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.