Momma fell ill the day the Louis Jordan released his new song “Somebody up there digs me”. I went to Midland Record Store to pick it up for her. I wasn’t a fan of Jordan but Momma loved the way that man sang. “Something about the way he smiled makes me feel like I know that man”, she would say. Come to think of it Momma would say she was somehow related to anyone who liked to smile. That was the last album I bought for her, Momma passed a month later. Ironic, I wish somebody up there did watch out for her. Pop didn’t make much of Momma’s passing. After the wake I sat in her room crying. He said that tears wasn’t gonna bring her back. I’ll never forget what he said after I asked why my Momma, someone who was so good to everyone was taken so early by god. He said that Mr. Darwin got it all wrong. “The weak are not taken out early, it’s the folks that are too good for this cruel world that are taken from us, to remind us what we should be like”. Maybe he was right. But it’s still not fair. Momma’s passing added another rule for Pop. Don’t talk about things you can’t change. Wisdom comes from the saddest places.
Charles Dean was my best friend. He was two years older than me but we were in the same grade. He was sick as a child so he started school later than the rest of the kids his age. Physically he was superior than most adults. He came from share cropper stock. Strong, agile and mobile. He stood 6 feet tall of solid muscle at the age of twelve. He was the fastest runner in Midland and the smartest kid I knew. Boy, could he throw a football. Kids from the white school would come to watch him play pick up games to learn what a perfect spiral looked like. I think because both of us lost our Momma’s we could relate with one another. Charlie’s momma died giving birth to him. He felt he owed it to his Momma to make something out of himself. More than just throwing a football he knew power and choice came from intelligence. If it wasn’t for Charlie I would of never gotten into the sciences. Charlie and I would make up science experiments in his daddy’s garage. We’d find discarded chemicals in the trash and mix them together thinking we could create chemicals that could make us fly. I’m surprised we didn’t burn down the place with all the crazy things concocted in that dusty garage. We even tried to give one of Pop’s old chickens a heart transplant. Didn’t work but at least we got to eat chicken for supper. Charlie would say he was going to be the next George Washington Carver. He’d say he was gonna invent something more than just peanut butter. Ironically George Washington Carver was the name of Midlands black elementary school, junior high and High school. Carver was a fitting role model for us, we celebrated his name because he reminded us we were equals in intelligence. Charlie planted this seed in me. I could become someone of relevance, someone that could change the world. It was simple, put your mind into it and you can change the world. I was gonna change the world.
Oct 23 1945: Any time Momma was upset with me, she would say she went to the gates of heaven to ask the good lord to let me be born. It was her way of instilling the fear of god into me at a young age. Pop being a pastor and all didn’t help. I guess then it was god that made me who I am. Did he make a good man? I’ve tried my best. This is my story.
Momma would say Jackie Robinson was a thief. He stole the sunshine the day I was born because all the folks in town were talking about him signing with the Dodgers instead of talking about me being born. Momma wasn’t much of a baseball fan after that day. But to us kids he gave us hope, a chance to dream, chance to get out of Midland, Texas. I don’t hold any grudges towards Jackie. On the contrary he gave me legitimacy every time I held that hickory bat. All the white kids had the fear of Jackie in their eyes. Momma didn’t like me playing too much ball. I think she felt it was a waste of time and time was better spent learning a language or reading the good book. Pops wasn’t much of a talker but he came to every game and cheered in his quiet way. Smoking his Lucky’s and drinking Mommas home made lemon ice tea. Come to think of it, I guess Momma did come to my ball games through her lemon ice tea. Ball came pretty easy to me, it was a little too easy for me. Bored me most of the time, except when we were losing. Losing made me angry, rather be angry than bored and winning. Pops didn’t stick around when we lost. He drove off and never spoke about the game during supper. That was the bad thing about losing, that walk home was pretty long. The latter makes pops sound like a cold man. If you lost your leg fighting the Japanese in WWII I think you would have a reason to be a bit cold too. The war made pops pretty angry. He came back home with one leg and about 2 dollars in his pocket. What was it for? I don’t think most men that fight in wars know. Patriotism? It don’t mean much when you can’t get a job because you’re a cripple. It’s probably why Pop’s became a preacher. Otherwise he’d be a pissed off war vet with no purpose. To this day I don’t think Pop’s even believed in God. He believed more in the structure and rules. These rules gave him a filter from his anger. Pop’s followed many rules. Some from church, some from the army, some he just made up. They might have worked for him, but his rules made life dour and quiet for those around him. Rest his soul, but that man was boring. Momma on the other hand was the life of the party. She lived without a care in the world. She would say, “if I get hit by a bus and die today at least folks will miss me”. She made a joke out of every situation, good or bad. Did she love to laugh; she had a smile on her face even when she slept. I miss her a lot. I miss her smile. I miss playing pretend with her. I miss acting like French tourist at the A&P. Folks would look at us like we were crazy, walking through the isles talking bad French to each other. I miss her smile.
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This summer has been huge for movies. When the economy is down people seem to escape at the movies…Movies have made a huge impact on my life…as a kid my imagination was nurtured through them. I have to give credit to my pops…he was a huge movie buff …he didn’t have the most sophisticated taste in films. But he knew what he liked. Every so often pops would take us to a double feature at the drive-in…One drawback was that we had to wait a few months after the movie was released to enjoy this perk. By the time I saw the film I heard the story line a hundred times.
Somehow how mom would alter our movie going experience. Funny thing is she didn’t even like movies. Til this day, I think she is the only person that thinks Elvis movies are great. Elvis movies and the Ten Commandments. That’s her idea of great cinema. When mom came to the movies with us... She was like Kim Jong il.
*No buying popcorn. *No buying drinks *No buying anything!
Now I don’t know about you, but isn’t half the experience of going to movies the buttery popcorn a cold refreshing coke, with some delightful milk duds. Sure it is! But mom brought her own snacks. To her credit she did try, she actually bought a popcorn maker. But it was used and didn’t work well. So the popcorn was always a little burnt or under cooked. She didn’t use butter, she used cooking oil. It wouldn’t have been so bad if she didn’t put the popcorn in a big black garbage bag. It was a little much. We never had iced cold Pepsi’s either… it was usually a 2-liter of Shasta. Warm….coffee cups….no straws.
Even with all these Kim Jong IL rules…Pops turned the other cheek, he never argued or got upset. He loved mom to death… He knew it was mom’s way of taking care of the family.
But one night pops had enough… I call it the “Mad Max”night. There was a double feature of Mad Max movies… It was Sunday night…mom starts to make the burnt popcorn and put chocolate milk in tupper wear…by 7pm we were off . We must of been a mile away from the entrance when mom tells pops to pull over so she can get in the trunk. Why the trunk you ask? So she didn’t have to pay the extra 2 dollars. Pops actually argued and said it was embarrassing. Mom yelled about how irresponsible he was…I could tell pop’s was pissed. This crossed the line. The movie line… Mom got her way and her free admittance to the drive-in. We pulled into our space…. Pops told my sister and I to follow him…we went straight to the concession stand…the glorious …buttery aroma-d stand of concession delight. We bought everything we wanted. As if the Kim Jong Il waiting in the trunk didn’t exist… Pops face had this tinge; I don’t know how to describe it. It was sinister. That’s it. Sinister! A SINISTER LOOK OF VICTORY! We walked back to the car, we heard a faint knocking from the trunk. “honey…honey”…Kim Jong Il wanted out of her 4x4 PRISON…. Dad finally let her out. Needless to say the evening wasn’t pleasant. Needless to say mom didn’t join in a lot of future movie nights. But hey, I had fun watching the movie and that buttery popcorn was delicious!
The 4 th of July…for some this day has many meanings, many memories. For me when I hear fire works crackling and popping I think of my first love. Well, love is a bit extreme for a 12-year-old boy.
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I was 12 -6th grade. The feathered hair was the dew to do. White folks had a easier time feathering their hair because compared to Asian hair they have more natural curl to their hair texture. Needless to say I used at least a quarter of my mothers Aqua net hairspray each morning to look like my white friends. Oh how I envied them…I even had a special feathering comb I carried in my back pocket just in case I needed a quick tune up to the solid gunk of black I called my hairstyle.
Let’s see, Michael Jackson -Thriller was the only tape I had…I wore parachute pants that I actually shared with my sister. Because my mom bought each of one but I needed to switch off once in awhile. My little sister’s pants were a bit tight but that’s the price you pay to look good!
Visual Summary : * Bowl cut with lots of hair spray
*Extremely tight parachute pants that gave me a slight camel toe.
However ridicules the picture you have in your head, I was feeling GOOD. Feeling SEXY, feeling NOW, feeling, as Michael Jackson would say…”SHA MONIE!”
Jump forward :4 th of July.
The only girl that talked to me was a freckled face red head by the name of Joy. She looked like the girl from that book Freckle Juice. It’s a good book, check it out. Well it was good when I like 8 years old. Anyway, most of cool kids had what we call STUDY girlfriend. “Study” actually meant STEADY, but we didn’t know what the hell STEADY meant so we called it STUDY…We would go up to the girls we liked and asked them to go STUDY with us. If they agreed the two were essentially a couple. No dates or kissy kiss. Pretty much ate lunch together and shared French fries. But man, if you got to share French fries with a girl you were the MAN!
Needless to say I wasn’t the ladies man at 12. Oh how dreamed of sharing fries with a girl any girl. So back to Joy…Joy would actually say hello to me once in awhile and wave bye to me at the bus stop. She wasn’t ranking in the top 10 hotness lists but hey neither was I and my Aqua bowl cut.
I asked a friend to help me out. Someone who had some experience in the French fry sharing world. Jamine was a Native Indian kid that claimed to have eaten fries with four girls from another school. I didn’t ever see him with any girls in our school but he was my nearest expert on the matter at hand.
He told me to be cool, comb my hair where she can see me. Nonchalantly go up to her and say, “You wanna go study?” Easy enough.
Man was I nervous, I was rehearsing all night, couldn’t sleep. I slept sitting up because I sprayed my hair perfectly so I didn’t want to mess it up for the big proposal.
When I got to school I paced and felt like I had diarrhea. It was the nerves kicking in. Fortunately Jamine calmed me down by sharing a 100-cap load for the cap guns. What are cap guns?…When I was a kid there were these plastic guns that came with a roll of red paper, filled with explosive powder that popped when you pulled the trigger. Such a cool prop to bring realism to ones death when playing cops and robbers, or cowboys and Indians. I think the refill caps ran around 25 cents. Keep in mind that was big money for a 12 year old. Anyway…Jamines gift was safely tucked away in my back pocket. I remember I had wrangler corduroyed pants on. Not sure why I remember that… So, I walk up to Joy, and quickly say to her “you wanna go study with me?” JOY= ok…SUNG= ok see you later. And that was that… Damn I felt smooth…easy…in my palm…just like that! I was on my way to eating fries with a girly. Oh YEAH!!!!!
12:00is Lunch Time.
I walked towards Joy with a pile of hot crispy delicious fries. The smell was intoxicating…it was the smell of success…the smell of cool. We decided to sit outside because it was such a nice day. It was kind of romantic? Nah! What does a 12 year old know about romance? We were sitting there shoving our faces with the fries when Jamine came over with his popgun. He asked me if I wanted to play cops and robbers. Now, I was a great Cop. I chased down pretend criminals without mercy. I looked over at Joy, she shrugged ok. It was time to impress the lady!
Let the games begin! Jamine ran… I chased… I yelled “stop you have the right to remain silent!”…Jamine pulled out his cap gun…fired…POP POP…I dodged the imaginary bullets with a bend, a twist and a roll. POP POP POP…I rolled, dodging the invisible bullets of death. I rolled myself near stairs leading down to the playground, from my peripheral I could see Joy impressed with my pretend law enforcement acrobatics. Watch this I thought, a stunt for my dearest French Fry companion.
I started to roll down the flight of stairs…suddenly…pop pop pop pop pop pop pop pop pop pop pop pop pop pop! Etc… The refill caps in my back pocket all ignited. Everything was quiet. I felt nothing…suddenly the rush of pain and intense burning of my buttocks made me roar like a wolf in the night. Roar turned to yelling…Help me please!…yelling turned to crying.
To this day I have scars on my bum. I don’t like fries or the fourth of July.
Random memories, funny how they just pop up in the middle of the night. In 6th grade my mother had an idea that she was going to open a Beauty Shop. Why? I don't really know. She was always looking for something to make money. Why? Because she's Korean? It's all I can really think of. Needless to say mom's ideas usually ended up with me becoming involved somehow. With or without me wanting to. It was around October she took a course in beauty. Is that what there called, anyway the things you learn in the course are things like, cutting hair. Dying hair, perming hair, and anything they can cram into your head in three weeks. Mom had this infatuation with perms. She had it in her head that only rich people could afford to have curly hair. I think she watched too many Korean soaps with people with perms in them. So she comes home the day of the perm class very excited. She tells me I am a lucky boy today. Living in Georgia I never felt that lucky, but so I heard her out. She tells me she's going to make me handsome and more American looking.
3 HOURS PASS:
Not good, not happy, very sad. Lot's of tears. Mom hid in her room.
FEW WEEKS LATER> HALLOWEEN
For almost four months I saved up for the ultimate Halloween costume. I was going to be the baddest, meanest, scariest WEREWOLF in town. I took my allowance and lunch money and bought the whole set. I'm talking rubber mask, not the cheapo plastic ones, but the thick rubbery ones that make you sweat and cover your whole head. The gloves. Rubber WEREWOLF gloves! Rubbery fur and long bloody nails! Come on ,can you see it? Then there was the tattered green WEREWOLF clothes. This set the costume apart, it took the WEREWOLF to the next level. I was a 12 year old WEREWOLF! I was mean, I was scarey. I meant business man. That candy was mine.
Korean= Lots of Church
Halloween happend to land on Sunday that year. That particular Sunday we went to visit a new Korean Church near Atlanta. About 2 hours away from home. Church was boring ,lots of crying and Korean talking that I could barely understand. Ate 9 donuts. Worth the trip. either way I was a happy 12 year old. Come on, it was Haloween and I was going to be a WEREWOLF!
CHURCH IS OVER>
Mom tells me we will stop by the pastors home for some chit chat. I remind her of what important Holiday it was. She agrees to stay an hour and get home in time for trick or treating.
I'm in a panic. Mom tells me to stop bothering her or she's going to whip my ass. I learned young, Korean Woman and Church = Don't bother her.
The pastor had three children, my memory of them were pleasant ones. They seemed nice and meant well. The oldest was a freshman in higschool. She saw the tears pouring out of my permed head. I confessed to her my ploy, she said she could help me. Her younger sister was going as a witch and her little brother as a zombie. So they had an abundance of Halloween makeup. She assured me that her skills were superior, equal to that of the best special effects artists in Hollywood. Some brown and red blood makeup could make me look even more authentic than my rubber SUPER COSTUME. What could I do. I had no choice really.
She was right, she did have a lot of make up. There was enough brown to cover my whole face and hands. The red blood covered my lips and more. I was feeling ok about this. A compromise but ok. The WEREWOLFness came from a WEREWOLF attitude. I could pull this off. ARGHHHHHH!
FIRST TRICK OR TREAT HOUSE>
Ding dong..."hey kids"..."trick or threat!"..."oh my, how scarey you are, you must be the evil witch, and you must be the mean and scarey zombie. And you...oh I know, your Gary Coleman".
HALLOWEEN= 1 PACKET OF CANDY CORN
The pill…should have gone to the store…so lazy, so stupid! Needless to say, it didn’t help…needless to say I feel worse. I have a constant taste of vinegar in my mouth…it’s like morning breath after sleeping with puke in your mouth…I know, I know…nasty. But hey, don’t judge…can’t keep my eyes open either…had to take out my contacts because my eyes are swelling and itching. I’m pretty much blind…–6.25 prescrīption, translates to blind. Weighed myself this morning, 153 pounds…usually float around 177 to 185. Where’d it all go? Oddly, I feel stronger…like I’ve been working out a lot. My whole life I’ve been made fun of because of my skinny girly legs…just in the past few days my panths are too tight. Thick legs but I feel sick…headache, throw up sick. Shouldn’t have taken the pill…was probably expired.
Got a call from my mother last night, she was mad that I didn’t call on father’s day. A little late I thought...and what does she care, she’s not a father? I wonder if I was adopted. I have a love hate relationship with her, it’s always been that way, and maybe it’s the way it’s supposed to be. I never cared for Fathers Day anyway…is it a real holiday? Kinda weird to celebrate a day so many by default qualify for. Do all fathers really deserve a day for themselves? It’s not like Martin Luther King Day or Columbus Day. These people actually did something. What about son day? Why not have Brother Day? Besides Fathers day has horrific memories for me…you might ask how can Fathers Day be in the same sentence as horrific…well let me tell you. In 3 rd grade my mother found out about a day after Fathers Day sale in the basement of Montgomery Wards. Remind you it’s a “Day after Fathers Day Sale.” She came home with a victorious grin on her face. Grins never meant anything good for me. This grin meant I was the recipient of ten-99cent Father’s Day
T-shirts. Each with it’s own unique Fathers Day theme. Wonderful themes such as “Super Dad”, “Never underestimate the Power of a Dad!” You get the idea. All great tributes to beloved Fathers of the world, “if you are a father.” Not for an 8 year old boy! But how do you explain this to Mrs. Master of Cheap? Needless to say I was forced to wear the “Super Dad”, t-shirt the next day. Funny…at an early age I could tell who the smart kids were and the ones that would grow to be just regular…The smart ones laugh at me and let me know I was wearing my dads shirt, the dumb ones believed me when I said the shirts meant I loved my father. Well until next time… “Never Underestimate the Power of a Dad!”
Lame…can’t believe Anson lied about being a navy seal. I took counsel from Myspace friends about the backup thing. Good it did me…Anson confessed his five years in the navy was in maintenance and electric. Yeah…that’s what I was thinking. I guess that explains the power drill.
Went home and opened the FedEx box. 1 green pill..Nyquil cold/flu. 1 cell phone, analog Motorola Startac…looks like one I had in 1998. 1 piece of paper, written on it: 32 Bradley Place. Closter, New Jersey. I have no idea what this stuff is. An ancient phone that doesn’t work…one stupid cold pill and an address. Man, I thought this was going to be some cool drug deal gone wrong or some conspiracy adventure. I’m starting to think this is all some stupid joke and a waste of my time. I feel like crap anyway, I think I caught a cold that night. I need to go buy some cold medicine. Maybe I’ll just take this Nyquil pill from the box. Goodnight.
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