Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Before I go on, let me just say for those who might get it twisted... What I write on this blog is just my opinion and, just as the description says underneath the title, you are getting "whatever is on my mind today". So, with that said, let me get right to it.
I purposely chose not to write a big blog post on the recent death of Michael Jackson. It was hurting me... I mean, I was really hurting. He has meant too much to me over the years for me to do him any justice (or injustice, depending on how you look at it) by writing a post on him. I figured that a number of bloggers and others would do that anyway and anything I wrote just might be redundant. By the time you read me, you probably would have read the same thing somewhere else.
Most of us grew up with the man in some form or another. I was fortunate enough to be 10 years old when he was 10 years old and just starting out. The first record I ever bought with my own money was "I Want You Back" by the Jackson Five. I used to go to the 5212 Restaurant on the corner of 52nd and Haverford Avenue and play the song on the jukebox so much that the cook gave me the money to go and buy the 45rpm (Remember those? If not, I don't want to hear about it!). I know... I'm really telling my age.
However, this post is not about Michael though. It's about the so-called "tribute" that BET put together and actually aired in his honor. To say I was disappointed is an understatement. New Edition came out overweight with hoarse (or "changed") voices and simply ruined a Jackson Five classic and the other acts were weak, at best.
I love Jamie Foxx... I really do... but, his coming out on stage in tight high-water pants and attempting to be funny at Michael Jackson's expense, just didn't do anything for me. I wanted to laugh but, enough people had clowned and mocked Michael when he was alive. I felt that as black people, we could have at least given him a break in death for one day.
Ne-Yo was the only artist who did Michael any justice. I did like the New Jack Swing part with Guy, BBD, and Keith Sweat. I also thought the tribute to the O'Jays by Johnny Gill, Tyrese, and Trey Songs was great and I thought the O'Jays were great too! Then, you had Soulja Boy Tell ‘Em... What was he singing? Then, you had Lil Wayne, Drake, all of those young girls dancing during their act, all of the cursing, and the 5-second delays that were hit and miss all night long. I just felt embarrassed and sad, that's all.
You know I sat in a movie theatre in the south when I was in boot camp and just cringed while watching "Gone With The Wind" (in 1984, no doubt) and Butterfly McQueen say, "Ah-ont know nothin' 'bout birfin' no babies!" I wanted to kill the white guy sitting next to me who laughed a little too long at her every time she was on the screen. Well, Sunday night, I wanted to grab a lot of those young black people who were portraying that same "coonery" on the television screen. I was just disappointed and embarrassed. I know I might be a minority with my opinion but, I miss the "class".
Michael Jackson (and his brothers) and all of the Motown acts, Philly International acts, Atlantic acts, and Stax acts all performed with class and precision. They didn't embarrass black people and they made us proud when we saw them on TV.
Even hip-hop icons like Tupac, Biggie, Rakim, LL, etc. put on great performances that made me proud when they were in their hey day. When they cursed, at least it was to make a point. Sometimes, it seems as if a lot of these performers today are just vulgar and ignorant just for the sake of it and just because they can be... but, that's not cool and nor is it good showmanship. It's just what it is...coonery! Where was the class? Where did it go?
If I'm by myself with this... if I sound like a crotchety old man and a hater... well, I guess that's just how I sound today. I don't window-dress myself and the older I get, the more I plan to let it all hang out. One of my ex-girlfriend's mother's once told me, "You ain't no good but, you don't try to hide it. What you see with you is what you get." And, she was right. I hope what I saw on BET is not all that we are going to get from our young entertainers. If so, that betrays all of the class and professionalism that Michael Jackson was all about!
Monday, June 29, 2009
This was just too good for me to pass up. Now, let me get this straight... South Carolina's governor once cited "moral legitimacy" when he was a congressman, voting for Bill Clinton's impeachment when he was president. He became a darling of fiscal conservatives over his ideological opposition to federal stimulus cash. Now, Mark Sanford has taken a swan dive from the moral high ground by admitting to an extramarital affair with a woman in Argentina on Wednesday. The Republican governor makes the already-difficult end of his term-limited administration nearly untenable.
Talk about being an international player. This guy goes from a four-day hike along the Appalachian Trail to winding up in Argentina with a babe! This kinda reminds me of when I was a teenager, I would offer to take the trash out, and then disappear for a few hours. I never made it to Argentina... I didn't even make it to Camden... but, I gotta give the man his props. When he gets away, he gets AWAY!
Details of that affair were revealed by The State newspaper in South Carolina, which released email exchanges between Sanford and the woman, identified only as "Maria". (Why are all Spanish mistresses named Maria?)
According to the newspaper, Sanford's office Wednesday did not dispute the authenticity of the emails. Contacted by the AP, Sanford spokesman Joel Sawyer declined to discuss them. Yeah, I can see why he would.
Emails to Argentina
One email exchange dated July 4, 2008 that the governor is reported to have written to her stated: "You are glorious and I hope you really understand that. You do not need a therapist to help you figure your place in the world. You are special and unique and fabulous in a whole host of ways that are worth a much longer conversation. "She reportedly wrote back the same day saying, "I told you before, you brought happiness and love to my life and I will take you forever in my heart. I wasn’t aware till we met last week, the strong feelings I had for you, and believe me, I haven’t felt this since I was in my teen ages ..." And, I haven't heard or said such mush to a woman since I was a teenager. Okay, maybe in my early early twenties.
Another email, reportedly sent by Sanford on July 10, 2008, contained this exchange: "Two, mutual feelings... You have a particular grace and calm that I adore. You have a level of sophistication that so fitting with your beauty. I could digress and say that you have the ability to give magnificent gentle kisses, or that I love your tan lines, or that I love the curve of your hips, the erotic beauty of you holding yourself (or two magnificent parts of yourself) in the faded glow of the night's light — but hey, that would be going into sexual details..."
The e-mail continued... "I better stop now least this really sound like the Thornbirds — wherein I was always upset with Richard Chamberlain for not dropping his ambitions and running into Maggie’s arms. The bottom line is twofold, my heart wants me to get on a plane tonight and to be in your loving arms... "She reportedly responded, also on July 10, 2008 saying, "I don’t know how we will figure all of this out and I am not interested in knowing. I prefer to think we’ll see each other again somewhere, sometime in this life and in next. I will be missing you till then. Sending you millions of kisses that will last 'til we get in touch again. Best wishes from the deepest of my heart."
The political reality is that Sanford now faces a host of legal and ethical questions. The state's top senator questioned whether Sanford broke the law when he disappeared for several days on a trip to South America and didn't transfer power to the lieutenant governor. "I would think that if the evidence indicates that there is a willful effort to circumvent the constitution, there would be a chorus of calls for him to resign," said state Sen. Glenn McConnell, a fellow Republican. McConnell said Sanford needed to answer questions about whether taxpayer money was used but stopped short of calling for an investigation. Sanford's spokesman has said no state resources were used during the affair.
He has alienated leaders of his GOP-dominated state Legislature for years, but said recently he was finding comfort outside the Statehouse as a champion for smaller government and lower taxes. He was raising his national political profile with his outspoken fight against using federal cash for anything but paying down debt. As chairman of the Republican Governors Association, he was raising money for candidates and deflecting talk he was planning to run for president in 2012.
Yeah, he really needs to forget about 2012 or 2022 for that matter... but, then again, Americans have short memories when it comes to some people and some things. People still laugh and snicker about Bill Clinton's escapades and you can best believe if Barack Obama ever has a hint of a sex scandal, there will be howls for his resignation from this same GOP that wishes like hell this scandal would just go away!
Friday, June 26, 2009
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
I'm not feeling my best right now. In fact, I think I may have be coming down with a cold or something. I really shouldn't be blogging either (maybe I'm just too dedicated or addicted to this blogging thing) but, I thought I would drop this ephinany on you.
Like all of you, I hate being sick (at least, I hope you hate being sick too). But, when I am, it forces me to be two things... quiet and still. When I'm quiet and still, it doesn't matter what is going on around me. I am at once alone with my thoughts and I can hear things. I can hear or (at least) feel something at my core that lets me see clearly what path I need to be on, where I need to go, what I need to be doing, and it let's me know how blessed I am.
I'm sure I'll feel better tomorrow. Be still and know that He is...
(Those who know, also know that I don't need to finish that sentence, right?)
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Christmas was approaching and we were having something called a pollyanna so, I had to get a gift for the person whose name I pulled from the hat. My uncle took me to the "five and dime" store (better known as Woolworth) on 52nd street and we bought a nice bright racing car for the person that I would have wanted for myself. I was so proud of the gift that I couldn't wait for my school chum to open it... I was just bursting with joy. Do you know what I got in return? A pair of socks! That's right... the cheap bastard got me a pair of socks and what was worse, they were too big. My mother, grandmother, and uncle thought it was funny but, I didn't find the humor in it because I wanted a toy too.
From that day on, I rarely (if ever) participated in pollyannas... not family, not school, not college, not fraternity, not in the Air Force, and definitely not at any job. People have probably called me "Scrooge" but, I have always declined to participate just the same. Now don't get me wrong, if I have a friend or acquaintence that I'm particulary close to or fond of, I will buy them a nice gift and not necessarily expect anything back. But, that's different because I wanted to give them a gift and not because I was part of some organized tradition where I was supposed to give a gift and expect to get something equally nice back!
With my friends, and especially my close friends, I expect some parity too. For instance, I had a friend (and the emphasis is on HAD) who I would get a birthday gift and a Christmas gift for every year. When my birthday would come around, I would be lucky if I got a card and I would get my Christmas gift about three months later on my birthday as a sort of combination gift. I didn't want to bring it up to them because that would have been kinda... well, you know, in poor taste.
Eventually, I stopped buying birthday gifts and Christmas gifts for this person and just started sending cards. Recently, this person had the nerve to mention to me that I didn't buy gifts and I played the "poor mouth" card. I said that I was married, had a family, and now with grandchildren so, I just couldn't swing it.
A few days before my birthday this year I got a text message saying "Happy Birthday" from this person. It was the kind of text that makes noise and the phone provider probably sends you. I shook my head... I couldn't believe it. Come Mother's day, I called my friend (as I do every woman I know) and wished her a "Happy Mother's Day". I mean, come on... it's Mother's Day. You know what I got yesterday? A Text message that said "Hapy Father's Day" and it wasn't even spelled right. Come on... they left out one of the p's! Well, that was the text that broke the camel's back.
Am I too old fashioned to expect a call? I make calls. If we are good friends, shouldn't we be a little more personal than a text? Don't get me wrong... a text message is cool for a lot of things but so uncool when you're asking somebody out on a date, when you're breaking up with somebody (to me, that's downright cowardly), and when you're sending greetings for birthdays , Mother's Day, Father's Day, etc. Is it just me? I like a call or a face-to-face, if possible. You can text me about the game, Kanye West's new album, the guy's toupee' in church that fell off when pastor really got to goin' in his sermon. But dammit, call me or come see about me on the days that really matter!
Monday, June 22, 2009
Yesterday, I had a quite amazing Father's Day. My son-in-law's parents invited my wife and I over to their house for a "dinner for the fathers", if you will. Of course, my daughter and son-in-law were there with our grandchildren, which made it extra special for me. In addition, my son-in-law's brother, his wife, and their two small children were there... and, we even got a chance to meet the his wife's parents because they were there too.
We had a delicious meal, prepared by my son-in-law's family, which included a nice garden salad, string beans, potato salad, rice and beans, baked chicken, ox tails, apple or cheese cake for dessert, and my wife and I brought assorted flavors of Sparkling Cider for the beverage. We had a really nice time, reuniting with our extended family and getting to know my daughter's in-laws. Everyone enjoyed the meal, good conversation, the baseball game on TV, and the kids had a ball.
It's funny how your mind will wander when you're eating and you realize you've missed the baseball game, the sixth loss in a row for your defending world champion baseball team! I thought of all of the hats that I have worn over the years... husband, father, grandfather, etc. and an insignificant individual who made my mind up for me as to just what type of man I was going to be. I will call him "Sam" and leave it at that.
When I was about 15 or 16 years old, Sam, was 4 or 5 years older than me. He was out of school and had a real cool car. All of the guys my age idolized Sam and envied his car. It was a vintage Corvette Stingray and he kept that car in mint condition. Don't even look like you were going to lean on it and ask for a ride... that second seat was reserved for the ladies!
My mother sensed that I kind of idolized this guy because I used to talk about him a lot... well, not a lot but enough. She had already "peeped his card" and said, "He ain't nothin' but a jitterbug and he's nobody to pattern yourself after." My mom called everybody she didn't like a "jitterbug". Today, that word could mean what we would call a thug to a ne'er-do-well in general so, I didn't take too much stock in what she said at the point. It turns out, my Mom was right about this guy and I just didn't see it then.
Sam had a girlfriend, who I will call "Tall and Gorgeous". The old men used to watch her walk down the street and say, "Now, that's a fine tall drink of water!" And, she was. She and Sam were the equivalent of Beyonce and Jay-Z today. He wasn't really much to look at as looks go but, he had that fly car, he was working somewhere, and he had a little money in his pockets. So, we reasoned, that was reason enough for her to be with him.
Late in the summer of 1974 Tall and Gorgeous became very, very pregnant with Sam's baby and his attitude toward her began to change. They could frequently be heard arguing out on the street and even though I knew there was no way that my Mom could know what they were arguing about, she would say to my father, "Yeah, see... he done got that girl "in trouble" and now he don't want nothing to do with her. I knew he was no good." But, that was his business as far as I was concerned.
I was never "allowed" to be in the 55th street projects but, of course, I made my way to them. I was seeing some girl, nameless and faceless now, who lived in the projects. I always made sure not to stay in there too long and to watch my surroundings when leaving. My mom always had "friends from church" (who I didn't know) who always seemed to "see" me somewhere I wasn't supposed to be. To this day, I don't know who these people were but, they were dead on about seeing me in such-and-such a place. Anyway, I was tipping out of there one evening and I saw Sam and another young lady who obviously lived there arguing. She was pregnant too and from the way he was talking, this baby was his too. Nowadays, this type of thing is no big deal but, in 1974, there was still a little stigma to it.
Sam saw me and offered me a ride home. I was careful to have him let me out a block from my house because I didn't want my mom to see me with him. I think he understood. He bitched and complained about how both of these girls "had nothing better to do than to get pregnant and that they weren't getting a dime from him". I asked him why didn't he use some protection. He looked at me like I was crazy and said that he didn't like condoms and birth control was the woman's responsibility, not his. You ever hear something crazy come out of someone's mouth, you look at them, and realize that you never really knew them and now, for the first time, you're actually seeing them? This was how I felt, when I listened to this guy talk. Any idolization I had for this guy went out of the window right there. At that split second, I concluded that Sam was an asshole and never looked at him the same again. Now, flash forward to the 1980's...
Both of Sam's sons were born about a week apart in 1975. He kept his secret for close to 10 years, married someone else, and had a daughter with his wife. In 1985 or '86, both boys with the exact same name met up in elementary school, got to talking (I guess), and went home and told their mamas. Sam hadn't paid child support for either son in a while so, they took him to court. I read that he was arrested and made to pay back child support for both boys. His wife had no idea that he had not one but, two outside children. She was not the co-parenting type so, she left him.
Well, I have run into Sam in the streets from time to time and he is the most miserable person you'd ever want to meet. In that one moment, listening to him in the car that night in 1974, I made up my mind that I was never going to have multiple kids by multiple women all over the map and, if I did father a child, I was going to be responsible for it. I wasn't going to be like him.
I haven't been a saint. I'm far, far, far from it but, I wasn't the type of "man" Sam turned out to be. I don't have the perfect family either... Who does? But, while I was eating dinner, I looked at my wife and I looked from side-to-side at the kids and I felt good for the first time in a long time.
My mom was right on that call. She was right on a number of calls and she was a far better judge of people than I ever was. Even though this is about Father's Day, I'm glad that I got the chance to tell my mom how many times she was right and how she shaped me as a husband, father, and man.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Friday, June 19, 2009
I drive a lot more now than I used to. I was driving somewhere a few days ago and I said something to my wife and I turned and noticed that she was sleeping. You don't know how much I envy her that. When I was primarily a passenger in other people's cars.. and especially on public transportation,I could and would nod off as soon as the car, train, bus or trolley started rolling...You might be surprised, but that was some of the most comfortable sleep of my life..
I took the trolley into town for a minute today... This guy was sitting next to me calling hogs , Jesus and just about everybody else you can think of to call... At first it was amusing... then the longer we rode... the louder he got and the more he attracted attention. He got so loud that i eventually got up and moved. These teenagers apparently thought that it would be funny to put a rolled up newspaper under the man's arm. They did and he still didn't budge. They put an empty soda can in his hands and he continued to snore even louder... Poor guy, he had probably worked all afternoon long... He was tired. It's been raining here in Philly for most of the week and between the rain and the humidity... it's a perfect recipe for , well, sleep. He never woke up and he was still sleeping when I got off the trolley... Those kids were still laughing and piling junk around him in his seat too!
I don't think I have ever slept that soundly ,but I have slept hard before on the subway. In Philadelphia, Our elevated train/subway runs a good twenty two miles from The Frankford station in the "Great Northeast" as they call it, through Center City (The equivalent of downtown Manhattan, I guess.) through University City and West Philly all the way to the end of the line ,which is actually in Upper Darby..right outside of the city.
I had a night job once in which I got off at 2:00 am in the morning. It was a hot steamy summer night... I was good and tired...I got on the subway at 8th and Market. My destination was 56th and Market. (The train comes up out of the subway and elevates at 40th street...The click clack of the train and the loud roar of the train is enough to wake the dead... I think I woke up for a minute and remembered being on 46th Street... but after that..I fell asleep and when I woke up I was at 69th Street... The end of the line. The guy driving the train was walking through the cars and told me to wake up and to get off the train... I did and got on the train headed towards 56th Street..Which was only five stops away.
I must have fallen asleep again because when I woke up this time...the train station said Tioga!! I had fallen asleep ,missed my stop, rode all the way back through the subway past 8th and Market, come out of the subway in North Philly (They call it "Northern Liberties" now and rode into Kensington. Seeing the doors close and seeing that sign that said "Tioga" scared me... because now ,I was the only Black person on the train...There was two Puerto Ricans and a couple of white teenagers...
I fell asleep again and when I woke up... I was in Frankford... It was close to four in the morning. I got off and walked down into the street. There was a McDonald's across the street from the El Station... I had a Big Mac , some Fries and a Milk Shake... I got back on the El and this time I stayed awake..Until we got to around 34th street... then... you guessed it... I fell asleep again... When I woke up... I was at 56th Street, but the doors were closing. I got off at the next stop. 60th Street. My Aunt Jean lived about a block from the station at the time and I thought about going over there to crash..but thought better of it... For one thing it was 5:30 in the morning... And I didn't want her to call my mother in New Jersey and tell her that I was out in the street at this time in the morning. I was 25 at the time, but such was the respect (fear rather) for my mom's wrath... You just had to know her... take my word for it.
I walked to 60th and Haverford and caught a bus... The 46. This bus would take me to the corner of my street and I could walk the rest of the way to my house , which was four blocks away. Fell asleep again... Woke up on Master Street... One block shy of where I lived. This time I walked the rest of the way home and went straight to bed... and slept good for many hours.
That was the worse time I'd ever had with falling asleep while riding, but not the last. A few years ago, I got on the 15 trolley at 63rd and Girard... was only going to 56th and Girard..fell asleep and woke up in Port Richmond... the whitest part of town. There was one Black guy in sight... a cop and he was catching the fastest thing smoking out of there , going in the opposite direction. I followed him. Stayed awake the entire ride home this time... No dozing off.
That's why I didn't make fun of that brother on the train yesterday... He was sleeping hard, it was hot, muggy and wet...I perfectly understood.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
As the young Obama administration spends trillions of dollars in its effort to turn around the nation’s economy and revive the U.S. auto industry, the American public is growing concerned about the size of the budget deficit and the government’s intervention into the private sector. Nearly 7 in 10 have serious reservations about the federal government’s ownership stake in General Motors. Almost 60% say that President Obama and Congress should worry more about keeping the deficit down, even if that means it will take longer for the economy to recover. And, fewer than half of Americans have confidence in the president’s policies to improve the economy.
Again, here we are wanting to have our cake. In this case, a thriving economy and wanting to eat it too, by not having a deficit or any government intervention. The president and his administration are in the unenviable position of being damned if they do something and damned if they don't. People are grumbling a little about the Obama administration not acting fast enough on health care. If he does, the deficit may grow even deeper and that will cause these same people to be concerned about that. Seriously, what do people want? A magic wand that will make all of the pieces fit? It just doesn't work like that.
Obama remains a popular figure in the polls... but, these numbers on the deficit and the government’s intervention seem to mark a new period for the administration, as the public moves from welcoming his inauguration and first days in office to examining his initial actions as president. Democratic pollster Peter D. Hart, who conducted this survey with (Wouldn't you know it?)Republican Bill McInturff, said that Obama is still receiving a bouquet from Americans “but there are a lot more thorns in the bouquet.”
And, looking ahead to the items Obama wants to tackle like reforming health care (as I mentioned above) and curbing greenhouse gases, Hart observes that the bar has been raised. “There is no more smooth sailing for the administration. They are going to have to navigate in pretty choppy waters.” Choppy waters the Republican opposition is more than happy to navigate him through.
McInturff agrees, although he adds that the president’s continued personal popularity gives him “the latitude to ask for major action and major change.” Independents are now split on Obama, according to the poll... 60% view Obama favorably vs. just 29% who see him in a negative light. Also, three-quarters of the public say they like him personally and that number includes 27% who don’t like his policies. But, the president’s overall approval rating is at 56%, which is down 5 percentage points from April.
The drop mainly comes from independents, who backed Obama by 60% to 31% in April but, approve of him now by a 46-44 clip. Yet, perhaps the most troubling numbers in the poll for Obama come on questions about the administration’s intervention in the private sector, especially to help save General Motors.
The public sours on GM intervention and the deficit... 46% oppose Obama’s action to provide financial aid to GM in return for a majority stock in the company. Additionally, a whopping 69% say they’re concerned “a great deal” or “quite a bit” about the government’s ownership of the automaker.
But, here again... this is a case of having your cake and wanting to eat it too. If GM goes down, jobs are lost and not just the GM jobs... but, all of the companies who service GM and depend on GM for their livelihood. I found it simply amazing that a number of so-called Pro-Business Republicans said that Obama should have let GM and the banks that asked for bailout money simply fail and collapse, and that the American people should not have had to pay their tab. Incredible. On paper somewhere, some idiot might have thought that looked good but, the human face was certainly not on that paper.
The human face of the father and mother who are out of work, whose electricity is off because they've fallen behind in their payments, whose home is about to be taken from them, and who might have had a meal yesterday but are not sure if they will eat today. The human faces of their kids who just don't understand why or how this all happened to them... whole towns and urban areas where many families are acting out this entire scenario. This is why it would have been catastrophic to allow the banks and automakers to fail. This is why there was no time to debate policy for three years and then do something half-assed. Something had to be done now!
I don't like the widening and bloated deficit anymore than the next man. I'm no fool. I know that my grandchildren's kids will probably still be paying for this mess but, it's either that or I'm out on the street now, which would do no one any good at all. I'm slicing a piece of strawberry short cake. Care to have some America?
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
I've been eating cereal for breakfast (Wheaties, breakfast of champions. Anybody have a problem with that cereal?) with the occasional banana cut up in it. When I want to get real fly, I have strawberries and bananas cut up in my cereal. I've been skipping lunch, preferring just to walk around campus and socialize with folk I haven't seen since the seasons changed. Occasionally, I would stop by Salad Alley and have a big salad and Ice Tea but, more often than not, I would just skip lunch altogether. My big meal of the day would be dinner. Mind you, this is the only meal of the day that I didn't have to pay for. I never thought I'd see the day when I would pay to eat cereal.
In the afternoon, before I'd sit down and drop these semi-literary gems on you good people, I have taken to walking. Sometimes, I just walk, think, talk to myself (although, I don't answer myself back), look up, and I don't know where I am or how I got there. Then, I eventually make it back home and sit on my steps before I decide to come inside and start writing posts for my blogs and Facebook. The results... a loss of 11 lbs! I must admit, I feel better. There is a glide in my stride and more of a dip in my hips but, I swear it's not exercise. Besides walking, I haven't been doing any exercising... I don't even like the word.
I had a swimming instructor who I swear looked like Lee Harvey Oswald, the accused assassin of John F. Kennedy. He would always make us do stretching exercises before we got in the pool. He had a decidedly southern accent and before we got in the pool he used to say, "Awwwwl rat now gentlemens... ex er cisssssssseeeeeeeeeee!" I hated the sound of his voice when he said that... it was almost like I could hear a subliminal message beneath his voice that was really saying, "I am Satan and I'm gone drown you little colored boys once ya get in that water." I could swear that that's what I heard. His voice just gave me the creeps but, maybe that's because I was a 10 year old with an overactive imagination. Some would argue that now, I'm a middle aged man with an overactive imagination. Who me? Nah!!!!
I haven't done any real exercising and yet, I've lost 11 lbs. Maybe if I do some real exercising, I can be down to my goal of 210 lbs in no time. Who knows? Right now, I'm wearing a pair of pants that actually have some wiggle room in them and I can run through my house and play "air basketball" without getting winded the way I did about two months ago.
I'm just playing with you guys. I just recently got a report from my cardiologist, who said that my heart is in good shape and that there is no blockage of any valves. I was having chest pains a few months ago, which I now know was a slight case of acid reflux. With that news and my little pain problem solved, I've been running around like a man with a new lease on life... that's more than likely the reason for the weight loss.
So, I say that to tell you this... I'm drinking an ice tea right now and raising my glass to good health, the loss of possibly another 11 lbs, and a victory of free-floating anxiety over exercise!
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
As you all know by now, the Los Angeles Lakers have won their 15th NBA championship, which makes them the second winningest basketball team in the NBA. Only the Boston Celtics have more championships (17). The Chicago Bulls run a very distant third with 6 championships.
The man who steered Chicago through all six of those titles is also the man who has steered the Los Angeles Lakers to 4 of those 15 titles... Phil Jackson ! The accolades flew on Sunday. He is being called the "greatest coach in modern sports history". He is the only single coach in any pro sport who has won 10 championships but, is he really the greatest coach in modern sport history?
I don't want to hate but, I used to hear this stuff about Phil Jackson years before and I used to say that, if I had Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Dennis Rodman on my team and a nice cast of supporting players who knew their roles and played the way they did, I'd be the greatest coach in modern times too! I said the same thing about having Kobe Bryant, who is unarguably, the best player in the NBA at the moment (okay, I said "at the moment"), and Shaquille O'Neal, one of the four greatest centers of all time, on my team when Shaq was in his prime and simply a beast in the paint.
I said that, to my liking, a guy like Larry Brown was my idea of a better coach. See, Larry Brown took under-achieving teams like the Clippers, Nuggets, Cavaliers, Pacers and yes, my own Sixers and made them contenders. He got them to the playoffs and the NBA championships with maybe one truly great player (i.e. Allen Iverson) on the team. I argued that anybody can win when they have the greatest players of all time on their team but, that's not so easy when you have maybe one superstar and a group of just average players.
However, Magic Johnson said something on Sports Center last night that made me rethink everything I had said before. He talked about how Phil knew how to handle the massive egos of superstars like himself, Charles Barkley, Larry Bird, Scottie Pippen, Shaquille O'Neal and yes, even Kobe Bryant. He talked about how Scottie Pippen quit on Phil in one game and how instead of yelling and screaming like a lot of coaches would do, he put his arms around Scottie, talked to him, built up his ego that had been shattered, and got a championship-caliber player out of him.
I imagine handling a man of Michael Jordan's ego and majesty was no walk in the park either. The same thing happened a few years ago when Kobe Bryant was demanding to be traded, as well as demanding that certain teammates be traded away also that he didn't deem dedicated and competitive enough. Phil put his arms around Kobe, soothed that massive ego, told him to hold on... that he was going to get him the players he needed around him, and get him a championship. Kobe made nice, Phil and management got him a nice talented cadre of young players, and two nights ago, Phil Jackson made good on his promise to get Kobe that fourth ring.
You see, Phil's talent is in being a facilitator. I know, we all have laughed and called him "The Zen Master" coach but the truth is, Phil Jackson put his ego on the back porch. He developed Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher into leaders, talked to each player according to their needs, and got them to contribute to their highest level. So, when Alonzo Mourning remarked that " all Phil Jackson did was show up and Kobe is really running the show", I can see how it might have appeared that way but, that was not the case. Phil was actually running the show but letting his players look like and maybe even "think" they were. The bottom line is this... the guy won a championship, again!
I gotta give Phil his props because I was actually rooting for the Orlando Magic. But, these Lakers just shut them down... they defended better and they played team ball. Kobe didn't have to work nearly as hard as Lebron did when he faced this same Magic ball club. Kobe finally learned how to trust his teammates... something that was apparent Lebron James (as much as I like the guy) hasn't learned how to do yet. He's young, he'll learn... just like Jordan learned.
In the 80's, I loved the Lakers (as long as they weren't playing the Sixers) and Magic Johnson was my favorite player. I loved "showtime". I haven't loved these Lakers. I always said that they were bullies. I rejoiced when Detroit knocked them out and I leaped for joy when the Boston Celtics (a team I never thought I'd be rooting for) sent them packing last year. Even this year, I wanted to see a Lebron-Kobe showdown more than anything. Then finally, I hoped that the Magic might shut them down the same way they ousted the Sixers, Celtics, and Cavs. It didn't happen.
I'm a basketball fan through and through so, even though my team lost, I have to appreciate the beauty of the team that did win and the man that got them there. So, for the moment, my hat is off to Phil Jackson. Job well done!
Monday, June 15, 2009
I have wondered for a while if I am really addicted to both Blogger and Facebook... the answer was yes. I do write for two blogs, the one you're reading and my other fiction and poetry blog, Escapades, on a daily basis. Anyone who has followed me on Facebook knows that I must have taken all of the Facebook quizzes there are (and then some) and that I hold converstaions with close to 161 people on a daily basis. Okay, maybe not all at once but, in the short time I've been on Facebook, I have reconnected with people I went to high school with, people I went to college with, people who I served in the Air Force with, and guys who are members of my fraternity. I also have a number of relatives and other people who I just knew from... well, just being me.
I have always been somewhat of an "electric personality" and a "people magnet". I'm not just saying this either. In every aspect of my life, I came to know a cross-section of people. My wife and one of my co-workers used to say, "My God, is there any place we can go where you don't know somebody?" What can I say? I've been many places and seen many faces. A social network like Facebook was tailor-made for the "social animal" that I am.
My little blog opened me up to an entire network of like-minded people who I have followed to Facebook. I have not decided if I am going to get on Twitter but, I understand that there are even more people on that social network. I've also heard that it is even more addictive that Facebook or Blogger. Do I really need that too? I've got living to do! :)
I'm a natural born writer but, I never dreamed that I would spend this much time in front of a computer. I spend an hour to an hour-and-a-half each night writing my blog posts and another hour on Facebook. I suppose I could be doing something worse but, I'm going to try something else. I'm going to spend a little time this summer reading (I've got three novels and some magazines that are awaiting my attention) and I'm going to go out a little and actually touch some real live human beings.
I think that this will improve my writing and I hope all of you who read my blogs will let me know. I may not be blogging everyday like I have been but, I'll be around enough. Most of my blogger friends have taken weeks off at a time. I won't be doing that because I love this blogging thing too much. I love Facebook too. Can Twitter be next? Lord knows, I don't need another electronic addiction.
Friday, June 12, 2009
My grandmother used to say that there is no fool like an old fool. (What she actually said was, there was no fool like a damned old jackass but, you get my drift here.) Yesterday, an 88 year old James von Brunn proved to be just that... not an old fool but, what my grandmother said.
Guard Stephen T. Jones, an African American, was shot to death Wednesday by Holocaust denier James von Brunn, who left his car outside the entrance of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and walked in holding a rifle at his side, District Police Chief Cathy Lanier said at a news conference. von Brunn started shooting immediately, exchanging fire with two other guards who shot and critically injured him, Lanier said.
In his car, officers found a notebook with a handwritten note that read, "You want my weapons, this is how you'll get them. The Holocaust is a lie. Obama was created by Jews, "according to a court affidavit.
Von Brunn's .22-caliber rifle held 10 more bullets. Investigators found more in his car and at an apartment in Annapolis, MD that he shared with son and his son's fiancee. Security guards fired at von Brunn at least eight times, hitting him in the face.
The museum remained closed on Thursday and flags flew at half-staff in honor of Johns, 39, who had worked at the museum for six years. Bouquets of roses, lilies, and other flowers were left outside the museum walls. The entrance where the shooting occurred was still cordoned off by police tape.
You know...If this guy wasn't so full of hatred, vile, and so wrong-headed, I could almost feel a little sorry for him. His woman had left him... apparently, she had enough of his constant anti-Black, anti-Jewish diatribe. According to her "James could talk about little else." He had very little money, was semi-employed, down to his last few dollars and had no medical coverage. In his mind, all of the blame for this lies at the feet of those damn "Negroes and Jews",
especially the Jews.
Like a lot of these right-wing knuckle draggers, had several blogs and publications in circulation in which he spewed his hatred and vile around. I had heard that for a while, he was actually making a few dollars selling his books and periodicals at Gun shows, senior citizen centers, and swap meets.
Ahhh, but now we've got an African-American President don't we? And, everybody is saying that this is "post racial" America. What exactly does that mean? That we are free to meet and mix with like minded people that want to meet and mix? I imagine one huge interracial orgy! (I'm just kidding.) The thing about it is, people like von Brunn really believe that. They believe it and a half-dozen other half-baked conspiracy theories.
They say that this man was a near genius (he was a member of Mensa). For someone 88 years old, he was far better on the internet than a lot of people in their forties. So, why? Why is someone who obviously had a brain, so warped and so wrapped around such half-baked and hate-filled ideologies? Another unanswered question and another pathetic waste of a human life... both his and the innocent man he killed.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Why do people stay in toxic relationships? Why do people continue to do the same things and play the same roles over and over and over again ad nauseum? When these toxic relationships produce the same results, why do these same people act surprised? What did they think was going to happen?
Yesterday, I had a conversation with someone that gave me the answer that I had long been seeking. I usually have this type of conversation with a woman but this time, I had it with a man. This guy that I work with was bemoaning the fact that a relationship he had with a certain woman was over.
"She really wasn't a nice person" he said. Yes, I agreed, but you knew that... she didn't try to hide who and what she was. Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles could have seen what type of woman she was before she arrived. Everybody could see this except this guy. This brings me to another point. People see not only what they want to see but, more importantly, what they "need" to see.
He went on about the number of times he paid for all of her drinks in the bar and when they went out, she never had to pay for anything. He said that every year, he bought her extravaganr and expensive birthday and Christmas gifts and he has yet to receive a card. However, he did receive a text saying "Happy Birthday"... that ought to count for something.
After he talked about the bad, he got wistful and talked about the good times... the picnics in the park, the times she gave him money to gas up his car, the times he would call her cell phone and talk to her while she was driving home from night school so she wouldn't fall asleep on the road, the many times they sat on her steps late at night and drank Hypnotiq (Arrrrgggggggghhh) and just laughed and laughed. I've drank Hypnotiq... it didn't make me laugh.
Now, you know why I prefer to have this kind of conversation with the ladies. Somehow, when they retell a story, it doesn't make me want to hurl. But, I say all that to say this... it's the memories and mostly the good ones, that make people stay. It's the good memories that occurred in the early days, when the relationship was new, that makes people believe that if they try it again or if they stick it out, those days might come back.
People change, though. Women meet a guy, see potential, and attempt to change the man. Men fall in love with a woman just the way she is at that time in her life and then get dismayed when she changes. It's a never ending cycle and after the relationship has gone full circle and both people clearly realize that they are wrong for each other, instead of calling it a day, "having one more shot for the road" (as Frank Sinatra would sing), and going on their merry way, they start all over again. They do the same things to each other too and in the end, all of the things that weren't right in the first place get magnified each time you go through the ringer with that toxic person in your life.
I can't judge the man I was talking to yesterday because I've been there before myself. It was the good memories that gave you that unreal high. You became like a junkie and eventually, when things all go bad, you're now just hanging on to something that's no longer there so that you won't get sick. It's a vicious circle. Human beings have very short memories and I've talked about this before.
In closing, I'll quote Maya Angelou... "When people tell you who they are, believe 'em!" (Thanks O.G., that is becoming my favorite quote!)
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Many of these changes in account terms have already taken effect. Still others, such as the return of routine annual fees, may be on the horizon. Changes have come quickly in interest rates, fees, minimum payments, credit limits, and rewards and none of these favor us.
Although the banks behind these credit cards are scooping up billions in bailout money and borrowing money from the Federal Reserve (at an interest rate of as low as 0%), they aren't passing on those savings to us. Credit card interest rates have increased for many major card consumers... even doubled or tripled for some who pay their bills on time (like me). Bank of America is raising interest rates on about 4 million customers with balances. Citigroup and Capital One have also jacked up their rates. So, the next time one of those commercials comes on your TV screen, toss your tortilla chips at the screen... just clean the salsa off first.
Reward programs (what a joke) have become... well, less rewarding. Citigroup's "Thank You" rewards program "thanked" its customers by adding a $39.00 fee for all tickets redeemed through its CitiMiles program. American Express' Delta SkyMiles "Always Double Miles" program on everyday purchases became "never double miles." It seems to me that this country's entire economic system was designed to exploit and disenfranchise poor, desperate people like myself... which is why I've always been a rebel without a pause.
What's behind the upheaval and why so many changes? Why now, especially after the federal government has pumped billions of dollars into struggling banks to help bolster lending? Glad you asked and here it is...
Banking and credit industry observers say a tsunami of financial, regulatory, and economic forces is leading issuers to drive up the cost of borrowing on credit cards. The recession, financial market turmoil, frozen credit card securities market, job losses, and growing credit card payment defaults are fueling some of the changes. (Don't they always say that?)
Credit card issuers are also gearing up for 2010, when sweeping changes in federal credit card regulations will go into effect and significantly limit how and when interest rates can be increased. Recently passed federal legislation to curb practices in the card industry will fast-track consumer protections (i.e. GREED and GOUGING).
Profitability problems: Moody's, a New York credit rating agency, used a stress analysis to evaluate the strength of the six biggest credit card issuers -- Bank of America, Chase, Citi, American Express, Capital One, and Discover. They found that maintaining profitability this year will be a struggle for some. Capital One and Citi posted losses in the first quarter and American Express eked out only a small gain. The six collectively hold 80% of the nation's nearly $1 trillion in outstanding credit card balances. Whoooeeeee!!!
So, what are you to do? Wellllllll... you can do as I do. I limit my credit card purchases to what I can pay off "in full" each month. I read the fine print in detail ever so often and, most of the time, I try to pay in cash and live within my means. If I really can't afford it, chances are I don't need it. But, that's just me.
Most Americans like to have what they want to have when they want to have it and will not be denied. This kind of thinking is why we are in the financial mess we are in today. It's time for a new kind of thinking when it comes to money. I started about ten years ago before the current crisis. I didn't even know it was coming but when it came, I was already in a new mode of thinking.
Damn it, Ronald Reagan... this is all your fault!!!
A public service announcement from the Maverick of All Bloggers!
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
1. You can love someone very much doesn't mean that they have to love you in the same way or as much.
2. We are often too judgmental. Life is short and very little that happens is that deep. Learn to forgive.
3. We want God, who none of us has ever seen, to forgive us... and yet, we can't forgive the people we actually see everyday for some real or imagined slight.
4. When I was a child, I was fascinated by the neighborhood bar. It was this big, dark room that people sat in, drank in, and it looked mysterious and cool. My grandfather and uncles always said, "Don't worry 'bout that. You'll know what's inside when you get older." Now that I've been in a few bars, I wonder what all the fuss was about!
5. The road to redemption often seems like the longest and most narrow road one has to travel.
6. I spent the first 18 years of my life wanting to be free of my parents so I could do what I wanted to do and not have to hear their unsolicited advice. Now, I'd give anything for one or both of them to tell me what to do sometimes. Unfortunately, it's too late!
7. When I was 18 years old and about to leave for college, my grandmother told me to "never forget who you are and how you were raised." Needless to say, sometimes I did forget and everytime in my life that I did, I got an unpleasent reminder of who I was and how I was expected to comport myself.
8. My mother always told me that, "A job is just how you make your money. Never confuse it with who you are." Wisdom, I actually listened to. It has served me well and helped me to keep my balance.
9. People love us the best that they can. It's not always the best that we expect them to or rather, that we want them to.
10. We are often surrounded by people who love us... and yet, we'll stress over the one person who does not love us. Recognize the people in your life that really love and care about you. The haters aren't really that important!
Monday, June 8, 2009
I decided to get something close to new (from this century) that I knew would have a reduced price. I figured with the 2010 models about to be released, now was as good a time as any to get an '07 or '08. Finally, I said screw an '07, I want an '08 so, that's what I got.
This post is really not about cars but, about me and something I realized about myself when I was buying the car. I have been treated really badly by a lot of people in the course of a lifetime. I haven't always spoken about it here and I may speak about it more in future posts. I've mostly shared some of the more humorous incidents in my life as opposed to the painful ones.
When I first went to the car dealer, I was basically ignored for close to a half an hour, while they sat and talked to white customers in tony slacks from J. Crew, nice crisp shirts, and cute kids looking up at their mommy and daddy and giggling. There were a couple of black couples in there too that looked like young Claire and Cliff Huxtable, who were also getting attention. I had on some white linen shorts, brown sandals, and a navy blue t-shirt that read, "America's Dream" on it. I was clean shaven, my hair was cut nice, and I made sure to use some Mint Fresh Scope before I left home. I was wearing clean underwear too!
I was ignored for 30 minutes. Finally, a black salesman asked me if he could help me. I told him that I had my eye on a 2008 Maxima and I saw one on the lot that I liked if he could find it in black instead of white.
The first thing he asked me was, "Well, sir... what kind of financing will you be using? We do have financing available here for you." I told him that financing wouldn't be necessary. Well, once I said that (and, this is no lie), it was as if an alarm went off in the place. The manager came out and told the brother that he would take care of me. He asked me if I wanted anything to drink and then, he bought me a Coke (with his own money, I kid you not) and took me out on the lot.
After looking around for a few days, I did return with my wife and the title for my former car and informed him that I would take the 2008 white Maxima because it was the closest to what I wanted. Again, he bought me a Coke and some chips this time. He conversed with my wife and I for 1/2 an hour, gave us the keys to the car, and let us test drive the car ourselves, while he readied the paperwork. I was treated like... well, a human being, and I enjoyed it. I just enjoyed having the upper hand for a change.
A lot of women have equally ignored me in life until either they got to know me or someone else got to know me and started talking about me. And, just like the car dealership, when I was placed in a position of finally being noticed or seemingly having the upper hand, I enjoyed it... maybe a little too much. Unlike buying a car, when dealing with a woman, I was often too happy that I was being acknowledged or getting any attention. This caused me to read a lot more into some of the situations I was in with women than what was really there. It caused me a lot of heartbreak and a lot of hurt.
If only I had dealt with a lot of women I met the way I dealt with the car salesmen, I might have avoided a lot of heartbreak and misunderstanding. (1) I wasn't or didn't appear to be too excited to get a car. (2) I asked for what I wanted and when they didn't have it, I left(even though I knew I was coming back). I didn't show my hand too early. (3) I did ask for and got a car fax. A little investigation into a lot of the women (and people in general) that I dealt with would have saved me much trouble. (4) I allowed them to do something for me in good faith before I signed a thing. With women, I was always doing most of the giving and never receiving much on my investments.
We could argue that maybe I dealt with the car people the way I did because I was dealing with another man as opposed to dealing with a woman... but, it was all the same. I had the same feeling when I was in the showroom and I didn't get any special attention or treatment until I let them know that I wasn't their average customer and I felt the same rush and exhilaration when I was being treated kind of special. Someone buying you a Coke isn't really that special but, it was the same with the women in my life. Very few of them really did anything special for me either. Yet, the little that they did do, I thought was incredible and it actually wasn't.
The difference here and the lesson here is that I saw the game as it was developing with the car and after the elation, I got down to business and weighed all of my options. I also made them sweat a bit... something I couldn't have done before in the past.(You see where I was going with this right?) It's funny what runs through your mind on a warm morning in June when you're going for a ride in your new car, while listening to Marvin Gaye on the CD player.
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Above are photos of the future "Maverick of All Bloggers" on his wedding day. The significance of all of this is that today marks 20 years since these photos was taken. As I recall, it was a very, very hot and humid Saturday afternoon in South Jersey. It's hard to believe that it's been 20 years. A young lady, who I will not mention by name, poured a big glass of haterade just days before my wedding and told me that it wouldn't last and that I couldn't "commit to anything."
Well, let's see... I've been a husband for 20 years, I've been employed at the same job for 19 years, and I served my country in the United States Air Force for 22 years. I would say that is commitment enough, wouldn't you?
Now, that not-so-young lady who predicted gloom and doom for my marriage has since been married two times and divorced within 5 years after both marriages. Today, she is currently single, having just ended a 5 year long relationship in which another man was living with her. Hmmmmm... I'm not one to gloat but, uhhhh... oh hell, yes I am! Perhaps she should be looking up the word, commited! (I'm just saying.)
I'm committed for the long haul and not to mention, commited to being as thin and fit as I once was in these photos!
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
I was as devastated by the Cleveland Cavaliers collapse on Saturday as Lebron James was! Okay, now that I've got your attention, no I wasn't. I didn't lose a penny on this series and neither did he or anyone who actually played in it. I don't bet money on sports anymore... although, I used to many years ago. Being the honorable man that I am who always pays his debts, it left me a little light in the pockets some nights.
It is quite obvious that I'm not good at picking winners. You see, I told someone as the playoffs began that the Boston Celtics were not going to come out of the east this year. I said that with Kevin Garnett out, the Celtics were weak and Cleveland was going to expose that weakness. Chicago exposed it and nearly pulled it off. I then said that Orlando, who had just dusted off my Sixers, would surely expose it and they did.
Whether it was in the barber shop or on the corner, I predicted with some certainty again, before the first game of the Eastern Finals began, that Orlando would probably win the first game. After that, I predicted that the Cleveland Cavaliers, who had operated so far with a surgeon's efficiency and ruthlessness, would knock off the Orlando Magic, who I deemed "not quite ready for prime time."
Was that wishful thinking? I don't know but, it certainly wasn't accurate. This Orlando team, which I must admit I hadn't paid much attention to, turned out to be deep and better than anyone thought. I did some research and I found out that during the regular season, they beat Cleveland two games out of three. They also swept the Los Angelas Lakers 2-0 in their season series. Who knew? These guys are for real!
It looks like the Orlando Magic, a team I have nothing against and a team that surprised everybody, will be facing Kobe and the Lakers in a few days. I wouldn't be too quick to say that Kobe has his fourth ring in the bag. These guys just might prove anyone who thinks that way wrong.
I feel bad, though. I was really enjoying all of the commercials with Lebron James and Kobe Bryant in them. I was so looking forward to a showdown between the two best players of their generation. I'll just have to wait until the two teams meet in the regular season for that, I guess. I wonder if Dwight Howard has time to shoot a few commercials with Kobe?
Monday, June 1, 2009
On Sunday, we took our grandson to a place called the Smith Memorial Playground & Playhouse in Fairmont Park and, much to my surprise, it has been there since the late 1800's. Now, anyone who knows me can tell you that I'm "a man about town" here in Philly and always have been. I thought that there was nothing anyone could tell me about this city where I was born and raised but, in this case, I stand corrected. Our trip there actually left me wondering why no one ever told me about the place or took me there when I was a child... not even a school trip! Our grandson had a really great time and are you ready for the best part of all? Admission was absolutely F-R-E-E (and always has been) but, donations are encouraged and accepted. That's right... we had a wonderful day out of the house and didn't spend a dime (except for the donation, of course) !
Chillin' @ home on Saturday...