Monday, February 11, 2008
I never thought of my life being rough, considering my high school experiences, until I was told that I had to be signed out of school. My mother, who was livid when she found out she had to sign me out, threatened to send me to live with my father. The trick was that we had to find out where he was to know where to send me!/ I remember it being a frantic search... My mother called every family member she had a number for to see if they knew of his where-a-bouts. When all else failed, she had me to scour every bar in the 'hood. After several days, I finally found him sitting on the last stool of the last bar I searched. He was drunk and did not know who I was when I raised his head off the bar. After a brief struggle, I finally got his house keys out of his pocket, then tried to get him to tell me where he lived. He must have given me about fifteen addresses before the bartender confirmed which address was the correct one./ When I got him home, there was debris everywhere. There were newspapers all over the floor... Damn near everywhere I stepped there were dead roaches. They were dead because there was no food in the house. There was no garbage in the garbage cans or in the refrigerator. The man did not eat... Nor did he feed his roaches! There was, however, plenty of empty liquor bottles laying around. Maybe that's why there were no mice around... All the booze was gone! I dropped him on his unmade bed and took his work boots off. Man his feet stunk! The race between his breath and his feet was a close one! After getting him in a position on the bed where i could be sure that he would not fall out of it, I started looking around his apartment for pictures, letters, or some sort of momento that would give me a clue as to who my father was. He left my mother when I was three years old so I never lived with him. Every now and then he would send my mother some money but I could see that most of his cash went to buying spirits and cigarettes. My dad smoked like a chimney in a farm house on a cold winter's night. He would light a fresh one with a spent one. I knew that because there was only one match, in the ashtray by his bed, burried under twenty cigarette butts! The apartment was sparsely furnished. He did not look like he needed much. He went to work, then the bar, then home. The cycle was endless... I did not find anything of real value in his apartment but I did notice that his work boots were all polished and lined up in his closet. His work pants all had sharp creases and were very clean. My father was an electrician and I was told that he was a very good one. He was known for his fearlessness around live wires, which was evident by the burns in the palms in his hands. He could pull cable with the best of them. He was a tall man with a strong build. His laugh was loud and hearty. He laughed like a content drunk! As I stood there and stared at him sleeping and snoring like a car with a busted muffler, I wondered... If I could live with my dad and keep him sober, would he teach me his trade because after getting kicked out of high school? I wondered because there was no way I was going to be able to go to college!
Thursday, February 7, 2008
As many an adventure as I've had, in high school, and as much fun as I had having those adventures, my high school days finally ended. The years blitzed by so fast... Probably because I did not live in the moment when things were happening. i was called into the Academic Dean's office and was warned that a letter was being to my house to advise my mother that she had to come to the school to sign me out! I was not going to officially graduate. SHIT!I knew that when my mother read that letter it would not matter that I did not graduate because she was going to kill me!/ My mother was a hard working single mother who did not attend any PTA meetings because she was wat too tired when she got home from work. Besides, there was no way she was going to ride a bus for an hour to go to my school. Oh hell no! I can remember always being nervous around my mother. I can also remember never being constipated and having to take a laxative because my mother was my laxative! My bowels were always loose. When my mother came home from work, my room always smelled like shit because the flatulence was overwhelming. I was quick, as a kid, because I was literally jet propelled!/ ...She read the letter and went off on me. Back then there was no such thing as a kid knowing the number to Child Support Services. If I did, know the number, they would have probably advised my mother to continue to kick my ass until I got it right./ Finally, the day came when my mother trekked up to my school and signed me out. The process did not last long... In fact, it was quite informal. It was sort of like "business as usual" for the black kids because all the kids that got signed out that day were black. It was sterile, surgical...therapeutic! I, to this day, cannot describe how relieved I was knowing that I did not have to return there after I mother put her John Hancock on that paper! So what if I did not graduate, had no high school diploma, and no future, I was free! Free from all the racial tension, the racial slurs, the race riots... I was not sure of what was ahead, but there was one thing that I thought of, in the moment of my joy, that I thought I would never have to go through again... I thought that I would never have to take another order from a white person for the rest of my life. And, whomever said "Be careful what you ask for!" Well, there were no truer words spoken!
Saturday, February 2, 2008
I only liked one sport- basketball! To hell with baseball! (I never got picked to play with my "so called" friends when they struck up a game.) Football? Oh hell no! I was not even trying to catch a concussion! If I wanted one of those I would have joined one of the neighborhood gangs. Basketball seemed to make the most sense for me. I dug the movement of the game. Running up and down the court, with a ball, trying to put it in a hoop with a torn up net had a certain appeal to me. When I started learning the game, of course, I sucked at it. But that did not deter me. I kept trying and trying and trying... I was always in the park playing pick up games. I always got picked! It had a lot to do with being tall for my age. I don't remember if my junior high school had a team... Wait a minute... Come to think of it, the school did have a team. I just didn't know when tryouts were. I made a promise to myself. I promised that I would play high school basketball! That was it! End of story! I was going to play./ Before I knew that I was going to be bussed out of the 'hood to go to high school, I was headed to the great Boys High School. Now Boys had a reputation for winning that rivaled some of the pro teams in the NBA at that time. Lenny Wilkins and Connie Hawkins went to Boys. There were more guys but I just cannot remember their names at the moment. When it was my time to go, a kid named Mel Davis was going to Boys. Mel was 6'5", about 240 pounds and had the reputation of being a mean SOB. Shit, Mel would dunk on his mother if she stood in his way to the basket. (He probably got his toughness from her which means she would have probably blocked his attempt!) There was no way I was going to make Boys basketball team. But as FATE and the Civil Rights Movement would have it, I got shipped out to Madison High School, which means I had a shot. When I got there I inquired about when tryouts were for varsity. I was told that freshman had to play jv ball. I have to say that I must have smoked a ton of weed before I got to high school because I do not remember playing jv basketball nor do I remember being disappointed if I did not play. However, by my junior year, I was good anough and tall enough to play varsity and that is an experience I will never forget! It wasn't playing for the team that I remember fondly... It was what happened off the court that gives me nightmares. I had the pleasure or curse to play for a "legendary" coach named Jamie Moskowitz, who sure as hell did not like me. I don't know what I did to draw his fire but he never let up on me. I don't know... Maybe it was my teenage alcoholism, which caused me to be late for practice most of the time that pissed him off. Or, maybe it was the fact that I never listened to him when he was trying to make a point. I don't know where he got that idea from... I hardly made eye contact with the man! I remember, on the way to a game on the school bus, we were passing over a bridge. There was a gigantic cemetary we were passing over and Coach asked me, loudly, how many people were dead in the cemetary? I did not answer right away, which gave him the impression that I was trying to count the head stones. He broke the silence by saying that they were all deads and he postscripted his comment by calling me a "dummy." Yeah...yeah, he called me a "dummy" in front of the whole team. Everyone laughed at me because they wanted to stay on the squad. That had to be it because that shit was not funny... to me! Somehow I managed to stay on the team. I wasn't the greatest player but I wasn't the worst either. And, I got to exact some revenge on my coach. I remember getting a plaque for being the best freethrow shooter on the team. That was my last laugh! Imagine the irony. A teenage, black, alcoholic basketball player, in a predominately white high school, becomes the best freethrow shooter. Got 'em!