Rest in Paradise
On January 13th, I only had ONE thing in mind when posting about Kobe Bryant and that was to pay homage to a man who played a significant role in my latter teen years (into early adulthood). I wanted to poke fun at how I tried to emulate him, how I saved every magazine featuring his face, how I'd watch every interview, but most importantly, how proud I was to see his name mentioned as one of the candidates for the 2020 Basketball Hall of Fame. Little did I know on January 26th, just thirteen days after that post, Bryant, his daughter and seven other victims would be involved in a tragic helicopter crash out in the hills of Calabasas, CA, leaving their families and the rest of the world to mourn.
My eyes have poured out real tears for several days now. At times, I can't help myself. In fact, my vision is quite blurred as I type this - fighting through an overwhelming feeling of sadness taking over my soul. This sensation occurs whenever my mind wanders to that horrific day or when I catch a glimpse of Kobe's peers pouring their eyes out on national TV, or something simple, like staring at the photo above. This f*cking hurts.
I thought long and hard on whether I should even touch this story. After all, this is supposed to be a 'feel good' blog and it was only a couple of weeks ago where I was singing Kobe Bryant's praises. Now, here I am, sadly talking about this man's death. I cannot believe this; something is terribly wrong with that last sentence. To be frank, I find all of this extremely eerie. But I am a writer, writing has always been therapeutic and I desperate NEED to type: today, tomorrow, next week, so on and so forth. Whether it is read by one set of eyes or thousands. I have to do this or I am as good as done.
This whole ordeal doesn't seem real. It's almost like there was some sort of glitch in the matrix. Yes, we all die - it's a part of life and I completely understand. I lost my grandmother of 93 years back in September and there isn't a day that goes by where I don't think of her. Although, I felt she could possibly live forever, 93 years is quite the accomplishment. But when we look at this tragedy on January 26th, Kobe lived to see 41, his daughter, 13. They were cheated at life and I won't feel otherwise.
Bryant and his daughter were on the cusp of transitioning to that 'next level' - post NBA Kobe as a husband, father, entrepreneur, Academy Award winner, author, coach/mentor, his daughter Gianna, as a superb 8th grade basketball talent just welcoming those challenging teenage years - quite possibly on the verge of becoming a highly sought after student-athlete. Its been well documented how Gianna took on her father's 'Mamba Mentality' so perhaps those teenage years would have been a breeze, but now we'll never know how far her talents would have taken her. The thought alone puts a lump in my throat.
I can't fathom the pain and devastation going through Kobe's wife, Vanessa, losing a husband and child on the same day, left to explain to their beautiful three girls that their father and sister are no longer here. My goodness. Let us also not forget the sting of the other families involved. This story is about as bad as it gets and I don't know if this numb feeling ever goes away.
The NBA All-Star Weekend begins in a few weeks and I am certain there will be a monumental ceremony commemorating Kobe Bryant's life. I've watched less and less of the All-Star festivities over the years and I will continue that trend in 2020. It is sure to be a tear jerker and there is simply no way I'll allow myself to endure that type of hurt. After experiencing a few heartbreaks in 2019 and now with this recent news, I think my eyes, mind, heart and soul could use a much needed break.
As words begin to escape me, it is probably best that I cut this short. But R.I.P. Kobe & Gianna Bryant and the other victims lost on that tragic day,
Spearheaded by a recent interview (and an amazing highlight clip) captivating my brain over a long weekend (where I was subjected to cold meds, Kleenex tissues and hot tea), I felt like sharing a story about my one-time fixation with the man featured in the picture above. No, I won't begin to bore you with overzealous stats and accolades by one of the greatest players of our generation (okay, maybe I will), nor will I share my opinion on where I feel Mr. Bryant ranks on the G.OA.T. list. Quite frankly, if he doesn't care about where he's placed on an opinion-based list (where there is really no true way of finding out who the best are), why should I? But what I will share, is how I unequivocally convinced myself I'd become the second-coming of one Mr. Kobe Bean Bryant, as we gear up for what could be his induction into the basketball Hall of Fame this summer.
Let's be perfectly clear: I wasn't all the way sold on this guy. In fact, at the onset of Kobe's NBA career (and somewhere along the middle), I couldn't stand him. I'll admit, there was a bit of jealously sprinkled in there. I mean, here was a kid, only a couple of years older than me, about to take the league by storm, insisting on playing for the LOS ANGELES LAKERS (as legend would have it, his party demanded an immediate trade from the Charlotte Hornets - the team who would draft him with the 13th pick in the 1996 NBA Draft - for the glitz and glamour of L.A.). The nerves of this guy!
Personally, I didn't think the Lakers needed Kobe or Shaquille O'Neal (a free agent at the time who also had his sights set on Hollywood). I'd grown fond of a young Lakers' team - dubbed 'The Lake Show' - led by the resurgence of the 1991 Slam Dunk champ Cedric Ceballos, the nifty Nick Van Exel, Vlade Divac and the ultra-talented Eddie Jones, who were all slowly making a name for themselves.
Why would they trade for some high school kid who could potentially steal minutes away from fan favorite, Eddie Jones, or worse, potentially hinder Kobe's growth?
Moreover, I didn't appreciate Bryant's blatant attempt at trying to become the next Michael Jordan (which he would vehemently deny); from his bald head (okay, so the bald head was quite stylish for black men during the early to mid 90s, but so what!), his on-court playing style (sprinkled in with a little streetball), the placement of his knee sleeve (even adding a slight fold to it like MJ), his mannerisms, down to sticking out his tongue when dunking the basketball... ala the one, the ONLY, the G.O.A.T., Michael Jordan!
Bryant had seemingly entered the league with a boulder-sized chip on his shoulder, oozing a rare cockiness unseen from an unproven player. Who TF does this guy think he is? But my opinion of Kobe shifted following his '96-'97 rookie campaign, which ended with the Lower Merion H.S. product shooting multiple air balls down the stretch in a crucial playoff road game against the Utah Jazz; putting an end to the Lakers season. His critics grew overnight, unwilling to cut slack to a kid who carried the swagger of a 10-year vet, yet played like an 18 year-old when it mattered most. I genuinely felt bad for him, but the criticism had a reverse effect. During the summer of '97, he'd go through a transformation of sorts; growing out his hair (sporting a mini afro which I quickly gravitated towards), and despite being mocked, ridiculed and singled out as the player responsible for their loss to the Jazz in the prior season, he entered his 2nd season with a newfound confidence. Soon, he'd become the Lakers 6th man (first player typically called off of the bench), making an immediate impact. Fans at the old Great Western Forum- young and old, rose to their feet in unison upon Bryant's entrance into the game, as legendary Lakers P.A. announcer Lawrence Tanter announced his name with his familiar monotone voice. Excitement grew, with scores of fans anticipating Bryant's flashy play, making the Lakers must-see-TV. It was an amazing spectacle for the 16 year-old me, watching the NBA on NBC telecast over the weekend, pondering the thought of whether I'd make it to the pros someday.
As Bryant's playing time grew, so did the bevy of supporters. Before long, the Lakers had a future star on their hands. I quickly took heed, growing my hair out to resemble Kobe's, recording every interview conducted; from in-game to late-night talk shows, EVEN purchasing a pair of ADIDAS sneakers (his sneaker sponsor at the time) for the first time in my life. As a lifelong Nike fan, that was HUGE! All for the allure of mirroring a dude I thought was the greatest thing since sliced bread (I'd pull this stunt twice before with a couple of NBA childhood heroes - Penny Hardaway and Scottie Pippen, but I was closer in age to Kobe, and found some other silly detail about him to justify my claim that I was his long lost bro).
Surprisingly, I didn't want to 'be like Mike' or play like Kobe. Orlando's version of Penny Hardaway, the Bulls Scottie Pippen and Magic Johnson were the players I opted for anytime I stepped foot onto the court. However, 'rookie Kobe' was a clear underdog. I've always rooted for those types. Little did we know this "underdog" would go on to have an illustrious 20 year career which saw 5 NBA titles, a league MVP award, a couple of scoring titles and a crap load of All-Star appearances/All-Star MVP's. But the icing on the cake would have to be his candidacy into the Basketball Hall of Fame. We'll soon find out if he gets in (I would bet the house that he does), but here's to an amazing talent and an even amazing career, as I take a trip down memory lane.
Let's just say 2020 has gotten off to a pretty good start! Minus recent dental work (my 2nd root canal in less than a year - lucky me), I've had quite a few things to smile about. A renewed interest in blogging is one, followed by the possibilities of finally setting up a home office in the very near future (more on that in a later blog). But absolutely NOTHING has made me happier than spotting the return of Arby's fish sandwiches!
As I was driving home the other day, something took over me while passing an Arby's restaurant. Plastered in big, bold lettering across their drive-thru menu was a fish ad. Was I seeing things? Could it be?! YES!
Seemingly losing all control, like a madman in need of a fix, I promptly busted a U-Turn, tires screeching, entering the drive-thru...
Drive-thru voice: *Singing an Arby's Fish Sandwich Jingle*
Welcome to Arby's, can I take your order?
Me: Good Evening, can I please have two crispy fish sandwiches?
Drive-thru voice: I'm sorry, Sir, can you repeat that?
Me: Yes, two crispy fish sandwiches, that's all...
Drive-thru voice: *Inaudible sound*
Me: *Losing patience*
Drive-thru voice: I'm sorry, Sir, can you repeat that once more?
Me: *Sigh*... TWO CRISPY CHICKEN SANDWICHES, MAN!
Drive-thru voice: Two crispy chickens? Is that all?
Let's just say that exchange didn't go all too well, but I didn't allow my lack of patience to get the best of me. I left Arby's in total bliss - two crispy FISH sandwiches in tow and they were ALL MINE!
I would love an explanation as to why certain fast food chains only provide their most favorable sandwiches seasonally (cut that shit out!). I mean, is there some type of "fish shortage" from spring to December preventing Arby's from possibly depleting my bank account? Is there some type of "beef shortage" putting a stop to Mc Donald's selling their infamous McRib sandwich year round? (the McRib sounds gross, but plenty of people vouch for it). Can you imagine if Burger King experienced a "burger shortage?" Popeye's/KFC dealing with a "chicken shortage?" The whole world would go mad! But when Arby's fish sandwiches go M.I.A., not a single word. Somebody get Ving Rhames on the phone!
Okay, I'm done here.
Giving 2019 a Swift Kick in the A**
My apologies for leaving you all high & dry. I'll try to do better.
On a personal note, 2019 goes down as one of THE WORST years to date. There was the passing of my grandmother - which I don't think I'll ever truly get over - coupled with a few life changing events, but in hindsight, there were PLENTY of life lessons which I fully intend to carry forth into 2020 and beyond. Because as we all know, everything happens for a reason.
I am back in my happy place, meaning more content (check out my new YouTube page), more blogs (even if the current population HATES to read), and in due time, my 2nd book. I am not much of a 'Resolutions' guy; admittedly, I set goals DAILY, but I am truly optimistic that 2020 will be a joyous ride. Here's hoping you experience the same 🥂
Is It Worth It?
I REALLY try my hardest to make this a feel-good blog, ignoring the foolishness of society and staying clear of politics... but I couldn't resist this time around. While scouring the net, I came across a story that not only had me SMH (shaking my head - for those of you un-hip to texting slang) like an angry toddler refusing to eat their veggies, but actually questioning whether I should continue identifying myself as human. After all, humans shouldn't act this way.
The internet strikes again as yet another "challenge" reared its ugly head; triggering the minds of the youth with tantalizing thoughts of a vast views, likes and of course the allure of going viral. Press play if:
1) You enjoy stupidity
2) You enjoy ice cream
3) You enjoy stupidity AND ice cream
Finally, I don't want to hear anything about "mental issues," "kids being kids" or "the punishment not fitting the crime." Spare me the bull. We've got to draw the hard line in the sand. Enough is enough.
Here's to hoping this young lady can now put her tongue to use in a nice 6x8 cell block.
Architecture Gone Wrong
WHAT IS THIS?! Better yet, WHY would anyone spend over $2000 a month to live in this excuse of a apartment building (strangely resembling a penitentiary) found on the Upper West Side of Manhattan?
NYC has done it again, overpricing tenants with this semi-new high-rise (built only a couple of years ago), selling them on yet another luxury apartment. One that offers close proximity to famous landmarks, spectacular views and the feeling of exclusivity.
Nevermind the nearby fire station with fire trucks regularly blaring sirens in the wee hours of the morning, the lack of a washer/dryer in each unit, a decent neighboring pizza shop, a friggin' supermarket or the limitations on street parking. No. That's unimportant to today's pool of young tenants whose only objective is to experience NYC and all its luxury. P.S.199, my old elementary school, is a few blocks away from this eye sore - still hanging on by a thread - surrounded by towering buildings (some newly built) since my carefree days of crushing homeruns in the school yard. I can remember a time when crafty-imaginative adults and senior citizens roamed and I proudly called this neighborhood home. More important? Everything was within reach. In fact, there were TWO pizza shops found within the same radius! How about that? Now, it's flooded with more out-of-towners, ugly buildings, cranes, scaffolding and a massive Apple store that is seemingly out of place. Perhaps it's me who doesn't belong - and that's why I said hello to Suburbia almost 15 years ago 🖕🏾🖕🏾
Fashion Statement... Sorta
Everything about this t-shirt is cool (minus the fact that he's tucking it into his jeans), but for all of you attention whores roaming the earth (or, for those of you who simply enjoy wearing t-shirts with cool expressions), here's a shirt that will really have all eyes on you!
I'll take an XL in EVERY color available, please...
Happy Memorial Day Weekend!
This time last year, I was spending endless hours putting the finishing touches on my first published book. This year? I'm taking pictures like someone desperately seeking a TMZ contract.
Summer is NEAR (meaning, it doesn't officially arrive until JUNE 21st!), which for many means vacation time, frequent visits to the beach, amusement parks, outdoor activities and more. As we gear up for Summer 2019, here are a few recent pics (courtesy of yours truly) to tickle your fancy.
Photos courtesy of Panasonic Lumix DC-FZ80
Follow your passion! Words that I vehemently live by. Photography is just one of many, from yours truly. Not only will this blog feature random thoughts, opinions and POV's, but plenty of photography. Laugh, frown, rejoice, whichever mood these pics put you in.
More to come...
Ella Fitzgerald Would Be Proud... I Think...
'Blue Skies,' was a feel good tune performed by Ella Fitzgerald (click on her name to listen), but I DON'T think she had this in mind. The proximity of the planes caught me off guard, so I snapped away. Minutes later, there were more trails in the sky (all gathered around the sun) and before long, an overcast.
I took some more pics, but didn't find them as blatant as the ones above. In the words of Elmer Fudd- "There's something awfully screwy going on around here..."
An Unofficial National Holiday
Finally, baseball is here! The Boys of Summer are back in town and I am happier than the Kool-Aid man. Spring is in the air, the birds are chirping and I've joined THREE fantasy baseball leagues. Overkill? YES! However, I am prepared for the storm, with hopes that I can become victorious in at least 2 out of 3 leagues (not far fetched by any stretch of the imagination). Anyway, the weather feels as if it wants to break at any moment (though the threat of an April snow storm still looms- not inconceivable here on the east coast), but temperature wise, the next couple of months ahead are usually the best (aside from early Autumn). Here's to 6+ months of a sport I can't seem to get enough of 🥂
Wish me luck!
...Baby One More Time
Aaaah, I remember it like it was yesterday. March 1999, sitting at my desk, working at an internship down in the Wall Street section of Manhattan, when suddenly this song blared through the headphones of my portable Sony Discman on a station called Z-100. Suddenly, my head nodded and there was strange movement happening with my feet. I looked down, only to find my right foot moving in unison with the beat. What was happening?! I slowly looked around my desk area just to be certain that no one could hear the tunes, or see the affect it was having on me. Was I becoming a Britney Spears fan?! What on God's Green Earth was going on?!
I hurried home that evening, asking an old friend to burn this track to a CD (along with a few *NSYNC songs, might I add) and it was on that day I accepted my truth: I really was a loser! But, it was time to diversify my taste in music once more - in a time period where hip-hop had taken over the air/radio waves. Soon, I'd include Backstreet Boys, Christina Aguilera, Savage Garden, Goo Goo Dolls, Sugar Ray and a sh*tload of other artists I never thought I'd ever warm up to... not in 1999! and what a great year it was. Oh, how I miss the Y2K anxiety, Napster and CD's (they don't even make CD players in cars anymore!). What is happening to the world, and what am I to do with my massive CD collection?
I grew inspired by the recent news of an anonymous (smart move) Mega Millions winner in South Carolina who finally claimed his/her record-breaking $877 million dollar prize. Originally valued at 1.5 BILLION (before Uncle Sam feverishly started rubbing his hands together like someone trying to keep warm), it took the individual nearly 5 months to step forward, presumably getting their affairs in order (ie; retaining an attorney/multiple accountants, breaking down bill payments, possibly setting up college funds for kids/grandkids, charity donations, investments, business ventures, future vacation plans, purchases, and most important, how much to send MY way). Personally, I think the whole lottery system is a joke; I certainly have my suspicions and will usually not waste my time (especially when the jackpot reaches astronomical numbers), BUT, that doesn't stop me from occasionally buying a modest scratch-off ticket (I prefer realistic opportunities over nonsensical odds). Besides, why in the world would ANYONE need 877 million dollars?! Give me a chance at winning $5000/week with a 'Win for Life' scratch-off and I'd be over the moon! (it will eventually happen, you heard it here first).
In the meantime, I'll settle for my big $10 prize!🎉🎉 Nevermind that I broke even, spending exactly $10 on the damn ticket 😐. A win is a win. Glass half full.
Politics with a Twist
Just when I've given up on politics, Andrew Yang comes along. I went from not putting much stock into the 2020 presidential election, to possibly voting for someone who actually 'thinks outside of the box' (hallelujah!) and can truly transform America (that's IF he sticks to his ideas - but we all know how this usually plays out). Wang is looking to do away with our antiquated rigged financial system, among other things, proposing a few ideas that can potentially impact the lives of Americans in a way unseen before. I expect mainstream media and anyone afraid of change to rain on his parade, likely killing any momentum moving forward, but Wang's proposals are a breath of fresh air and his support is growing. Click on his name for more.
AJ Walker Takes A Leap
Admittedly, I am not much of a 'news' guy; I'd finally decided to take a stand. Thanks to my grandmother, I grew up watching the news - around the clock - eventually growing numb to the countless stories of random shootings and inaccurate weather reports. Enough was enough. Yes, it was tough parting ways with some of my favorite anchors, weather/traffic girls, but something had to give. Through the years, I'd question the appearance of many news personalities, wondering why so many looked young, yet appeared conservative in their head shots (clean shaven, side-parted hair, fades, etc). In recent years, anchors/reporters have branched out, with men growing 5 o'clock shadows, and women becoming more daring with their wardrobes. Yet, many of the hairstyles remained traditional. It's almost like a happy medium: Hey, young world, look at me, I can wear cool clothes too! ... with a hairdo resembling a character from the Brady Bunch. Borrrrinnnng!
I understand there's a level of "professionalism" required for news types, but we're living in an age where gossip, the Kardashians, and the latest trends, have masked themselves into hard news. It would behoove us all to see news personality types... well, show a little personality! This is where CBS News 12 West Palm Beach news reporter AJ Walker, wins the award for 'News Reporters Who Get it!'
In what many will find courageous, AJ recently "pushed the envelope" wearing braids on air in honor of her late mother (Hi-five, AJ!). Does her act call for every on-air news personality to tap into their inner Janet Jackson (e.g. Poetic Justice) by sporting braids? Absolutely not. Perhaps this movement allows for more women of color to embrace natural looks instead of what we've grown accustomed to (I long for the day where an accomplished male with a curly afro, small taper and groomed beard is broadcasting LIVE from the New York Stock Exchange offering stock tips). I know their are many more like AJ who share a passion for news, looking to embrace their true self, yet, afraid of the backlash/blackballing from a group of people who wouldn't understand this movement. This is HUGE - not only for television, but culturally, and I wanted to take the time out to acknowledge AJ for her bravery!
A Hairy Situation
I was having a conversation with some weirdo in Cyberworld who promptly stated the following:
"Why TF this man got braids? He's not even mid-life and he's going through a mid-life crisis. Never had braids before and now he gets them when he's about to retire? Men should wear their hair short. He never finished his degree, so he knows nothing BUT basketball."
Uncertain if this was the response of a male or female, but it seemed a bit personal to me, wouldn't you agree?
As someone who has oftentimes experimented with a variety of hairstyles, naturally, I took offense, firing back vigorously. I expressed how Dwyane Wade's sudden choice of style was likely temporary (finding out he was simply paying homage to Allen Iverson, one of the originators of the cornrow style in the NBA, and one of Wade's basketball heroes), concluding with how foolish it was to make such a big deal over nothing - falling on deaf ears, of course. Which leads me to wonder: Why does such a narrative exist and who sets the expiration date on hairstyles?
Wade, who is expected to retire by season's end, just turned 37 years old (only considered old in basketball years), having made over 200 million dollars during his NBA career. Does his pay check make him some immortal completely shielded from criticism? No. But CLEARLY he's in a different league. When your occupation allows for you to regularly shoot hoops, taking summers off to vacation in the South of France - on a Yacht - you have liberty to wear whatever TF hairstyle you want. Traditionally, Wade has always worn a "professional" clean cut, so why would anyone be bothered by his new appearance? Most importantly, how does it affect YOU?
The same case can be made for Jay-Z, who after wearing a low-cut for well over 20 years, decided to finally grow it out for the long-haul (he toyed around with a short afro in recent years) now sporting freeform dreads. Jay-Z turned 49 last December. And you know what? I love it!
Enough of this perception about individuals needing a look of uniformity. That logic is completely asinine. In the words of Lil' Wayne - yup, I'm actually going to quote a rapper here - "long hair, don't care!" Could Lil' Wayne use a new do himself? Well, that goes without saying, but that's besides the point. If your hairline hasn't betrayed you and your mane still has a little oompfh in it, why is it a crime to grow it out? Why is long-hair on men considered 'childish and immature?' I find that once you've become comfortable in your own skin, the opinions of others really don't matter. Honestly! For those of you wanting to grow out your hair, please take heed: This decision doesn't permit you to walk around unkempt. You should absolutely do your best to not come off as a hobo. But neither should you be read the riot act for being open-minded enough to try a new hairstyle.
Are people entitled to feel how they feel? Absolutely. But to question a man's intelligence (and decision on wearing a new 'do) solely on the lack of obtaining a college degree is utter nonsense! There's simply no escaping critics these days, especially the almighty Keyboard Warriors of the internet. But kudos to both men for stepping out of their comfort zones. Women do it often and are commonly celebrated; why aren't the same freedoms given to men. Some will argue, 'it's only hair, what's the big deal?'... my point exactly.