Tuesday, February 27, 2018

In my last blog entry I did a bit of bellyaching over my slightly advanced age and the tangential consequences that I now suffer as a result--like losing my keys. This morning I had a different type of issue that had nothing to do with age, and everything to do with stubbornness and laziness.

Two weeks ago I noticed that the heel of my shoe was slightly loose. I don't wear real cheap shoes, but these aren't exactly $700 shoes either. They are good solid black shoes that I wear to work, and they have served me just fine for about two years now. BUT, I also walk about two miles to and from work every day and that--combined with the fact that I'm not one of those dudes who wears tennis shoes to work and changes to dress shoes when I arrive--has caused a bit of wear and tear on my shoe. Thus the loose heel.

When I saw the loose heel, I took a long look at it, and used my non-existent loose-heel experience to make the determination that I could get a few more weeks out of it. In hindsight, I should have just bought new shoes during my lunch break that very day, rather than chance a tragic accident. But I do not like shopping for clothes, food, my son, or any of that. The only time I have patience for shopping is when I'm buying records, but that's only because I consider that to be a borderline, orgasmic experience. Clothes/shoe shopping? Not so much.

Anyway, I was walking into work while listening to the Tony Kornheiser Podcast, when I tripped over a loose brick in the sidewalk (why sidewalks are made out of brick, I do not know). I was a bit embarrassed about how hard I tripped, but I was determined not to linger too long in that spot, so I attempted to keep walking, and that's when I knew the heel was even more damaged. When I looked down at my shoe, I noticed the heel was 80-percent detached from the rest of the shoe, and I had to make a decision: 1)Do I walk slow with a damaged heel? 2) Do I rip the heel off and walk lopsided 3) Do I call an uber home and just forget this day altogether. I chose option #1.

I walked about 20 feet (no pun intended) and I realized that I wasn't going anywhere fast. The heel was flopping around which made it nearly impossible to have any semblance of a cool gait, but I kept trying to walk while simultaneously trying to make sure no one was walking behind me or looking at my feet. I can't begin to communicate how uncomfortable I was, and even though the door to my job was just 500 feet away, it felt like 500 miles, and all I wanted to do was comfortably sit down, work and eat my breakfast.

Finally the heel fell off completely and I just did the lopsided walk into my door. Luckily for me, there weren't many people around, and I was able to make a beeline to my desk. As I type this pitiful entry, I am sitting at my desk sans shoes, but I still have to figure out how I'm getting home to change, and eventually out to get more shoes. This is pitiful I know.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

I'm getting older and that is starting to rear it's unwanted head in the oddest phases of my life. Today, it was key misplacement.

It is a rainy day today here in DC, and all I really wanted to do is lay on my ass and watch Tiger Woods play, but that is nearly impossible to do when you have a six year old with endless energy and the need to ask the question, "So what are we doing today Daddy?". So I got off my ass and took my son to Dave & Buster's--the indoor amusement park for both kids and adults.

My son and I played games for nearly 90 minutes and the day was filled with fun and whimsy. I didn't check my phone and he didn't ask "so what are we doing next daddy?", we just played and played hard. After the game portion of the afternoon, we went over and had lunch at Chik-fil-A, and then we headed back to the car. I confidently walked to the car, reached in my pocket, and I noticed that my car keys were missing. And hell yes I panicked.

I took my wedding ring off while my son and I were in Dave & Buster's (I always take my ring off when I play basketball or skeeball) and so instantly I thought that maybe I accidentally dropped my keys there while reaching in my pocket to put my ring back on my finger. I went to D&B and talked to the manager, who radioed his staff and asked if keys had been found, but nothing was found.

From there, I went back to the Chik-fil-A to see if a manager/cleaning lady had possibly seen my keys on the table, by the trash or on the floor, but after 15 minutes, they couldn't locate my keys either. My next move was to stop a police officer and a security guard to see if they or one of their colleagues had been alerted about missing car keys. Still nothing.

I headed back to D&B to look around in there myself, instead of relying on the manager/security. Before I could get in there, the manager saw that I had bottled water in my hand, and he told me I could not play on the games with outside food or drink. I explained to him that my visit was far from a leisurely one, I was just headed in with my son to look for my keys and I proceeded to keep walking in the place. The manager put his whole hand on my shoulder and impeded my process.

I couldn't curse because my son was with me, but in hushed tones I politely asked the manager to get his hands off of me before I f**ked his ass up, and he called security--the very same security guard I had already spoken to regarding my keys. The security guard saw me, dapped me up and asked what the problem was, and I explained it, and he told the D&B manager to let me in with my water, because these were extenuating circumstances. I gave the D&B manager a look of disdain and tried to locate my keys, but I still came up empty.

At this point, I had to call my wife to come get my son and me, because she had the spare key. I felt defeated and hella old but I couldn't really pout because my energetic son still needed to be entertained. 45 minutes later, the wife arrived with the spare key and we all walked towards the car. Just as I getting ready to get in the car, I noticed something in my windshield wiper---something that had not been there when I walked to the car earlier. I must have dropped my keys in the parking lot somewhere, and someone was nice enough to discreetly put them in my windshield wiper. I'm amazed someone didn't steal my car, but I'm thankful they didn't.

But damn, what if dropping and fake losing keys is the first step in the long, winding road towards senility. I'm mainly writing about this because I'm a blogger/writer, but part of me wanted to do something meaningful to prove that I still have some modicum of intelligence in an attempt to restore a little order in my life.

Friday, February 23, 2018

So in response to the lack of outward progress in preventing another school shooting like the one in Parkland, Florida, high school students all around this fine, flawed country of ours have decided to stage walkouts. They are leaving school grounds, and walking around during school hours so that their voices can be heard. They are tired of living in fear, tired of lawmakers not tweaking gun laws and tired of feeling like powerless kids at the knee of powerful, yet ineffective adults.

I was a teenager once so I understand that natural angst and restlessness constantly bubbles inside of them. They are at that weird age between being take care of by their parents yet preparing for post-high school life. They are dating, their bodies are changing, they have endless amounts of information at their fingertips, and so they have access to way more information than teens in past years--present company included. That part I get. But when you add in the very real threat of being shot at or killed during a seemingly innocuous school day, you add in a level of fear and terror, I know nothing about---at least from their perspective. I worry about that as a parent now with my six year old, but that's part of the omnipresent overprotective feeling of being a parent. I can't imagine what these teens are thinking and feeling on a daily basis.

But I do know this...I am not a fan of the walkouts. Not at all.

I have already established that my worries as a teen were tame compared to the concerns of these kids, so please know that I'm not turning a blind eye to that fact. Having said that, when I was that age, my father made it very clear, that my job was to go school, get good grades and prepare myself for post-high school life. He didn't want me misbehaving or dillydallying in school, because those type of things (and yes those are clinical terms) hindered, not helped my ability to achieve our final goal.

If my son wanted to walk out of school, I know that I ultimately could not stop him from doing so especially if all of his friends were following suit. But I would pull him aside before he left that day, and request that as long as a teacher (an unarmed one for now) was in front of the class, it was my expectation that he'd be sitting right there learning as he would be doing any other day--not because he (or I) was turning a blind eye to the greater movement--but because that was his job during school hours. Then, I would sit down with my son and brainstorm about 5-10 other ways he could adeptly make his point that he was not happy with the guns, the shootings and the lack of real change. I'd also let him know that walkouts are fine, but there are other ways to be just as effective and just as radical. Maybe he could write a letter to a newspaper, record a message on youtube and circulate it profusely, go to a very public place durng non-school hours with a megaphone and talk from the heart. I'd throw out ideas, I'd listen to his and maybe we could come to a compromise.

My son could very well end up telling me to go f**k myself (figuratively, not literally of course) and that he wanted to be involved in the walkout and I'd have to respect. But he'd have to respect the fact that I didn't like it, and he'd also have to endure me coming up with alternative suggestions for how to protest. I think that's a fair exchange.

If he were a college student, he'd have carte blanche, but as a high school student, I don't think that much leeway should be granted. As I typed this out, I realized that I sound conservative as hell, but frankly, I am like that with a few aspects of my life. You get like that as a parent sometimes I suppose...

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Usually I like to go see movies on a weekday around 11 or on the weekend during the earliest available matinee. I don't like crowds, I don't like teenagers, I don't like post-movie applause, I just want to be able to think and draw my own conclusions on the movie, and sometimes crowds do not allow those types of deductions to take place.

My persnickety demands where movies are concerned, combined with the difficulty my wife and I have finding a sitter to allow us to go see a movie---especially when we'd rather go out and drink and do something festive once we finally fine someone to watch Nyles--pretty much means that my movie attendance over the past couple of years sucks. The only movies I've seen recently are the ones my son wanted to see, which basically means I have to fight between going to sleep and playing on my phone.

I could not apply my wishes and demands to the Black Panther movie, because my wife really wanted to see the movie during the first weekend, since everyone was talking about it. It wasn't that I didn't share her eagerness, I just really wanted to control the outside variables, since I knew this was supposed to be a movie of great importance.

As you can imagine, I did not get my wishes. I bought tickets for Sunday evening show (8pm to be exact) and I purposely picked a theater that served wine, so I could ramp up the Black Panther experience. But when I arrived at the theater, I learned the bar was closed. I didn't lose my cool though.

The wife and I arrived at 7:15 for the 8pm movie, and when we got to the theater where our movie was playing, there were already approximately 30 people already waiting and we just got behind them.

**Sidebar: Lots of black brothers and sisters used the release of the Black Panther movie to dress in traditional---or at least what they believed to be traditional--African garb. I get the sentiment, it was a cool, unifying gesture to see, but I wasn't doing that sh*t. I loved seeing all the black and brown folks on the big screen, but at the end of the day, it was just a movie. A movie that may open the doors for black and brown people on and behind the camera, but a movie nonetheless. I didn't need any African-ness (if you will) but for those who did, God bless them*** Sidebar off***

Everyone was let in around 7:45,and I went to get popcorn and beverages, while the wife saved my seat. We had chosen a spot in the upper left corner, so I could sit in the aisle, in case something went down (you'd be a fool to not think that way these days), but when I arrived back at my seat, we were surrounded by loud ass teens who looked to be between 15 and 17. Still, I remained calm. The kids actually weren't that bad once the movie started, but they were a bit too loud and dramatic for my taste. I'll be returning to my traditional matinee times going forward.

I won't say too much about the movie, because I don't know who has or has not seen it. The cast was great, the acting was good, the African vs African-American story line was rich with conflict (which would make a great writing assignment for a college/high school class), the strong female roles were refreshing and it was one of the better Marvel movies I've seen. I didn't like the reliance on the usage of CSI and at times, the movie dragged a bit, but I feel like I'm nitpicking. Not since Blade with Wesley Snipes and Marvel's Luke Cage, have I seen such bad ass black superheroes. When my son gets a little older and I feel like he can deal with the effects of movie violence (lots of questions and bad dreams), I'll let him see it too.

Friday, February 16, 2018

It took 43 years, but this morning I finally had my first white-woman-clutch-her-purse-when-I-walk-by moment.

It was around 6:15am, and I was in the midst of my 5-mile run around Northwest Washington DC. I had headphones in my ear, but the music remained at a relatively low volume, so that I could hear everything going on around me. At that time of morning, there are other runners/walkers, people driving and walking to work, homeless people sleeping, peeing or wandering, and insanely large rats jumping out of unsuspecting places to scare the shit out of me. Quite a motley crew right?

I was running by a well-lit but quiet section of DC when I spotted a woman walking and talking on the phone. My head is always on a swivel while I run, so I saw her a good 30-45 seconds before she saw me, and I immediately noticed that she was talking loud on the phone, and not paying attention to her surroundings. I didn't give it much thought, because my plan was to run by her without making any eye contact, so I didn't startle her.

But about 10 seconds before I was to run by her, she saw me. She didn't stop talking on the phone, and she didn't appear to be startled--in fact she gave me a half-smile, which was nice, but not necessary. I began to nod my head at her, and then I noticed that her hands had gone from her pocket to her pocketbook. Not only were both her hands holding on to her pocketbook for dear life, but she also turned her body slightly away from me, as I ran by her. I really started to stop and say something rude but 1)I was way too tired and my thighs were burning way too damn much for me to do anything menacing and 2)That's all I needed was for a cop or another citizen to see me berating a woman (a white woman at that) from afar. That wouldn't end well.

But here's the thing that gets me. I was clearly running. I had a water bottle in my hand, headphones in my ear, and I was sweating like Kevin Garnett in a postgame interview. How the hell does one pivot from being in workout to robbery mode? I can understand being cautious when it is dark and early in the morning, but this woman was talking LOUD and not looking around for almost a minute before she saw me. Not to mention, if I really wanted to rob her, the clutching and turning technique would hardly be a deterrent--she'd still get got.

Honestly, the clutching part didn't bother me (yes it did) as much as the body turn. She decided that that the clutching only scratched the surface, so she had to slightly turn her body away to seal the safety deal. It wasn't even a full turn, it was just enough of a turn for me to get annoyed.

Again, I tried really hard to look at it from a woman's perspective, but I can only do that up to a certain point. I felt some kind of way about that, but on the positive side, what better month for it to go down right?

Thursday, February 15, 2018

When I tell people I"m not a Drake fan, they tend to think I'm hating just to hate, or I'm just hell-bent on hating any millennial hip-hop music, and that is simply not true. I like some of J Cole's work, I like Kendrick Lamar, and I even like some offerings from 2 Chainz (it pains me to spell it that way) and A$AP Rocky (I'm equally pained by that spelling).

Drake has always felt, sounded and looked artificial to me. He sounds like a brother from Canada who has been given a long-term assignment of trying to sound like a brother from the South. He raps one way but that stands in stark contrast to how he sounds on interviews or even hosting Saturday Night Live. I think when he sings he sounds more authentic, but it sounds hella nasal and not particularly pleasing to my snobby ears. To that point, my main man Bomani Jones says that if you think of Drake as a singer who raps, and not a rapper who sings, he becomes easier to tolerate. I tried that and he still sucks...for the most part.

Two years ago when I was shoe shopping with my son Carlton at Foot Locker, I heard this song come on through the store loudspeakers:

His rhymes in that song sounded believable and not forced, and even the singing was tolerable. I remember telling my son that this would be the only Drake song I liked in my life. My youngest son likes "Hotline Bling" so I play that a lot, but when he's not around, I'm not really a fan of that song. Over the past two years, I've heard lots of Drake songs, and they were all lukewarm to wack to me, until today.

I was listening to a Pandora station, and an older Drake song called 0 to 100 came on:

Now, parts of this song still sounded contrived and not at all like a brother from Canada, but the combination of the beat and Drake's flow, reeled me all the way in. I wore this song out today, and even gave this song a spot in my elusive workout playlist. I still don't like him, and he'll never convince to buy an entire album/cd/tape, but for now, I respect his ability to win my approval....as if he really cares if a 43-year old likes his stuff.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

So on this Valentine's Day, I think I'd like to focus on my wife. I usually keep her business out of this blog because 1) this blog is supposed to be about me goddammit and 2) she really doesn't like for me to put her business out there, and for the most part I have respected her wishes. I will do no such thing today.

The wife has had quite a difficult year. Her mother is in the midst of some pretty debilitating nerve pain that we saw up close when we visited her and her husband in Minnesota, and my wife is concerned about that. Then last month, her favorite uncle died suddenly and unexpectedly and we had to attend that sad, sad funeral. Not to mention, that uncle was her father's youngest brother, and now she's increasingly worried about her dad, which is totally understandable. Older people are obsessed with other people's deaths and funerals for some odd reason, but that doesn't necessarily mean they know how to cope with them.

And lastly, my wife has spent the last five months at a job she really can't stand. There's always a learning curve when a new job is involved, but this boss seemed hell-bent on significantly shortening that curve and berating my wife for falling short. At first, she handled it and chalked up to newness, but eventually that great attitude turned to anger, which turned to stress, which turned to all out tears--and considering the list of things she was already enduring in her life, you can imagine how difficult it was for her to get through the day. She loves me and she loves our son, but there was only so much cheering up we had in us. A change in employment was needed and luckily for us, one came last week and it has served as a catalyst for good vibes.

She's still worried about her mother and father, but she's able to deal with that stress with a clearer perspective now that a new job is on the horizon. Plus, she has a five-day weekend before the new job starts, and she'll be able to enter this new situation with a clear head and justifiable excitement. It doesn't hurt that she'll be working with an old boss, who knows and respects her work ethic.

I don't know if the wife will read this, because let's face it: ain't nobody really checking for my blog on a regular basis anymore, since I write about as frequently as the arrival of Halley's Comet. But she'll stumble on it eventually, and when that magical day comes, she'll (and everyone else who reads) will know how happy I am for her. Also I wrote a condensed version of this in her Valentine's Day card, but I realized I had more to say than Hallmark would allow, so now I've empty the clip...so to speak.

Monday, February 12, 2018

So earlier this morning, my 20-year old son Carlton was shipped to Afghanistan, where he'll be until November or so. While he's gone, he will most likely miss the birth of the child that his wife will give birth to around that same time. God-willing, when that healthy child is born, I will be a goddamn grandfather at the young and tender age of 43. How is that for an opening paragraph after dwelling in a blogless existence for two months?

One of my least favorite expressions is "unpack" but in this specific instance, it feels apropos to use that phrase, so let's unpack each of those bombs I dropped in the previous paragraph.

I've known for several months that my son was going to be deployed, but for the longest time, he had been pretty tight-lipped about the destination. And given that he's in the Marines, I knew better than to pester him about something like that. But about a month ago, when I visited him, he told me that his nine-month stint would be divided between Norway and Romania. Both of those countries sounded a bit innocuous to me, but I didn't pressure him. I learned he was going to Afghanistan not through a direct conversation with him but via a conversation with his mother last Friday. He didn't have the heart to tell me directly, which I get.

First I sat there in shock and told myself that missions like this were exactly what Carlton prepared for, and I needed to man the f**k up. Then, almost involuntary, a montage of memories with my son from birth to 20 started to play on an endless loop on the Summer Jam screen in my head, and that served as the catalyst for my tears. I cried and cried at work, and as luck would have it, my boss called me mid-cry. I got my shit together long enough to not sound like a babbling idiot, but I ended up telling him why I was somber, and thank god he understood.

Last Sunday, just a few days before I found out about the Afghanistan deployment, my son told me that his wife was pregnant and I was going to be a grandfather. I don't agree with their decision, due to the volatility of their relationship and from my vantage point it feels like this was a save-the-relationship child, but he and his wife are grown, and far be it from me to interfere with their affairs and their reproductive organs. But again, to be a grandfather at 43---even though I want a healthy child to be brought into this world--is difficult for me to wrap my mind around. As I told a friend of mine, now I have to wear an ascot, keep a few extra buttons of my shirt open and smoke a cigar, per the grandfather handbook.

I am proud of my son, don't get me wrong. He's 20 years old, he and his wife are homeowners, he has a steady income and they are about to bring a child in the world. But in my mind, he is still a child, and based on what I know about them both, they simply aren't ready to be parents. Then again, who among us is really ready to take on that large of a responsibility? I was 22 when Carlton was born, and I had a degree, no money, no property and my sources of income were a job at Stride Rite and substitute teaching. He'll find his way I'm sure, but I worry about him. But I will be supportive and helpful, because that's what parents--specifically fathers--are supposed to do.

Thanks for humoring me and welcome back to the blog. This is the 12th year of its existence.