Wednesday, April 12, 2017

I just heard that Charlie Murphy died. I know the Chappelle show is where his reputation blew up beyond belief, but I appreciated his understated, but funny role as a bouncer in Spike Lee's, "Mo Better Blues":

Friday, April 07, 2017

I was in my room getting dressed for work this morning, when I made the necessary decision to turn from MSNBC — where they were chattering incessantly about the United States bombing Syria — to ESPN where they were talking about something decidedly more sanguine: A tradition unlike any other…the Masters.

Initially, the Masters coverage was just white noise as I continued to put on my casual Friday gear for work, but I stopped in my tracks when I realized ESPN was looking back at the 1997 Masters — also known as “The Tiger Woods Coming out Party”. Via interviews and old footage, ESPN covered the 1997 Masters round by round letting the viewing public know what Tiger was thinking and more importantly what his impact was on current and older golfers. Of particular interest to me were the words from Lee Elder — the first African American golfer to play in the Masters.

Right before Tiger’s final round in the ’97 Masters, Elder talked to Tiger and told him that this round would be the most difficult round he ever had to play. Not because he had 18 more holes to endure and not because this was his first major tournament, but because this victory wouldn’t just be about a green jacket, it would be about representing older African-American golfers who had been had been denied access to August National where the Masters Tournament was played. Elder also remarked that the much of the Augusta staff (cooks, maids and groundskeepers) were also African-American, and stopped what they were doing to fully take in Tiger’s triumph.

At this point, I was no longer getting dressed, I just stood half-clothed in front of the television completely transfixed. They showed Tiger’s signature fist pump after he made his last putt to win the Masters, then they showed him take that methodical walk to his father Earl, who had been teaching Tiger to play since the age of 3 (he was 21 when he won the Masters). Tiger got to his dad, hugged him tightly, and then they both started crying.

And then I did the same in my half-clothed state.

The wife saw me crying and gave me a hug, which was both needed and appreciated. As I explained to her later, I wasn’t crying because Tiger and his dad were crying, and I wasn’t crying because Earl Woods has now gone on to glory. I was crying because I’ve been there before.

I’m no professional golfer and I am certainly not an elite athlete, but at numerous points in my life, I’ve accomplished things that made me feel like a champion. And since I credit my father with arming me with so many of the tools I use in life on a daily basis, he is usually the person I want to interact with first when I achieve those personal milestones.

That’s not a slap in the face to my mother, my wife, my brother or my friends, it is just the ultimate compliment to my father, who is still very much alive and teaching me lessons. So when Tiger won the Masters, and made that beeline to his dad so they could share that cathartic moment, I felt that emotion too. I cried 20 years ago when I first saw it, and I’ve cried every time I’ve seen it since then — including this morning.

But this morning those tears were more plentiful than usual because my mind went to another dark place, which isn’t easy to discuss. I allowed my mind to jump to the future and what I would do if I achieved a moment of great personal triumph and my dad was no longer around to share it with me.

I thought back to the 2006 British Open which was Tiger’s first major tournament after his father’s death. Tiger was stoic and surgical during the tournament, but the minute he won, he went to his caddie and broke down crying.

Afterwards Tiger admitted that not only was he emotional because his father had passed away earlier that year, but he was also sad because winning without his father around was a personal milestone, and he wished his dad was around to share in that accomplishment as well.

I’m not an overly morbid person, but I know that type of moment is coming my way sometime in the future, and although I don’t have to handle it publicly the way Tiger did (and still does), I hope I conquer those moments the right way. The way my father has prepared me for my whole life.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Last Sunday after a glorious afternoon filled with whimsy, brunch and mimosas, I made my way to the record store to do a little digging in the crates. The wife had left me momentarily to go thrift store shopping and my initial intent was to hit up a sports bar to watch some NBA basketball while I waited. But lo and behold the record store caught my eye, and I simply could not pass up the opportunity to build on my collection.

Usually when I walk into a record store, I like to block off 30-45 minutes of time to look at each and every record to make sure I'm not missing on any hidden gems. But this particular record store had copious amounts of heavy metal and alternative records, which isn't bad music at all, but I'd prefer my vinyl to be old soul music. I know that sounds weird, but I equate vinyl with my father's collection, and he had jazz, smooth jazz and lots of R&B. Now I certainly have made some exceptions (Sting and the Police come to mind) but for the most part I stay in my narrow lane. I digress...

All of the R&B-ish records were in the first three rows of records, and I was able to whip through them in about 15 minutes and I made three choice:

1) Around the World in a Day - Prince

2) The Manhattans - Greatest Hits

3) Migration - Creative Source

I almost bought an Isley Brothers album too, but I couldn't remember whether I already had it in my collection, so I didn't want to chance it. (**sidebar** I really need my whole collection on some type of organized list so I can reference it whenever I go to the record store. Perhaps I'll make my son do that on a rainy/snowy day ***sidebar off***). I took my three records and walked up the cashier so I could meet back up with the wife.

When I got to the counter, the guy behind the desk said it was unofficial store policy that all the patrons tell a story behind each of the albums they wanted to purchase. I'm sure some folks resent having to take an extra step before spending their money, but this request was right up my alley. In fact, there was a time in this here blog, when all I did his pick records out of my newly-acquired-from-my-dad collection and tell back stories behind them from my point of view. Not only that, when I picked out the three aforementioned records, I had specific memories and thoughts in my mind. Allow to share:

Prince - Around the World in a Day

First and foremost, this was Prince's first album after the giant Purple Rain, so similar to Michael Jackson's Bad album, expectations and stakes were sky high. Michael chose to make an album with the intent of topping Thriller, and he fell woefully short--even though Bad is a great album (except for Just Good Friends). Prince decided to take a sharp left turn and make an album that was nothing like Purple Rain and he succeeded. My favorite song on the album is "Condition of the Heart and my favorite lyric in that song--a lyric which used to drive my main man Sabin crazy with in college--was, "I'm blinded by the daisies in your yard"

Besides it being a great album, my dad used to play "Around The World In A Day" every time he took my brother and me to soccer practice/games. He played it front to back over and over again, and I thank him for that.

The Manhattans - Greatest Hits

Whenever my parents were feeling amorous, which meant my brother and I had to go bed insanely early so we wouldn't hear them being disgusting--the evening would begin with my father playing The Manhattans. He would cue them up and playfully sing to me and my brother, and then turn his attention to my mother. He'd sing, they'd dance and my little 8-10 year old eyes wanted no parts of the sight. But clearly it made an impact because I am still a big fan of the group to this day. Years later I dated a cousin of Gerald Alston (the lead singer), but that was nearly as beneficial as it should have been.

My favorite songs on that album are "I'll Never Find", which reminds me of sitting on a beach with clear skies and an adult beverage and "Don't Take Your Love", which in the last 18 seconds, features some of the most fantastic levels of begging you've ever heard:

Migration - Creative Source

I'm sure this is a fantastic album, but I bought it for one song which contains a five second passage, which was sampled in one of my favorite rap songs ever. The Creative Source song is called "I Just Can't See Myself Without You", the section that was sampled comes around the 2:10 mark:

Just in case you were unable to figure it out, the song is by Freeway, Jay-Z and Beanie, and it is called "What We Do". I challenge you to listen to this song without nodding your head in violent fashion:

Anyway, the dudes at the record store we impressed by the detail in my stories and they "let" me buy the records sans incident. I appreciated their level of snobbery and it reminded me of a scene out of my favorite movie High Fidelity: