Monday, November 30, 2009

Crashing The Casbah


You know, I used to (up until about a year ago) be known for crashing a block party or two from time to time. I know, I know, so you may ask... "Why Keith, are you talking about a summer block party, two or three days after Thanksgiving?" Well, really, I'm not. I'm just saying that, if there was a hot barbecue-laced party within a blocks of me, it would be nothing for me (and sometimes a friend) to ease our way in, start dancing with a few girls, and talking sports with a few of the guys. And, before you know it, we would be sitting down with a plate of potato salad, ribs, barbecued chicken, baked beans, etc.

I didn't even do it like Tupac and company did in "Poetic Justice." Nooooo! No pretending to be someone's cousin... we just blended into the crowd. One year, I even brought a nice cut of steak and plopped it on someone's grill and struck up a conversation with the owner. Before long, you would've thought I lived on the block. My wife has warned me that one day this is going to catch up with me and maybe it will but, with that said and that story told, perhaps the couple that crashed President Obama's gala dinner last week read some pages from my old playbook!

A Virginia couple, who badly wanted to be on the upcoming Real Housewives of Washington, DC, thought it'd be a good idea to crash the White House State Dinner. Now, all eyes are on the Secret Service and how exactly a couple could successfully do such a thing. As reported from The New York Times: "The inquiry was begun after a Virginia couple, Michaele and Tareq Salahi, slipped past multiple layers of high-level White House security Tuesday night and managed to rub shoulders, literally, with Vice-President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. and the White House Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, among others, at Washington’s most exclusive social event this year.

Edwin M. Donovan, a spokesman for the Secret Service who spent his Thanksgiving Day dealing with phone calls from reporters, would not discuss the investigation in detail but said the initial focus was on “a Secret Service checkpoint which did not follow proper procedure to ensure these two individuals were on the invited guest list.” (I'll bet this agent had just settled down to a nice plate of hot food and was watching the Sixers lose to whoever they were playing that night. Since they've lost five straight, just who they were playing really doesn't matter.)

Representative Peter T. King, the ranking Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, called for a Congressional investigation, saying in an interview that he was shocked at the lack of security at the White House. Since 2003, the Secret Service has been part of the Department of Homeland Security. Isn't that like locking the barn door after the horses have run out?

From the photos I saw, President and Mrs. Obama seemed to be good sports about the whole thing. It struck me both as funny for a moment and then kinda scary. It is one thing for me and a willing, hungry co-conspirator to slip into a neighborhood block party. First off, there is no "security" to speak of and it's a whole different thing when someone sneaks up on the President of the United States's dinner party that is supposed to have the best security. You can believe that heads are going to roll and that maybe one or two Secret Service agents are going to be at the unemployment office in a few days or applying for a private detective's license or whatever out-of-work federal operatives do whenever they find themselves out of a job.

One good thing about this entire incident is this... at least this couple didn't take their shoes off and hurl them at the president. That would have really been nuts!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Let The Games Begin!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

I Gotta Stop & Give Thanks...

Myspace Graphics

From The Maverick of All Bloggers
I'll return after the holiday!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Most Expensive Hooker


I think Glenn Beck has finally lost his mind. He called Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) a "prostitute" yesterday on his televisoon show. I'm just amazed that he's still on the air! I thought he would have self-imploded by now! The hypocritical thing about him (and Rush Limbaugh) calling this woman that name is that she did what male politicians have been doing (and are still doing) for years. She made a deal that will bring her constituents a huge amount of money for her vote on the health care initiative.

The Louisiana Democratic Party, in a rather humorous and bold press release on Tuesday, called for Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) to denounce conservatives who have called his fellow Sen. Mary Landrieu a prostitute for her support of health care reform. Of course, Sen. Vitter has his own sordid history with ladies of the night. In July 2007, he was identified as a client of "D.C. Madam" Deborah Jeane Palfrey's prostitution service in Washington, D.C. So, the chance to tie him to recent claims from the likes of Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh that Sen. Landrieu was "whoring" out her health care vote was just too inviting to pass up.

Sen. Landrieu was able to secure $100 million in federal Medicaid subsidies for her state, ostensibly in exchange for agreeing to allow health care legislation to come to the floor of the senate. Glenn Beck called the senator a "High-class prostitute. She may be easy but she ain't cheap." He said. Not to be outdone, Rush Limbaugh echoed Beck's comment, calling Sen. Landrieu "the most expensive prostitute in the history of prostitutes." (Hmm, and I suppose he would know.)

As a looming budget crisis threatens to bankrupt Louisiana's state government, Sen. Landrieu announced Saturday from the senate floor that she had secured $300 million in federal funding to help make up for shortfalls in the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP), a formula used to determine the federal government's share in providing medical care to the poor and uninsured. A temporary spike in per capita income following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita could lead to a loss of $500 million in federal funding, according the Jindal Administration.

"David Vitter supported the FMAP fix but, it was Sen. Landrieu who secured the much needed funds to help solve a looming budget crisis that threatens to bankrupt our state," Harvey said. "The least David Vitter can do is stand up for her when members of his own party call her a prostitute." To date, Sen. Vitter has been silent on Beck and Limbaugh's outlandish and offensive insults of Sen. Landrieu. I bet he is... he probably does not want to draw any attention to his own involvement with real-life whores. (But, you didn't hear that from me! Shhhhhhhhh!)

I'm hoping that all of the women's groups come out in full force to denounce McEvil (Limbaugh) and McStupid (Beck) for their sexist comments. You know, I wanted to keep it real smurfy and write something uplifting for Thanksgiving eve but, I just couldn't keep this under my hat. Anyway, this is what I do. When bullies like Beck and Limbaugh pick on people and I'm going to use my bully pulpit to pick on them. But, meanwhile...

I hope that everybody out there remembers that there is still a lot to be thankful for... have a healthy and safe holiday!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Keith's Favorite Quotes



"If you can't figure out what to be thankful for, check your pulse."

- Author Unknown -
(seen outside of a church)

Monday, November 23, 2009

A Family Tragedy!

Jamar Pinkney, Sr.

While everyone is abuzz about the movie "Precious" (which I admit I haven't seen yet but, intend to) and the fact that it touches on incest and abuse, a friend of mine brought a horrible crime to my attention that occurred in Detroit last week.

Lazette Cherry (so she says) only wanted to help her son, Jamar Pinkney Jr., when she called his father and shared some of the most disturbing news she ever had heard. Jamar, 15, had confessed to her that he had inappropriate sexual contact with his 3 year old half-sister in his father's home in Newport on Detroit's east side. Cherry said... "I called and told his father that this isn't something you can just sweep under the rug."

Jamar Pinkney, Sr. showed up at Cherry's house in Highland Park with a gun. "He started beating him right here", Cherry said from her living room. "I said... No, please stop!" But, the father marched Jamar, a sophomore at King High School, outside. “He got on his knees and begged, "No, Daddy! No!" and he pulled the trigger, Cherry said from her home on North Street in Highland Park. “There wasn’t nothing that my son wouldn’t do for his father. He loved his father so much.” Jamar was shot once in the head and Pinkney was charged in 30th District Court in Highland Park with one count of first-degree murder, three counts of felonious assault, and one count of felony firearm.

When I was told about this horrible family tragedy, I was then asked if I would have shot my son under the same type of circumstances. My answer... ABSOLUTELY NOT! I do find what the son did, horrible, yes... but, what the father did was ten times worse. What made him think that he was making the situation better by beating and then killing the son? This is the type of idiot that shouldn't have had a gun, period.

Yeah, I know what some of you are probably saying... "What if it was your daughter, Keith?" and you know what? My answer remains the same... I would not have killed MY SON! Okay? Got it? I would have called the cops and had him arrested. I would have tried to get him psychiatric help because clearly, that's what the boy was in need of for what he did to his half-sister. But, to kill him? And then, by doing so, throw my own life away so that now my daughter has no father is just reprehensible to me.

There are guys out there who feel as though what this guy did was right. They'll even say that this was some kind of "street justice." Death row and solitary confinement is filled with guys who think the same way and I'll bet you, if you go and talk to 99% of the lifers and guys waiting to get a needle now, they'll tell you that if they had it to do over again, they might have reacted differently.

All I can do is just shake my head at the unfathomable stupidity, cruelty, and unnecessary violence involved in this case. The mother is now left with the guilt of knowing that she indirectly caused all of this and the father (if that's what you want to call him) has killed one of his children and left a wife and a daughter scarred for life. He has also doomed himself to spending the rest of his life behind bars. Michigan doesn't have a death penalty and, actually, I'm glad. The torture of the coming years of having to sit and contemplate what he did and of never seeing sunlight or moonlight again will be more than sufficient punishment for him. A quick and painless death would be too easy for him.

I am just angry and flabbergasted by the senseless violence and stupidity inbred in our macho culture that justifies such acts and makes what this man did "understandable" to some people. Me, I don't understand it. I'm not going to pretend to understand this and, furthermore, I don't ever want to understand it.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Weekend Humor


The economy is so bad:

1. I went to buy a toaster oven and they gave me a bank.

2. I got a pre-declined credit card in the mail.

3. CEO's are now playing miniature golf.

4. Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars are now trading higher than GM.

5. President Obama met with small businesses to discuss the Stimulus Package: (GE, AIG, Pfizer, and Citigroup).

6. McDonalds is selling the 1/4 ouncer.

7. People in Beverly Hills fired their nannies and learned their
children's names.

8. The most highly-paid job is now jury duty.

9. People in Africa are donating money to Americans.

10. Mothers in Ethiopia are telling their kids, "finish your plate, do you know how many kids are starving in the U.S.?"

11. Motel 6 won't leave the light on.

12. The Mafia is laying off judges.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Wanna Talk About Love


I had a fourth grade teacher (no this is not another funny story)... I had a fourth grade teacher, an elderly black woman who was about to retire who asked us, "Who is the first person we should learn to love?" We gave an assortment of answers... some said, "Mommy"... some said, "Daddy"... and a few said "God". This shows you how much kids (and later on, adults) don't listen. Of course, while we all should love an honor God, that's not what the teacher asked us. She asked us who was the first person we should learn to love? We were stumped. Then, she said..."You should first learn to love yourselves".

It was funny to me then (and even funnier now) that not one of us thought of the most practical answer... ourselves. That was probably the single most important lesson I was taught in a school. And, there is no more to this story than that. She said we should first love ourselves. A truly radical idea was hatched around that time, when black people were starting to say... "Black is Beautiful!"

As a race of people, we hadn't felt too good about ourselves our entire time in America. Everyday, I look at people in the streets and not just Black people... all races of people. I hear people on the radio, see people on television, read some people's blogs, and see blatant examples of folks who've never learned that lesson and folks who actually hate themselves... loathe themselves. They don't consciously know it but their every action, their every sentence... speaks of self-loathing. Self-loathing is as American as mom's apple pie.

Plastic Surgeons are in a whole 'nother tax bracket because American advertising inadvertently tells you (the consumer) that you're not quite adequate if you are not driving the new 2010 Ford Fusion, if you're not rocking a certain article of clothing by a certain designer, if your lips are too small (and it used to be, if they were too big), if you're not a perfect size, whatever. Get my drift?

We trip on celebrities... worship 'em and try to dress like 'em, act like 'em, and run our lives the way we think they would do it because heaven knows we can't come up with an original thought or two can we? Then, there are those who like to see some famous person fall or get knocked down a peg or two because it reminds us that our own miserable life (as we see it) isn't quite as bad as theirs is. I was both of those people at one time. I know... I stand guilty as charged. Self- loathing affects us all. It's part of our culture... sometimes, we just can't help it.

A little self-love would probably put a lot of manufacturers out of business because they have to make you feel small in order to sell you their wares. A little self-love, a little self-esteem would have prevented that horrible before and after photo from yesterday's post of Sammy Sosa. A little self-love and Michael Jackson might still be amongst the living today. I was thinking about both of them when I decided to write this tonight.

See, I wasn't going to blog about anything tonight. I was going to take the night off from this blog and just when I tried to get out, this kept pulling at me and I had to say something. After all, this "is" whatever is on my mind at the time and I hope everyone got my point. Give yourself a break, love yourself, and appreciate who you are. I mean, who else do you have?

In the words of Humphrey Bogart... "Looks like we're stuck with each other kiddo."

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

What The Hell?


This is going to be the first of a new recurring post on this blog and I'll dedicate this to people in the news who's behavior just makes you scratch your head and go, "What the hell?"

For those of you who are not sports fans, this is baseball player, Sammy Sosa... before and after. To paraphrase Jay Leno... "What were you thinking, man?" Did you learn nothing from Michael Jackson?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Crazy Is It's Own Category


There used to be a time amongst African Americans that if a horrendous crime was committed, everybody crossed their fingers and prayed that the perp was not black. It was universally felt that if the criminal was black, then a stain would be cast upon the entire race. I remember that general sentiment when I was growing up and it hasn't changed much.

In 2001, during the hunt for the "Beltway Sniper", most African Americans assured themselves that whoever did this just had to be a white man because... "Everybody knows that black people rarely, if ever, commit that type of crime." Then came John Muhammad and Lee Malvo... the two self-confessed "Beltway Snipers" who were, in fact, African Americans. Everybody I know kinda hung their heads as though the fact that these two were black had set race relations back 20 years.

The week before last, I was having a conversation about racial profiling with my wife and I told her that Arab Americans now know that all of the things we African Americans have been saying about racial profiling is true, because now it is them (and anybody who openly practices the religion of Islam) that is the new target of racial profiling.

In 2002, my Air Force unit was on a base in Texas, of all places. Some idiot there called an Arab a "Sand Nigger" with me standing just three feet from him. He didn't understand why I gripped him up in his collar either... he kept saying that he was talking about "A-Rabs and not Black people."

After September 11th, it was Arabs and Muslims in general who began getting profiled. I've been in airports and seen how people react when someone gets on the plane either in Islamic religious garb or who speaks with an Arabic accent. People get very nervous... whites and blacks alike. It's kinda understandable but it's still not right... it's still not fair.

Last week, when Army Major Nidal Malik Hassan lost his mind and went on a shooting rampage at Fort Hood Army Base in Texas, all of the Muslim and Arab Americans must have cringed the same way Black folks cringed when John Muhammad and Lee Malvo were arrested and charged with the mass murders in the Beltway area.

Timothy McVeigh, a nice white crew-cut individual, blew up the Federal Building in Oklahoma City a some years back and I didn't see white people hanging their heads in shame or cringing in disbelief. You know what they said? "He's crazy!" and they were right. They didn't identify with him... they just put him in the separate category of "crazy" and left it at that.

Long story short... John Muhammad and Nidal Malik Hassan are equally crazy. African Americans and Muslim Americans should not be cringing and they ought not be profiled and put into a box on account of the actions of two crazy people. Timothy McVeigh, John Muhammad, and Nidal Malik Hassan all have one thing in common (besides the fact that they are crazy). They are all American born citizens and if anybody ought to cringe and feel ashamed, it ought to be all Americans... not one race of people, not one separate religion.

You see, crazy is it's own category!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Defiantly Nappy


I was lying in bed this morning and I had an epiphany. Well, not exactly... I heard "Nappy Head" by War and then, "I Am Not My Hair" by India Arie. After that, I reached up and felt my closely cropped dome and thought about... well, my hair history.

Being a black male, I'm not going to have the hair stories of struggle that my sisters had or are still having. But, I have some musings on my hair too. See, my hair was what I like to call "Defiantly Nappy". I have black people's hair. I hope I'm not offending any black people by saying this but if I am, toughen up! You know the deal,if you're honest.

I'm a true black man... nappy hair and all! Whenever my mother and grandmother used to comb my hair when I was a little boy, I would be in tears. So, I suppose they just got tired of fooling with me and sent me to the barber. Any guy out there knows what the barber did... he gave you what is referred to as a "Hustler" (cut it all off) and you were bald. I never quite knew why they called it " The Hustler" though.

As a little boy, I didn't care if I was bald, just as long as I could go outside, play ball, and ride my bike. However, by the time I was 12-13 years old, I did care about my head. When I came along, only a few guys were still wearing doo-rags and "processing" their hair. They were like "Jerome", the character on Martin, who was stuck in a time warp.

If you ever read the autobiography of Malcolm X, he gives a harrowing account of how guys would buy all kinds of chemicals and put them in their hair. These chemicals burned and they had to stand over a sink with cold water to ease the sensation. They did all this so their hair could be slick (like the white man's hair). Look at an old photo of the Temptations and you'll see that they had their hair like that. Thank God, I came along after that was out of style because I don't like pain. I don't think I could have stood it.

When I came along, The Jackson 5 was the standard by which guys were styling their hair. They had these huge afros that I reasoned were created in the lab. All the girls were going for guys with the biggest afros. I think Jermaine had the best afro out of the five. At best, I think mine looked like Tito's. However, my mom was not amongst those females who were impressed by it all. She made me and my brother keep our hair cut short. She said that "an African bush" (as she called it) made you look unkept. So, we looked "kept" to her and decidedly unhip to everybody else.

My mom eased up her dislike for the afro within a few years though and allowed us to have them. My brother was kind of blessed with (for want of that term) "good hair" or, at least, better hair than mine. His afro was big, it was nice, and he kept it cut neat. Mine was all over the map and still very nappy. It never looked like I wanted it to look so ladies, I feel you.

I have a cousin, (Arlene's sister) who is only three months older than me and yet, when we were little, she always seemed like she was seven or eight years older. One thing she didn't like was me getting too buddy-buddy with her girlfriends. Her girlfriends always seemed more interesting to me than the girls "my age". They were only a year older but, at the age we were, a year was a big thing. She had one girlfriend, who I won't name... I'll just call her J. To this day, my cousin doesn't know how really close her girlfriend J. and I were. We were close mainly because J. found a way to tame my hair.

Steve Harvey told a joke about how you could fall in love with someone who was braiding your hair. He joked... "All that time with your head between a girl's legs while she's braiding your hair does something to a man." Well, it's true because J. used to braid or cornrow my hair. When she took them out and hot combed it a bit, my hair looked the way I wanted it. Huge like a halo. I think it was actually what they used to call a "blowout". I always had her to take the cornrows out before I went home. She would and then, she would comb it. It didn't hurt like when my mother and grandmother used to comb it. It was soft and shapely.

My mother may have relaxed her standards on the Afro but she did not like braids, cornrows, or guys who walked around looking like that all day. She called it the "height of pickininnyism". (Don't ask me, I don't know... it was just among the few things she used to say that would make her sisters crack-up and make me scratch my head.)

I could always be my own worse enemy. If I stopped by the playground and got into a pick-up game of basketball, my sweat usually ruined all of J.'s hard work and I was "happy, black, and nappy again by the time I got home". But, I didn't care because it gave me a reason to go and see J. again. It was our secret. It gave me "alone" time with J. and added a little excitement to my life (that shows you how boring my life was). Also, I was doing something "secret" that nobody else knew about. (My Aunt Jean had an idea but, she was always good about keeping my "secrets"- LOL!)

Of course, J. didn't see me in the way that I saw her... she was just doing hair. She knew I had a crush on her and I know that she liked the attention because she never turned me away. But, she never let things go any further than doing hair and talking. I would ask her to go to the movies with me or out to eat and she would politely refuse or say something like... "maybe when you're older". At best, she was about 9-10 months older than me but, like I said, that was a big deal back when you're sixteen.

Like most women though, J. would get what she could get out of the situation (another lesson I had to learn down the road). In turn for doing my hair, she got me to run errands for her. If I refused or was hesitant, she would say... "See, you always acting like you want to be my boyfriend but when I want you to do something for me, you wanna get new." New? I doubt if her boyfriend would be doing the things I was doing ... running to the store to get hoagies, fried chicken wings, soda, etc. and getting no payback. However, she did keep my hair tight and keep my "secret" about "us" so, most times, I complied.

She never told my cousin that I was coming over her house as much as I did and when my cousin was around, J. and I acted like we barely knew each other. It's not that I asked her to do this... she just did. On the other hand, J. would call me and ask me if I needed my hair braided. Whether I did or not I would keep her on the phone as long as possible, talking about nothing. She could have hung up at anytime but, like I said, she liked the attention so, she would oblige me. J. would talk to me for close to an hour at times.While it may be true that I was playing my game, it's also true that she was playing her game too. Game always recognizes game!

Now that I think back on it, nobody would have cared even if they had of known because there was nothing going on for them to care about. My mother and my aunt knew the girl and her family but, for some strange reason, I felt better without them or my cousin knowing about our little "arrangement". Then, hairstyles changed again and guys started wearing "The Hustler" again.

I went through all of that just to go back to having my hair cut and wearing it close. But, J. came to the rescue again... after my hair was cut, she used some old pantyhose that she wasn't using, slapped some of that pomade grease on my hair, and introduced me to the "wavecap". This was before they started marketing them or calling it anything other than a "stocking cap", which is all it was. All the guys were wearing "stocking caps" to get "waves".

Well, my mother didn't like that either and said that I looked like a "jitterbug". (Don't ask... in her terminology, a "jitterbug" could be anything from a hood to an ill-dressed man. It all depended on who she was talking to or what she was talking about at the time.) So, I had to have the stocking cap off by the time I got home. But, it didn't matter because it didn't work anyway. I have never been able to get waves. However, I did look neat and well-groomed with my short haircut.

By the time I entered the Air Force, guys were wearing their hair in the "jheri curl" style. For some reason, I was not interested in that at all. I hated going to clubs and trying to dance next to some guy who thought he was Morris Day (or girl) with a jheri curl. Activator was flying all over the place, getting in my eyes, messing up my suit, and it was a mess. I didn't embrace that style and me and my friends laughed at most of the guys who did.

After I got married, I toyed around with a "box" hairstyle and a Bobby Brown "Gumby" for a hot minute. (Of course, I looked ridiculous and thank God I have no photos of me then!) Now, I have settled for a more clean-shaven "hustler" look again. Mom would be proud! -:) I can't wait to see Chris Rock's new movie "Good Hair". I know that he (probably) only wanted to talk about black women but, as you see, black males had some hair issues too. Maybe I'll write a movie treatment for us guys!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Randomosity

Everyone else does a post like this... I might as well too!

1. I think part of a best friend's job should be to immediately clear your computer history if you should die.

2. Nothing sucks more than that moment during an argument when you realize you're dead wrong.

3. I totally take back all those times I didn't want to take a nap when I was younger, because I'm as tired as hell now!

4. There is great need for a sarcasm font.

5. How are you supposed to fold a fitted sheet? Come on... Really?

6. Was learning cursive writing really necessary?

7. Mapquest really needs to start their directions on #5, because I'm pretty sure I know how to get out of my own neighborhood.

8. Obituaries would be a lot more interesting if they told you how the person died, don't you think?

9. I can't remember the last time I wasn't at least kinda tired.

10. Bad decisions make good stories. This blog is full of them.

11. You never know when it will strike but, there comes a moment at work when you know that you just aren't going to do anything productive for the rest of the day. (For me, that can happen as early as 8:00am.)

12. Can we all just agree to ignore whatever comes after Blue Ray? I don't want to have to restart my collection... again.

13. I'm always slightly terrified when I exit out of Word and it asks me if I want to save any changes to something I've written that I could swear I didn't make any changes to.

14. "Do not machine wash or tumble dry" means I will never wash this thing ever.

15. I hate when I just miss a call by the last ring (Hello? Hello? Hellloooo? Damn it!) but, when I immediately call back, it rings nine times and goes to voicemail. What did you do after I didn't answer? Drop the phone and run away?

16. I hate leaving my house confident and looking good and then, not seeing anyone of importance the entire day. What a waste of good clothes and grooming.

17. I keep some people's phone numbers in my cell phone just so I know not to answer when they call.

18. My 3-year old grandson asked me in the car the other day... "Pop-Pop, what would happen if you crashed into the train?" How do I respond to that?

19. I think the freezer deserves a light as well.

20. I disagree with Kay Jewelers... I would bet that on any given Friday or Saturday night, more kisses begin with Coronas, Ciroc, and Hennessey.
than Kay.

Have a great Weekend!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Veterens Day Story


About eleven years ago, my Air Force unit found itself getting on buses and leaving Pennsylvania en route to B.W.I. Airport in Baltimore, MD. I had my discman on and was listening to the cool sounds of Curtis Mayfield & The Impressions for the entire ride. We were en route to Italy and from there, Bosnia.

We got to B.W.I. at around 6:30pm and we boarded a chartered airplane at around 8:00pm that was scheduled to take off at 9:00pm. I was comfortable, in my seat, had my shoes off, and was now listening to the best of the Main Ingredient while (ironically) reading VIBE Magazine, when a shrill voice of anger shot through the cabin... "This is a goddamned outrage! Do you mean to tell me that I, a former Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Air Force who flew jets in Korea and in Vietnam, mind you, cannot be seated on this plane? I don't believe it! THIS IS AN OUTRAGE!"

The man, a retired Air Force veteren, was trying to board what we call a "hop". A hop is one of the priveledges you get for serving your country faithfully, keeping your nose clean, and most of all, staying alive to tell about it so you can yell at some young person who wasn't even born when you were doing this. It means that, if you show certain identification that proves you are retired military, you can be placed on certain planes (provided there is available seating) and flown anywhere in the world for free! It's a perk I have yet to use myself.

The important point I want to make here is "provided there is seating". The attendant tried to explain to the irate man the plane bound for Italy was filled with activated Air Force reservists and Air National Guard troops that were on duty so, he would have to wait for the next available flight (which was the next day... I didn't say this was a perfect perk). Well, he was hearing none of it. He continued to bellow... "I fought in two wars! Two wars! Did you hear me, goddammit? You weren't even born when I was fighting in Korea! Don't you tell me that I can't be seated! I want to speak to your superiors!"

I don't know how many different people came out to talk to this man before he and his wife were physically escorted off the plane but our flight, which was scheduled to take off at 9:00pm, didn't take off until 12:00 midnight! The old man who, at first, seemed amusing and funny had began to become a royal pain after about 10:30pm. I turned to my buddy and said... "Man, I hope I'm not like that when I retire." He looked at me, shrugged his shoulders, and said... "Man, they mostly get two ways... feeble-minded or as evil as can be!" I said... "Well, they don't have to be... I plan to be cool when I get old like that." He looked at me and said... "Nah, not you. You got a bad attitude now and you're young." We both laughed about it but, it was halfway true.

Fast Forward to today... Well, I've been retired from the Air Force for three years now and I'm not old enough to collect my pension or social security yet. Still, someone had to remind me that I was in fact a Veteren yesterday... a co-worker wished me a "Happy Veteren's Day". I looked at her, a little confused, and she said... "You were in the Air Force, weren't you?" I smiled and I said... "Yes, I was, for 22 years, 1 month, and 27 days."

I guess I didn't think I was a veteren because I never fought in any wars and I suppose I should consider myself extremely blessed. However, I am a veteren and my wife and I celebrated by eating a free meal at Applebee's tonight, where vets eat free on Veteren's Day. I actually saw a couple of guys from my old unit there tonight. You know how it is whenever somebody invokes the word "Free".

I don't think I will ever be that old man on the plane. First of all, I was never as high up as a Lieutenant Colonel so, I don't have that arrogance... that ego that makes me think I can just bully my way on a plane full of active duty men on an actual mission. Second of all, I never in my entire 22 years, 1 month, and 27 days in the military did anything close to heroic so, I won't be telling some young buck one day... "Do you know who I am? Do you know what I did before you were born?" Not a damn thing! Most importantly, my mother made sure that I understood how to read. You can be seated on a plane as long as there is "space available"! Ahhhhhh, those little fine details.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Ahn's Angst


I don't know what little boys watch on television now or who they idolize. Although, I can take an educated guess and probably be correct... some rapper in a video.

When I was growing up, before I discovered the jaded heroes and anti-heroes of "The Wire", I dug the morality plays that were westerns. One of my favorite movies was "High Noon". I loved the fact that the bad guys were coming to shoot up the town and Gary Cooper stood tall, despite the fact that everybody else was catching the fastest thing smoking out of town. That's probably why I've seen "High Noon" more times than any one movie I've ever viewed. It's hard being the lone guy, the lone dissenter... the lone person of your party that votes for something.

Ahn "Joseph" Cao will never be mistaken by anybody as Gary Cooper but, recently he stood tall and became the only Republican in the house to vote yes on the health care initiative. Yes, that thing... that thing I keep beating the drum for lately.

The Vietnamese-born former ethics teacher and Catholic seminarian surprised and delighted Republicans last winter by defeating a longtime incumbent in a heavily Democratic congressional district in Louisiana. However, he provided another surprise (but probably, no delight) to his party on Saturday when he became the lone Republican to vote for the health care bill pushed by President Barack Obama. In a statement posted on his website, Cao said... "I have always said that I would put aside partisan wrangling to do the business of the people. My vote tonight was based on my priority of doing what is best for my constituents."

In a special election in December, Cao of New Orleans defeated Rep. William J. "Refrigerator" Jefferson, who had represented the 2nd District since 1991. Although Jefferson was battling corruption charges, federal agents famously found $90,000 in cash in his freezer, Cao still faced an uphill battle. He was a political neophyte who was running in a district that is 60% black and 60% Democratic. And, in the rough-and-tumble world of Louisiana politics, Cao was reserved, limiting himself to mild criticism of Jefferson. (In August, "Refrigerator" Jefferson was found guilty of 11 of 16 criminal counts including bribery, racketeering, and money laundering. Talkabout "Frozen Assets!" Okay, I couldn't resist that!-:))

So, few political observers in Louisiana gave Cao (whose last name is pronounced "Gow," with a hard "G") a chance. But then, surprisingly, he won. C.B. Forgotston Jr., an attorney and longtime Louisiana political hand at the time, said... "It was a shock to all of us."

Cao, 42 years old, was 8 when he fled Saigon for the United States with other family members. His father, a South Vietnamese Army officer, was arrested by the North Vietnamese army in the 1970s. The young Cao spent much of his boyhood in Texas. It took courage to go against his party and vote yes for the health care bill... courage that would have made Gary Cooper proud. I don't expect too many more republicans to go against their party line when the vote goes to the Senate later on this week. But, if I see it, I will certainly give credit where credit is due.

The man who must stand alone because of conviction often risks some type of loss... face, income, friends, whatever... a loss just the same. But, it shows character and true grit, to paraphrase another western. There's not enough of that amongst politicians nowadays. It seems like they forgot about public service. Many of them will do, say, and vote whichever way the political wind blows so that they can stay gainfully employed, despite the fact that they may feel sick to their stomachs for what they voted for. That's probably why I never entered politics... I can get sick to my stomach on my own, thank you.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Blue Is My City


Philadelphia is pretty funky right now and I don't mean that in a George Clinton, Parliament-Funkadelic sort of way. The Phillies have lost their bid for a second World Series win in a row so, there will be no parade this year. What's worse is that we are also in the middle of a transit strike right now.

There is no bus, trolley, or El train service. The streets are flooded with cars, bikers, skateboarders, and folks wearing sneakers for walking. You have to go to work... what are you to do? But, we are a resilient lot. The five-day strike by SEPTA (Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, for those who don't live in Philly) transit workers is apparently not over. Gov. Ed Rendell announced he is pulling out of negotiations and said... "I have a state to run." He also threatened to pull $7 million in state funding off the table. (How could these guys turn down seven mill?)

Gov. Rendell called the failure to reach an agreement "just nuts" and said that "he had never seen anything like it in 32 years of government". He said the union had made new demands Saturday after a handshake agreement yesterday with U.S. Rep. Bob Brady (D-PA). The new demands included an independent audit of the SEPTA pension plan and a clause revisiting the health-care provision if Congress approves a better national health care plan. There was no immediate response from Transit Workers Local 234.

In my heart of hearts, I want to side with the union but, this is ridiculous! It looks to me like they got a pretty good offer from management... an offer that's better than what I have at my job. I'm really tired of driving amongst all of the new drivers who usually are on the buses, trollies, and El trains, which is causing me to get home an hour later than I normally would. I really would like to ride public transportation every once in awhile.

I know... selfish isn't it? I really do wish the Phillies had beaten the Yanks and I might feel a little better... everybody here might feel a little better. Even if they had to walk over the bridge to the parade. Blue is my mood, blue is my city

Peace!

Update (Monday, November 9, 2009): As of this writing, the SEPTA transit strike appears to be over, if only temporarily... my Eagles lost to the hated Dallas Cowboys last night... and the city still appears to be blue!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Forty-Eight Questions


Every once in a while, I like to do these little quizzes... to give people (and myself) a little clue as to who I am. I jacked this from my new blogger friend Ninspired over at Life Unscripted. I hope she doesn't mind.


1. WERE YOU NAMED AFTER ANYONE? I don't think so... my mother liked names that began with a "K".

2. WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU CRIED? About a year ago.

3. DO YOU LIKE YOUR HANDWRITING? No, but I love writing. I write all the time.

4. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE LUNCH MEAT? Honey Maple Ham.

5. DO YOU HAVE KIDS? One daughter.

6. IF YOU WERE ANOTHER PERSON WOULD YOU BE FRIENDS WITH YOU? Yes, I would.

7. DO YOU USE SARCASM? Probably more than I should.

8. DO YOU STILL HAVE YOUR TONSILS? Nope, got 'em taken out when I was 3 years old.

9. WOULD YOU BUNGEE JUMP? Hell to the no!

10. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CEREAL? Captain Crunch

11. DO YOU UNTIE YOUR SHOES WHEN YOU TAKE THEM OFF? Sometimes.

13. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ICE CREAM? Vanilla.

14. WHAT IS THE FIRST THING YOU NOTICE ABOUT PEOPLE? Their smile.

15. RED OR PINK? Pink

16. WHAT IS YOUR LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOURSELF? Doing things to please others that I really don't want to do.

17. WHO DO YOU MISS THE MOST? A lot of folks. Right now, at this very moment, I would have to say my mother, who passed away last year.

18. DO YOU WANT EVERYONE TO COMPLETE THIS LIST? Sure, I think it would be fun.

19. WHAT COLOR PANTS AND SHOES ARE YOU WEARING? Painter's pants and an Old Navy t-shirt.

21. WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW? Jay Z - Blueprint III.
22. IF YOU WERE A CRAYON, WHAT COLOR WOULD YOU BE? Aqua Blue.

23. FAVORITE SMELLS? Fresh air.

24. WHO WAS THE LAST PERSON YOU TALKED TO ON THE PHONE? My wife.

25. DO YOU LIKE THE PERSON WHO SENT THIS TO YOU? Yes, she seems like cool people.

26. FAVORITE SPORTS TO WATCH? Basketball and boxing.

27. HAIR COLOR? Black.
28. EYE COLOR? Brown.

29. DO YOU WEAR CONTACTS? Nope.

30. FAVORITE FOOD? Italian and Soul Food (hard decision there).

31. SCARY MOVIES OR HAPPY ENDINGS? Depends who I'm watching them with.

32. LAST MOVIE YOU WATCHED? This Is It. It was excellent!

33. WHAT COLOR SHIRT ARE YOU WEARING? Gray and blue Old Navy T-shirt.

34. SUMMER OR WINTER? Summer.

35. HUGS OR KISSES? Kisses.

36. FAVORITE DESSERT? Apple Pie Ala Mode.

37. IF YOU COULD MAKE A WISH... This time it's for me--free of doubt and fears.

38. WHAT (IN GENERAL) IRRITATES YOU? Ignorant people.

39. WHAT BOOK ARE YOU READING NOW? "The Long Fall " by Walter Mosley.

40. WHAT IS ON YOUR MOUSE PAD? Nothing, it's pretty plain.

41. WHAT DID YOU WATCH ON TV LAST NIGHT? Nothing, I was out.

42. FAVORITE SOUND(S)? Music.

43. ROLLING STONES OR BEATLES? Beatles. (That's a tough one because I dig the Stones too!)

44. WHAT IS THE FARTHEST YOU HAVE BEEN FROM HOME? Japan and it took 23 hours to fly there!

45. DO YOU HAVE A SPECIAL TALENT? Writing, singing... take your pick.

46. WHERE WERE YOU BORN? Philadelphia, PA.

47. WHAT WAS THE LAST NICE THING YOU DID FOR SOMEONE ELSE? I took my wife on a lunch time cruise on her birthday. I do so many nice things for people, it's hard to pick just one. -:)

48. WHERE DID YOU MEET YOUR SPOUSE/SIGNIFICANT OTHER? We met in a video store I was working at in the 80's.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

What A Difference A Year Makes


I went to the polls on Tuesday night to vote after work. I would have gone in the morning but, I was more concerned with navigating through heavy traffic and getting to work. We are currently in the midst of a transit strike here in the "City of Brotherly Love".

It is almost a year to the day that we elected Barack Obama President of the United States. Oh, how different the mood was this time last year. The lines were out both doors of the middle school where I go to vote, down the street, and around both corners. Hot coffee and donuts were being served by elderly black ladies, along with young energetic white students from a nearby university who had volunteered their time. There was a spark of magic and electricity in the air like history was in the making... and, it was! I felt a warmness... a feeling of family and oneness like I'd never felt before. Now, flash forward to two days ago...

There was no lines, only six people were ahead of me, no donuts, no coffee (it was seven o'clock at night), and not one white person in sight. This was an all black affair of the six people and I'm certain that I was the youngest one in the room... which is sad because I would've liked to have seen the young people I saw last year. I was in and out just like that and then, onward to the next thing... getting my car "winterized" and tires rotated the next day.

I could tell you more about that than who I voted for. Yeah, I could tell you that I helped elect this city's first African-American District Attorney and that somehow, that should have been a monumental event. But, 51% of this city's population is African-American and he won despite the fact that only about 30% of that demographic turned out to vote yesterday. I also voted for a couple of judges that I know absolutely nothing about, except what I saw in the commercials. Hopefully, I won't have to come before one of these judges but if I do and the name rings a bell, maybe I can whisper... "Hey, I voted for you, ya know." (wink-wink) and see how far that will get me.

I'll chalk up yesterday's low turnout to the fact that it was a pretty un-important election to most people's way of thinking... just a few judges and a D.A. I'm not going to get up on a soapbox this time but I'm going to say (as I'm sure I've said before) that it's the little things that one day will become big things. A judge or a D.A. might not seem important now but, if you're ever unlucky enough to come before one, it becomes a very important thing. A bad judge can be the difference between you reading this blog in a nice comfortable cyber cafe or you being sure not to drop the soap in a mass shower with Big Ed at the State Penn.

I might not have known who I was voting for yesterday but, at least I voted for somebody. And, if I have to ask one day... "Who put this clown on the bench?" I'll know that it was me. -:)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

We Still Lost The Game But...


I couldn't have been more than 14 or 15 years old... that awkward age when you're just starting to grow, your voice is starting to get deep, and you're so unsure of yourself. It would be here at the neighborhood YMCA, where we would learn a couple of lessons that would go a long way towards making us sure of ourselves.

My friends and I used to go to the neighborhood Y" every Saturday to play basketball. Well, we thought we were playing basketball. As it turns out though, we weren't that good... not at team basketball. We would play "horse", in which one guy would make a shot from some seemingly impossible angle and then you had to match it. We would then play a game called "Twenty-One", which was really every man for himself. The person who scored twenty-one points first, won the game. It could be up to 20-30 guys playing twenty-one at a given time.

My friends and I seldom bothered anyone else but, this one particular time, we got challenged to a "real game" of full-court by some other guys from the south side of 52nd Street. We didn't know them but, they seemed to have a certain menace about them in the way they "asked" us to play against them. It seemed like we didn't really have a choice and it also seemed as though they were a little older and bigger than us too.

My friends and I thought that we could play but, these guys could really play. What started out as a "friendly" game of full-court, soon turned into a spectator sport. Several girls came over to watch and they brought their friends and (I guess) their friends' cousins too. Once we started playing, it soon became apparent that we were in over our heads.

My friend, Eddie C., fed me the ball, I went in for a smooth layup, and that was the last points we scored for a longgg while. Within what seemed like minutes, we were down 22-2. Whenever one of my guys got the ball, it got stolen from him. These guys committed hard fouls that were never called, they elbowed the crap out of us, and they had a fast break that would've made Magic Johnson and his showtime Lakers proud.

These guys knew each other and they played together quite well... with the passing, positioning, boxing out, and everything. They were making us look like fools and, at the same time, daring us to quit. The girls were laughing at us and I think all of us just wanted the game to be over so we could slink out of that gym with whatever dignity we had left.

By the time the score had ballooned to 30-4, people were cheering for us to just make a shot. These guys were putting on a clinic at our expense. I was praying that they didn't score 100 points on us. Which they could have very well have done. There was a guy sitting there in khaki pants, a pair of black "Chuck Taylors", and a doo-rag, watching the whole thing and shaking his head. He finally called "Time!" and put a stop to the farce. Didn't matter..we were two points from losing anyway.

One of the other guys said... "Hey, man! What you doin'?" He looked at the guy and said... "What did you say?" He must have held some kind of weight because none of the other guys opened their mouths again, including the one who asked him what he was doing. I found out later on that this guy had been in a gang and just recently got out of prison. He was well-known around there and folks didn't back-talk him too much.

He called me and my guys over to the side and said... "Man, y'all are gettin' killed out there!" I'm thinkin' (but, not saying), "Tell me somethin' I don't know." He said... "You know why? For one thing, y'all ain't playin' no defense. Another thing, y'all ain't playin' together. All you guys are just going for yourself. You gotta play together. You gotta play some "dee" and if you got somebody who can shoot, get him the ball. The main thing is, you lettin' them guys take your heart and if you scared of another man, he got you beat already. Now we gonna start this thing over again. Get in they faces and don't give them a shot. If they foul you hard, knock they asses down. Pass the ball if you get in trouble. If you see a guy open with no man on him, get him the ball." This guy had it in him to be a coach, had he of taken another path in life. Just that quick, he motivated us and whipped my little crew into shape.

The second game was much different. We got in these guys' faces and played some defense... not letting them get an easy score. My friend, Eddie C., was a little guy... he was fast and began "picking their pockets" with ease (stealing the ball, for those who don't know basketball lingo). My other friend, Big George (who lived down the street from my great-aunt), used his size to box out and grab rebounds. He blocked a number of their shots and got the ball to me, Eddie C., or Little Carl for easy lay-ups. We had the game tied at 30 a piece before long. No one was laughing at us now. In fact they were shocked at we had come back and played so different. It almost looked like we had snookered these guys into beleiving that we couldn't play in the first game. Of course, I knew , we all knew that that wasn't true. Some of the old heads were even reffing this game..so those other guys didn't get away with the hard fouls that they committed in the first game.

Like I said, these cats were good and they were used to playing with each other. An errant pass by Big George got picked off and one of their guys sunk a jumper that ended the second game with them winning 32-30 over us. This time, all of those girls clapped and cheered for us. We had lost the second game as well but we had played better together. I don't know about any of the other guys but I had learned some lessons... lessons that stayed with me for life. I wasn't sad about losing...(this time) I mean, I wasn't overjoyed either..but I was happy to have some self respect at least. Our "benefactor " came over to us and gave us dap saying-"That's Okay...you lost,but you didn't give the game away..you made those cats work....They'll think again before challenging you...you took your heart back." he said. Indeed. I learned three lessons that day-

(1) I never again let another man convince me that he was better than me. (2) I learned that we are not alone on this planet... we live with other people and sometimes it takes a united effort of working with many for the good of the whole group. (3) But, more importantly, I learned about courage, coming back from what (at first) seemed like impossible odds, and to never give up.

Just a simple little game in a sweaty little gymnasium but, such big life lessons. I was happy for those older guys who looked out for and helped us young bucks at the time. We need more of that today. Those guys were stone gangsters..but they felt responsible enough to help us, to mentor us in a fractured sort of way..A way that is sadly missing for young guys coming up today.

Monday, November 2, 2009

What I've Learned


1. Fear stops you from achieving or doing anything.

2. Sometimes you just gotta step out on faith and say, "I'm going to try this."

3. There are times in life when failure just isn't an option... but hopefully, not too many.

4. There is no escape. Your life is your life... there is no running from you!

5. Life is often like a card game... you gotta play with the hand you are dealt.

6. It's not women who are tough, it's love!

7. I was watching this sitcom and Ted Danson's character said, "Men face reality, that's why we drink!" and I just cracked-up laughing. It made me wonder if there is some truth to
that!

8. Nobody respects anticipation anymore. We live in a society that wants instant gratification.

9. If you can't laugh at yourself every now and then, you've got no business laughing at anyone else.

10. If you gotta take a loss, don't lose the lesson. There is always one somewhere in all of that!

Peace!




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