Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Parting Resolutions

When I was a kid, I was always excited about the coming New Year. It was (and is) a time to start over, to try something new. I used to make a whole list of resolutions. By the end of the year, I would realize that I hadn't kept any of them so, I stopped making them. Then, I would set one goal for myself. At the end of the year, I would look back and realize that I hadn't achieved the goal I set either. Setting the goal at the beginning of the year was really just another way of making a resolution... a resolution I wasn't going to keep anyway, I reasoned. Once again, I stopped setting any goals. At least I stopped setting them on New Year's Eve.

So, for years, the pressure and the burden of doing that sort of thing was off of me and I got a lot more accomplished as far as personal growth during the year. I paid off credit cards, saved money, got a new job, left the Air Force, found a new hobby (blogging), and got some necessary things fixed/improved in my house... all without making any resolutions. I just did them when they had to be done.

Now, here I am at the end of another year and I want to set a goal of improving my health and losing some weight in the next year (I stated this before in another blog post). It looks like here I am, once again, making a resolution on the eve of another New Year. I said that I would like to lose 20lbs. by my next birthday. My birthday is in 84 days so, that might not be plausible. How about if I just lose 20lbs. period? Does that still make it a resolution? Probably so, but realistic and doable without a deadline.

I'm not against people who make resolutions. Some people actually do what they say they are going to do (nobody I personally know but, I'm sure somebody somewhere does). I think that if you're going to make resolutions or set a goal, then it should be something you can realistically do and something you absolutely know you are going to do... otherwise, it's a waste of time.

Happy New Year blog fam and here's to doing whatever you set out to do in the coming year in a big way!!!


Tuesday, December 30, 2008

"Barack The Magic Negro" (& Other Republican Myths)

You know, I've had a good couple of weeks and I've been in a really great mood. I have been writing light-hearted stuff about family, friends, sports, etc. and basically left the political stuff alone. Oh, I wrote a few here and there but, I was going to wait until the New Year before I began writing really serious posts again. Then, while I was enjoying a nice slice of sweet potato pie and looking over a menu for pasta with shrimps, I happened to see "Barack The Magic Negro."

This video is supposed to be a parody, put out by those great members of the "thinking impaired" and played on that champion of the thinking impaired's radio show, Rush Limbaugh. I believe they all got a big chuckle out of it. You know what? I'm not even mad or outraged by it. I like a good joke and I like a good parody. After all, Saturday Night Live skewered Sarah Palin all summer long. Jay Leno, David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel, and Bill Mahr skewer The Bush Administration and other Republicans nightly. In fact, they do it so much that I wonder what they're going to do now that the gang is packing their bags and about to leave.

I think Rush, Sean Hannity, and that crowd are just going to be preaching to their respective choirs for the next four to eight years and that choir is growing smaller and smaller. After the way their guys have screwed up this country, I doubt that anyone wants to hear what they are saying. They can't possibly justify this last president, his administration (if that's what you want to call it), or any Republican policies. The bank failures, the near collapse of Wall Street, and the near collapse of the auto industry all bears me out. The failure to find any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, as well as the failure to give any sane reasoning as to why we are still there now, also bears me out. People just don't want to hear it.

So, they can have their little laugh and they can beat a dead horse with their obvious fear and hatred of Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rev. Al Sharpton, Rev, Jeremiah Wright, Mr. Bill Ayers, and whoever... nobody is listening to them except the brain dead who were listening all along and I suspect that even their numbers are starting to grow smaller.

Now that Barack Obama is president, they keep implying that the Civil Rights leaders aren't going to have anything to do (that's more of what they hope rather than what's real). Unfortunately, there are some misguided blacks who believe this too. They say... "The sky is the limit, there are no more excuses." In a sense, that maybe true but, those of us who are intelligent know that Barack Obama's election, as historic and great as it is, only means one thing... that he got elected as the first African-American president. There are still things that need to be done and addressed before America truly becomes the nation it was meant to be and can be.

Oh, and America can and will be a color blind nation soon and an even greater nation of opportunity than it has been. It will be, not because Barack Obama got elected but, because trends are showing that the majority of the American people are rejecting racism and all of those old tired notions of fear mongering, division, and mistrust brought on by certain elements of our society, who just happen to listen to Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. This bodes well for the future... it really does. People are forced to look at a boat where we all are sinking across the boards and they are seeing that no man truly is an island... we either swim together or drown together but, either way, we are all in this collective boat called America together. People are concerned about their futures.

Smart people realize that we don't have the time or the luxury to worry if Samuel and Robert plan to get married and move down the street. We don't have time to worry if Mary is going to have a (legal) abortion. We don't have time to concern ourselves if Sarah, who is white, is dating that African-American, Mexican, Native-American boy who worships at the Jewish temple and what their baby will look like. People are worried about their jobs, retirement, cars, and medical coverage. They also realize that Sam and Robert are worried about the same thing... Sarah and Julio Running Feather Jenkins Schwartz are also worried about the same thing... and so is Mary and her parents.

So, with all of that said, all of you other people who obviously have been unemployed for a while and have the time on your hands to watch or listen to Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity (who by the way, are also worried about their portfolios), enjoy "Barack, The Magic Negro." Have a good laugh and maybe... just maybe... "Barack The Magic Negro" might just help you guys out.

Monday, December 29, 2008

When The Football Gods Smile

Family Christmas Dinner 2008

On the Saturday after Christmas, it has been a long-standing family tradition that our entire clan... great-grandparents, grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, sisters, brothers, and cousins... meet over one relative's house and enjoy a huge meal together. It's like a winter family reunion. We basically have each household to bring a dish (or something to complete the meal) and crowd into someone's house to eat and catch up on each other's lives. We used to have a pollyanna for the "kids" in the family and it was temporarily suspended when those same "kids" grew up and became adults. Now that our family has gotten even larger with the addition of grandchildren and great-grandchildren, the pollyanna is gonna be reinstated (smile).

The women usually handle most of the food preparation and the watching of small children, while the teenagers and young adults compare cell phones, I-pods, text messages, and what have you. The men often gather in the living room and debate about what else... football! What? You thought I was going to say the economy? The fact that we have a new president and he's black? Well yeah, we did talk about that for a minute but, what brings all of us together from ages 25 to 65 is football.

My brother and I used to sit and listen to our father and uncles have this century old debate when we were kids. When we were about 20-21 years old, they actually let us into the discussions for about a comment or two because nobody really cared what we had to say. Now, we are the "men" and we are the ones knowingly laughing when our sons and nephews enter the debate. But, today's "kids" have more to bring to the table than either I or my cousins had when we were "coming of age" to be allowed into these conversations.

My cousin's 27 year old son has a Blackberry that gave him instant scores and records of all of the teams we were discussing. My other cousin's 24 year old son went on his laptop and pulled up the records of the Eagles and all of the teams in the NFC. With knowledge and technology like that, you just have to let the youngins into the debate. They got the facts cold. Technology be damned, nobody can know what the outcome of a day will be.

Almost all of us agreed that the Philadelphia Eagles would not be going to the playoffs this year. Mind you, we didn't doubt that they might have enough skill to beat the Dallas Cowboys yesterday but, in order for us to be anything more than spoilers, Tampa Bay had to lose to the Oakland Raiders (impossible) and the Giants had to lose to the Vikings (not likely). We all unanimously agreed (a family first) that combination of losses would not happen and whether the Eagles won or lost, they had no business going to the playoffs anyway.

Further, to back up what we said, all of the sportscasters on ESPN said the same thing! You know me by now... I'm the devil's advocate and the Maverick of all bloggers. So, I said... "What if? What if everything plays out exactly as we need it. Then what?" (I gotta make it interesting.) I was greeted with laughs and jeers by everyone involved in the conversation.

Yesterday's results:

Oakland Raiders 31
Tampa Bay Bucs 24

Minnesota Vikings 20
New York Giants 19

Philadelphia Eagles 44
Dallas Cowboys 6

Ahem! Who's laughing now? Did I call that one or what? Somewhere in the great beyond, my grandfather, father, and uncles are scratching their heads and smiling. I doubt that they drink beer in heaven but, they are toasting me with "milk and honey" or whatever they drink.

We're going to the playoffs, baby!

(P.S. I did make one misstep... I predicted that the Detroit Lions would win their last game and not go 0-16... they lost. Can't win 'em all.)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Happy Blog Birthday!

Yesterday, December 26, 2008 makes one year since this blog actually began. I don't know whether I should celebrate now or wait until New Year's Day when I actually wrote my first real post. Yesterday was the actual day that I came up with the name, picked a template and launched "Keith's Space". I still wasn't that hung up on blogging and didn't originally intend to do it that long but, as I've stated before, once I got started, I got hooked (like a lot of you) and here I am today... the author of 301 posts.

I've read a lot of other people's blogs and most of them echo my experiences... like having from none to maybe two steady readers and then gradually discovering that there is an entire community of bloggers out there. I certainly enjoy reading other people's blogs almost as much as I enjoy writing my two blogs. Each blog is as unique as the person writing it's personality.

This is a wonderful medium for both social interaction and political change. I'm told that bloggers get information quicker than the traditional media. I also hear that quickness is at the expense of accuracy. This may be true but, the internet and the blogosphere has certainly given the old line journalists a run for their money. Everyone from entertainers and athletes to politicians now have a blog and use bloggers to get their messages across.

I didn't start a blog to save the world or to effect social change... I'll leave that to The Field Negro and Lisa Vasquez ("Black Women Blow The Trumpet"), who do it so much better and more articulately than I do. I began blogging for the same reason as a lot of people... to vent and to get my thoughts and points of view out there. I wrote a lot of things down on paper and then filed them away in folders, never to see the light of day again. People were always telling me, "You ought to try and publish some of the things you write." I must admit that I did try (half-heartedly) and I appeared in a few magazines and the local newspaper (Op-Ed section) a couple of times. I had a few of my poems and one short story published in a free literature magazine and in the underground press but, that was nothing compared to this medium.

A friend of mine started a blog back in 2005 and turned her posts into a book called "The Playa Slayer", which wound up on the Essence Magazine book list. She told me that I should look into this new medium called "blogging" but, I kinda blew it off. It wasn't until my wife's constant beating of the drum about blogging that I actually took what was being said to heart.

In the beginning, my writing was a little rusty. I had stopped writing altogether for about five years but, I didn't get discouraged. I kept plugging away... hitting and missing. I've watched myself grow and mature steadily day by day (i.e. I can look at a post I've written and not gag). I'm happy with this blog and I'm ecstatic about my other blog, which began with me loading a lot of those old poems I wrote back in college to the site. It has now evolved into a blog with brand new fiction, poetry, and erotica as well as an extra... the spotlighting of black art/artists.

In this past year I've met many wonderful and creative people (too numerous to name here... check out my blogroll and "followers") and have "borrowed" and learned a lot about writing from them. I hope that some of them have learned and borrowed things from me too. Like I said, this is a great new medium with a lot of potential and I'm proud and grateful to be a part of it.

So, Happy Birthday to "Keith's Space" and here's to 301 more posts that continue to make you think, make you laugh, and keep you coming back for more. Much love to everyone who has come through here...

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Holidays!

(My 300th Post Y'all!!!)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Warm Thoughts

Maybe it's just me. I was walking near the ice skating rink yesterday afternoon and I saw a man and a woman, who looked to be in their mid to late 30's, jogging and they had on light gray matching sweatpants with a white stripe down the side. They both had on white Nike running sneakers that looked a lot like the pair I just bought two weeks ago and white sweat socks (really ankle socks) like the kind I wear with my shorts in the summer. The operative word here is summer but, it's not summer... it's definitely winter. The temperature here yesterday was 23 degrees and the wind chill made it feel like 17 degrees. It was "chilly-wop" as my frat brothers and I used to say back in the 80's. They both had on (again) matching white tank tops! No scarves, no scull caps, nothing... and they were just jogging, looking at each other, and smiling. It was quite obvious that they were in love. The matching clothes was a dead give away and so were the knowing looks, the Clark Gable and Janet Leigh like smiles they gave each other, and the perfect refusal to realize that it's the dead of winter. They were in love or crazy or both... it was hard to tell. Just watching them, I was ready to break out into song, joined of course by everybody in their cars and all who happened to be walking down the street.

I kept walking and when I got to the corner, this man who was old enough to be my father drove up in a very, very expensive and fly Alfa Romero with the top down! The top was down and his hair was blowing in the wind! He had a bluetooth on and was chatting away with somebody, probably a woman. I mean who else could make you throw care and caution (not to mention heat) to the wind like that? He had on a funky leather jacket like the one Marlon Brando wore in the "Wild One", some Aviator shades, and had Jay-Z playing on his I-pod mount. Okay, he was white and old enough to be my father... What does he know about Jigga? Mid-life crisis... talking to a young woman... she might even be Black and I'm thinking all of these things just by what I see. I'm no better than the check out guy Sunday, who saw my Hungry Man TV dinners and surmised that I was recently divorced.

After he pulled off, I wondered if maybe I was so cold because I was thinking about it. You know, maybe this was a mind over matter thing. These folks obviously had their mind on something other than the weather so, maybe if I had some warm thoughts, I wouldn't have been out there shivering. So, I took my coat off, took my scarf off, took my scully off, and walked from one block to the next and wouldn't you know that the wind would start blowing. I felt a bone-chilling cold that shook me so hard my ancestors came from out of the grave and began yelling at me, "BOY is you out of your mind? PUT YO COAT, SCARF, AND HAT BACK ON AND ACT LIKE YOU GOT SOME SENSE!" I did as I was told... after all, you don't want 1000 years of bad karma.

Not only did I put all of that back on but, I ducked into the nearest deli I could find and ordered some hot soup. I rubbed my hands together and thought some warm thoughts. I was still cold... better to think those warm thoughts inside where it's warm. As for those other people, I ain't mad at 'em... I just wish I had some of what they had before they came outside.

Monday, December 22, 2008

We Survived!!!

My wife and I must be super heroes or at least from another planet because we did the seemingly impossible. We finished our Christmas shopping in one day... all of it. Saturday morning, we got up early and went to breakfast (my treat-lol)... then, we converged on the malls.

The Eagles offensive line could learn a lot from the last minute shoppers. They push, they shove, and they move you out of position. I'm a determined man though and I get through when I need to. Anyway, we bought each other gifts (we are too old for surprises) and then, we bought gifts for our daughter and grandson (he got the most but then, you would expect that). I bought gifts for my brother and my sister-in-law and by 5:00 pm, we were exhausted, but finished. Mission accomplished. Whew!

We had lunch (or dinner, depending how you look at it) at Famous Dave's (her treat-lol) and then, we headed home. Believe it or not, we changed our clothes and headed to Chester, PA for a cabaret. We didn't get home until 3:30 am and I was exhausted. I had no problem at all falling asleep. We both slept late this morning and then, got up and put up the Christmas tree. I think I was super husband today. I cleaned the bathroom, put out the trash, helped with the Christmas tree and then, went to the supermarket to pick up some TV dinners. We were both too tired to cook so, I figured TV dinners would be best.

While I was in the check out line, the check out guy said, "Recently divorced, huh?" I side-eyed him and said, "No." Then, he said, "You must be in the dog house, huh?" I looked at him and said, "No." He then pointed to my three "Hungry Man" and small chicken strip and french fries TV dinners plus, three cans of Del Monte' fruit cocktail and lunchmeat. I said, "So what? Nobody feels like cooking tonight Sherlock." He said, "Okay, no need to get touchy... it's just that when I got divorced, this is the kind of stuff I started buying on the fly." I pointed to my wedding band and said, "I'm not divorced and I'm not in the doghouse"... not that I owed him an explanation, if I was. It's amazing how people project their hang-ups on other people.

Anyway, I was so good, I even got to watch football today. Considering the outcome, (another Eagles loss) I could've missed it. I am terribly exhausted right now so, I think I'll sleep now. Even Superman has to rest! There has got to be a better way to celebrate this Christmas Holiday!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Death Needs To Take Another Holiday

Philadelphia Homicides

On May 19, 2008 I wrote a post called "Death Takes a Holiday". I was being a little humorous about a phenomenon in Philadelphia of major proportions... From Thursday of that week until early Monday morning not one (read this again)... not one citizen was murdered in this city. Three people got shot on Saturday night but, all three people lived. The last time something like that happened was... well, never.

It's a sad state of affairs that in our city, we lose an average of two people a day to handgun violence. Anytime our mayor or any well-meaning politician tries to lobby for handgun control, all of the gun nuts and moose hunters from the central and northern part of the states grab their Bibles and apple pies and storm the capitol pooh-poohing it.

Our 319th citizen lost his life today. The fact that it was an African-American male, probably killed by another African-American male, is beside the point. We had five policemen lose their lives this year (four of the five cops who died were white!!!) and you would think that would move our lawmakers to regulate these guns but, that didn't even move them.

I've come to the conclusion that this is not a race thing... it's a Philly thing. The rest of the state views Philadelphia (it's largest city) as the outsider, the big intrusive outsider that is "draining " all of the resources from them. If you think that is so Pennsylvania, try existing without this city. I dare you! But, I digress.

Something has got to be done but, nobody wants to do anything. Nobody wants to regulate handguns, write stricter gun laws or even allow Philadelphia to make it's own gun laws that differ from the rest of the state. Nobody can improve the school system. I've heard that we are strapped for cash right now. And nobody, black or white, is going to get out in the streets and engage some of these guys who do the shooting so, in effect, I'm screaming angrily in the wind again. Tomorrow, another person(s) is going to die... you can make book on that.

I theorized that the only reason we had that calm weekend in May was because all of the criminals heard about a weekend buffet special in Atlantic City, NJ so, they all got on the buses and went to AC. It's almost Christmas and it's very doubtful that they will be going anywhere this weekend. (There is a sale at Sears on Ginsu knives...but damn O.J. you can't make that.)

Something else that saddens me is that all of the killing isn't being done by drug dealers or "criminals", so to speak. Everybody's got a gun so on Christmas Day, don't touch the big piece of Turkey, especially if you're a guest at somebody else's house. Pop might pull out his pistol and blow you away. Don't look at Shaniqua's man too hard... she might go in her purse, pull out some "heat", and drop you where you stand. If you're in the malls, don't jump in front of anyone or push anybody. Again, they might "bring the noise", shoot you, and you won't be celebrating Christmas anymore. And, this is definitely not the time to be breaking up with your significant other... we might be going to two funerals... Watch your back. Don't stay in the bathroom too long after you've enjoyed that great Christmas meal... somebody might really, really have to go bad and shoot through the door and blow you into the bathtub. (Hey, they had to go.)

You may laugh but, these are actual cases of homicides that occurred in this city over the holiday season last year. None of the shooters were what you would call "criminals" but, they all had some things in common. For one thing, they all had an illegal handgun purchased on the street and they all had bad tempers that got the best of them. Oh yeah, except for the murder-suicide couple, they're all behind bars with the "criminals."

Nobody in our halls of government cares about this senseless loss of life so, one thing is for sure. Tomorrow, somebody else is going to lose their life in Philadelphia unless there is a Pre-Christmas Buffet special in Atlantic City this weekend.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Within My Own Universe

I like people. I like socializing with people... that feeling of connection. People inspire me, give me ideas, and energy. I feed off of other people like a vampire feeds off of the blood of unsuspecting mortals. If you scroll down this page and look at my ever growing blogroll, you'll see that is quite obvious.

Yet, there are times when I don't wish to be bothered with people, when I wish to be my own partner for the night. There are times when I long to live within my own universe and there is nothing wrong with that because we all need "me" time to do whatever. They used to call that a "mental health" day at my job. Mostly women take these days and guys use the day off to get some extra sleep.

I asked several of my female friends what they did on their day off and they told me that they would hook up with a few of their girlfriends or just one girlfriend to get their nails and toenails done at the spa, go shopping, and maybe have lunch or something. For them, that sounds great but for me and most guys I know, that is not how we get down on our day off. I would usually sleep late, get up, shave, shower, get dressed, go to the barber shop alone (I wasn't thinking about checking for anybody), go to the bookstore, have some coffee, and browse the new magazines and books.

When I was a little younger, I would get involved in a couple of pick up games of basketball at the playground, if there was a good one going. It's funny how you can always find some un-employed guys (or guys playing hooky from school) at the playground but, not in the library or the bookstore. We gotta work on that people.

I'm with my family six out of seven days a week but, Friday is my night for "being out in the street" and hanging out with my friends. My father had a "night" too... it was Wednesday. On Wednesday night, my mother didn't cook a big dinner because he was coming home late. So, usually me and my brother had hot dogs or hamburgers on that night. It was fun to us. My father always told us that when we grew up and got married, to always "take one night and make it your own." A night to hang with your friends... a night for release from everything... a night to do you. He didn't say those words but, that's what he meant. Wednesday was his night to live in his own universe, away from us and just do what he wanted to do.

On the other hand, my mother never had a "night" (not to my knowledge). She was with us all the time and on the weekends, she was with him. They went out to dinner and clubs without us but, what I'm saying is, she never had a night to call her own... just to kick it with any of her girlfriends, if she had any. I realize now how little I really knew about my mom's social life. She did have her sisters and they would get on the phone, call back and forth, and have something like a party going on. It's a shame they didn't have conference calling... the four of them would've had an even better time.

I often wonder about my wife. She doesn't appear to have a night either. She's never asked for one or rather taken one (she doesn't need my permission to go out and have fun) but, more than me or our daughter, she seems to live within her own universe, even amongst all of us... not an easy thing to do. Anyone who has a family knows how demanding living with other people can be. Everybody needs their time yet, she does this well and manages to amuse herself and is content with herself not being the social animal. In that way, she is different from her husband.

It's amazing how we as individuals balance our social universes and our private universes. I somehow think that women balance this a little healthier and certainly more imaginatively than we men. It remains a mystery to me just how they do it so well.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

To Die On The Toilet

Since I've been getting all reflective this week (and it's a slow news week), I figure I might as well tell this story since I thought about this man for the first time in years. The man I'm going to tell you about fits the category of "hater". The type of "hater" I talked about in my post yesterday. He's not really worth a blog post and he's been dead for 29 years but, I just buried him yesterday. You see, I've been carrying him around for years as a reminder that I should be better than what he ever thought I'd be. Okay, I'll explain...

I know some of you are probably getting tired of my constant trips down memory lane but, I only tell the stories worth telling that made an impact on my life. I believe I was 12 years old and it was summertime. We have this game we play in Philly (and New York) called stickball. You take one of those rubber balls that really bounce, cut it in half, and you hit it with a broom stick, sans the straws, or an even narrower stick. This game is kind of a ghetto hybrid of softball, if you will. The way we play it, there are only two outs and two strikes. You hit the ball, run two bases, and then to home. There are probably several derivatives of the same game but, that's how we played it.

I was up to bat and I swung so hard that the stick left my hand and went through Mr. Hubertry's window. It took the entire window out! My friends ran but, he saw me and came running out of his house, understandably upset, cursing like a sailor and demanding to see my grandparents (where I was visiting).

My grandfather was a soft-spoken, easy-going man who rarely got angry but, there was an edge about him. I got the feeling that people didn't really want to chance getting him angry either. He walked down the street and Mr. Hubertry told him what I had done. I expected to really "get it" but, to my astonishment, my grandfather didn't say a word to me. He walked back to his house, came back with a tool box and some measuring tape, and measured the man's window. Then, he walked around the corner to the hardware store (or somewhere) and came back with another piece of glass for the window. He measured it, cut it with his own tools, and replaced the man's window without so much as a peep. He even swept up the broken glass and put it in the man's trash can.

All the while, this guy kept fussing and cussing to him about me. He said that I was a "young hellion" and if he didn't put a switch to me, I wasn't going to amount to anything and that I'd be dead before my 21st birthday. My grandfather looked at him and without raising his voice said, "Hubertry, I just fixed your glass with my own tools, did I not? We all even now so, why don't you do me a favor and shut the hell up!" You could have heard a pin drop... Hubertry's mouth dropped but, I think he knew not to say anything else to my grandfather. For that matter, I wasn't going to say anything else.

My grandfather and I walked home that day and he said to me, "Don't worry about that jackass. Just do me a favor, don't be what he said you were going to be. You make something out of yourself and prove him wrong." And that was all he ever said about it. All these years, I carried that with me... throughout school, in sports, pledging, job hunting, the military, marriage, fatherhood, etc. Every now and then, when I felt like giving up or when I'd actually screwed up, I thought about Mr. Hubertry and what he said. It really stung me. However, I did have the last laugh.

A few days after my 21st birthday, I took a bus from college back to Philly and I went to see my grandmother. I also wanted to see Hubertry and show him that I had indeed made it to age 21, I was a junior in college, I was a success, and that he had been wrong about me but, my grandmother informed me that I was too late. She said, "Baby, they found Mr. Hubertry in his house dead. He had been in there for two weeks, slumped on the toilet. He had a heart attack." I said, "You have to have a heart to have a heart attack, Nana." His wife had left him years before and his children never visited him. He was a miserable old man who lived by himself and who nobody liked so, when he sat on the toilet that fateful night, never to get off again, I imagine that nobody missed him too much. It was two weeks before anybody bothered to look for him... he was mummified when they found him so, they had to take him and the toilet seat out together, I heard. What a gruesome way to go. It couldn't have happened to a sweeter guy.

I was disappointed, to say the least, and I said to my grandmother... "All these years, all this time, I was staying alive just so I could show that stuttering old bastard that he was wrong and he goes and dies on the toilet. He said I wouldn't make it to 21... well, I guess we see who got the better of that argument, don't we?" She laughed and laughed and slapped her hand on the dining room table. She couldn't believe that I had taken what that man said, nearly a decade ago so seriously. She kept shaking her head and saying, "Boy, you is somethin' else. You look just like your mother when you get angry." We sat for a long time and laughed about the whole thing and she said, "Baby, I wish you had of been here, since you felt so strong about it."

Despite his end, I still carried him around, still thought about him every now and then but, a little less than before. I'm at a point in life now that I'm comfortable with myself and I'm burying all of my old demons. I finally buried Mr. Hubertry yesterday.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

What I've Learned

There is a column in Esquire Magazine called "What I've Learned" where a different celebrity pontificates about life's different lessons and their philosophies on living. I love that column so, I've decided from time to time to do a blog post on my random life lessons. This will run like my "Weekend Update" and my "Saturday Seven" posts.

1. There will be people who hate everything you say or do, regardless, just because you're saying it or doing it. Somebody else can do or say the same thing and it will be alright with these people. You can't waste too much time caring about what these people think. They're called "Haters " for a reason.

2. I've always liked to work, regardless of what it is I am doing. I like the idea of having somewhere to go, something to do, and the interaction with other people. Work always keeps me straight. The few times I was unemployed and idle were the times when I'd go and do something stupid.

3. Barack Obama... the idea of him was not even conceivable to my mother's generation and until this year he was not conceivable to my generation either.

4. I try really hard to entertain people on both of my blogs but most of the time, I realize that I'm just entertaining myself.

5. My Mom had this thing about wearing clean underwear. She always said, "You might get in an accident and have to go to the hospital so, you want to have clean underwear on. I would always say, "Mom, if I'm in an accident, what is the first thing you think is gonna get soiled?"

6. I'd meet a girl and say something totally crazy... it would get me over, it would work, and I'd be amazed. When I handed them a practiced line, it never seemed to work so, I realized that whatever crazy thing it was that I said was genuinely me. Genuinely me always seemed to work better and that went a long way to boosting my self-esteem.

7. The best thing about being over 40 is I've become comfortable in my own skin and more accepting and forgiving of myself. At this rate, I'm gonna be something else when I'm an old man!

8. I think the coolest thing in the world is waking up, going to the computer, and just writing. It's when I feel the most alive.

9. Writing has made me appreciate reading more.

10. I was a GDI for two years of my college career. I laughed at guys who were pledging and I said, "Man this is stupid. You'll never see me out there making a fool out of myself." Then, I saw how all of the girls were going for the guys in the frats so, I changed my mind. Then, I said... "If these guys can make it and I'm tougher and smarter than they are, I know I can do it." So, just like that, I wound up pledging a frat and making it. I was always a little arrogant and cocky as a young man, maybe too much for my own good. Just goes to show, you should never say never.

11. When I was in the Air Force, this white guy used to stand outside of the barracks I was living in and play his guitar most of the night. One night I asked him why he was so happy all the damn time and he told me something that made a lot of sense. He said, "Everyday you're above the ground breathing in and breathing out is a day to celebrate, no matter what happened during the day." Great saying. I never forgot it. I live by that to this day.

12. Sometimes in relationships between men and women, we think and analyze too much. As somebody once said, "We've come this far... let's not ruin everything by thinking."

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Farewell Kiss

Just when I think that life can't get anymore bizarre than it is, it does. It's Sunday night, and I had just finished writing a short story for my other blog, Escapades, called "The Waiter's Wife". I was trying to hurry up because I wanted to see the Dallas Cowboys-New York Giants football game and I didn't want any interruptions. The TV was on but, I wasn't paying much attention to it yet... and then, they interrupt the broadcast with "Breaking News". I'm still just barely paying attention when I see President Bush at some press conference or meeting. Then, I heard a man in the audience yell, "This is a Farewell Kiss, you American Dog!!!" and he threw his shoe at President Bush!!!

I couldn't believe what I was seeing!!! The president has obviously spent sometime around the brothers... (maybe some of the cats on his Secret Service detail) because he weaved that first shoe just as cool as a cucumber... his suit didn't get a wrinkle. (Now, that's gangsta!) Then, if that wasn't enough, the same guy threw his other shoe at the president and screamed, "Die, American Dog!!!" The president bobbed, weaved, and ducked that shoe too. I almost expected him to look at the angry Iraqi and say, "What? What?" You know, get real gangsta with it... but, he's not that cool. That's something I would've done. I might've added, "Who's ya daddy now?" to top it off... but, that kind of bravado might have gotten him pelted with more shoes from more people. After all, he's not me... the Maverick of all Bloggers.

What amazed me is that this guy got two shoes off before the Secret Service (or whoever was in charge of the president's security) got the man to the ground. I'm so glad he wasn't shooting a gun at the president. You have to feel for the shoe throwing man, identified as 28 year old Muntadhar Al Zeidi, a journalist and fellow blogger, believe it or not. This poor man is a Shiite Muslim who was kidnapped last year by Islamic militants and held for a while. He escaped, only to be captured and detained by the U.S. Military, so you have to understand that he is a little pissed now of days. Wouldn't you be if you were he? As expected, Al Zeidi is now a hero in the Muslim world and from what I hear, people have taken to the streets demanding that the young man be freed. I'm sure he will be released shortly. How long can you hold someone for throwing shoes?

This is just one more bizarre thing to happen in an administration that was filled with bizarre and unseemly events. Some tragic... some hilarious... if not for the serious consequences of some of them. I'm going to miss George Bush. Barack Obama, who is already being called "No drama Obama", is just so cool that I can't imagine any of this kind of stuff happening to him. The comedians are gonna miss George Bush too... he just supplied them with so much comedic content. And, this blog will miss him... after all, his mishaps were the subject matter of so many of my early posts, before most of you knew who I was. I was just posting for myself and screaming angrily at the wind in those early days... kinda like throwing my shoes at somebody's head.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Saturday Seven (My 7 Favorite TV Shows Of All Time)

1. The Wire
Simply the finest cop show (that was more than just a cop show) in the history of television.

2. Homicide: Life On The Streets
The second finest and most realistic cop show on TV. Some years later, its writers would create "The Wire".

3. Miami Vice
In the 80's, I didn't go out clubbing until after Sonny Crockett and Rico Tubbs shot up a bunch of drug dealers!

4. Crime Story
Set in 1960's Chicago... this period piece was a cops and robbers melodrama between Lt. Mike Torello and uber gangster, Ray Luca. It kept me in the house on Tuesday nights and later, on Friday nights.

5. Living Single
I followed this series from it's inception to the very end (I don't believe I missed an episode). I loved the idea of young professional African-Americans hanging out in an apartment.

6. Martin
This show was just flat out funny. This was another show in which I'm certain I saw every single episode that ever aired. My friends and I could quote lines from practically every episode.

7. Batman
Some of you are far too young to remember the 1960's series that starred Adam West and Burt Young as the Caped Crusaders, Batman and Robin... but, this was probably the first show that ever compelled me to watch every week and I planned my life around it. I was 8 years old but, somehow I felt a lot safer when I heard Adam West say to Commissioner Gordon on the "bat phone"... "We're on our way commissioner!" I knew that The Joker, The Riddler, The Penguin, Mr. Freeze, and The Cat Woman (she was my favorite villian for reasons I still don't understand) were in a world of trouble.

Honorable Mention:

1. The Sopranos

2. The X-Files

3. Friends

4. Sanford & Son

5. Hawaii Five-O
When somebody in the neighborhood gets arrested, I still say... "Book him, Dano!"

What can I say... I'm a TV addict!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Better Living Through Eating

As I may have stated, I was a tall, skinny guy most of my life. I'm not skinny today because of 19 years of marriage, working, and going to sleep on the couch after eating dinner. Today, I stand at 6'1+1/4"and I weigh 220 lbs. If you had known me as a young man, you probably would have never believed that I would ever reach 200 pounds, let alone pass it. I think when I was 25 years old, I might have weighed 160 pounds and that's stretching it a bit. I always had a voracious appetite and I could eat any three people under the table. I also had a crazy metabolism so, I never gained much weight. It didn't bother me because it was never my goal in life to be Johnny Atlas.

However, I did set goals for myself, with the reward always being to treat myself with some kind of dish. I think the idea came from my fourth grade teacher who told us to always set goals for ourselves... small goals and when we achieved these goals, to reward ourselves. I couldn't reward myself with much in my early years because I didn't have much money, so I guess I rewarded myself with food.

In college, I had a ritual... I would study for a test all week and stay up half the night two days before the big test, drinking coffee and studying. My girlfriend at the time, Shelly (who I've mentioned in previous posts), hated this because it meant that I kept her up too, drinking coffee and studying to the point of giddiness. Then, she would oversleep and either be late for or miss her classes the next day. The day before a big test, usually the finals, I wouldn't study at all. I would sleep late, not go to any classes, put on some Frankie Beverly & Maze, and just chill... sitting in my room sipping on some wine coolers and relaxing. Then, the next day, I would take the big test, ace it, and then give myself a reward. The reward would be a big juicy sirloin steak, baked potato with sour cream, and maybe some creamed spinach. I felt as though I deserved it.

Years later in the military, if we had a successful drill or operation I did the same thing or I celebrated with steak and eggs (three eggs to be exact) for breakfast. The day after I got married, my new bride and I celebrated with a huge pancake breakfast that featured hash browns, sausage, and two eggs. It was okay because the U.S. Air Force was making me run three miles a day and do so many push ups, sit ups, squat thrusts, etc. Plus, I was riding bikes in the afternoon and playing several games of basketball with the guys in my unit. I was in great shape and I was "burning it off", as they say.

When we bought our first house, my wife and I celebrated by ordering Chinese food and sitting on the bare floors of our new house (that had no furniture and echoed because it was so empty) and ate and laughed at our good fortune. I had discovered this new Chinese food dish called "General Tso's Chicken" that I'm still hooked on to this day.

When I got my drivers license, I introduced my driving instructor, who was an Arab named Muhammad, to African-American soul food. I took him to a place in Germantown that I used to frequent and we had smothered pork chops, turnip greens, candied yams, macaroni and cheese, and sweet ice tea. He loved it! He said, "American soul man, you are the greatest!"... a high tribute, indeed.

Some friends of mine used to play the numbers on the street and if one of us hit, that person took all of us to a dive called "Scotty's" in West Philly that served great soul food and we had a couple of cold beers and sodas to wash it down.

Well, years and years of this type of "celebrating" not only slowed my metabolism down but, changed that once skinny, scrawny young man into a contender for the heavyweight championship of the world. I couldn't believe it when the scale said 220 lbs. yesterday! All of which brings me to this conclusion... next year, I'm getting on my exercise bike, going swimming and running, and hopefully in March, I can write a post about how I'm down to 200 lbs... maybe even 190 lbs. That's my goal. I'm going to find a better way to "celebrate" my milestones and it won't be eating.

There was a girl in that same fourth grade class, who lives just a few blocks away from me. She's an undertaker now and I talked to her about our fourth grade teacher, who she laid out when she passed away. I asked her how did she celebrate her milestones. She told me that she bought herself a new pair of shoes. If I had done that, I'd be writing a completely different post, now wouldn't I?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Blog Interrogation

On a lighter note, I've been tagged again... this time, by Kin'Shar over at Kin'Shar's World. She has chosen me as one of her 7 people to participate in a "Blog Interrogation" and the rules are as follows:

* Answer the questions below with only one word.

* Then, pass this along to 7 people so they can do the same.

Questions & (My) Answers:

1. Where is your cell phone? - Nightstand
2. Where is your significant other? - Here
3. What's your hair color? - Black
4. Your mother? - Heaven
5. Your father? - Heaven
6. Your favorite thing? - Driving
7. Your dream last night? - Swimming
8. Your goal? - Happiness
9. The room you're in? - Study
10. Your hobby? - Reading
11. Your fear? - God
12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? - Published
13. Where were you last night? - Home
14. What you're not? - Shallow
15. One of your wish list items? - Laptop
16. Where you grew up? - Philadelphia PA
17. The last thing you did? - Sleep
18. What are you wearing? - Pajamas
19. Your TV? - On
20. Your pet? - None
21. Your computer? - Dell
22. Your mood? - Happy
23. Missing someone? - Parents
24. Your car? - Old
25. Something you're not wearing? - Shoes
26. Favorite store? - IKEA
27. Your summer? - Hot
28. Love someone? - Yes
29. Your favorite color? Aqua
30. When is the last time you laughed? - Today
31. Last time you cried? - ?
32. Are you a b*tch? - No
33. Favorite position? - Missionary
34. Favorite past time? - Blogging
35. Are you a hater or a lover? - Lover
36. Are you genuine or fake? - Genuine
37. Any vices? - Many
38. Pro-life or wire hanger? - N/A
39. McCain or Obama? - Obama
40. Pro-plastic or natural? - Natural
41. Dream job? - Google

Playing it forward:

In turn, I have chosen the following 7 bloggers (blogs) for interrogation:

1. The F%$k it List (The F%$k It List)

2. Thoughts Of A Southern Gal (One Good Reason For Doing The Right Thing Today Is Tomorrow)

3. Blu Jewel (Is It Just Me?)

4. Rich (The Rich House)

5. Shorty (Securityville)

6. Damn She Pretty (1) (Run Tell Dat! The Bi-Polar Chronicles Of Ms. D.S.P.)

7. Dione (My Evolution)

Smile Have fun y'all!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Excuse Me, Didn't You Used To Be America?

"This used to be a hell of a good country and I can't understand what's gone wrong with it?" - Dennis Hopper to Peter Fonda and Jack Nicholson in the movie "Easy Rider" (1969).

America, despite all of it's problems and shortcomings used to work. I mean, we used to make things here in America. We made big cars and we manufactured televisions and major appliances. Our business model was the blueprint that the other nations of the world copied. If we look past the racial and gender intolerance of the last century and just look at America, it worked. Even when the economy went into the toilet in the 1930's, it righted itself in a few years. After World War II, 1950's America emerged lean, mean, and strong... like a fast new Cadillac rolling off an assembly line in Detroit. America moved man... brrrooom... brrrrooom!

What happened America? How did we, as a nation, come to this? Most of our banks and financial institutions were in hock to foreign interests in the first place and now as one bank after another collapses, we are about to take the entire world down the toilet with us. Again, I ask... What happened?

Germany and Japan makes better cars than we do (or at least enough people think they do)... so much so that BMW, Toyota, Nissan, etc. are all doing well while Ford, Chrysler, and General Motors, once believed to be "recession proof", have come to Washington, DC (in hybrid cars, no doubt) with hat in hand, asking for the same bailout that the government gave the financial institutions.

Of course, you know they have to do it... because so many jobs are generated by the auto industry and so many other jobs feed off of it that, not bailing them out could cause an economic catastrophe. If you remember, a few months ago, I said the exact same thing about the financial institutions.

What happened America? You used to work. You used to be the "big boss man". Everybody on the world block used to get out of your way when you came running down the street. Now, they
just turn their heads and snicker.

Now, we are borrowing money from China to fund two wars that we are fighting simultaneously. This is what you get when a frat boy who only wanted to play baseball but, is a great guy to
have a beer with, becomes the leader of the free world. Yeah, I know... I know. He's almost outta here and why should you kick a man when he's down but, damn! What happened to America? We used to make things here? Now, all we make is debt! This used to be a hell of a good country and I just can't understand what's gone wrong with it.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

"The One"

My uncle used to tell me to never ask a woman about the men in her past or her past in general because they would possibly lie to you (and you still wouldn't know) or worse... they might tell you something that you would rather not know. For the most part, most of the women I dated usually wound up telling me their life stories after a few dates anyway and long phone calls after midnight into the wee hours of the morning. (Does anybody even do that anymore?)

Now, from reading this blog, you know that I have had a few stories to tell myself. Mostly humorous stories about the comic opera and melodrama that was my life but, nothing that really cut to the surface of who I really was (or am). For years, I was good at that... wearing a mask and hiding who I really was to a lot of women. The reason for that is because I wasn't sure if this woman or that woman was "the one" and until I was sure, I wasn't going to lay it all out there. No, I just wasn't gonna put myself out there like that.

I remember watching "A Bronx Tale" with Robert DeNiro (or Bobby D., as I call him), in which he was telling his son that when he meets the woman who gets in the car and opens his side of the car for him when he's getting in, he will have met one of the "great ones" and that she would be the keeper. I watched that scene and a light bulb went off in my head... yeah, that's right.

My father nor my uncle told me nothing to compare to that but, I had in my mind all along what to look for when one of the "great ones" came along. Now mind you, I've dated bi-curious women, ex-strippers, women who would have been better off stripping or doing something other than stepping into my world, and Beyonce wannabe's, twenty-three years ahead of the actual emergence of the genuine article. (Chew on that for a minute 'cause I just confused the hell out of myself but, I think I know what I meant... high maintenance types.)

My "great one" moment came on the first date I had with Rosalyn... and like a lot of good things in my life, I didn't even know it when I had found it. I met her, made a date to go out with her, and promptly forgot I was supposed to take her out. I don't think I had seen her for about a week after we agreed to go out so, when she called on that Saturday, I wasn't dressed, wasn't prepared, or nothing. My father was over and he took the call. When I came walking in, all sweaty from playing basketball that afternoon he said, "Were you supposed to be going out with somebody tonight?" First, I shook my head "no" and then, it hit me..."Oh Lord, I forgot!" (There's that calling God thing again.) He laughed and said, "She called you... now, that's a keeper. See, anybody else would have let you forget the date and been on your back about how you stood them up, especially since you haven't called her all week." I scratched my head and wondered how he even knew that.

Well, I immediately called her and just told the truth... that I had forgot and I would still take her out but, I was going to be late. She said that it was okay and she would wait. I had to shave, shower, and press my clothes. (Does anybody still do that?) Then, I had to get on the bus (I didn't have a car then) and catch a trolley to her apartment. She was waiting, just like she said, and she didn't give me a hard time about it either. I definitely wasn't used to that.

We went to a very tony Japanese restaurant downtown that I picked and it was way out of my league. (I would be taking my lunch to work all next week, I thought.) It was there that she said something that sealed the deal for me... "Are you sure you can afford this because I can help out with the bill, if you need me to?" Now, this was totally foreign to me... I just wasn't used to this from anyone and that was my "great one" moment.

This happened years before "A Bronx Tale" was even released but, that was when I knew that I had met the woman I was going to marry. It was never going to get any better than this, I reasoned and, for once, I was right. The rest is, as they say, history. A lifetime later and she's still offering to help me pay when we go someplace that I just have to go to but, is way out of my league.

Today, people need to know your credit score. (I mean come on, do you really? If you're on the verge of bankruptcy, I might want to know that but, I don't really need to know your credit score.) They also need to know if you have or ever had a sexually transmitted disease (now, that is important). They even need to know if you've had any stalkers or other crazy men/women in your life (again, that is important) before they can even think about having that "great one" moment... when the person you're dating becomes something more and evolves into... the one.

While all of that is very important in a new millennium kind of way, hopeless romantic that I am, I would still be looking for that part of a person's soul, a part of that person's personality that could gel with mine in that unexplainable moment that you only know when it's happening. Some people call it magic. I do know this... credit scores, stalkers, and STDs have little or nothing to do with it.

(This is for Don, one of the baddest bloggers in the game, who's missing right now. If you're out there somewhere, holla back at a brother 'cause you would've written this better!)

Monday, December 8, 2008

Bluetoothin' It

Early yesterday morning, I was out driving. There is something solitary about driving early on a Sunday morning when there aren't many cars on the road. I like to do this in the summer when it's warm so I can have the windows down and feel the warm breeze blow against my face. Today, it's like 30 degrees outside so, the windows were up and the heater was on!

I came to an intersection where I saw a familiar vehicle with a "1908-Alpha Kappa Alpha" license plate on it. I looked over and I immediately recognized the young woman whose mouth was moving a mile a minute but, with no cell phone in site! It was "Babs", a woman I used to work with, who was now working in the private sector.

I rolled my window down when we reached the red light and waved. She waved back to me and said, "Oh, Hi Keith! It's Keith, you know him... Kappa Keith, who I introduced you to at Philly's Men Are Cooking two years ago. Yeah, that one... Keith, my soror says Hi!" I said, "Tell her I said "Hi" too!" (whoever she was). Then, it occurred to me that she was wearing a Bluetooth. This enabled her to talk and drive at the same time, while keeping both hands on the wheel. She was having a conversation with her girlfriend and with me while driving on a four length highway. Insane isn't it? I pointed to the green light and waved, saying that I would talk to her later, and kept it moving.

For those who don't know, "Philly's Men Are Cooking" is an annual event that Alpha Kappa Alpha sponsors every year in which the men cook all of the dishes and showcase them for prizes. A lot of networking goes on at these events too. There is great food prepared by brothers who really know how to throw down in the kitchen and the $50.00 entry fee goes to the United Negro College Fund, United Way, and other charitable organizations. It's a great event.

Moving on... I continued driving along Lincoln Drive's snake curves at a reasonable speed, when I notice a Silver SUV darting in and out of the lanes with ease and hitting the corner of Lincoln Drive and Johnson Streets as easy as I hit it. We climbed up the hill and when I get to Germantown Avenue, I pulled along side of the car. Once again, it was a woman with a Bluetooth talking and driving and also a woman that I know. She works in my dentist's office. She rolls the window down and says to me, "Hey, Keith! What are you doing in these parts?" I replied, "I'm headed out to the Trolley Stop Diner in Chestnut Hill." She then says, "Hold on a minute, Keith. If you don't have those clothes off that floor and in the hamper when I get home you are as good as dead. Do you hear me? Dead. Oh, I'm sorry Keith... I was talking to my son. You know, we haven't seen you at the office lately and you're way over due for a cleaning." I didn't answer her... I just pointed at the light, which was green, waved, and pulled off.

On my way to the diner, all this talking and driving was un-nerving to me... as un-nerving as going to the dentist's office. Nothing was hurting in my mouth so, as far as I'm concerned, I don't need to go to the dentist. I noticed as I headed down Germantown Avenue that it was cold in my car and then realized that I never put the window back up. Here these women can hold a conversation with whoever they were talking to on the phone, hold a conversation with me, and drive... while I couldn't remember to pull my window up and I had no distractions. Talk about multi-tasking! I guess women are just better suited for that type of thing.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Weekend Update

Celebrating 50 Years!

Saturday evening, my friend, Larry, celebrated his 50th year "Las Vegas" style at a birthday party put together for him by his wife, Michelle. Highlights of the evening:

1. We were all told upon arrival, if we didn't put $ 100.00 in our birthday cards for Larry, we would have to perform a karaoke song. Of course, everyone just laughed this off but, there were two takers... his wife performed "Dreaming" by Vanessa Williams and my wife performed "Walk On By" by Dionne Warwick.

2. In true Las Vegas style, there was a Black Jack table set up for all of the "high rollers" in the house, complete with a house dealer, cards, chips, and everything. I'm not much of a gambler myself so, I just watched and learned. (No money involved... it was all in fun!)

3. There was an "open bar"... nuff said but, you'll be happy to know that everyone behaved themselves-lol!

4. The menu was "all that", consisting of greens, string beans, wild rice, potato salad, macaroni & cheese, baked chicken, fried chicken, fried fish, cornbread, and of course... the birthday cake!

5. We had an excellent DJ who kept us up on the dance floor with the 15,000 tracks he had loaded into his computer. (OMG!) I had a quick conversation with him about the technology he was using and I GUESS it made sense in this setting... he probably couldn't carry 15,000 records or CDs-lol!

6. We got a chance to see and learn the latest line dance called the "Cuban Linx".

7. Larry's celebritory dance... he was dancing while surrounded by every women in the place and they were dancing in a circle around him (and yes, his wife was among them) -lol!

Hey, how 'bout that? Exactly seven things. This could have been my Saturday 7 post too-lol! Anyway, here are some of the photos:

(l-r) Larry-the birthday boy, Chris, Fred, Miguel, and Me!

Fred, after spending some time at the Black Jack table.

Anthony & Monica

Me and my wife, Rosalyn

Everybody doing a little bit of everything!
(for a better view, click on the photo grid to enlarge it)

A great time was had by all!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Happy Holiday Tips

As the holidays begin, I wanted to pass these tips along to you. Enjoy the spirit of the festivities.

1. Avoid carrot sticks. Anyone who puts carrots on a holiday buffet table knows nothing of the Christmas spirit. In fact, if you see carrots, leave immediately. Go next door, where they're serving rum balls.

2. Drink as much eggnog as you can and quickly. It's rare... you cannot find it any other time of year but now so, drink up! Who cares that it has 10,000 calories in every sip? It's not as if you're going to turn into an eggnog-alcoholic or something. It's a treat. Enjoy it. Have one for me. Have two. It's later than you think. It's Christmas!

3. If something comes with gravy, use it. That's the whole point of gravy. Gravy does not stand alone. Pour it on. Make a volcano out of your mashed potatoes. Fill it with gravy. Eat the volcano. Repeat.

4. As for mashed potatoes, always ask if they're made with skim milk or whole milk. If it's skim, pass. Why bother? It's like buying a sports car with an automatic transmission.

5. Do not have a snack before going to a party in an effort to control your eating. The whole point of going to a Christmas party is to eat other people's food for free. Lots of it. Hello?

6. Under no circumstances should you exercise between now and New Year's. You can do that in January when you have nothing else to do. This is the time for long naps, which you'll need after circling the buffet table while carrying a 10-pound plate of food and that vat of eggnog.

7. If you come across something really good at a buffet table, like frosted Christmas cookies or pralines in the shape and size of Santa, position yourself near them and don't budge. Have as many as you can before becoming the center of attention. They're like a beautiful pair of shoes. If you leave them behind, you're never going to see them again.

8. Same for pies... apple, pumpkin, mincemeat. Have a slice of each or, if you don't like mincemeat, have two apples and one pumpkin. Always have three. When else do you get to have more than one dessert? Labor Day?

9. Did someone mention fruitcake? Granted, it's loaded with the mandatory celebratory calories, but, avoid it at all cost. I mean, have some standards.

10. One final tip: If you don't feel terrible when you leave the party or get up from the table, you haven't been paying attention. Re-read the tips and start over but hurry... January is just around the corner. Remember this motto to live by... "Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well-preserved body; but rather, skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and screaming "WOO-HOO what a ride!"

Have a great, wonderful, and tremendously blessed holiday season.

Brought to you by the Maverick of all Bloggers!

Friday, December 5, 2008

The Piano

Did you ever have a friend or know a guy who is always into something? Sometimes, something good... sometimes, something not so good? Eddie C. was one such guy. We met when we were both in the ninth grade and I often wondered why he bothered to come to school at all since he was only there long enough to be counted present in homeroom. Then, he was "ghost" as they say. Surprisingly enough, this guy graduated from high school and even did two years of college somewhere... that is an unsolved mystery even the late Robert Stack would be hard pressed to solve.

I think it was my sophomore year of college. I was home for a few weeks before the summer session began. I always did that... I'd come home for about a month and go right back for summer classes. Summer at my college was fun and almost all of the black students took summer classes. There were pool parties and you got to meet a lot of the new freshmen girls who were taking early admit classes. It was great. My mother didn't protest because at least I was off the streets of Philadelphia for the summer. She could rest easy with me away in "cow country", as I jokingly called Central Pennsylvania.

I had four weeks to kill and I ran into Eddie C., who was himself going to Community College of Philadelphia. The first thing he said when he saw me was, "Hey Cool (he called everybody "Cool"), you wanna make some short money? I got a couple of jobs you can help me with... You down?" When Eddie C. said he had jobs, that's exactly what he meant... work. He was good about hooking his friends up with money if he was on to something. You had to love him... and, he always knew somebody that needed something done and was willing to pay to have it done. I only had four weeks to kill and that was not enough time to get a straight job so, what the heck, I was down with Eddie C.

The first job we had was painting a house for this old man... the entire house. We painted the walls and ceilings in every room of this two-story house in Southwest Philly and he paid us $ 500.00. We split it down the middle, $250.00 a piece. At the time, that was a nice sum for two 19 year old boys. The next job we got involved in was moving furniture out of a home in West Philly. The couple was divorcing and they took verbal snipes at each other the entire time we were moving their furniture out of the house. We got about $ 300.00 a piece for the job and it wasn't nearly enough money for what we had to go through with those two arguing constantly.

I was keeping all of my money in a shoebox under my bed because I was going back to college "fat". I thought this would pay for my activity fee, a few books, a refrigerator rental, and some food for the fridge. I needed one more payday and I'd be straight but, I should have quit when I was ahead.

Eddie knew some people in this "church" up in North Philadelphia who needed a piano moved. I was 6'1" and about 150-160 pounds soaking wet. He was about the same height and weighed even less than I did... definitely not the muscular moving type but, I figured Eddie would have at least one other guy on this job to help out. He did. On the day we got in his car to drive to the "church", the other guy didn't show up (he had gotten locked up the night before). So, the two of us went to the "church".

If you're black, you know that we black folks can make a "church" out of anything. This "church" was three stories high and it had what my grandfather called a "wire room" (bar and gambling establishment) on the third floor. That's where the piano was and the "church" wanted it moved to the first floor where they were. I didn't even believe that this place was a "church". I didn't see a sanctuary, no Bibles, nothing that even resembled holiness, and I didn't see preacher once while I was there. This place was closer to a "den of iniquity" than a "church"... but, if that's what they wanted to call it, so be it. Who was I to challenge them? I just wanted my short money.

When we got there, from the door things went wrong. There was this big fat, greasy, twenty-seven sandwich eating guy (as Eddie Murphy would say) sitting there in the foyer, eating a sausage sandwich with a big old nasty perm in his hair and a nasty disposition to boot. You would have thought that he would help us but, it was evident that the only thing he was going to do was to stuff his face with more food. He looked a hot mess and he wasn't too impressed with me and Eddie either.

"Y'all the nuccas they hired to move that piano? She-e-e-t, y'all don't look like y'all could move a fly." he snarled. "Yeah, well you could move your share if you'd close your mouth." I said under my breath. He heard me and he looked right at me and said, "Got somethin' to say, nigga?" I smiled my most angelic smile and said, "Nah man, nothin' at all." "That's whut ah thought." he snapped. "Fat ass!" I said again, under my breath. He heard that too. He stood up like he was going to do something and I backed away a little bit, looking either to run or find something to crack him with but, Eddie C. diffused the situation... "Come on Cool, we got work to do. Let's do it. We ain't got no beef with you. You ain't got nothin' to do with this brother." he said to Fat and Greasy. "Well, do it then." said the fat man. "Who died and made him the boss?" I said, not caring if he heard me this time. "He ain't. Don't mind him. Just come on." said Eddie C.

Eddie C. moved me along and we went up the steps and got the piano. It was heavy... as heavy as fat and greasy downstairs. I was in front, easing it down the steps as Eddie took the back. When we got to the second landing, this really cute girl walked into the hallway. She was fine but, that piano was heavy. Eddie seemingly forgot that most of the weight was on me. He began rapping... "Looka here, looka here. What's happening, slimmy!" he said, smiling like a lit Christmas tree. She was one of those cool North Philly girls I'd heard about... she wasn't havin' it but, he kept talking. The piano was weighing me down and I was starting to slide. Finally, I yelled out... "Eddie, for God's sake, please... come on now! I can't hold this thing by myself. Come on!"

Eddie told me to hold on and swing around and he would switch places with me. I held on to my side and eased over as he attempted to switch over to my side but then, tragedy struck. One of the back legs snapped off! The piano sagged. Yeah, it was an "Oh, (fill in the blank) " moment. The girl cracked up. Eddie smiled at her and said, "Don't worry about it. Move out the way. We can crazy glue it when we get it down, they won't know." I said, "Man, are you crazy? That's the leg to the piano!" He said, "Don't worry about it. Just hold on." But, Eddie in the front was worse than me in the front. He was busy smiling at the girl and trying to ease the piano down the steps while I was trying to hold on (for life) and that piano got away from us. It rolled down the steps, flipped over on the side, the other two legs snapped off, and what was left of it rolled right into the front office with a thud and a crash.

Eddie's eyes and my eyes got as large as saucers. The girl started laughing and said, "You niggas is drawn." What she should have said is, we were doomed. For the first time ever, the supremely confident Eddie C. looked afraid... like he had seen the future. "Oh my God! Oh my God! Ohhhhhh Jesus! Keith, run!" (Why does everyone call Jesus when they get in trouble but, can't call him when things are good? He'd love to hear from you during the good times too.) I had the nerve to say, "Huh?" Eddie wasn't exactly a "church" goin' brother so, if he was calling the Lord's name, there was a good reason... like we might be gettin' ready to meet him. Soon.

Eddie took off up the steps and it didn't take me long to see why. Fat and Greasy came tearing up the steps after us and he didn't look like he wanted to give us a summer bonus. I ran behind Eddie. I didn't know the building or the neighborhood so, I followed him down the hallway and into a room at the end of the hall. This fool jumped out the window. I thought about turning around trying to fight this guy but, thought better of it. He would have killed me so, I followed Eddie out of the window too! Fortunately, it wasn't much of a drop... there was a porch roof right under the window. (Thank God!) We ran to the end and down the black collapsible stairwell into the back alley. Fat and greasy wasn't slow at all... he must've turned and ran back down the steps because he bolted into the back alley, slipped in the mud and garbage, and fell flat on his fat face as we ran past him and out into the street. We ran to Eddie's car, got in, and pulled off just as he got himself up and was coming out of the alley. My last vision of Fat and Greasy was of him standing on the corner with his tongue hanging out, breathing heavy.

When we got back to West Philly, Eddie went in his pockets and handed me $ 200.00. I looked at him and asked, "What is this?" He was still a little out of breath and he said, "That's your cut, they paid me before we did the job." I looked at him and said, "They're gonna want their money back. We destroyed that piano, man!" He laughed and said, "Yeah, I know. I'm gonna stay at my cousin's house in Chester until school starts in September and you're going back upstate (to college) in a week, right? So, they ain't never gonna see either one of us again!" He laughed... I looked at him... and then, I laughed too. We both laughed good and hard... especially about that Fat and Greasy guy with the perm trying to catch us. "He looked like an overweight Little Richard," laughed Eddie C. We laughed so hard, our ribs were hurting.

Eddie C. was a good guy. Today he's married, has two sons, and works for the Board of Education. He's a youth counselor in his spare time. Whenever I see him, he still talks about that summer many years ago when we destroyed that piano. It's even funnier when he tells it. My man, Eddie C. I told you I was gonna write about you on my blog. This one's for you!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Plaxico's Blues

Let me say this... I do not in any way begrudge professional athletes their multi-million dollar salaries. I would be a hypocrite if I did because I would trade places with them on any day of the week, if I could, and so would most people, if they are honest. I'm a big sports fan... I love football and basketball. Here of late, collecting jerseys of my favorite players has become my thing (like Nike sneakers were back in the day).

I don't begrudge them. Actually, I kind of envy them. You see, the majority of people have jobs that they absolutely hate. Some people have to pray or have a drink before they go to work everyday, just to get through the day. These people don't make a quarter of what the average professional athlete gets for one game, let alone a superstar. These people go to their jobs everyday, some dress a certain way, and follow rules and regulations that they think are stupid yet, they follow them anyway because they need that short money they are getting at the end of a week or two weeks.

They need that money because they gotta have a place to lay their head at night, eat every once in awhile, buy that new Beyonce CD or pay for the downloads, see a movie, and buy some clothes every now and then. The point is they get paid far less to do something that, if they had another choice, they probably wouldn't do. It must be great to get paid to do something that you love to do... something you would do for free. Michael Jordan said as much. He said that he loved the game of basketball so much that he would have played for free if they weren't paying him and I believe it.

And, this is where I have a problem... let's say you're Plaxico Burress, you're a wide receiver for the Super Bowl Champion New York Giants, you're making more money this year than you can spend in a lifetime, and your team is in first place. There are kids on some street corner or some field in a small town who would kill to be in your shoes and you've just thrown your blessing away. I have a problem with people who do that... I really do.

Only a few people born in this world are going to be blessed with the opportunity to get paid millions of dollars to do something that they love. You got two blessings right there... a job you love to do and crazy loot to do it. The least you could do, if you are that fortunate, is to make the best of such a great opportunity. There are people who come to see you and spend a quarter of their earnings just to get a good seat and not to mention, eat something and drink a beer too... and you go into a club with a gun that is not registered (I guess the law only applies to those fans and other people, not you), that you obviously don't know how to use (If you knew how to use it, you'd know that the safety should be on at all times when not in use.) and shoot yourself in the thigh!

I'll admit, I laughed about this for days when I heard about it but, I've stopped laughing now because it's not funny. It's sad. This guy is in the hospital. He is facing criminal charges and ironically enough, the only person he hurt was himself. And now, there's a possibility that his pro football career is down the toilet. Somewhere, Michael Vick is shaking his head and saying, "Man, I now how you feel."

I don't know what your major was in college Plax but, I surely hope it's something you can make a decent living at, if you should have to spend the mandatory "three years in the slammer" that the mayor of the city you play for is recommending. Ahhh, how soon they forget, huh Plax?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

What Happened To Our Freedom Of Choice?

I knew that we were in trouble the day I went to the record store (oh, excuse me… I mean music or multi-media store, as it is called today) and I was told that I could no longer buy a record (which, at the time, was my format of choice) and I HAD to buy a CD. I personally love CDs now but, the rebel in me back then just didn't like being told what I HAD to do.

I started buying records as a child with my allowance money. Every Saturday, I got my $ 3.00 a week (don’t laugh, that was a lot of money back then) after doing my chores and headed straight for the neighborhood record store. (Remember those?) I was in the 6th grade when I bought my first two 45 rpms (Remember those?)… “I Want You Back” by the Jackson Five and “Psychedelic Shack” by the Temptations.

When I finished school and started working, the first thing I bought on lay-a-way (Remember that?) with my first couple of paychecks was a stereo system. I was making my own money so, I could then afford to buy full-length albums at will. It was nothing for me to drop $ 75.00 - $ 80.00 bi-weekly in a record store and come home with a bag full of albums and 12 inch singles. (Remember those?) Music was my passion so, from childhood to adulthood, I established quite an extensive record collection. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that I was buying cassette tapes throughout these years too. For some reason, I never cared too much for 8-track tapes (Remember those?) so, I only bought about 4 of them when I was in junior high school and I couldn’t tell you whatever became of them.

So, there I was… standing in front of shelves and shelves of records in my house and calculating all of the money I had invested in them since the 6th grade and I was ANGRY! At the time, the fact that CDs sounded a lot better offered little comfort. I guess what bothered me most about the transition to CDs is the fact that I never quite understood why they had to do away with records. I argued that there was no reason why both formats couldn't co-exist at the same time so that individual consumers could "choose" which one they wanted to buy because it was their money.

Well, here we are years later and this scenario has repeated itself many times over with cassettes (audio and video), lazer discs (Did anybody buy those?), mini discs (although, I’ve heard that these sell like crazy over in the UK but, they just never caught on over here for some reason), and look out DVDs 'cause here come Blue Rays! So now, after I have invested much time and money replacing my records with CDs, it looks like they are on the verge of being replaced by MP3s and downloaded music. (I do have an MP3 player.) At this point, I guess I don’t have to tell you that I feel like somebody owes me some money and I’m about ready to kill that somebody!

Then, there’s all the different changes over the past 20-25 years in the equipment that you need to stay current, just so you can play your music. I remember when guys, in particular, took great pride in building their stereo systems piece by piece. Girls usually bought something called "component sets" (Remember those?), which were much like the all-in-one type systems they sell today... and, I must admit, they do sound much better now. But, trust me... if you were a guy back in the day, you wouldn't want to be caught dead with one of those systems-lol! (Remember?) However, I did understand at the time that, in most cases, girls preferred component sets because they were less complicated and more affordable. Somtimes, guys "went for broke" trying to build their stereo systems but, we felt we had a standard to maintain when it came to the "sound" of our music.

Even radio has changed. Now, there’s satellite radio... which is great but, I'm still trying to decide if I like not knowing the name of the song and artist that is playing because, at times, they are no DJs. And, in 2009, TV as we know it will change forever. The worst case scenario... some people will have to go out (if they haven't already) and get themselves a converter or their TV will become a worthless box, just taking up space. In most cases, the people who have TVs that will need a converter were not warned about this conversion when they bought it but, who cares about that, right? And, while we're on the subject of TVs, who decided that I need to hang it on the wall? Maybe I do... maybe I don't... but, I want to make that decision. (One day, I know that I'll probably wind up getting one of these too.)

I deliberately tried to be humorous and have some fun with this post but, seriously, I am beginning to feel frustrated with all of this because the “powers that be” forgot to factor in one little thing regarding all these advances in technology. The average person’s paycheck is NOT keeping up with all of these changes so, they might just outsmart themselves because I predict that some of this stuff is going to start sitting on store shelves collecting dust very soon. Once upon a time, you only had to buy something if you never had it to begin with and you only needed to replace something when you lost it or it stopped working. (Remember those days?) Apparently, somebody decided that forcing consumers into "repetative buying" was the better way to go.

You might find this hard to believe but, I felt that we were destined for a collapse in our economy just from all of the changes in technology alone... and, long before we were hit with this economic crisis caused by the Bush administration. If people aren’t working and getting paid enough money to buy all of these new things, they can invent whatever they want but, there will come a time when no one will be able to buy it. As the current economic crisis looms over us and most people are watching their pennies more than ever before and making conscious decisions to spend only when needed, I often think back to how I felt when I was standing in the music store and could no longer buy a record.

We have all kinds of people in the world who need to feel included… young, old, rich, strugglin', poor, etc. This also means that there are a lot of different "comfort zones" out there that need to be considered and respected. The “powers that be” have quietly eliminated our freedom to choose what is best for ourselves as individuals and we are literally being “told” and “forced” into just about everything now. I'm still trying to figure out why my cell phone really needs to take pictures if I'm also expected to buy a digital camera? (Yes, I have these too.) I actually saw a commercial on TV the other night for some type of phone that can track the location of all the contacts in the phone. Now, that is down right scary! Maybe I don't want you to know where I am! My life experience tells me that such an existence is in fact a “dictatorship” so, I feel that our so-called “freedom” is being threatened more and more with each passing day (and, I don’t necessarily mean by terrorists).

The advances in technology regarding music and its equipment is just one simple scenario that I’m using to paint a larger picture. Just think… if all of the different formats of music were still out there and you only had $ 3.00 to spend on music after paying all of your bills and getting other necessities, wouldn’t it be nice to at least have the option of going to the music store and getting a record, if that’s all you could afford? Not to mention, some of the music that is being released today is only worth the $ 3.00 you would pay for a record. And, if God blessed you to reach the ripe old age of 80 years, why should you be forced to learn how to download music and/or use an MP3 player? Let them enjoy their remaining years playing records, tapes, or whatever floats their boat... they've earned it! My mother-in-law still has records that are 78's (And, believe me, I'll understand if you don't remember those!) and hasn't been able to play them for years because that speed was eliminated from turntables a long time ago and now, turntables themselves are practically extinct. I've heard that there are still a few die-hard DJs who continue to use them for "scratching". (Remember that?)

Don't get me wrong... advances in technology are great and that is exactly what we are supposed to do... ADVANCE (unlike the image you see above that I used strictly for comic relief). I am in no way suggesting that we live in the past or stand still and not progress. However, I do want to go back to the days when "I" decide what I need based on who I am, what I like, and what I can afford. I don't feel that anyone has the right to make-up my mind for me when I'm spending my hard-earned money. Some of the things that are being replaced now days are being "eliminated" unnecessarily because of nothing more than just plain ol' GREED. Well, when they start paying me more money to afford these new things or offering refunds for what they deem as being "obsolete" (Don'tcha just hate that word?), then they can tell me what to buy!


"Mommy, can I go to Timmy's blog and play?"

Click on image to enlarge for reading

Click on image to enlarge for reading

Click on image to enlarge for reading