Jackson 5 becoming the Jacksons and the completion of "Off The Wall". "Thriller" gets all the attention, "Bad" was the most difficult album to make ever because it followed "Thriller", "Dangerous" showed that MJ still had it even with Teddy Riley's attempts to sabotage MJ with synthesizers and synthetic sounding music and "Invincible" was just uninspired (but I still bought it, because I'm a fan). "Off The Wall" is probably MJ's best and most satisfying album, but most importantly, he announced to the world, "Baby I'm A Star" (see what I did there). I can't wait to see it, and the trailer is already dropping nuggets of information I previously did not know about:

Monday, January 11, 2016

First off, I finally got a promotion at work--something I have wanted since almost a year ago when I passed over for what I thought was a well-deserved upgrade. My resume was submitted for this position back around the Thanksgiving holiday, and then the government powers that be had to look it over and make sure that my background jived with what their qualifications were. After a few weeks elapsed and I had not heard anything, I figured they had moved to another candidate who they deemed more worthy of this managerial position. Then last week, I was told they wanted to meet up with me for a meet-and-greet, which is basically the final job interview. If I performed well and my personality matched up with my resume, the job would be mine. If I was dead-on-arrival, dry in the personality department, and I was stumbling and stammering with every question, I'm 100% sure they would have passed on me. I'm glad they did not, and I look forward to this new challenge. I am scheduled to start on January 29th.

I found out I got the job on Friday, so what I do to today? I ditched work and took the day off with my wife, and we went to see Star Wars. I really can't go into much detail about the movie, because there are plenty of folks who have yet to see it. Plus, my friends and family did a great job of not spoiling the plot and the other major details about the movie, so I was able to go into the theater fresh and naive. I will say this...if you loved the original Star Wars movies, then you will absolutely love this latest incarnation of the movie as well. They tied the present and the past together beautifully, and JJ Abrams knows how to tell a story much better than George Lucas did--particularly with the middle three movies. Lucas was sappy and corny with his dialogue, but Abrams knows how to move the plot alone, he skimpy with the sap, and he does all of this without compromising in the special effects department. That is my non-review of the movie.

Also go read my latest article, I'd appreciate it.

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

The temperature was 16 degrees when I dropped my son off at school yesterday morning, but according to the weather folks, it felt like 3 degrees outside and I felt every bit of that bitter cold. Of course Nyles was leisurely walking around like we were in balmy Miami, until a strong gust of wind brought him back down to Earth. We ran into school, I kissed him goodbye, and I headed back to the car. As I got closer to the car, one of the bus drivers saw me walking by and said, "Where is your hat young man?". I told her I didn't have one, and she said, "You need your hat".

I do have a hat, but it is that hat I wear when I go running in the morning, so it is sweaty and not meant to be worn with fancy work clothes. I keep saying I'm going to buy another one, and then I forget and either a)throw on the ratty workout hat or b) walk around without one like I did yesterday morning. Neither option is a good look for a grown ass man. My wife keps saying that I need to stop faking and buy one, but we both know that the hat will not get purchased until she does it. That's just how these things go. But you certainly didn't visit my blog to hear about hatonomics.

When my grandmother was living (she died in 2004), and my family lived in Cleveland from 1980-1982 she was CONSTANTLY on my dad about wearing a hat. My dad would have a nice jacket, gloves, a scarf, but no hat. My dad would buy hats for my brother and I, and my mother had an assortment of hats, but somehow but father felt like he was immune from the effects of the mean, windy, snowy, Cleveland winter. One winter, my dad literally got frostbite on his ear and spent a brief time in the hospital. But did he buy a hat upon being discharged? Hells no.

When we left Cleveland and moved to Detroit, Connecticut and eventually Maryland, my grandmother would still ask my dad (and me) if he was wearing a hat, my dad would say, "Don't worry about me mama." Then my grandmother would bring up the frostbite, and my father would effectively shut down the conversation. He knew my grandmother was right, but he wasn't trying to hear that bullshit. If he didn't buy a hat in a cold-ass Midwest city like Cleveland, he wasn't going to purchase a hat any damn where. For the record, I always had a hat..up until yesterday.

Fast forward to my grandmother's funeral in 2004. It was like 10 degrees at the cemetery, and it was me, my dad, my aunt, my brother and my grandmother's best friend at the grave site. They lowered my grandmother's body into the ground (nobody cried, which was weird), and the pastor said a prayer afterwards. It was eerily quiet after the prayer, and we were all just kind of standing around looking forlorn (and cold as hell). Then out of nowhere my aunt looks at my dad and says, "Michael where the hell is your hat?". All of us fell out laughing and it broke the tension, and we walked back to our respective cars feeling better about an otherwise sad day.

So when that woman asked me where my hat was, I felt like I was carrying on the family tradition. That being said, I need a hat, it was cold again this morning and my ears hurt.

Monday, January 04, 2016

My son and I spent the last 30 minutes before bed time working on the spelling of his name. December has been full of parties for others, his birthday party, relatives, Christmas gifts, and sparse school attendance. As a result, I have noticed that my wife and I have had to do engage in much more disciplinary-related activities than usual. In fact, during December it felt like Nyles was either playing with toys, getting yelled at or occasionally getting spanked.

Since today was the first day back to school, I decided to a) spend some time doing some educational activity before bed time and b) go online to take a peek at his teacher's curriculum to see the themes the teacher is now hammering home to the kids. Nyles was resistant at first, because all he wanted to do was play with his pinball machine, the monster trucks, his Minions or one of the millions of toys he received for Christmas and his birthday. But eventually, he warmed up to it, and we practiced writing his name legibly. He did not achieve mastery like I foolishly thought he would, but he tried and at this point that's all I can ask.

After we finished writing, I told him it was time to get read his night time story, and he responded by saying, "I don't want to read". I ignored his ass, and nicely asked him again, and he repeated his refusal. This time I went down to his level, gently touched his shoulders, and explained to him that it was time for bed, and part of the bed time routine involves reading, and he calmed his ass down, and picked out a book. I left the room, my wife entered (she's on bedtime story duty), and she excitedly asked him to read and he gave her the same bullshit company line. She explained to him that it was time to read, he complained again, and then I doubled back and went in the room, and yelled, "What did Mommy say? What did I say earlier? It is time to read ok?". He said ok which made me happy. But he cringed and backed away from me when I entered the room, that made me cringe.

I have raised my voice and spanked my son, and I only feel bad about one of those things. When I spank my son, it involves a singular open-handed smack to his back side. It is never hard enough to make him cry, but it is hard enough to get his ass in gear. It is usually a deliberate, calculated move on my part, and it is never done out of misplaced, uncontrolled emotion. My dad got out of control when he used to spank me, and my brother and I paid dearly. My father has since expressed his regret for taking that extreme route, and my brother and I accepted his apology. Ironically enough, his apology came not too long after the Adrian Peterson situation.

But I sadly have to admit that when I raise my voice at my son, I am usually irritated at something or someone else, and my emotions combined with whatever Nyles is doing wrong, adds up to a bad situation. When I raise my voice, I see my son visibly get smaller and turn away from me (like he did at bedtime) and that has to stop. I have to do better in that department. Don't get me wrong, I do think fear is an effective tactic for black fathers to use when raising young black kids but respect has to be peppered in just as much. I want my kid behaving because he fears the consequences AND he respects me enough to do his best.

Kids are nice and the nice pictures I put up here, facebook, Instagram, etc represent the glorious side of parenting. But there is another side of it, and at times it is far from pretty, but luckily for me (and Nyles) it is very correctable. I'll get started on that tomorrow when he wakes up.

Friday, January 01, 2016

My father and I have decided to write a book together. We couldn't really decide on the title or subject matter, so I suggested that we just start having random conversations via email. My basketball writing friends and I have used this tactic before, and it has worked like a charm. First we start emailing about a particular player or Wizards-related subject, and eventually a theme develops and someone says, hey, we should write an article on this. My dad and I will do the same thing, except we are shooting for a book.

In a way, this book is spawn from nothing but hubris and arrogance. My dad and I have some amazing phone conversations about everything from sports to politics to music to women. There are times when I sit there and wonder we are sharing this knowledge with the masses, and then I feel like a pompous ass, and I just go back to talking to dad. But at some point last month, my father decided that writing a book with me was on his bucket list, which brought my pomposity back to life. We are going to trade emails for another month or so, and then we're going to start writing. Wish us luck.

I'll refrain from making any New Year's resolutions, because I know good and goddamn well that I possess neither the energy nor the resolve to actually devise and stick to any grandiose plans. I just want to be dynamic at everything I do, and I'm pretty sure everything else will fall into place.

Speaking of dynamic...