Thursday, April 30, 2009

Pandemic Paranoia


Like many of you, I have been hearing about the "Swine Flu" epidemic that is spreading around the world. I'll be the first to admit that I don't know much about it. I have learned that some of the symptoms are high fever, body aches, and fatigue... just like the regular flu. I have heard that Americans are being told not to travel to Mexico right now because that is where the "Swine Flu" seems to be hitting the hardest. I even heard someone on the news say that you should avoid anyone who has traveled to Mexico recently.

How are you supposed to know who has traveled to Mexico recently? Are you going to be introduced to someone and ask them if they've been to Mexico recently? "Hey, why are you so interested in going to Taco Bell all of a sudden? You got swine flu, man? Could that conversation conceivably happen in the near future? Hmmmmm!

President Obama has said that the strain in the United States isn't that bad, even though the first U.S. death from it was reported yesterday. I'm not overly concerned about getting it but, maybe I should be. I just have too many other things to worry about right now. (Famous last words, right?)

I work on the 7th Floor of a 17-floor building. On the first floor is the "Student Healthcare Facility", which is just a nice euphemism for "The Clinic". A lot of the patients have discovered that they have Herpes and they go there to get Valtrex. It's a running joke amongst folk in my building. Now, that isn't all that they go there for but, it's the thing that gets people giggling when we see some guy getting on the elevator (usually looking down at the floor) and his angry girlfriend (or, at least, his last sexual partner) is usually giving him the side-eye and stomping her foot (with her arms folded), as they hurriedly rush off the elevator at the first floor.

Here of late, more than a few people have gotten on the elevator sweating and coughing. This has caused a lot of folks (myself included) to back up in the elevator... thus, making the poor sick person feel like a leper. Could they have the dreaded swine flu? What happened to the days when we thought the sick student might have HIV or another STD?

Today, a couple of people had on hospital masks in the elevator. I got on and, at first, I thought I was on the elevator with a group of surgeons. As soon as we passed the mezzanine and first floors, these people took their masks off. I smiled to myself and thought, "Have we gotten that paranoid? Should I be a little more conscious myself? Are these people overreacting? Shouldn't they move the "health facility" (clinic) to another building? All are questions that I will be pondering, but honestly can't answer one way or another!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Switch, Then Bait


He read my post yesterday and realized that he could no longer be aligned with these out of touch individuals. (He'll never publicly admit to that but, in his mind, you know he's thinking it!)

Veteran Republican Senator Arlen Specter disclosed his plans yesterday to switch parties, bringing the Democrats closer to the 60-vote super majority they need to push President Obama's agenda through the Senate. At a news conference on Tuesday afternoon, Specter said... "This is a painful decision. I know that I'm disappointing a lot of my friends and colleagues. The disappointment runs in both directions."

Yeah, I'll bet it does. Did I mention that Arlen Specter is from my home state of Pennsylvania? I probably didn't. I also never mentioned that over the years, he has been the only Republican politician in this state that I've actually liked. I didn't mention it but, it's true. I respected Senator Specter even before he chose to do this. He has always been an independent thinker who voted his conscience and not just a knee-jerk politico who went with the party line... even when he knew in his heart that he didn't believe in what the party was selling. This is a quality that would be good for both Democrats and Republicans.

Senater Specter would give Democrats and their allies at least 59 senate seats. One vacancy remains from the state of Minnesota, where Democrat Al Franken holds a narrow lead in a race being disputed in courts. (Can you believe that five months after the election, they are still counting the votes in that race???)

American politics remains stranger than fiction!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Budget Zero


The week before last, I wrote a post called "Tea Anyone?" I was discussing the rash of anti-tax "tea parties" that were supposedly a "grass roots" populist movement but, it looked more to me like the remnants of the Republican National Convention last year. I thought that a so-called grass roots movement was supposed to be inclusive of a wide range of the nation's populace? These "tea parties" were so lily white and bordered so dangerously close to being Klan rallies that fellow blogger and Philadelphian, The Field Negro, and I were wagering on if we could find one token black in the crowd (kinda like a "Where's Waldo" type of thing)... only our game was called "Where's the Negro?"

Even more disturbing about the tea parties was that Republican National Party Chairman Michael Steele wanted to speak at one of these events and was not so politely told "Thanks, but no thanks." That was the first time I ever heard of an RNC guy not being allowed to speak at a Republican Party rally. But, oh... that's right... this was not a Republican Party rally. It was a grass roots, populist movement kinda thing. Right! No Blacks, no Native Americans, no Hispanics, and no Asians. If there were any gay people there, they were closeted. Okayyyyy! I seriously digress... but, I just wanted to get that off of my chest.

I asked if there was an alternative budget, did I not? In late March (a few days before my birthday), House Minority Leader John Boehner called a press conference to announce that there was indeed an 18-page alternative budget. He said he was tired of the Democrats referring to the Republicans as the party of "No" and especially tired of one "Maverick of all Bloggers" calling them out on a daily basis. (Okay, he might not have said that in public but, in private, he was thinking it!)

This document entered Capital Hill lore as one of the most preposterous things a politician has ever handed to a reporter on the hill with a straight face. This was intended to blindly oppose every Obama Administration initiative - without a real plan. Boehner said, "This President has said that we haven't seen a budget yet out of the Republicans. Well, that's not true because here it is Mr. President."

(Crickets!)

I'm serious here... all jokes aside. The 18-page pamphlet contained almost nothing of substance. The actual text included no specifics or numbers at all. It said things like "Republicans would fully fund our ongoing commitments overseas while devoting the entirety of any savings from reduced fighting to deficit reduction." One observer said that this was akin to war plans that simply said "Send ships, land troops, kill the enemy." Not only that, it looked like it had been written by a college student who was trying desperately to meet a professor's requirement of 20 pages by double spacing (not that yours truly would have ever done something like that in college himself). When a reporter asked for details, he was told that "this is a blueprint for where we are going. Are you asking for some other document?" My question is "Are you serious Mr. Boehner?" He's a holdover from the Bush Administration. Can't you tell?

We are in the middle of a deep financial crisis caused by greedy rich people, right? Within this 20-page document, there was talk of eliminating the estate tax and the flat tax of 25% on income above $100,000. In other words, two massive tax cuts for rich people. Again, I ask... "Are you guys serious? Does your head hurt just a little bit when you propose this?"

In closing, I seriously have to question whether these guys are sane or whether they think that the American people are that stupid, still? I thought that Sarah Palin might not have been the brightest bulb in the light socket but, here is Minnesota Representative, Michele Bachmann, who might win the 2009 award for dumbest person to ever sit in the House of Representatives for proposing within that same budget that we make the U.S. Dollar the "official U.S. currency forever and ever" (exact quote). Excuse me but, isn't it? Hasn't it always been? Was anybody thinking otherwise? I can't make this stuff up... this is what might have been the leadership of the U.S. Government had that election gone the other way in November of last year. As scary as the last administration was, these guys and their idea of an alternative budget scares me even more. You should be scared too!

A public service announcement by the Maverick of all Bloggers!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Another Day In The Life


Every day that you wake up is like a roll of the dice. Your life can go one way and it can go another way. It can be routinely boring and run of the mill or it can be fascinating. I always wake up expecting a fascinating day... forget the stories you have heard me tell on this blog that might lead you to believe that my life is one big drama. Most of my days are as routine and boring as yours. It's just that I've had my share of extraordinary days and this day was one of them.

It started as normal as any other Sunday Morning... my wife and I woke up to (unseasonable) 93 degree weather and sunshine, which was a relief. We have had a rash of cold, nasty, and rainy days so, this weekend was well needed and appreciated.

My Air Force unit was having a reunion picnic today that I planned to attend. Since I got on Facebook, I have been "discovered" by several of my old Air Force buddies. We have been talking back and forth on Facebook, through emails, and by phone. We agreed to meet up in Horsham, PA at the VFW post to attend our old unit's picnic and reunion.

One of my Air Force buddies lives about four blocks from me. We talked yesterday and agreed to go to breakfast this morning before we went to the reunion and I told him to pick the place. I was just glad that I didn't have to drive for a change. He picked a nice bar and grill in a suburb of Philadelphia that was on our way to the base. The first thing I noticed was, not only were we the only African Americans in the eatery but also, the youngest. Most of the guys in there were my father's age and older. An interracial couple (black man, white woman, and a child) about my age or a little younger came in after us and sat in the booth across from us.

There were two white men about my father's age sitting at a table right across from us. One guy who was talking loud and obviously inebriated (drunk). It was 10:30am, he looked at the couple, and then said, "Soon we are all going to be one race, you know... with all the mixing going on." His friend said to him, "Curt... Curt... will ya shut up and drink your coffee." But, Curt kept talking and said... "Well, you got your new President and he's half white you know. His mother is white and his father is African so, he's mixed. It's the new trend."

His friend looked at me and my friend and then, at the interracial couple. He admonished his friend and said... "Curt, would you please shut the hell up. People are trying to eat." Out of the blue, Curt then says to me... "Hey, pal... Are you a full-blooded negro?" The guy that was sitting with the white girl turned and looked at him. Then, my friend said... "Yo! What the hell?" I raised my hand to tell my friend to cool it. I looked at him, smiled, and said (using my best Stepin' Fetchit impression) "Why, yas suh. I sho' is... One hundred percent knee grow. And, how 'bout you? Is you part negro?" I was having a good time and it was obvious. The brother with the white girl looked at me and winked. Then, he cracked a smile but, his wife didn't find it funny at all.

Curt's friend was mortified. He looked at all of us and apologized... "I'm awful sorry for him guys. He's drunk and when he gets drunk he's a little irregular." I looked at him and said... "It's okay, I imagine he's not much different when he's not drinking, am I right?" Curt's friend grabbed him, hoisted him up, began walking him towards the door and replied... "You got that right buddy. Thanks for being a good sport. I'm really sorry." I looked at him and said, "It's okay. If I'm lucky enough to live to be his age, I'm gonna say the first thing that comes out of my mouth too." Then, they were gone.

The brother with the white wife and child looked at me and laughed. His wife said, "You were a lot nicer to that creep than he deserved. What a racist lout." I simply said to her and my friend, who was equally astounded at the man, "He was drunk and he only asked a question. He didn't call anybody any names." Her husband agreed with me. Then, my friend and I were off to the reunion.

This was the first time I had been anywhere near my Air Force unit in the three years since I retired (June 2006) and it was like a high school reunion. Here I met and got reacquainted with Black, White, Asian, and Latino people that I had served with in the United States Air Force for a span of 22 years. I caught up on who had gotten married, who had children or grandchildren, who had died, who was still "in", etc. It was a decidedly more civil racial atmosphere. We were one Air Force, one military, and our obvious differences had to take a back seat to the mission at hand. At least, that's what was instilled in us from boot camp.

Let's face it... even little children notice differences. It's just that, unlike adults, it seems that they don't let it bother them. They are just happy to play. We kinda lose that as we get older and drift into our tribes of differences. Today, on this brilliant sunny day with summer like weather, we were all one and it was good. A situation in a bar and grill, that could have turned into a big "rowdy dow" had someone else been involved that didn't share my sense of humor, was averted and peace ruled the day. As I returned home, I wondered why these bizarre events always seem to happen to me or when I'm around?

When you wake up, you never know what a day may bring your way. One day is boring and routine and another day is... well, like this one.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Weekend Joke


Brian invited his mother over for dinner. During the course of the meal, his mother couldn't help but notice how beautiful his roommate, Jennifer, was. Brian's mom had long been suspicious of a relationship between them and this only made her more curious.

Over the course of the evening, while watching the two interact, she started to wonder if there was more between Brian and Jennifer than meets the eye. Reading his mom's thoughts, Brian volunteered, "I know what you must be thinking but, I assure you that Jennifer and I are just roommates."

About a week later, Jennifer came to Brian and said, "Ever since your mother came to dinner, I can't find the gravy ladle. You don't suppose she took it, do you?" Brian said, "Well, I doubt it... but, I'll send her an e-mail just to be sure". So, he sat down and wrote:

Dear Mom: I'm not saying that you "did" take the gravy ladle from the house. I'm not saying that you "did not" take the gravy ladle. But, the fact remains that it has been missing ever since you were here for dinner. Love, Brian.

Several days later, Brian received an email back from his mother that read:

Dear Son: I'm not saying that you "do" sleep with Jennifer. I'm not saying that you "do not" sleep with Jennifer. But, the fact remains that if Jennifer is sleeping in her own bed, she would have found the gravy ladle by now. Love, Mom.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Love & Mayhem


I usually don't like to write about this type of thing... especially, on a Friday when I like to keep things kinda "smurfy" over here. What I'm about to tell you sounds like one of my potboiling fiction stories on my other blog, "Escapades" but unfortunately, I didn't make this story up. It's true and it puts yet another black eye on the city of Philadelphia.

Two days ago, in what should have been just another normal day for 35 year old Angela Jeffreys, a tragedy ocurred. She got her 11 year old daughter ready for school and her daughter was sitting on the passenger side of the car.. Neither one of them knew at the time that they were being watched.

45 year old Aleem Ali, Angela's estranged lover, approached her from the passenger side of the car and shot her several times. She was killed and her 11 year old daughter witnessed the entire thing. Then, Aleem turned the pistol on himself. He fired one shot and now, he was dead on the sidewalk. This wasn't just any old run of the mill murder-suicide (if there is such a thing). It gets better or worse, depending on how you choose to look at it.

Aleem and Angela had been seeing each other for seven years. Then, Aleem married Angela's supervisor and fathered a baby (now 18 months)with his wife. From what is being said, his wife found out about the affair and asked him to break it off. Angela was trying to break it off but, Aleem would not stop trying to see her.

A week before the tragic murder-suicide, Angela had called the police and they told her to get a restraining order. I can tell you from personal experience that they are not worth the paper they are written on. I had to get a restraining order against someone once and while I was in court getting a judge to hear me out... the person I was getting the restraining against was at my house!

The police drop the ball on these cases too many times and their unwillingness to do anything to the stalker makes it easy for them to do whatever they want to their victims with impunity. I don't want to sound like some right wing zealot but, sometimes it does seem as though the bad guys have more rights than the victims.

Angela never got a restraining order. Perhaps she tried and got just as frustrated as I did and said, "Oh, forget about it!" Well, it doesn't matter now... she's dead and her spurned and married lover, who just had to have her, is also dead. The taxpayers have been spared a long murder trial and the price of keeping him locked up as a guest of the state of Pennsylvania for the rest of his natural life or until they decided to poke him with a needle.

The losers in all of this... Angela Jeffreys, of course... her traumatized 11 year old daughter who was unharmed (at least physically)... Aleem's new wife, who probably will never know what to make of this mess... and an 18 month old baby who will never know their father. Years from now, can you imagine telling this child just how their father died? I wouldn't want that job.

Opinionated Diva wrote a post the other day about the perils of work place romances. Well, here was a work place romance in extreme. All three people in this sordid triangle worked for the Philadelphia Department of Human Services... and yes, if you're wondering, all three were African-American (not that this couldn't happen to anyone of any race or class). Love is just plain insane sometimes... regardless of what you look like or how much money you have.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

401


Somehow and someway I must've gone crazy! This is my 401st post on Keith's Space! When I started this blogging thing, I wondered quite often how long I was going to keep doing it. I read in one of 12Kyle's posts where he originally planned to do one post and then retire, like Jay-Z. Thankfully, he is still blogging to this day. I never thought anybody would care about what I had to say or what I thought about anything. But, judging by your comments, support, and how many people tell me they read and enjoy my blog (not to mention the "lurkers" who read and don't comment), I see that I was wrong.

I've heard some bloggers say that they do this for themselves and that they don't care how many comments they get. I said that too and the truth is, I would still be writing even if I didn't get any comments (which I did for the first 3 or 4 months of this blog). But, I'd be lying if I didn't say that I do care and get a thrill when I look at both of my blogs and see all of the comments. I love it when I get tagged and a new blogger begins commenting. I also love it when I see one or both of my blogs on somebody's blog roll. I am just humbled and honored.

I never expected to get this kind of attention or make this many friends from around the country and, if I include Angel, around the world. Believe me, I am humbled and just full of gratitude for all of you. It makes me that more determined to keep at it and tighten up my game.

Fellow blogger CareyCarey said that we bloggers blog from the cheap seats in the arena and that we don't get to sit in the "good seats" with the other forms of media and he's right. But, at the same time, let's not forget that us "new media" folks (on Blogger, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) just helped the nations first African-American President get elected and that was no mean feat. We are movin' on up and we aren't going to be ignored much longer. The other forms of media are going to have to move over and give us our courtside seats sooner rather than later.

I'm just proud to be a part of this new thing. May we catch on like a forest fire... and many "thanks" to all of you again for your love and support. Here's to (at least) another 400!!!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Devil's Playbook


For someone who is so avowedly anti-American, Iranian President and strongman Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took a page out of the Devil's Playbook this past Monday.

I used to joke that when the economy was bad, the best thing for a leader to do was to start a war... that gets people together and it takes their minds off of their wretched condition. If you can't start a war, racism and nationalism will always do. It worked for Adolf Hitler and has been working for a score of politicians in both the Democratic and Republican parties for ages... not to mention in countries around the world.

On Monday, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said countries that are boycotting the United Nations Conference on Racism, which is currently underway in Switzerland, are doing so out of "arrogance and selfishness". After his speech at the conference sparked a mass walkout by EU diplomats, Ahmadinejad told reporters... "In our opinion, this arrogance and selfishness are the root cause of the problems of the world."

The conference has been boycotted by the United States, Israel, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, Poland, and Germany. I was kind of disappointed that President Obama declined to have the U.S. participate in the conference. I roundly criticized President Bush when he also refused to be a part of this conference a few years ago but, I digress. Now, getting back to my man, Mahmoud...

Following his speech, the Czech Republic announced that it would be withdrawing from the summit over his remarks on Israel and the Holocaust. Dozens of western representatives at the UN-sponsored Durban II Conference Against Racism rose from their chairs and walked out of the hall in Geneva as Ahmadinejad launched a tirade against the Israeli government.

The Iranian leader also blasted the United States for its invasion of Iraq. The conference turned chaotic when two protesters in rainbow wigs tossed red clown noses at Ahmadinejad as he began his speech with a Muslim prayer. A Jewish student group from France said they have been trying to convey the masquerade that this conference represents. Earlier Sunday, federal agents in Geneva escorted Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz away from the Geneva Hotel, where Ahmadinejad and Swiss President Hans-Rudolf Merz were meeting, after he declared plans to challenge the Iranian leader about his views on the Holocaust and Israel.

That's right Mahoud... Turn all the attention on someone else and take it off the fact that just months ago, students in your own country were protesting the sorry state of the economy under you. It's those damn Israeli's, isn't it? And, the United States too. Hell, it's the entire west!

Somewhere, Karl Rove and Rush Limbaugh are taking notes... their Tea party seems to have come and gone without any serious repercussions to the Obama Administration. Do you wanna bet that in the coming months, President Obama will be attacked for his foreign policy, closing Gitmo, and making the world "free for terrorists again"? Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck are already saying things to this effect.

I sat and watched that circus on TV, a few nights ago and I had to laugh. It doesn't matter if it's a Republican incumbant (pick one), a Democratic incumbant (President Lyndon B. Johnson and his Vietnam debacle), or an Islamic incumbant (again, pick one)... all of them play by the same rules and they all do the same things in the end. They play on nationalism, racism, and fear mongering. I guess it works.

People in Iran will see their leader being mocked and attacked by Westerners (which is not smart on their part either) and will rally around him. At least, that's what he's hoping they will do. I think people are getting more savvy politically and they're not going to go for the okey doke and the old banana in the tailpipe anymore. Leaders are not going to divert people's attention from the sorry job they are doing by appealing to hate and fear anymore. At least, that's what I'm hoping they will no longer be able to do. There are still some very gullible and stupid people in the world... I just hope they are not in the majority. I hope we can file the Devil's Playbook away one day soon.

I'll stop here and quote our former president, George W. Bush, by saying... "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice... uh, er, uh, uh, uh... don't try to fool me again." Okay, that wasn't George W. Bush... that was Will Farrell playing Bush. It was funny, wasn't it?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Bully For You!


Ten years ago yesterday, in a suburban high school in Columbine CO, two young men shot and killed scores of their classmates and a couple of their teachers before they finally shot themselves to death. It is said that they were bullied because they were different.

One of them, Eric Harris (who I believe was the ring leader), had just been rejected for enlistment by the U.S. Marine Corps. If he had known what was coming (the second Gulf War), I believe he would have been thankful. His high school years were coming to an end, he had not chosen to go to college, and the one thing he really wanted to be, one of those "few good men", was now out of pocket. He was also rejected by the one girl he wanted to take to the prom. I imagine at 18 years old, he had to feel as if his entire life had just gone down the toilet.

So, he and his one good friend, Dylan Klebold, took up arms, went to school, and the rest is history. It wasn't the first school shooting but, at the time, it was the "worst" school shooting in American history. I'm not going to say that what these two kids did was justified... of course it wasn't. They shot innocent people who they didn't even know at random. They also killed a few that they did know but, that is still no excuse.

What bugs me about them (and others like them) is that both of these kids were bullied, teased, and shunned and no adult or administrative figure intervened or tried to put a stop to it. The same was true in a lot of the other cases of school shootings. The shooter had gotten to a point where they felt they had no other recourse... no one and no place to go... so, they did what they did.

Carol Joseph Walker-Hoover

Now, just a week ago, I read the story of a young Massachusetts boy, who hung himself just days before his 12th birthday because he couldn't take being constantly bullied. He too had complained to school administrators and just like the other cases, not one person stepped up to help this boy.

You can talk to a lot of "so-called" adults and they will tell you that bullying is "a part of growing up." They may even tell you that they took it and that they got through it. The thing that bothers me is that none of them will say that it is wrong. I've actually met people who have bragged about being bullies when they were younger, which has made me give them the side eye. What is there to be proud of? These people are actually proud that they made another human being's life a living hell!

The people who do the bullying never consider how bad they are making another human being feel and how their hurtful words and deeds can cripple another human being for life. They never think about that and it gauls me when people just write it off as "You know, children can be cruel... tee-hee."

No, it's not a laughing matter and it certainly isn't funny when it's your child that is being bullied or your child who is going to jail because he shot up his school or your child that is being punished for being the bully (provided THAT actually happens).

People are dead who might be alive if Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold had somebody, some adult, who could have reached out to them, gained their respect and trust, and told them that it wouldn't be so bad. An 11 year old child is in his grave because, once again, the adults and people that were supposed to look out for him failed to respond as they should.

Columbine has taught us nothing... the death of Carl Walker Hoover just proved it. I don't feel good about that at all and neither should anybody else. I feel like going out and kicking a bully in the rear end!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Death Of "Mr. Baseball"


You know, with all of the posts that I had scheduled for these past few days, I almost forgot that a Philadelphia legend departed from this life earlier this week. If you're not from Philly, New Jersey, or Deleware, Harry Kalas might not mean anything to you... but, for those of us who are, his death earlier this week at the age of 73 was like losing a friend.

From the time I was 13 up until now, I can't ever remember listening to a Phillies game on the radio without hearing his familiar "Swing... hit... ohhh boy... that baby is outtttttaaaa herrrrrre!" There's not a Philadelphian alive who hasn't heard that and known that it was veteren sportscaster Harry Kalas.

Harry was on the airwaves when you were a teenager with your portable radio tucked under the covers so your parents wouldn't know that you were still awake and wanting to hear that score. Harry was on your car radio when you ducked out of that wedding reception and flicked it on to hear if we were winning or losing. Harry was at the beach (Atlantic City or Wildwood), as you sat in the hot sun watching the waves, chowing down on a hot dog, and quaffing a cold one while you listened to the Phillies win or lose. My Favorite Harry Kalas moment was the first night my wife and I were in our new house...

In the mid-summer of 1993, the Phillies were playing in the World Series against Toronto and Harry Kalas was calling the play by play... "Ball two... uh oh... Swing... hit... Oh my Godddd, thaat baby is outtttttttttaaaa herrrrrrrrrrreeeee. Grand slam... I don't believe it!" I didn't want to believe it either. It was a Toronto hitter who hit a grand slam on us and ended our World Series run. I didn't even bother to watch the guy run the bases. As soon as Harry said "ouuttta herrrre", I turned the television off. My wife said, "Is the game over?" I just frowned and said, "Pretty much."

Thousands of Philadelphia fans, sports figures, and other dignitaries paid their final respects to the legendary "voice of baseball" yesterday at Citizens Bank Park. They say that a man is alive as long as someone remembers him. Well, to everyone in the tri-state area, Harry Kalas will always be alive then. He will never be "Outta Here".

In Memory of Harry Kalas
March 26, 1936 -April 13, 2009

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Keepsake


I don't know why I'm even blogging about this but when I came to the keyboard, this particular post seemed to just write itself. I was going through my sock drawer and I saw it... a small copy of the New Testament. My grandmother gave me this when I was a small child. I've had it in my pocket at some point in time most of my life. She and my grandfather told me that if I was ever alone and afraid, to just read a few verses and to "talk to God... he's always listening."

All these years, this Bible is now literally falling apart... the back has come loose and has been taped together many, many times. The pages are falling out and it's in such bad shape, I can't carry it around with me anymore. It remains in its resting place in the bottom of my sock drawer. I have since purchased another pocket sized version of the New Testament. It's in considerably better shape.

I was never one to openly admit being afraid of anyone or anything out in the streets. Especially where I grew up and with the circle of friends I was running with. You just didn't and couldn't do that... but, at key times, my grandmother's words and that little Bible were on my person. When it was on my person and I was indeed afraid. The words were comforting and the knowledge that my little keepsake was on my person made me feel that much more secure.

I've been afraid many times. I've had a guy pull a gun on me and rob me and I was with a drunken kook who waved a gun in my face. I stood tall and stoic both times and said nothing. My face never betraying my fear yet, a peak inside my mind would've revealed a terrified man at those times. Yet, in both instances, no harm came to me. I always felt like this keepsake was my contract with God.

I had this Bible in my upper left coat pocket the entire 15 weeks I was pledging Kappa Alpha Psi. I was frightened many times when I was pledging but, only God and I know about it. I can't recall opening the little Bible at all while I pledging but, it was in my pocket the whole time. It made me feel secure I suppose. The knowledge of it being there helped me make it through the day.

That Bible was with me the very first time I got on a plane and flew to boot camp in San Antonio, TX. It was on my person the entire time I was going through that experience. In fact, I've carried it with me on every single Air Force mission I ever went on. I didn't have it on me when I was "sinning" with women though. Yeah, I somehow couldn't have my Bible on me when I was off doing that, which says a lot about my double nature doesn't it?

This Bible was in the pocket of my tuxedo the day I got married and it went with me on my honeymoon. It was with me the day I passed my driving test and it was with me the day I bought my first house. Where I've gone, so has my little Bible. Because I can't carry my keepsake around with me anymore, it sits at the bottom of my sock drawer right next to my shiny new New Testament. (It's funny but, I've never carried the new one around with me.) Yet, the words, the meaning behind it, and the sense of security it brought goes where I go and stays with me always.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Weekend Joke


A burglar broke into a Christian family's home one night. He shined his flashlight around the house looking for valuables, when all of a sudden he heard a strange voice echoing from the dark saying, "Jesus is watching you." He nearly jumped out of his skin, clicked his flashlight off, and froze.

After a while, when he heard nothing more, he shook his head and continued. Just as he pulled the stereo out so that he could disconnect the wires, clear as a bell he heard, "Jesus is still watching you." Freaked out, he shined his light around frantically, looking for the source of the voice. Finally, in the corner of the room, his flashlight beam came to rest on a parrot!

The burglar whispered to the parrot, "Did you say that?" The parrot squawked, "Yep, sure did. I'm just trying to warn you." The burglar relaxed and said, "Warn me, huh? And, what is your name?" The bird replied, "Me? Why my name is Moses." The burglar laughed and asked, "Moses? What kind of people would name a bird Moses?" The parrot replied, "The same kind of people that would name that Pit Bull comin' at you, Jesus!"

It's Friday

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Tea Anyone?


First, let's take a look at what happened Wednesday and then, I'll comment...

Protesters began gathering at state capitols, in neighborhoods, and town squares across the country yesterday to kick off a series of tax-day protests designed to echo the rebellion of the Boston Tea Party. Hundreds of rallies against government spending were being held across the nation, more than 235 years after the original Boston Tea Party tax revolt. Organizers say they’re steamed at increased government spending since President Barack Obama’s administration took over.

The demonstrations were held everywhere from Kentucky (which just passed tax increases on cigarettes and alcohol) to South Carolina (where the governor has repeatedly criticized the $787 billion dollar federal stimulus package). There were large protests in California, New York, and Atlanta too. In Atlanta, thousands of people were expected to gather on the steps of the Georgia capitol, where Fox News Channel conservative pundit Sean Hannity was set to broadcast his show Wednesday night. He's been promoting the show on Fox.

Organizers said that the movement developed organically through online social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and exposure on Fox News. And, while they insisted it was a non-partisan effort, it has been seized on by many prominent Republicans — such as former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former GOP House Majority Leader Dick Armey, who viewed it as a promising way for the party to reclaim its momentum. Gingrich planned to speak at a tea party that was held in a New York City park and Armey at a similar event in Atlanta.

Gingrich's advocacy group, americansolutions.com, partnered with tea party organizers to get word to the group's members. "It's the Reagan coalition reorganizing itself," Gingrich spokesman Rick Sawyer said.

Herein lies my problem... Sean Hannity, Newt Gingrich, The Reagan Coalition, and the advocacy group called americansolutions.com. These people are yelling and screaming about taxation and government spending. It's funny but, I didn't hear Newt Gingrich or Sean Hannity screaming during the last administration when the deficit was steadily rising. I guess THAT kind of government spending was okay.

American Solution? I haven't heard Sean Hannity or Newt Gingrich come up with an alternative solution to just what it is we are supposed to do about the present economic meltdown that occurred while their party was in the White House and had control of both houses. I don't like the idea of spending all of this money either. I shudder at the thought that my grandson's children may yet be paying for this mess but, what are we to do?

Should we waste two or three years debating a solution or should we shovel it under the rug and concentrate on American Idol, Dancing With The Stars, gay marriage, and flag burning? I'm going to do something here I've never done before... I'm going to give my ideological opponents a chance to tell me right here what they think is an alternative solution to this current economic problem.











Yeah, just what I thought... nothing!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Bittersweet Beauty of Quiet


Wait! It's quiet! I come home from work and there is no small child to run up to the door. There is no little girl insisting that I try to find her, even though I know that she is hiding in the only place possible... the closet. I don't have to pretend to be afraid when she pops out of the closet and says "Surprise, I scared you!" No, we are years apart from that now. There are no telephones, BlackBerrys, or cell phones going off simultaneously and no loud conversations with girlfriends (who were just over the house a half-hour ago) going on. We are days removed from that now!

She's gone! Not far... my daughter, her new husband, and my grandson live about five city blocks away from me and my wife. She has called us everyday that she has been gone but, that's okay. It's good to hear from her. If I said that I didn't miss her and the drama that has been her for 28 years, I'd be lying. Wait! It's quiet. The television can be on or it doesn't have to be. It's not essential that it is anymore. I can listen to an entire CD from start to finish. I can actually have a conversation with my wife straight through that is uninterrupted for a change and that is a first! Yet, I miss her and the presence that she has been.

He's gone! Not far... my grandson is just five blocks away. It seems like we were just getting to know him. He was just speaking his first words (although, they were not always recognizable). At least, "he" knew what he was trying to say. He came here unable to do anything. He left here able to walk up and down steps, run, and ask you for whatever you were eating (which he felt was his natural right to have some). I'm able to write this post without him showing me one of his toys or getting into some mischief (as all little boys will do) and me, my wife, or my daughter having to stop him. I don't have to say that I miss him... you know that I do.

Last night though, I fixed my wife and myself a nice dinner that consisted of baked mesquite chicken, creamed spinach, and corn-on-the-cobb. We had a sweet potato pie for desert, a pint of ice cream to go with it, some iced tea, and Mountain Dew, respectively. When I set the table for this meal, I put four place mats out instead of two. You know that I missed them.

My wife and I will now begin the process of rediscovering each other outside of the roles of parents and grandparents. It is a grand experiment that I look forward to in the days to come. My daughter will discover her husband, son, and in a few more weeks... her daughter. We will all do this just five blocks away from each other. A new chapter in the never ending drama of family life.

A-h-h, the bittersweet beauty of rediscovery!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Back

UPDATE: Photo added 04/15/09

Hello Fam... I'm back! My daughter's wedding was nice and I promise to post more photos as soon as they are available. I'll keep it real... I did shed a tear or two but, being the man that I am, I made sure that nobody saw me and that I recovered quickly. After all, I have a reputation to uphold-lololol!!! I just wanted to say thanks to all of my well wishers. I'll probably be back tomorrow with a full post.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Father Of The Bride


Tomorrow my daughter is getting married. I can't tell you how long my wife and I have waited for this day. Seriously though, I am happy for her. It's time for her to go out into the world and live her life. Hopefully, her mother and I have prepared her for the adult world and some of what we have said over and over and over again (Can I add another over and over and over again?) will stick with her. I say "some" of what we told her because it will take another ten years before the rest of what we have been saying will finally kick in and become real to her.

By then, her son (and daughter, who is on the way) will be teenagers and she and her husband will find themselves in the unenviable position of sounding like and looking like her mother and I. I was about 36 years old when I said something that my father had once said. I caught myself and I said... "Oh, my God! I sound like him! I sound like a raving lunatic!" Then, I looked in the mirror and I had that look... that weariness around the eyes that all parents get sooner or later when your kids make you want to choke them but, you realize that you're too old and too good looking to go to prison (Okay, one out of two ain't bad!) and you just resign yourself to dealing with whatever they did.

You can't fake that look either. It's there and everybody that knows you can see it in your eyes when it's there. That's the day you go to your mother and father, apologize for everything you ever did, and tell them that "NOW" you understand. Your parents nod and they know that you have truly entered true adulthood. My daughter has already had a couple of those moments with her 3 year old son but, she hasn't really had the breakthrough moment yet... that moment where she truly understands. I believe that she's getting closer to it everyday and she may even get there at an earlier age than her mother and I did (pray for small miracles). But, I digress...

Tomorrow morning, I'm going to walk down the aisle of a church holding my daughter's hand as she prepares to enter a new phase of her life and nobody will be prouder than I. It will be the second happiest walk down an aisle I will have made in my life. The first one being some twenty years ago, when I walked down an aisle with her mother.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Fear and Loathing and Me

ART: "Track & Field" By Unknown Artist

I heard someone giving a speech the other day and they were saying how love motivated them to do everything major in their life that was even remotely successful. The audience applauded, looked at each other, nodded, and smiled. I was standing there with a huge smirk on my face and saying to myself, bullsh--! Well, okay... not quite that but, I was thinking it. Then, a part of me was saying... maybe that worked for him but, it's certainly not what worked in my life. I thought about practically everything major in my life that I achieved and two words kept floating around in my sub-conscious mind... "fear" and "loathing".

If I go back to high school, I ran track and I was pretty good at what I did too. I ran the 220 yard sprint and the 440 yard sprint. I rarely lost and the reason why? I had this deep fear of losing... this deep fear that if I lost, I would face further humiliation from my peers. Truth be told, not a lot of people in our high school cared about track and field but, in my mind, they did and if I lost, they would know. This fear of losing is why at the beginning of every race, my emotions were high and my senses were razor sharp. I could literally smell, taste, feel, see, and hear everything around me.

Once the race began, I was gone! I believed that I had to win for the sake of my life and that carried me over the finish line ahead of the others most of the time. It also made me cocky. I was good at boasting and bragging to whoever would listen about how fast I was and this usually brought a good crowd of people to our track meets... just to see me lose. This always upped the ante and made me that more determined to win at all costs. Most of the time, I gave a good show. I lost a few times but, never by much and never badly. The fear brought out a need in me to win and it was as if my life depended on it. You use whatever you have to use to motivate yourself and fear was my motivation.

As a young man, my fear motivated me to succeed in college because I was the oldest boy in the house and the first to go to college so, I couldn't come home a failure. I just couldn't. The fear motivated me to study, even when I didn't want to do it. I also took remedial math (i.e. high school Algebra) my freshmen year (because I had done so poorly in math in high school) in order to keep up with the rest of my class and not be a failure.

I don't recall ever being afraid of women. I always talked to women just as easily as I would talk to a guy and never had a problem asking for what I wanted. Yet, deep inside of me was a horrible fear or rejection. The fear brought out a crazy need in me to try and be all things to all women. More times than not, it wound up with me standing in my own way to happiness. The fear made me wildly competitive and nearly every relationship was viewed (by me) as some type of sporting event that I would either win or lose. I suppose I have my championship ring now but, I wouldn't want to be the Michael Jordan of marriage. Six marriages? Come on now! In that game, you should only need to win once.

Now, I'll tell you what loathing did for me. I hated every single low paying job I had to take after I left college. I loathed the idea of being afraid to answer the phone (this was before Caller ID) and telling a bill collector that the check was in the mail or I will "try to get it to you as soon as possible." Soon, I got to the point that I didn't care what I said to them... "Sir, when can we expect to get our payment?" I would respond, "You can expect to get it at anytime... that doesn't mean that I'll be able to give it to you." This motivated me to go into the Air Force.

Once I was in the Air Force, I hated taking orders from every man with a stripe on his sleeve, including some guys that I was visibly smarter than. In turn, that motivated me to study harder and work harder to make Staff Sergeant and then, Technical Sergeant in near record time. I did this so that I could give some orders to somebody. I still had to take orders but, not from as many people. It motivated me to become a supervisor of the two units I was involved in and later on, an instructor. It was the fear of being on the bottom and loathing of most authority. So, fear and loathing did that for me.

In civilian life, my loathing of low paying jobs and dealing with the public in retail jobs (same thing) led me to find a job that was more (let's say) compatible with the education I had nearly bankrupted myself to acquire. Not only that, the fear of being a washout and a bad husband and father motivated me to save money (along with my wife) to put my family in a home as soon as possible. Yeah, it wasn't love but, fear and loathing of my condition in life that made me fight to get to a higher plane.

My grandfather hated the "Jim Crow" south and all that "yes sir, boss" and "yes, ma’am" crap that he had to live through so much that he took his young bride and moved up north to New York City and later, to Philadelphia, where he started the family that eventually birthed the Maverick of All Bloggers. It wasn't his love of the North that made him settle in Philadelphia. It was his hatred of the racial climate in South Florida that made him come up here. That's where I got it from... him.

That's what fear and loathing motivated me to do. Not one time did I mention love, did I? I doubt that love would have gotten me out of bed to go to work or made me as fiercely competitive as I had to be to get the things I wanted in life. Don't get me wrong... love is a beautiful thing but, for me... fear and loathing were better motivators.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

M.J. Gets His Due

"Fear is an obstacle for some people, but it is an illusion to me."

Michael Jordan was inducted to the Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2009 yesterday, along with David Robinson, John Stockton, Jerry Sloan (Utah Jazz Coach), Jerry Sloan, and C. Vivian Stringer (Rutgers Women's Coach). This announcement was made in Detroit, site of the Men's Final Four. The induction will be held September 10th-12th in Springfield MA, home of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Michael's Hall of Fame selection was a slam dunk after he retired as perhaps the greatest player in history and Monday, he gave much of the credit to his college coach... "There's no way that you guys would have got a chance to see Michael Jordan play without Dean Smith," he said. His soaring dunks, Nike commercials, and "Air Jordan" nickname helped stamp him as one the most recognizable athletes around the world. He finished a 15-year career with the Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards with 32,292 points... the third highest total in league history, behind Kareem Abdul-Jabar and Karl Malone. His final career average of 30.12 goes down as the best, just ahead of Wilt Chamberlain's 30.07.

The five-time NBA MVP won six championships with the Bulls and another in college with North Carolina. The Tar Heels played Michigan State in the national championship game last night as I wrote this (that's the thing about writing sports posts... you really have to be timely). Tar Heels Coach Roy Williams was an assistant coach with North Carolina on that 1982 national championship team and he was at Monday's induction where Ty Lawson won the Bob Cousy Award, which is given to the nation's top point guard.

Jordan retired twice during his career. He first came back to the Bulls in 1994 and won three more championships before retiring again in 1998. He then had an ill-fated two-year stint with the Washington Wizards before calling it quits for good in 2003.

Of course, M.J. means a lot to me and guys of my generation. Like President Barack Obama, Michael Jordan is in my age bracket so, I lived vicariously through him for years. When he was winning championships, every guy I know that followed basketball felt as though they were winning too. We wanted to "be like Mike".

I only buy Nike footwear because Mike and Charles Barkley wore Nikes. I didn't try to play golf though... I didn't take it that far. I actually thought that M.J. was already in the Basketball Hall of Fame. When I found out that he was just inducted, along with "Mister" David Robinson and John Stockton (a point guard I greatly admired back then), I felt a huge vicarious surge of pride.

So, for M.J., David, and John, my imaginary shot glass is raised in your honor! Congratulations! You guys deserve it!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Bowing Down To Technology

The Sony CD Player... Gone With The Wind :(

My uncle always told me, "Never pay for what you don't want. Never let anyone talk you into parting with your hard earned cash for something you either don't need or really don't want." He's been dead now for close to 34 years and yet, his spirit was right there in Best Buy with me this afternoon.

I wrote a post last year about our lack of choice as consumers and how businesses are forcing their new technology on us whether we want it or not by limiting the choices we have. Sunday morning, my wife and I decided to venture out and get some breakfast. After eating a delicious meal, she suggested that we drive out to Best Buy and pick up another DVD player because our original one went on the fritz a while ago.

I saw several cheap ones by Memorex and some "no name" companies and I decided to pass on them. Then, I saw one by Sony. I asked the sales clerk about it and it turns out that they had a big sale yesterday and the only thing they had left was display models for sale. He mentioned that the particular DVD player that I was interested in had been returned by a customer. At that moment, I looked up and there was my uncle... in his leather jacket and his hat looking at me, shaking his finger, and turning his head from side to side.

I ignored his ghost and asked the sales clerk why it was returned. He told me that he didn't know but, it passed "all of their tests for resale." He then told me that there was no box for it and that the customer didn't return the remote but, he could sell me a universal remote. I saw my uncle's ghost again and with a stern look on his face, he said... "You better not go for the okey doke, boy. What did I teach you?" So, I told the clerk thanks but, no thanks.

I also wanted a new CD player and, as much as I don't like them, I was going to get a five disc CD changer, if that's all they had. We were told that they were all gone and companies aren't manufacturing them anymore. So, I said to the salesperson... "But, you sell CD's so, how are people supposed to listen to them if you don't sell the equipment to play them?" He pointed to some "boom boxes" and small CD systems that you could use on your desk at the office. He then told me that you can play CDs on a DVD player. I had heard enough so, we left Best Buy.

I went to K-Mart, which wasn't any better. Then, I went to a Target and decided to buy a Blu Ray disc player. The salesperson there informed me that, if I didn't have an HDTV, I would be wasting my time and money buying a Blu Ray disc player. (No, I haven't gotten around to getting an HDTV yet. I don't have a flat screen TV either but, my mother-in-law has one.) Again, I saw my uncle looking at me and nodding his head in agreement. So, I decided not to get the Blu Ray disc player.

Then, the salesmen helped us to find an affordable DVD player that met our needs and played CDs. I also saw a three-CD system that I might purchase in the future. I went on and purchased the DVD player and I saw my Uncle waving goodbye and slowly vanishing into... well, wherever the dead go after they've made sure you're alright.

It angers me that my choices are so limited and that someone somewhere made the decision that I will either have the products they deem I need or I'll just be up the brown creek. It angers me that the "corporate powers that be" expect me to just toss away perfectly good equipment that I spent my hard earned cash on every time they decide to invent something else, regardless of the hardship on my wallet.

I guess "they" want me to stop buying CDs and download all my music onto an iPOD... that's cute but, I really don't like to download music. I spend enough time on my computer blogging and Facebooking. If I spend time downloading all of my music, I might not eat dinner, I might miss my favorite television shows, and I might not get up in time to go to work. It seems as if I'm just ranting to the wind and that, in time, I'll have to bow to technology just like all of the other drones we as a society are slowly becoming.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Go Nova!


I don't have to tell you that I'm a big basketball fan... always have been and always will be. As I write this, it's about 7:00pm Saturday evening. By the time this is read, we will know the outcome of the only basketball game I care about right now... Villanova (local college) and the North Carolina Tar-heels.

I'm a big Philadelphia sports guy so, even though I like North Carolina (sorry ShellyShell), I'm going with 'Nova. I remember the last and only time that Villanova won a national championship. It was in 1985 against Georgetown. I think I was in Denver, CO watching it with my Air Force buddies. I felt so much civic pride when the Wildcats upset Georgetown.

I thought that St. Joe's was going to win a national championship a few years back when they had an undefeated regular season but, it was not to be. Tonight doesn't necessarily mean that the cats will win a national championship. If they get past North Carolina, they still have to face the winner between U-Conn and MSU. As I'm writing this, it's halftime and MSU is up 38-36.

I'm thinking that I will spoil myself with a "Belly Filler" from Larry's Steaks, rumored to be the best hoagies in the area. The kids at St. Joe's swear by it. As far as the eating goes. I've been pretty good for the past few weeks... cereal and fresh fruit for breakfast or no breakfast at all, a salad and water for lunch, and a big dinner (no fried foods but, I could've cut back on the pasta a couple of times). I made sure that I got my rest. I've lost 8 pounds so, I'm back on track. I hope the hoagie doesn't set me back-lolol! I have to have it in time for the second game. I have also cut out drinking sodas altogether and have replaced it with water or iced tea but, I digress...

What I'm eating while watching the big game really has nothing to do with anything. I'm a social kinda guy and I usually like to watch the game with a group of friends (preferably at somebody else's house) where we can all be as loud as we want to be, eat, and then go home without having to clean up (just kidding-lolol). But, I can't find a friend tonight. Can you believe that? Neither my wife nor my daughter has any interest whatsoever in college basketball so, what is a guy to do? Simple... I'm going to finish this post, go get my hoagie and iced tea, and watch this game in the comfort of my own home. (Updates coming later!)

UPDATE (Sunday Morning - 8:28 am): Congratulations are in order for the North Carolina Tar Heels. They out hustled and out played the Villanova Wildcats last night and beat them by a score of 83-69. I'll be rooting for the Tar Heels tomorrow night against Michigan. Oh, and I didn't buy that hoagie... I actually had some pasta (Fettucine Alfredo) and a nice salad. That's really not the type of food to eat while you're watching a big game... perhaps, I jinxed Villanova.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Weekend Joke


There was a preacher whose wife was expecting a baby so, he went before the congregation and asked for a raise. After much discussion, they passed a rule that whenever the preacher's family expanded so, would his paycheck.

After 6 children, this started to get expensive and the congregation decided to hold another meeting to discuss the preacher's salary. There was a lot of yelling and bickering about how much the clergyman's additional children was costing the church.

Finally, the preacher got up, spoke to the crowd, and said... "Children are a gift from God." Silence fell on the congregation. In the back pew, a little old lady stood up and in her frail voice and said, "Rain is also a gift from God but, when we get too much of it, we wear rubbers!"


Weekend 1

Friday, April 3, 2009

Lovin' The Thunder


This is a strange little post, I know, but I felt compelled to write it anyway. It might not mean anything to any of you reading it but, it's something I felt compelled to write just the same.

I was driving home this afternoon and I noticed how the late afternoon sky looked as if it was about to storm. It turned a dark grayish color and then it looked as if it was about to get lighter. In the horizon, I could see the sun about to set. I don't usually do this but, I pulled my car over to the side, parked it, and got out to look at the sky. I fumbled with my cell phone trying to take a picture of it.

Most of us usually don't have the time or the inclination to marvel at the tapestry that God paints everyday that no artist, living or dead, can properly recreate. I have come to love the beauty of a sky when a thunderstorm is brewing. I think it's the most beautiful sight on God's green earth. You think that's weird, don't you? Yeah, I do too but, every once in awhile, I have to stop and marvel at it. It's just me.

The first time I noticed the sky like that, I think I was 12 years old. I was with my uncle and he was in a popular joint in West Philadelphia called "Punchy's". Anybody who lived in West Philly circa 1970-1987 knew about Punchy's... every black community has one. This was the place where everybody went on Friday to get their seafood. Fried fish sandwiches sold like crazy, crab cakes, tilapia, shrimp, you name it. Punchy's was the place to go.

I couldn't eat seafood because I was allergic so, I usually got a hot dog... but, I loved Punchy's french fries in the little red plaid box with salt, pepper, and ketchup on them. I also loved watching the cooks in Punchy's roll the fish in the corn meal and drop them in the vats, where they were fried golden brown and served up in between two pieces of white bread.

On this one particular Friday, I was outside waiting for my uncle to get our food and I was watching the sky. It looked bad... it was black! The wind was blowing a little and you could tell it was going to rain any minute. I was wishing that he would hurry up. It had been particularly humid that day and close to 97 degrees. The wind felt good but, I didn't want to get drenched. I looked up at the sky and was mesmerized by how different it looked at that moment. The sun was playing peek-a-boo and the dark clouds and light clouds were shifting back and forth. It was the most beautiful sight I had ever seen. Up to then, I don't recall ever stopping to take the time to notice it before.

Just as my uncle walked out of Punchy's with our food, we heard thunder... lots of it. I admit I was a little uneasy but, what we saw next I will never forget. A huge bright streak of lightning struck a tree right across the street from us. It was a huge tree and it split in half. It fell on top of a row house with a thud and its branches broke through the top window of the house.

My uncle was as stunned as I was and his mouth was hanging wide open. He looked at me and said... "Boy, you know somethin'? Now is about as good a time as ever to run if you was gonna." He didn't have to tell me twice. We both got in the wind (as they used to say) and ran for all we were worth to my grandparent's house. The flood gates opened up and rain just poured from the sky.

I was running like the future track star I was going to be. My uncle, who was about the same age I am now back then, was a smoker and he was soon out of breath... but, my skinny little legs kept moving until I got to my grandparent's house. He got there eventually... soaking wet but, holding on to that bag of food.

They were spreading the Cokes, fried fish sandwiches, and french fries on the table and preparing to eat, while I was looking out the window at the beautiful sky and the lightning that accompanied it. My grandmother didn't play that... when it was thundering and lightning, she believed that the "Lord was tendin' to his business". You had to turn off the lights, the radios, and everything else and just sit quiet and still. My grandfather and uncle wanted to eat but, she wasn't having it. I also had to come off that porch and sit still until it stopped. As you can see, nobody was as enthused by the thunder as I.

Years later, I was in the Air Force and stationed in Texas. I happened to see a hail storm mixed with lightning in the distance. All of the other guys were running for cover and I was out there with a camera trying to take a photo of it all. I thought it was great. They thought I was crazy. I can see why they would. I didn't get a good photo that day... not one that captured the glory of it all. And, nothing I can write here can adequately describe the splendor of that sky. That's just God... that's all I can say. The matchless wonder of God's handy work.

Tonight, I stood on the corner trying to take a photo of the sky but, it wouldn't cooperate. And, just as quickly as the sky got dark, it got light again as the sun fought and won it's way through the clouds. Jazmine Sullivan was on the radio singing, "Like A Hurricane" (Was that an omen or what?) while the warm wind blew softly against my face.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Remembering Marvin Gaye


I still remember that day... it was a Sunday... on this day, 25 years ago. I remember exactly where I was when I heard the shocking news. I had just come back from New York City, where I had spent the weekend with my boy, E.J. We bought a couple of suits, hit a couple of clubs, told some New York girls some lies and tall tales about our lives in Philly, and just had a grand ol' time in the Big Apple.

On that Sunday, I was back and sitting in the Burger King on 8th & Market Streets, enjoying a double whopper with cheese, french fries from the McDonald's next door (I always hated Burger King's fries), and a strawberry milk shake. (Before anybody says anything, I was 25 years old and weighed about 125-130 lbs. soaking wet on a 6' 1+1/4" frame so, I could eat like that back then.) I was wearing one of the suits I purchased in New York.

One of my friends walked into the restaurant and said, "Why Keith, you're all gussied up and smellin' sweeter than a french whore." I smirked and replied, "Like you'd know about a french whore or any woman for that matter." Then, he said... "Man, did you hear the news? Marvin Gaye got shot and killed this morning by his father!" I looked at him in shock, pointed at the calendar, and said... "That's some sick April Fool's joke man and that ain't funny."

Then, I overheard some other people in the lobby talking about it... "Man, Marvin Gaye is dead!" "Whaaat?" "Yeah man, he and his Pop got to fightin' and his Pop shot him dead." "Lawddd, have mercy." (In every crowd of black people, there is always someone who will say... "Lawddd, have mercy." I don't care what happens, who did what, good news or bad news, they say... "Lawddd, have mercy.")

I was stunned. It was as if something in nature had failed... like somebody told me that the sun wasn't ever going to shine again. I just had that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I ran outside to get a late edition of the paper and there it was... "Soul Singer Marvin Gaye Shot Dead!" in bold letters. When I got home, I turned on the television and there he was, accepting a Grammy just the year before for "Sexual Healing"... a song that became my mantra in the summer of 1983. I think I sung it or said it to every woman I met with limited success but, that's another story for another blog post.

I fancied myself as somewhat of a singer and if you asked anyone who knew me who my favorite singer was, they would have told you Stevie Wonder. He's the one that everyone from the choir director, to my frat brothers, to the young ladies, used to say that I sounded like the most. The truth is, Marvin Gaye and Sam Cooke were my idols and the ones who I modeled myself after. Maybe it was because Marvin was an Aries like me. I don't know but, from the time I heard "Ain't That Peculiar" when I was 8 years old, up through "What's Goin' On?", "Let's Get It On", "I Want You", and "Here My Dear", Marvin Gaye was my absolute favorite singer. I even grew a goatee at one time (my mother made me cut it off because she said it made me look too grown) and wore a red skull cap, just like the one he wore on the cover of "Let's Get it On"... just because he did.

I followed Marvin's romantic ups and downs with his wife Anna and his second wife, Janis, and all of the brilliant music that was created throughout. I also loved his duets with Tammi Terrell. I was too young to remember Mary Wells and Kim Weston but, I heard those duets were great too. I rejoiced when he finally won his Grammy for Sexual Healing in 1983. No disrespect to Lou Rawls but, I don't know how the album "You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine" beat out "What's Goin' On?" for a Grammy in 1971!

I was just devastated hearing the news of his death that day. I almost didn't finish eating my double whopper with cheese. I didn't watch the news that night or the next night either... it was just too painful. All week long, the tributes came in from Smokey Robinson, Diana Ross, Lionel Richie, Berry Gordy, Jr., James Brown, Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones, and all of the greats. I listened in stunned silence... you would have thought that I knew the man personally by the way I acted that week.

Anyway, that's all water under the bridge. Tonight, in honor of what would have been his 70th birthday, I've got "What's Goin' On?" and "Let's Get It On", his two greatest albums in my opinion, playing back to back. I feel like driving to Burger King and recreating that meal but, I've decided not to... I think I'll have a salad instead.

In Loving Memory of Marvin Pentz Gaye, Jr.
April 2, 1939 - April 1, 1984

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

What I've Learned


1. We often put people in a box... we want them to stay as we remember them at a certain time and never allow them room for personal growth.

2. Nobody will ever live up to everybody's expectations of them.

3.What separates us as human beings are the myths we choose to believe!

4. A woman once told me, "I need a man like a fish needs a bicycle." She's since been married twice! It just goes to show that you can't always take everything somebody says seriously.

5. Loneliness has more to do with who you are than who you're with or not with at a certain time and place.

6. Your future is not always based on logic or any game plan but, on all of the little things that happen in between point A and Point B.

7. Everybody needs a private life. How did we become a nation of voyeurs?

8. When a relationship with a woman is really over, it's over. You're not getting an appeal or a stay.

9. Love is often misunderstood and unappreciated yet, we still must give and receive love. It's what makes us human.

10. What they should say is, not having money is the root of all evil.

11. It's April Fool's Day, but, that doesn't mean you have to be a fool!

That's all folks!




KEEPING THE FAITH: RANDOM PRAYERS "ON THE DOWNLOAD"
























































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



































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Click on image to enlarge for reading



Click on image to enlarge for reading