Sunday, February 21, 2016

Since I bitched and moaned about having to go see the Monster Trucks with someone who I did not really know, I thought it would be only fair if I offered some sort of follow up blog about how the actual event went.

Nyles and I woke up bright and early yesterday (Saturday) morning and headed down to Richmond. I packed a laptop with all the kiddie movies he could get his hands on, I packed an iPad with all the games and YouTube access he likes, and I loaded all of my podcasts (Bill Simmons and Tony Korneheiser) on my iPod for when he fell asleep. First Nyles played with this toys, then we listened to MJ's "Working Day and Night", then he fell asleep. He did pop up when Rhianna's "Diamond" came on my iPod, then he went back to sleep, and I was left with my podcast. And yes I have Rhianna on my iPod. I like Diamond and Pour It Up---the latter song reminds me of strippers, and what's not to like about them?

We arrived around 12:30pm which was a full 90 minutes before the monster trucks show was scheduled to begin. As I told Mike I would do (the dude who bought the tickets) I called him when I arrived to see where he was, and he told me he was at BBQ joint three exits away from the venue. He asked me to come meet him where he was, but I explained that I was in a parking garage by the Richmond Convention Center, and I already paid for parking. In addition, I asked the parking attendant if I could leave and come back without having to pay, and she said hells no, so I told Mike we weren't meeting. Plus, my wife had packed a lunch for young Nyles, so he ate that in the parking lot. No BBQ was needed.

Mike texted me and said he'd meet up with me at 1:30 in front of the venue, so Nyles and I were there at 1:15. There were makeshift drummers in front of the Coliseum, and I gave Nyles a few dollars to tip them. After that we people-watched for a few minutes until I got a text from Mike letting me know he was running a few minutes late. I said ok. That was the first in a series of texts from Mike which chronicled his reasons for being later and later. First he missed the exit, then he couldn't find parking because the parking lots were full (which happens when you wait until the last minute to arrive to the venue). At 2pm, Nyles and I were still standing outside of the Coliseum waiting for Mike to bring the tickets, and we heard the Monster Trucks zooming around from the outside. Nyles was apoplectic and irritable and I did my best to calm his ass down, but I was just as annoyed. Not only was Mike late, but he was late because he had to have BBQ..that's the black person's job, not the white guy from Virginia...

He finally showed up at 2:!5, we went inside, and we had a great time. Our kids sat next to each other and had a great time, and Mike and I peppered a little small talk during the event, but nothing too heavy. The event lasted for a little over 90 minutes, we let the kids play outside of the Coliseum afterwards and then we both headed home. I was actually supposed to link up with my main man Sabin, but he was busy so young Nyles and I headed home. It was a great day but I must toot my own horn and add that it was only great, because I had done the necessary ;egwork ahead of time to ensure that I was inundated with small or greatly inconvenienced via a group trip.

Just to be sure I wasn't crazy, I asked my dad what he would have done in that situation, and he supported my actions 100%. Good times.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Cleveland Browns announced today that they are going honor Jim Brown, who played for them from 1957-1965 and has done numerous, favorable things for Cleveland and other cities in this country, with a statue in front of their football stadium. It will be unveiled later this year. Once again, in what seems to be a trend as I get older, I am faced with the prospect of trying to balance the good parts of someone I admire with the undeniably negative aspects of their life. I've had to deal with that weird duality with Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye, R. Kelly, Bill Cosby, Joe Paterno and now Mr. Jim Brown. As an aside I've had to deal with those issues on a much smaller scale with my parents too, but that's another blog for another time.

On the field, Jim Brown was a grown man among brave, but ill-equipped boys. He ran over folks, he ran around them, he was fast, strong, agile and the ultimate alpha male. In college he ruled both the football and lacrosse fields, so he was no stranger to being the most superior athlete. He retired in his prime at the age of 30, because he wanted to film a movie--which in those days represented more money than he was making on the football field--so he just abrupty retired and never came back. Acutally he threatned to come back in 1984 when his rushing record was being challenged, but he ultimately never came back. He wasn't the best actor in the world, but he did get to make out with Raquel Welch, which was a big deal at that time.

Off the field, Jim Brown's legend loomed just as large. He was a key figure in the Cleveland Muhammad Ali Summit in 1967 when athletes like Brown, Ali Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and others met in Cleveland to discuss Ali's dedicated to the movement. He's also worked extensively with gangs and he's been a confidant and a mentor to countless younger athletes. That's the good part of Jim Brown.

The bad part? Jim Brown has had several domestic violence incidents with women, as The Big Lead chronicled today, after learning Brown was in line for a statue. He never seemed to particularly apologetic or contrite about his behavior at all. After one domestic incident in 2000, he was ordered to pay a fine, give money to a domestic shelter and do hours of community service. Jim Brown felt like he had been voluntarily peforming community service all his life, so to have to do it as punishment, was insulting. He chose to spend four months of jail instead, but he never really used his platform to speak on the issue of domestic violence..and this was after the O.J. fiasco.

So when someone glorifies Jim Brown, I try preemptively take the wind out of their sails by mentioning that he is deeply flawed and that has to be mentioned in the same breath as tremendous accomplishments on and off the field. But on the other side, when someone simply wants to shit on Jim Brown and his legacy because if his inability to keep his hands to himself, I am just as quick to point out that he did good things on the field and he helped a great deal of people in his lifetime. That is a terrible position to be in either way and I feel like a hypocrite at times, and I'm not even the one who did anything wrong.

I certainly can't expect athletes and entertainers to be model citizens, because Lord knows I've done some shady things in my lifetime. But there are missteps like the ones Tiger Woods made (cheating on his wife) that are minor issues related to bad-decision making and a need for power, control and personal anarchy. And then are mistakes like battery, having sex with underage kids, and drugging womene that make you feel dirty and conflicted. I'm tired of being put in that position with people I geuninely admire, but that's life right?

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar hasn't let me down yet, so he's the only one of my heroes not related to me, who is still on the up and the up...

By the way, the late, great Ralph Wiley wrote about this topic too. Read it.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

A couple months ago at my son's birthday party, the husband of one of my wife's friends (we'll call him Mike, because that's his name), approached me with a proposition. Me, Mike and our sons went to see the Monster Trucks perform at the Verizon Center in Washington DC. Our sons had a great time, they both became instant fans of the whole Monster Truck genre, and good times were had all around. The only drawback was the small talk I had to engage in with this dude during the 90 or so minutes we were there. Our wives are good friends, but Mike and I were still feeling our way around each other, which makes for awkward times when you consider we are both 41 year old men with an established stable of friends.

So while I was in the midst of partying and celebrating my son's fourth year on this Earth, Mike told me about an upcoming Monster Truck show in Richmond, Virginia on February 20th. He suggested that we leave the wives behind, and just make a day trip of it with our sons. I begrudingly agreed. Very begrudingly.

On one hand, my son is absolutely in love with the Monster Trucks, and I would be a damn fool to deny him that opportunity, simply because I'm socially awkward. On the other hand, I have no desire to sit in a car for 4 hours (2 each way) with someone I do not really know that well. My small talk game is good for about 20 minute intervals, which means I would be forced to either listen to what he had to say or just sit in awkward silence while I listen to music that he chose (because the passenger has no right to pick the musical selections in another man's car). On top of that, Mike is white, and I am black, and that racial breakdown was fairly inconsequential when the Monster Truck Show was in DC (although the Verizon Center was 80-percent white and 20-percent black). In Richmond, Virginia, I have no problems admitting that I will be a bit more nervous about the racial climate. I am not scared of anything or anyone, I just don't want to have to hear ignorance (or act ignorant) in the presence of my son. If it goes down, so be it, but I'm leery of him being exposed to that on a day that is supposed to be about fun.

Earlier this week, Mike texted me and told me that the big day was near, and he wanted to hammer out the details about where we were going to meet up so we could ride down to Richmond, and I had to stop him in his tracks. I told him that I thought it would be better if we drove separately since I had plans to visit my main man Sabin after the show. What I did NOT tell him is that I had no desire to ride and talk with him, because there's no way to say that without coming off like a dick and a half. Then he asked me if we could meet up for him to give me the tickets, and I asked him to put the in the mail. I felt like a slight asshole, but I felt like that was the most efficient way to handle that particular transaction. I asked my wife is that was ok, and she approved, but I still felt bad...but not really. He put the tickets in the mail and I thanked him.

So I have successfully avoided four hours of small talk, and now I only have to worry about racist white folks and 90 minutes (or so) worth of small talk during the Monster Truck show. That is still a daunting task, but I think I can handle it...I think.

I love this song and I love this woman. If my wife ever acts up, I would totally leave her for Lalah Hathaway:

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

So my son is an official Marine now. His graduation was last Friday morning, and I could not be any prouder of him. He speaks with more confidence, he talks much more than he did before, and I can see that boot camp had a profound effect on the way he carries himself. He still has that sly smile, and he probably was focused more on his girlfriend, than he was his family members, but he's an 18-year old Marine now, and he can do what he damn well pleases within reason. Of course as his dad I had to warn him against premature pregnancy, getting into unnecessary trouble in Hampton,Virginia during his 10-day break, and staying in shape, but I suspect he knew all those things before I said anything.His next step will be to ship to Camp LeJeune in North Carolina next Monday, where he will be for 29 days. I will definitely be visiting him.

My next step in life began on Monday when I started my new job as Project Manager. I got a significant raise, more responsibility, and I will be challenged to take everything I've learned professionally up to this point, and apply it. I'm nervous, i'm excited and my predecessor at this job will only be training me for three more days before I am on my own. It isn't exactly an ideal situation, but what can I do right? New jobs and opportunities don't always present themselves tied up in a neat little bow. I'm not just making idle chatter here in my blog, I am actually trying to pump myself up via the written word. I don't know if it is working.

One more thing, I REALLY want to write for this website. The Pros? It seems to now be under good leadership, and I am quite sure they will get great exposure and even greater assignments as it gets closer to the official kickoff date. The Con? Even if I force the issue and get selected, I don't think they could sufficiently compensate me as well as my current job does. Then the question becomes do I take a leap of faith and go all in on a lesser salary in hopes that the high-profile job will propel to me to higher heights? Or do I stay in the financially safe pocket and make sure my family is taken care of? I have to be offered the job for this to be a legit scenario, but I think about it often.

Don't forget to watch this Michael Jackson documentary on Friday night. It is going to be good I promise.