Throw Back Thursday – Dedicated to My Grandparents

Genrations

PHOTO: Christmas circa 1981 in New Kensington, PA (suburb of Pittsburgh) I was 14, to my left was my father Otis McCaleb, (R.I.P.) Below L-R Grandfather Leo “The Lion” Moore, Grandmother Georgia Moore, (R.I.P) and my sister Darcel (McCaleb) Tyson.

This was the last time I saw my grandmother alive. Still breaks my heart that I couldn’t be present to help lay her to rest. Grandma was a strong willed woman who loved cooking and Falstaff Beer. When my sister and I visited her every summer, she cooked every single night except Friday. On Friday, it was ‘Mustgo.’ I used to ask, “Grandma, whats Mustgo?” She’d yell, ‘Whatever didn’t go yesterday, MUSTGO today!  It took me years to figure what that meant because she phrased ‘MUST GO’ as one word!  She rocked a gold cap on her upper tooth, smoked and drank on the weekend listening to The Bucs (Pirates Baseball) on KDKA radio.

Grandma never missed a Sunday Service either.  Deeply religious and equally superstitious, she would never let me split a pole when she and I often walked to the ‘5 and 10 Store,’ downtown.  (Yea the 5 & dime she called it.  Used used to buy me those pajamas with the feet in them. Loved those things.)   But I digress: She would never ever allow a female to be the first person to walk through the front door after the New Year.  She said that was bad luck!  As New Years struck the year pictured above, I had the pleasure of walking out the back door and around to the front to ensure the year wouldn’t be doomed towards destruction! The night of January 1st however, I thought the opposite was going to happen after Dan Marino thew that 35 yard touchdown pass to John Brown to beat Herschel Walker and Georgia in the Sugar Bowl.  I jumped with joy thrusting my fist in the air shattering a bulb from her prized chandelier!

Grandma - Georgia Moore

As far as discipline goes, she was the bad cop!  And she did it well too!  No matter what I’d try to get away with when she wasn’t there, she always, and I mean always found out about it.  She worked at a nursing home by day.  I wasn’t allowed to go outside or have company over till she got home from work.  But my girlfriend Vonda lived next door.  As a matter of fact, we each lived in a brick double-connected 3 bedroom townhome that her grandmother owned.  Her grandma, Lucille Brooks lived at 490 McCargo St.  Our side of the building was 488.  Our families were literally close like family, not just neighbors.  Anyway, I would check, check, double-check all of the windows and peek around the doors, give the all clear signal and my girlfriend would bolt form 490 through my back patio door.

Sure enough, at 4:15 when grandma walked in the door, she’d come home and be like, “Christopher Keith?!!  (I knew I was in trouble when she started using my government) “Didn’t I tell you not to have that girl over here?  Yes I did… and yes she was!  You had her over here from from 11:30 to 2!”  I’d try… “But grandma, we was just watching game shows.  Like The Price is Right, and the $20,000 Pyramid!”  She’s come back, “The price is right for me to beat yo ass with a pyramid!”  I’d think to myself, “Now how in the hell?”  I swear I think that nursing home thing was a front.  She had to be NSA!  I mean, just look at her picture above.  Does this woman look like a joke to you?

One of the reasons I love old people today is because of my granddaddy. (who we called Leo as kids)  After serving in the Korean War he was a race car driver in his hometown of Meridian Mississippi! When I was a shorty, before he got into buying luxury cars, he had a bright red 1970 Ford Torino stock racer that was his everyday coup.  It still had all the racing gages and stuff in it too.  (Like some Fast and Furious stuff!)  And yes he drove it around town like he was his name was Wendell Scott. 

GT

During the week, Granddaddy was straight laced to the bone because it was a work night.   In the evenings, he’d come home, read his newspaper, eat dinner, watch Gunsmoke and Bonanza, calling it a night promptly at 9pm.  He wasn’t mean, but you couldn’t get more than two sentences out of him at a time.  He was just that locked in.  Now come Friday night?  That was another story.  It was like a metamorphosis.

If you’ve ever seen the movie A Soldier’s Story, two of the characters were at extreme odds against one another.  Sargent Waters, (the upwardly bound Negro looking to forge a new way for Southern Blacks through discipline, becoming Eurocentrically bourgeois, and less backwoods colored) vs. CJ Memphis (the good ole simple country boy who loved to sing, dance, and entertain people.  CJ loved everybody.  And everybody loved CJ, except Waters).  My grandfather was Sargent Waters during the week.  But instantly transformed to CJ Memphis from the moment he clocked out Friday night through Sunday before going to bed.

He’d sit me on his lap and sing songs to me;

“Goodbye Joe, you gotta go, meo-myo!  Son of a gun we gonna have fun on the bayo!”  or “Imma dance with the girl with the hold in her stockings and her knees keep a rocking!”

I mean he was the funnest dude in the world!

Waters

He took me with him on his many trips to the local bars and taverns. He would say, “Come on grandson. I’m going to get a shot!” We’d roll and in those days you could walk an 8 or 9 year old right up to the spot. (Always in the day time of course) He would get his ‘shots’ and I would listen as the old men told stories while laughing with one another…which I just LOVED!  I’d look at their faces and as far as I was concerned, they could have been from the 1800s.  Their faces held such distinct characteristics with the various shades and wrinkles.  I pretty much thought they knew EVERYTHING!  Add to that the fact that these men of distinction always treated me with such high regard and respect.  They’d talk to me to see how if and how I’d speak back.  Did I smile, was I unafraid, yet respectful?  Saying things like, “Oh your grandson is smaaaart!” or He gone be something…(looking at me) aren’t you young man?”  ““Yes sir!”  We’d bar hop for several hours doing the same thing…. every weekend!

And don’t let it be a week where I had to go to the barbershop.   That meant an excuse to stay out a couple more hours long way past the time it took to actually cut my hair.  Which meant more bars and taverns!   The guys in the barbershops told awesome stories themselves.  They’d pat me on the head, tell me to keep my grades up and be something!  

Of course when we’d get home and granddaddy was lit up like a Christmas tree, she would give him all he wanted!  “Leo you old crazy fool!  Drunk ass!  Git yo hands off me!  I don’t want no kiss!”  Grandad would say something like, “Now Georgia stop all that damn fussing at me!  I’m grown!  Fix me some dinner!”

This was standard operating procedure every weekend and all summer long!  And it was the best of times!

CJ

Grandma died in 1984 after doing some Thanksgiving grocery shopping.  She collapsed at the local Food Mart while waiting on a cab.  She never drove a car.  My grandfather was at work.  Oh do I miss her till this day.  She never got to see me as an adult, or to see any of my own children.

Granddaddy has since remarried, and has long retired as an electrical engineer from ALCOA Steel.   His wife Judy, who is a lovely woman, is an AME Minister in Pittsburgh.

Advertisements

The Grinch, CP3 and the End of a Lifetime Love Affair

NBA1

My love for NBA basketball goes back 32 years, along with with my love for the Los Angeles Lakers.  I watched it flourish from the drug infested rep it had during the 70s, through the resurgence with the help of Magic, Larry, and Isaiah; the glory years of Jordan, Hakeem, and finally Shaq, Kobe, Duncan and D-Wade.  The current NBA has plenty of stars to peek the interest of old and new fans.  As bad as “The Decision” was for LeBron and The Heat, the NBA had its peak year of interest, and then like a hammer, the owners imposed another lockout!

This was the first blow to my love for the NBA game.  Not that the owners wanted more cheddar; that’s just the American way.  But the way they went about it, with their various threats to cancel the season.  After a blockbuster year for everyone, they acted with an arrogance that clearly showed many owners cared nothing about the fans that pushed their popularity to where it is, so that their revenue could be as substantial as it’s been.

I had it in my mind not to care whether the season was cancelled or not.  I felt that for the sake of labor, the players should get a fair deal that reflected the value they bring to the franchises.  If the owners wanted to bluff or cancel the season, then let them.  And then see if the game ends up like the NHL.

hunter fisher

With Christmas and it’s primetime schedule looming, the players and the owners were able to get a deal done and cram a 66 game season in just a few short months.  Initially the stain of the lockout was still in my mind.  I knew it would take me a little while at least to become interested in the league again.  I was more excited to continue watching NFL football and college hoops.

Once the deal was agreed upon and the moving and shaking began where clubs and players would be changing places, the buzz peeked my interest a bit more.  Chris Paul to the Lakers?  Tyson Chandler to the Knicks;  Pau Gasol to the Rockets, Lamar Odom to the Hornets, damn!  Talk about blowing up some teams!  I knew the Lakers needed to make some changes but Odom and Gasol?  That sounds drastic!  (Unless they were going to gun for Dwight Howard but still that was no sure thing!)

I said to myself, Del Demps (the GM for New Orleans) is no joke!  He’s sitting with a team that is owned by the league and where no one seems to want to go, and yet he just set himself up to have a strong team for this season with Odom, (the reigning sixth man of the year), Luis Scola (a double-double man), and guard Kevin Martin! This core gives a potential owner a very competitive team to begin with.  The Rockets having Gasol would make them instant playoff contenders since Yao Ming retired.  And as I said about my Lakers, it helped our backcourt tremendously but left our front line very light with a heavy load being put on Andrew Bynum’s knees.

Del Demps

Ok, maybe I do want to watch on Christmas.  But then at the behest of so called small market owners like Dan Gilbert, The Grinch David Stern killed the deal!  WTF???

It seems that though Demps was told by the league that he had the freedom to make deals as any other GM would, The Angel of Stern at the behest of Gilbert and the likes decided that Chris Paul going to the Lakers under any circumstances was bad for the league.  Part of the owners lockout strategy was to restrict star players from choosing their own destinies.  The problem is that they can’t stop free agency.  If a player is in the final year of his contract and is not going to stay with the team he’s on, he’s going to have a certain amount of power in choosing his trade destination if he doesn’t agree to re-sign with his new team.  That is just the nature of the beast.  Most players in any of the major sports have but one chance in their careers to have serious influence on where they go and how much they can make.

Stern said that the deal was not good enough for the Hornets and that his decision to block a great trade didn’t have anything to do with other owners.  He also thinks Jerry Sandusky only likes to ‘horse around’ with young boys.  But I digress!  Phil Jackson the former Laker coach brought the Paul issue up a year ago with the league owning the Hornets which is a clear conflict of interest.  He was fined by the league for predicting the cluster f#@! that eventually panned out.

clusterfuck

Fast forward a few days later with trade proposals flying like bullets and players being amnestied left and right, the Lakers gave away Lamar Odom to the World Champion Mavericks for a 40oz.  Neither Stern, Gilbert or any other small market owners said a word about that.  Instead of Demps doing the negotiations going forward, Stern took over negotiations from New York rendering the Hornets GM a GM with no clothes.  Oh and this just in: Paul goes to the Clippers instead; the team with historically racist owner the the league has never addressed.  That makes a lot of sense!

I’m just disgusted with the NBA right now.  And I’m honestly not sure if there will be any coming back from it.  This is NOT about the Lakers not getting CP3 either.  Since Jerry Buss turned the team over to his son, the way they have treated many of their loyal personnel like Brian Shaw for instance has shown a total lack of class.  Likewise, not even telling Lamar Odom, a man who has taken a lesser playing role and less money for years as a sign of loyalty that the team was seeking to trade him is reprehensible.  That is a side issue that calls into question my respect for the Laker organization.

What is bothersome is that in addition to the lockout, the league’s manipulation of team business is a huge turn off. I would much rather take my team to task for the way they manage, the way they play, Mike Brown’s coaching, etc. My team has been my team for over 30 years and we haven’t won the championship every year.  I’m good with that.  The issue is credibility!  I want to have the belief at least that the product that is NBA basketball is a legitimate institution.  Where if each team plays by the rules established that they can make or break their own clubs, their own seasons, and that I as a fan can watch the games and root from a fan’s perspective.

At best Christmas morning anticipation of the NBA should feel as if I am waking up to love I’ve known most of my life.  Now it feels like a dirty whore being shoved down my throat dressed with promos of players just recently cursed by owners. Where owners who have less skill and attract-ability can dictate to other teams what they can and cannot do.  Perhaps Stern will make Kim Kardashian an ESPN sideline reporter next.  It seems the league has not been less out of touch with reality.  I am a very educated fan and I won’t be given anything and told to deal with it.

kardashian_c

Perhaps it seems I’m taking this all too personally.  But I doubt it.  Even if we the normal fan cannot pay for NBA salaries, the fan base is the foundation that drives the revenues.  The time and dedication given by the average Joe in caring about what happens to his/her team gives the league the core value that the dollars and cents can be worth investing in.  Stern and the likes, have polluted that image.  Now it seems the games are played in boardrooms through conference calls to New York.

I’m not sure how this is all going to turn out for me as a fan.  Right now, it’s looking like the NFL will be the television featured in my house on Christmas Day.  And for that, I’m sorry.

 

SIDE RANT

*****If you examine Gilbert’s letter closely, he details how the initial trade may benefit the Lakers as they were to get Paul, while clearing salary from their books.  And by doing so make themselves eligible later for even more attractive free agents.  Under the rules mind you that the owners just agreed to.  What he didn’t say which is apparent, is that he (Gilbert) was not smart enough to do the same.  And that no attractive free agent will ever want to play for his team because of his ineptness not to mention the way he showed his ass after LeBron left.  What he was essentially saying is, “Thanks to me the Cavaliers ARE the Washington Generals.  Since I don’t have managerial smarts or the ability to make my team attractive so stars will want to play in Cleveland, let’s focus on making teams like the Lakers suffer so that my idiocy is not so apparent.”  I mean, what has he done to date thus far to improve his own situation?  

Why I Hate The Holidays

Ok, well maybe hate is too strong a word.  Let’s just say I haven’t always looked forward to the holidays anyway.  Specifically the trilogy we call Thanksgiving, Christmas & New Years, (TCN) that are slapped together the last two months of the year.  I am skeptical about several holidays anyway.  Most seem to have double meanings, in that its partial religious and partial if not mostly marketing.

Look at Easter for instance.   I grew up simultaneously thinking it was about the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ and at the same time for bunnies and egg hunting.  The same can be said for Christmas.  Don’t even get me started on that one.  Thanksgiving can’t get over with without stores opening up in anticipation of Black Friday and loads of shoppers coming to spend a lot of grip!

Know More About Aztec Culture Stereotypes and  Myths in America.

Speaking of Thanksgiving; It has its own set of issues as it inaccurately tells of a relationship between pilgrims and Native Americans.  They talk about Native Americans helping the Pilgrims, but they don’t tell of the massacre and land grab the Pilgrims put down on them in return.  With the amount of turkeys being sacrificed on one day, it shows how much it’s commercialized too. ****Side Note: Will someone please explain what this whole mess of the president pardoning a turkey is about?

I tend to get into holidays like Veteran’s Day or Memorial Day, or something like these.  I mean they are commercialized too in that they do have Memorial Day sales in department stores.  But they tend to have less.  Labor Day is pretty straight forward.  It celebrates the workers of the nation.  And what the heck, if one wants to enjoy some savings at JC Penny’s for their hard-earned dollars who can argue with that?

Martin Luther King Day is almost a joke!  As much as I think we should have it for I truly believe MLK is the greatest American ever produced, the talk of dreaming and speeches is sickening.   It’s more memorial and legend than it is substance.  Take the good with the bad I guess.  But we, (black folk who want to deify King as a messiah who could do no wrong – and white folk who wish to use the dream message while eliminating the more meatier pieces of his words that challenged American white supremacy and classism at its core therefore rendering King a toothless lion) have basterdized Kings legacy as far as I’m concerned.  But I digress.

Valentines Day is a funny one to me.  Flower prices soar to astronomical proportion leading up to February 14 as men scramble and come up off them dollars to buy those roses and chocolate.  If you have a woman and she’s into that stuff, you can forget it!  Come off that grip or cancel Xmas cause if she feels dissed and can’t brag to her friends about what you did, there won’t be any presents for you under her tree!  I’m just saying.  As my friend Jim Thornber once wrote me about this same point, “I know I know.  But I got to do what I got to do!”

I’m not a total Scrooge about this mind you.  But even as a little kid I had love/skepticism relationship when it comes to holidays.  When I was a child and thought that Jesus was born on December 25th, I honestly didn’t care as much about presents.  I didn’t turn down any either.  But I did make a point of saying, “Happy Birthday Jesus!” when I woke up that morning before running for the living room.  As I recall I think I just thought us kids had the benefit of getting some presents on the slide.   I didn’t believe in Santa Clause too long cause I couldn’t figure how dude could hit all the houses all around the world in one night.  Just couldn’t wrap my brain around that.  All possible illusions were put to rest when I heard my mother and then step father sneaking in the crib at 3:30 in the morning setting up my race track.  I wasn’t disappointed at all.  More so relieved that I wasn’t crazy.

Back in the day,  another reason why I grappled with some of our holidays, (specifically the TCN trilogy) is because these holidays interrupted my otherwise action packed distractions layered lifestyle of mine.  (When I used to work 2-3 jobs at a time as a much younger man)  Most of my adult life I have struggled at times with depression, anxiety and stress.  Back then I worked hard and I worked a lot.  Therefore I was able to busy myself meandering with the important and the mundane.  If it wasn’t one thing to do it was another.   I’m still busy now but with a better plan.  The distractions are no different though.  Going from one side of town to another working or head to the coffee shop to wind down or jot some thoughts or view Delonte West free-styling in a KFC drive-through about buying $50 worth of chicken after a weed burn can keep one’s mind off his troubles.

I remember one year-long ago.  I was driving on a Thanksgiving afternoon to pick something up from Walgreens.   As I drove down the street I noticed how everything in the world has seemed to stop.  Here it was broad daylight in the middle of a metropolitan city, during the week no less, and there were hardly any cars on the street.   My neighborhood looked like a ghost town.  Subconsciously I noticed the trees too.  There were no leaves.  Only traces of dead ones laying on the streets and along the curbs.  Nothing was growing outside.  Nature seemed to be hibernating and the chill of the air cause me to cover myself so that the cold couldn’t attack me as it was the rest of nature.  That’s when it hit me.  “Damn!”, I thought.  These are the thoughts that flowed through my mind as I assessed the situation.

I have no place to go.  No place to hide.

 I knew instinctively that I was not in a good place.  I felt lonely, and empty.  I had no distractions to keep me busy and occupied.  I never even realized how much I was hurting or missing.  But here it was face to face now.

Whatever you really feel, wherever you really are, whatever state you are in for real, is always revealed during this time of year.  It’s unavoidable.

So there I was.  I knew it.  Nothing I could do about it either.  And Monday couldn’t get here fast enough.

For the most part nowadays I tend to look at holidays as an opportunity for me to rest.  To take a load off and maybe sleep in a bit.  I do see redeeming qualities with some of these holidays as they do give us time to reflect from busy lives and have a reason to stop, look, and hopefully listen to others.   To realize that family is important and that there is a season of giving.  Traditions can be a good thing when looked at properly.  And these holiday traditions tend to give those fortunate opportunity to take stock of the many present blessings.  I too will do some holiday shopping.  And since I have ‘things’ in perspective I am free to give and be a blessing to loved ones without tripping off the commercialized contradictions.

But for the lonely, the depressed, the homeless, the destitute, this holiday season will once again be a not so gentle reminder of the bold and true reality of their lives.  Let’s remember them too!  As I know full and well, it can easily be us!