A good jump shot isn’t racist – having your throat choked helps focus the difference

I honestly hope my rugby mentor with the Schenectady Reds RFC, Dr. Julius R. ‘Skip’ Aycox III, is alive to read this, because his grabbing me by the throat for using the N-word made a difference the last thirty-five years.

Someone will have to show me a more macho game, and on the pitch, teammates color is about jerseys.

Now, “that word” was used in a sing-song style lots of close friends did in late 1970’s college, and I did it right after one of our team’s best players used it while talking to him, so getting clutched by the throat surprised me hugely.

“What? You didn’t do anything when Ted just said it!”

“He does it to try and upset me, and he can’t be changed. You I can help.”

When I moved to Charlotte in 1995, Carolina Panthers rookie QB Kerry Collins getting a black eye from his center sticks in my mind, smaller examples of “correcting behavior” compared to the massive upheaval this country experienced last year. Across the USA and beyond, George Floyd’s murder, at the knee of now-convicted white police officer, Derek Chauvin, had finally brought a specific reckoning.

The call to STOP! police brutality that continues to result – especially with young Black men – in violent death, literally echoed around the world. Not as significantly in certain parts of our Congressional representatives, but there have been large numbers of white faces available every step of the way.

I’ve lived most of my Boomer life believing we squared a lot of this stuff up during those wild ‘n crazy Seventies, but it’s time to step up again, do a booster shot, right’s still right. Remember thinking ‘Tricky Dicky’ was a real threat to our nation? It’s not every cops badge and gun we need to worry about, BUT… https://cdtalententerprises.com/2021/01/18/smarter-than-average-bear-content-writing-boomer-replants-thought-leadership-flag-2021/

Without meaning to claim any special ‘wokeness,’ of course it’s time to consider walking in someone else’s shoes. It’s been part of the journalistic process since my HS days, and with all due credit for watching Ken Burns’ “Hemingway,” I appreciate it when people share the experience I’m putting on the page, too.

A guiding thought in my life process was a NYT Sunday Book section title, “Hemingway made his own hours.” Case closed, but now a few positive points on Attitude to set out.

Ideas recognized, ‘salt & pepper’ counts

White privilege?

Should I have to consider my willingness to walk into a Novant site around the corner from my house, on the way back from grocery shopping, ‘white privilege?’

While still only 64 and a Category-5 profile in North Carolina, I did exactly that, getting the Pfizer vaccine March 18th, a full two months earlier than I’d expected.

My May estimate was based on the trump administration having no actual stockpile of vaccine revelation, the number of distribution points at the time Joe Biden became President Biden, my birthday two days later being no real factor.

The nurse said they did 3,000 a day where I got mine. Reality at Novant was immediate – I’d barely started talking to a young lady with a laptop when a supervisor said, “Sure, let’s get you stuck.”

She also said, “You don’t ask, you don’t get” about Life. Pulling into that parking lot was taking the shot. Bazinga! But that was actually Novant #3 attempt. I’d also called Lancaster, SC about possible appointments when they were giving shots to 55+ there, long before things went into overdrive on options.

In early March, going to shoot baskets, I saw cars pulling in at McClintock (school), barely a mile from my brother’s house. Those “they had to use the extra shots” stories had been on TV, so I got in line and called my 65 yr/old brother about the possibility. Once a representative spoke to me directly about having accounted for any extra shots, I simply left to shoot baskets as planned.

Turns out, my bro apparently did some extra ‘yapping’/discussing about people in line, they couldn’t ALL be teachers, although when I’d checked earlier, all actually had after 4:00 appointments. When the (black) Novant rep delivered her message and I left, she came back out shortly thereafter, with a cop and two co-workers, apparently because she’d felt a little threatened.

Counting these as white privilege? I don’t rate it that way, just because I dropped in to a local unit and my brother didn’t get shot or manhandled for extra commentary. It was handled appropriately, and when he admitted why he was already back when I returned, I said yeah, I can imagine her feeling ‘something,’ based on what I’d heard.

Fact: Upset about his “65 and waiting until an April appointment!” status vs. those in line, he called Novant and wound up with a first shot (Moderna) the next Tuesday.

Freedom Park hoops with Rahim

Basketball ability is a legitimate baseline for judging another person, because its understood I’m talking about us, not LeBron, right? Black/white/whatever, female/older-cagey vet or wannabe, when we’re keeping score, how you perform reflects on whether we get to keep running the court, right? Save the yackety-yak, unless you got the chops to back it. High school doesn’t count here. Make it, take it.

Do not call stupid little fouls, especially if you’re the only ‘salt.’ I was playing tennis the morning I saw a wiry kind of rec-speced white dude take an old-school boat hook forearm right across the chops after some of that. Started right below the nose, the glasses kind of proving their worth. To be honest, I’d heard the yapping…

Oh, and it’s not racist to say everyone wants a piece of the white guy in a gorilla-ball game, where its all against all. Best thing to do is make up to three free throws after scoring a basket, reduces time banging heads with dudes for rebounds. Sticking a knee into a thigh, jacking a butt, or getting my money’s worth on a hack in the lane before a guy finishes his move, kind of a specialty. Being soft, waiting for a rebound instead of guarding someone closer, its not a label I ever had. Only brother of four under six-foot, I’ll let you know I’m back there.

We’ve got 7-8 guys in a gorilla game, one of them finally holds onto the ball, looks at me and says, “What are you doin’ here?” and I said, “I’m with Rahim.” Everybody there knew Rahim, a central figure way beyond the current game at the other end for sure. As others looked over, Rahim came out from the lane and *volleyballed* a guy’s 3-pt. shot out of bounds.

Couple minutes later, he calls me over, tells another player, “You’re out.” You have to be confident in your skills AND manhood at that point. Having a scorer’s touch always counts, like tucking putbacks in and making sure the big dogs get their touches, because you truly are repping white guards right then.

“No blood, no foul” is a legit guideline, and sh*t yeah, its better to give than (just) receive contact. Don’t embarrass yourself or your host is a Man Thing that crosses color-cultural.

Real Rahim, such a monster figure, I actually use him in my books, and yes, it’s good to be easy and right with people across a spectrum. Last night it was Karina, waiting in line together for a beer at Camp North End celebration https://www.camp.nc/events, it felt soooo rightly social with jazzy Spanish-centric music.

She appreciated my being able to say “I have two courses of Spanish at CPCC, but 10 years ago…” It was many people’s first time there, plenty of family and music, but out of beer and everything else before 9:00 – guy in front of me literally got the last cup of wine. That sort of goodness – plus more beer – is EXACTLY what builds communities.

‘What abouts?’ Four quick thoughts

At one of the Communities in Schools programs I think so highly of, https://www.cischarlotte.org/ helping HS seniors write better letters for scholarship money, I had an opportunity to listen to and speak with two young Black men. My straight up message was to let them know how different-better it was to talk with young people who weren’t using ummm, errrr, and you know every other word, was a legitimate asset.

“I noticed it and told you so, and every other adult you’ll meet will notice, too.” A positive affirmation is easy. What individual meetings with fertile minds can accomplish 1:1 *always* counts.

I got the same degree of change in attitude at a lunch meeting with perhaps eighty military people. They weren’t just trigger pullers like my Uncle Howard had been in the Pacific – this luncheon was about job search, and they KNEW what their ratings said they were qualified to do. When I admitted about being way off on that attitude to the gentleman next to me, Lt. Col. (Ret.) Nicolas ‘Chris’ Short told me about being Rumsfeld’s top kick at the Dept. of Defense. Definitely not just a trigger-puller.

Two last facts

Our Linton High Class of ’75 didn’t get to have its 45th reunion in 2020. At the 40th I’d decided to go into real estate, but waiting for a 50th, there’s no telling how many of us Forever Young Boomers might still be around for that. We might get it done this year, I dunno.

Paging through the yearbook, which our Journalism program put together – Take a bow, Liz Nealon, as Editor, your handwriting is all over it – I counted 20 Black seniors in a class of 540. If anyone wants to check me on that, fine. We also – can you believe it – let freshman (brother David) in that year.

Nobody’s brought it up that I know of, but at the time of 25th (2000) I know I wasn’t the only person who wondered if we’d be FORCED to have future reunions with the people from cross-town Mont Pleasant HS. Declining enrollment in Schenectady had forced a merger, at the Linton campus, but “we” didn’t particularly want to have an evening together with them.

I’ve mostly mellowed on the melding…it just took 46 years.

In 2021, I’m hoping to catch up to Scotty Grayman, Bobby Mazz – anybody know about Lussier? – and a couple dozen (probably not you, Malitz…) others. Here’s hoping we have it at Saratoga Racetrack instead of indoors – wasn’t that the plan? Let’s see if old people can agree on August fun instead of traditional Thanksgiving, just for starters.

Tear gas wasn’t as serious at Watkins Glen, with a side of white privilege to start

The Winnebago we had at Watkins Glen wasn’t as grand as brother’s current 57-footer, but getting a place inside was a good thing

Well, it was the Fall of 1979, which kind of makes it ancient history, but having paid $15 and change for two wall panels I’d written some important Kansas lyrics on (that’s right, graffiti!), I had my college degree, and it would only be another two months before I got a job to use it on.

Our carload of properly stoked-up college buds were heading across New York to pick up a seventh passenger near Rochester before getting a Winnebago for the weekend of Formula 1 races at Watkins Glen, when the flashing lights behind us got everybody a LOT more serious than discussions about Mario Andretti’s chances or the powerful Ferrari team.

It was dark-thirty or so, we probably weren’t doing 55, and the trooper said he stopped us because there were a lot of heads in the car. There might have been a little haziness in the vehicle, but knowing we were definitely going the wrong direction with a transporter plate on that big ol’ Caprice was a reality.

Every time I hear that “white privilege” phrase I think of this event, and hearing the officer say, “Well, if you’re transporting this to Massachusetts, you’re going the wrong way,” was just as chilling as the possibility he wouldn’t ignore the smell of that haze. I’ve never doubted that a black driver or any ‘brothers’ (besides our two Italian guys) would have entailed a much more significant interruption of our race plans.

About fun with tear gas

Seven guys with nine cases of beer worked out fine, as did setting up camp the first site we tried, because once the wheels went off the pebbled road into soggy earth, we were there. That two guys crapped out and I got a place inside the ‘bago, that was great. We never went anywhere without beers in every pocket, I still have the Ferrari hat purchased with poker winnings. But about the tear gas…

Watkins Glen fell out of the F-1 scene because it lacked the financial backing to improve the track adequately, but part of the historic ‘charm’ of it was a place called The Bog, where rowdiness was available every night. This was the time of a second OPEC gas crunch, and I haven’t forgotten the guy standing next to a gas guzzler, hoping somebody would take it to that wild area and sacrifice it, which is how torching cars was regarded. Allll part of the party, although the yahoo trying to aim a Bic lighter into the gas tank of an upended Datsun was about as smart as not wearing a face mask during a pandemic.

It was actually the second night there when “Joey G.” and I roamed that direction, picking up the pace as people went past the other way, talking about getting gassed. Neither of us had that life experience yet, and after standing aside so a phalanx of riot-geared cops could go past, we headed to The Bog. Imagine our disappointment when we arrived and no tear gas – something I’m SURE the people who’ve gotten that, plenty of pepper spray, and some of that “non-lethal munitions” nastiness won’t feel the same about.

Sorry I can’t tell you how it felt, but ask the mayor of Portland, Ted Wheeler, for a recap – I’m sure his memory is fresh about it.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, center in black with goggles looking away, stands at a fence guarding a federal courthouse as tear gas drifts by early July 23, 2020, in Portland Oregon, during another night of protest against the presence of federal agents sent by President Donald Trump to quell unrest in the city.Jonathan Maus/BikePortland via AP

Young men still do adventures, bonding counts

While I’m going nowhere next week while bro Mike does D.C. and Carlisle, PA trip, youngest nephew and recent UNC grad buddies flew west while several of their job starts were delayed, nailing an 18-day odessey in something more like Mike’s vehicle above than that long ago Winnie. Fishing because they’re all good at it, catching some SNOW in July, and rolling wherever. Any other time this would be the shit that cements friendships as a damn-straight American rite of passage, but this particular time, scarily dangerous beyond all norms.

Don’t we have the same data-driven fact, that LOTS of America is on COVID fire? Yet he and his buhds, and David, the NY part of us four brothers – who I couldn’t bust in person about hitting SIXTY yesterday – wife, and daughter, went NY-KY-Dakotas-Washington State driving, hiked a few of the major parks that just reopened. Ryan & Crew got trail passes easily after parks reopened from COVID.

That’s just people I know, but keeping to themselves over 3,000 miles, being very traceable if anything happened out in the wild – and David, 60 yesterday, Donna and Maria have self-quarantened in Ballston Spa, NY for two weeks afterwards – but so far, all ultimately safe.

As the French say, “C’est la vie.” Reopening anything safely should be as carefully planned as those successful trips.

Tuesday I’m hoping that the only driving I’ll be doing is nine holes at a local club, while Mike starts his road trip Wednesday. I still think cutting my time “out there” with COVID is legit. I’m still primarily a remote worker, and my options improved by two this week – I’m in 2nd phase of process, with video interview portion scheduled and skills evaluation.

I’ll be getting out for first time, and seeing how the muscle memory is on my irons would be getting back to normal a little, maybe playing two balls. Could be more people available to play Tuesdays with almost 50 million unemployed, I don’t know. I’m ready to invest around $20, Hitting off the tees is a decent option, they have chipping and putting too. More 90s in weather forecasts? Psshhh, it’s July in Charlotte, man.

On the topic of memory, its been good to see America recognize the passing of a passionate American, Rep. John Lewis, an iconic figure from the days of Martin Luther King, Jr., the March to Selma where he nearly died, a gentleman who epitomized the looking forward ‘Merica we want to fight for, getting into Good Trouble.

That a practical memorial would be renaming a certain bridge for Mr. Lewis, for what its worth, I concur. Keep it together ‘Merica, we’ll get the EPA back on that “sea to shining sea” thing again. Black Lives Still Matter.

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Glenn Shorkey – Creative eDitorial Talent Enterprises 

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