Tag Archives: family

The Eulogy I Couldn’t Give My Uncle

December 6, 2017. Today would have been my Uncle Jeffrey’s 55th birthday. Unfortunately, God called him home three months ago and my familial dynamic has been very different.

I knew I was speaking at my uncle’s memorial service; I wasn’t quite sure what I’d say. He was a street guy, so there were many things I wanted to say that would have been inappropriate in a church. So I wrote them all down:

Can I kick it? Well, I’m gone…

Friends, family, and acquaintances: you are waiting for me to finally say one thing and one thing only; so we will all say it together: Chad, you look just like your uncle.

Second only to “I can’t with you,” the phrase “Chad you look just like Jeff” is the most popular phrase I hear regularly. Walking down the street, a lady walked up to me, kissed me on the cheek, and said “Hey Jeff!” I didn’t want to make her feel bad by saying “I’m his nephew.”

It is difficult to speak in Grace United Methodist Church about Jeffrey Mumford without there being some “Murdock Ave” moments in this eulogy. Also, humor is my coping mechanism; I just want to get that out of the way before I get started.

There are times in which my mother cannot stand me because I remind her of my father. On the other hand, my mother and I get along very well because I remind her of her brother.

I am a lot like my uncle. We’re both Sagittarius’s, tall, charming, funny, and have a tapered haircut with curls, a mustache and goatee that don’t connect because Mumford men are babyfaces…and forgetful (word to the beef I had with him when I was six years old when he borrowed my Mickey Mouse watch and I had to ask him incessantly for it back).

All jokes aside, I looked up to my uncle. He was cool; he was respected in the streets, and just had an aura about him. My earliest memories of him are him mixing records and my grandmother’s basement, looping the break in “Yes We Can, Can,” by the Pointer Sisters, over and over. He was the person in my family that was hip hop and I loved that.

We shared an affinity for getting into trouble for marching to the beat of our own drum with a disruptive cadence. On elementary school field trips, I was the kid that needed his own chaperone; and Uncle Jeffrey was the one that would come along (and all the girls thought he was so cute); we’d have a great time, too.

The day before my first baseball game, right over there at Peter’s Field off Liberty Ave, he took me in my grandmother’s back yard, drew home plate on the ground with a crayon, and showing me how to swing when someone is pitching the ball.

My uncle was that uncle; the wild uncle that said and did fairly crazy shit. Nonetheless, that was part of what made him charismatic. Somewhere between nature and nurture, I picked a lot up from him. As a teenager, we would drive around Queens and he taught me valuable lessons my parents couldn’t; that’s what uncles do.

With the latest mixtapes as the soundtrack, we drove around South and Northside Jamaica, and he would tell me about his life while dropping gems. I learned how to roll a blunt from my uncle, what to roll one with (Never use papers or Philly’s. Dutches-NY for Dutch Masters cigars-burn slower); as well as how to properly smoke weed while driving (You keep a slight crack in the driver’s side window. It blows directly out the window like a vent and doesn’t smell up the car)….I didn’t smoke weed at the time; but those words wound up being useful information at another point in my life. My uncle was the first person to let me hold a gun and taught me how to shoot using a beebe gun in my grandmother’s basement (those holes are still in the wall).

During our walks and drives, he would tell me stories about his adult life. He knew how much we were alike and felt as if telling me was a second chance for him to do what he chose not to. “Let me tell you about hoes…” was his way of informing me that women can be a distraction and loyalty to one was more important (“But if you do, strap up,” he’d say). He would tell me to stay away from drugs by giving me his encounters with wise words such as “Withdrawal is a bitch.”

My uncle was a street guy and I picked up some of his nuances. In no way am I a street guy; but I know how to conduct myself in that manner. It’s the underlying edge I have that every once in a while slips out and I say some fairly hood shit…I’ve seen girlfriends of mine who didn’t know that side of me at all scrunch up their face in disbelief and ask “What did you just say?!”

We’re both frustratingly nonchalant and made a joke out of everything. The stoic face was-and is-the setup for a hilarious punchline we’d say out of the corner of our mouths if you were close enough to hear it. As recently as Easter Sunday, we joked around, saying that if we didn’t make fun of you, we’re not really your friend.

Hip hop was our covalent bond. We listened to A Tribe Called Quest a lot (my second beef in life with him was at 16, when I had to repeatedly ask “Can I have my anthology CD back?!). He knew Kid Hood from the “Scenario Remix.” Hood told my uncle he got on the record and was killed the next day. He told me how he’d played ball with Tribe at St. Albans Park, Phife sucked, and my uncle busted his ass. So I guess the last thing I have to say is I hope he makes it his business to catch up to Kid Hood and tear Phife up in that rematch.

But now for what we’ve all been waiting for: I was driving the other day, with my cap not fully on my head and cocked to the back, and my glasses on as I rapped along to whatever I was listening to. I was finally able to admit to myself “Damn, I look like my uncle.”

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Usher, wil.i.am., and My Daughter


“Do you know who Usher is?” my daughter asks me while getting out of my jeep after six hours of kindergarten-ing. Cydney then said “I like him.”

Always full of surprises, I was curious of trajectory of this conversation. Cydney is really into music. When my child likes a song, she inquires “Who is this singing?” That is usually an indicator that I need to add said song to “Cydney’s Favorite Songs” playlist on Spotify.

In that moment, I quickly scrolled through my mental rolidex of songs I have recently played around Cyd, wondering if I had played any Usher sings in her presence. His eighth album, Hard II Love, had just been released that morning and per a friend’s recommendation, I had been listening to it all day.

My next thought was “What inappropriate song was some dumb five year old singing around my kid that has her innocently asking me of all people if I’m up on Usher Raymond IV?!”

Cydney chimed in “We listen to Usher in class.” Still in parent-mode, I pondered “Okay, I know Cyd’s teacher is amazing with kids and nothing about her says that when she drives off from elementary school, she’s blaring “Lil’ Freak” or “Good Kisser.” Reeling me all the way back in, my five year old tells me “We listen to Usher’s ABC’s from Sesame Street at school.”

I internally sigh with relief and the logical cortex of my brain tells me “Of course, you idiot!”

My daughter’s interest in music is beginning to bud. I love this because I know how much music meant to me when I was her age. My father is a musician and I absolutely loved being around all of that when I was growing up. Now that Cydney is a real kid-not an infant, toddler, or preschooler-she has more of an understanding as well as her own opinion.

At Cyd’s preschool graduation, my daughter confidently walked up to the microphone, introduced herself, and told the room of her peers’ family and friends “When I grow up, I want to be a pop star,” and meant it. She recently started piano lessons and has grasped the rudimentary concepts quick enough for me to really pay attention. After class, she says to me “Do you think that playing the piano will help me with becoming a pop star?” Dead serious.

Last night, while getting ready for bed, Cydney asked me “Daddy, who makes the song ‘wil.i.am.?'”

“wil.i.am.,” I replied. She looked a little confused and retorted “The guy who made the song “wil.i.am.” is wil.i.am.?” Before I could answer back, she began to sing the lyrics to see if I was familiar with the tune she was referring to. I picked up my phone, Googled “wil.i.am.” and the words Cyd sang that I could remember. The first thing to pop up in the search engine was “What I Am,” a song the Black Eyed Peas frontman made with puppets from Sesame Street.

While putting away her dolls that were on her bed, my daughter sang along and danced. I enjoy the moments of seeing Cydney being such a little girl. As soon as it ended, she requested that I play Usher. I perused around Youtube, looking for “Usher+Sesame Street.” The two-week mystery of what song my kid had been talking about now had a title: “Usher’s ABC’s.” I was still a little relieved she wasn’t referring to “No Limit,” a song that she can sing along with some of the chorus.

It was time for Cydney to call it a night. But she had one more song she wanted  me to play for her. “Beyoncé had a song on Sesame Street from when she was a teenager.” That was the moment that I really said “Okay, it’s time for bed, Cydney.”

…my daughter loves Beyoncé.

 

Product of the Recession

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Photo credit: PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images

Note: this post may not be the most grammatically correct and that is on purpose.

Two nights ago, I was one of 81.4 million people that watch the presidential debate. After thinking to myself “This is taking place down the street from me at Hoftsra University,” a few thoughts ran through my mind. 1) Instead of watching Love and Hip Hop Hollywood, I watched Monday Night Raw with my nephew while playing chess; either show were perfect warm-ups for what I am glued to. B) The back-and-forth bickering of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump sounds eerily similar arguments I have had with former girlfriends.

The two front-runners for Head of State gave amazing drama with the fate of the next four years as their backdrop. I listened, laughed, and paid attention to the subtext (I cringed as people like myself were repeatedly referred to as African American…it just didn’t feel right in my spirit). It was all good until the talk of job creation came about.

Donald Trump explained his revamped platform of Reganomics: tax breaks for the rich that are supposed to induce job creation. Hillary Clinton refuted and explained what many of us already know in which this plan obliterates the middle class. Some semblance of the phrase explaining the recession of the late-aughts still leaves a bitter taste in many mouths – including mine.

Many of us are still reeling from the country’s worst economic period since the American stock market crash of 1929. So many factors accumulated into a perfect storm that trickled down to the millenials. While things have become increasingly better, it is very difficult to explain to the generations before us what particularly is going on and why we-millenials-are having a difficult time finding our financial way.

I-and many of us-have heard a variance of “Why don’t you just apply to jobs?” in matter-of-fact-yet-condescending tone. Attempting to have some kind of respect for those before us, we bite our tongues and simply say something along the lines of “I’m a product of the recession.” Eventually, I have learned to rebut this by asking “When is the last time you applied for a job?” After a long pause, the answer is always “A long time ago.” While saying under my breath “So since you don’t know, kindly shut the eff up,” I try to break things down.

Here’s my story. I am 30 years old and graduated from Morehouse College-a very esteemed and renowned institution of higher learning-in 2007. I can think of many people that I matriculated my four years with who are doing some amazing things. To some extent, this includes myself, as well by turning my story into becoming one of the leaders in writing about black fatherhood. I love what I do and am thankful that this passion project of mine has opened up the door for a second career. However, shit is very real out here.

My first job out of college wasn’t at some entry level doing something corporate; I ran the photo department at Walgreens for $7.25 an hour. In Atlanta, that was enough to get by with a roommate and live-in girlfriend; but those student loans I took out had to fall by the wayside. Why didn’t I get some entry level position in Atlanta with as many corporate headquarters in its metropolis? They ALL had hiring freezes.

The second job I attained was working at a mortgage firm October 2008. So what seemed like five years in the making lead to a housing crisis and the people that hired me literally going bankrupt the day before I started. My next job was selling cars in July of 2009. Cash for Clunkers dried up business and I was back to being broke. I had to make my own professional experience and hustled my way into project management.

The problem with having to make your own experience in a time in which everyone is looking for work means that companies can be as picky as they choose. In the days of the internet, a human resources professional can word out thousands of applicants by simply doing a word search, interview a couple of people, hire the one who was referred by a friend, and the answer one gets in return is “You don’t have experience in this setting.” Explaining this to many of my peers, most have sympathetically replied “Yes! This is me!” You can also add to this that one is competing with the 30-50 somethings who were let go and willing to take a pay cut to feed their families? You’re kind of fucked.

As time progressed, so did the interest on my student loans. It’s hard to pay someone $750 a month when you’re already living under your means. So when Sallie Mae Navient calls me about making a payment, I tell them “I know you have a job to do; but I had to choose between paying $700 a month to you all or feeding my daughter. I chose them.” Credit-obliterating debt, the cost of living constantly rising, and many looking out for themselves…what do you do? Hustle and hope for the best.

The silver lining in this all is that The Recession of 2008 has created jobs. They just don’t pay very well, right now. One lesson that always stuck with me from macroeconomics is that cutbacks often lead to some creative people creating new paths. It is still difficult to make ends meet; but I now have two career paths. Right now, neither are paying into a pension; but somehow, I have a feeling that things will continue to work out.

Generation Z is beginning to enter the workforce. They have grown up in a world in which all they know is the internet and being tech-savvy. The way that they have been conditioned to process information means that they will have it much easier than my constituents who are now in their thirties, settling down, and starting families. We’ve become the sacrificial lambs-turned-entrepreneurs.

So…while I’m listened to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump talk about their visions for the future of economic growth, I’m sitting three feet away from a sleeping kindergartner, with fingers typing away on a laptop, thinking “One day this here will all be worth it.”

…This is the very abridged version.

“Why” Are Fathers Receiving Praise For Doing Their Job?

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I was perusing through one of the sites I write for yesterday. While looking for the dates to add to my invoice, I came across a headline and felt inclined to read. The author was inquiring whether or not fathers should receive praise for doing the basics as a parent. I thought it was an insightful read from a perspective that was different from my own.

Fatherhood is often assessed on the equivalent of a learning curve. Dads get excessive props for passing a test with a 65 as if it was a 100. It reminds me of when a high school my science teacher said with all of the conviction in the world “Chad is a solid B student,” as if that is something my mother and father should be proud of. This man with 30+ years of experience in education felt that if I worked to my potential I could be mediocre. That is how fatherhood-black fatherhood-is often perceived; many times by black mothers.

Advertisers have begun throwing dollars and campaigns at viewing fatherhood from a different light. There are commercials and digital content promoting dads doing fatherly things as if it is an anomaly. The question I would like to propose is “Why” as opposed to “Should” fathers receive the “potential to be a solid B student” treatment?

The patriarchs of television are often portrayed as bumbling idiots. With the exception of Heathcliff Huxtable and Danny Tanner, dads are seldom depicted as nurturing. There are many memes and such in which we are made fun as if we are the fun parents that do silly things. We don’t do hair, we leave our offspring to their own devices resulting in them getting into stuff they shouldn’t, or that we throw kids high in the air like we don’t know what we’re doing. Oh…and if you’re a father of color, you aren’t around and don’t pay child support *scratches the surface*.

While studies have reported otherwise-in which statistics mean nothing to the individual-how have so many experiences created this relatively collective paradigm? And why do we spend more time purporting instead of debunking it?

I find it perplexing that often mothers-or fathers-are seen as primary caretakers. If there is a give-and-take-you know…balance-how is one person primary anything; particularly in a two-parent household? Almost everything in society operates in a homeostatic pattern; so does parenting. The archetypes “Momma’s Boy” and “Daddy’s Girl” are just as prevalent as ever, no? That itself contradicts the nurturing and a predominant progenitor for their child than another model often talked about.

In 2016, traditional gender roles are meandering rapidly towards a different path. Many mothers are the bread-winning, career-oriented ones as well as communities of stay at home dads (Note: fathers hate that term). Nonetheless, the individual mindset seems to be slowly evolving with the time; ultimately causing a divide among men and women who already don’t understand each other due to well, science.

I wrote this three months ago and will say it again: I know just as many terrible mothers as I do fathers. However, motherhood is seldom looked at like “She’s a good mother.” If anything, many matriarchs are given more credit than they deserve.

The truth of the matter is that most fathers I know could care less about praise for being a good father; myself included. I personally love seeing more advertising and content displaying fatherhood-especially black fatherhood-because I enjoy seeing a major part of my identity being more often not in a more positive light; but as something that me-we-really are instead of stock characters in a tired narrative.

The Day Both of My Children Were On Television

 

I received a Facebook request on Wednesday that piqued my interest. We didn’t have any friends in common. I clicked on the profile to see who this person was and why they might be interested. They were a producer at daytime talk show, The Real. The Fox show produced a segment based around an article I wrote; I assumed that the show could have been following up on the piece from earlier this summer.

Fall baseball began Friday evening. My nephew’s team were playing in a tournament that was a fundraiser for veterans. It was the team’s first night game and everyone was excited. About halfway trough the game, the boys on the team noticed that the local news channel was at the venue and were filming to air. The camera pointed towards the dugout and these 10 year olds lit up. Everyone knew to look out on News 12 over the weekend.

On Saturday afternoon, I received a phone call from the producer at The Real, informing me that another one of my articles had become a subject on the show, and it would be airing Monday. I didn’t know what post they conversed about; but it was something to be excited about.

Monday morning, I set my DVR to record The Real; unsure if I would be able to watch the live airing. I was preparing for a phone interview at 1 pm that would change my life. As I prepared, I was getting a little anxious. To calm myself down, I felt as if watching something about me on national television would help.

I had an idea of the flow of the show and knew that my part would air before the first commercial break. At the six minute mark, I heard my name mentioned and internally lit up. In June, they didn’t mention my name; I was just “a writer.” This time, they said “Chad Milner,” and mentioned “his daughter Cydney.”

@therealdaytime read it because I wrote it…had to catch the retaping; but it originally aired Monday. Note: the article was originally written two years ago. #soccerdadchronicles

A video posted by Chad (@imchadmilner) on Sep 21, 2016 at 5:55am PDT

As Loni Love began quoting my article, the screen went black. I was looking at the screen and thinking “What the hell is going on?!” Fox was interrupting the show for a special news report. New Jersey governor Chris Christie was addressing the people about the bombings that had happened in his state over the weekend. While that was definitely more important than a two year old article about Cydney being the only black kid at soccer (Note: #SoccerDadChronicles Season 4 coming in two weeks). I couldn’t help but laugh. This is the kind of thing that would happen to me. My interview at 1 pm was cancelled because the company couldn’t get in touch with me; stating that my phone went directly to voice-mail (My phone was in my hand the whole time and didn’t ring). I was upset; but I gathered myself and just figured that God had a plan. Minutes later, I was right back to writing on my laptop because there was work to do. Three hours later, I got a text message from one of the mothers from my nephew’s baseball team. She recorded the segment that aired on News 12 about our boys. It was a nine second clip; but they used my nephew! That made my day more than someone talking about me.

A clip of my boy pitching made the local news…

A video posted by Chad (@imchadmilner) on Sep 19, 2016 at 1:30pm PDT

 

That evening, Cyd and my nephew were outside of the house, playing basketball on the hoop I had just put together a few days prior. The rim was lowered to 7.5 and my mother asked Cydney if she could make a shot on that height. My nephew and I both said “Yes, she can.” She missed the first one and made the next two in a row.

I said to my mother “I guess I’m raising two athletes, huh?” While she plays a beyond integral role in making many of the opportunities for the kids; she looked back at me and said “Yeah.”

The Summer’s Over

 

 

“The summer’s over and and we’re watching the sun finally set.  It seems like forever; but forever’s here.”

While I had heard the song several times prior, I never really listened to PARTYNEXTDOOR’s “East Liberty” until that mid-September afternoon. The song summed up the evening perfectly. I was driving on the Hutchinson Parkway in the Bronx, making the trip home to Long Island from Yonkers. I ignored all text messages from my phone.

This was the first of many fall excursions that were dubbed “Sunday Fundays.” The dating dynamic between a girl whose nickname was Fly Light Skin and I had been over; but we enjoyed each other’s company enough to do brunch at the Royal Coach Diner on the corner of Gun Hill and Boston Road. After I dropped her off, I would head to Westchester County to watch football with my long-time friend, Kalique, while our daughters played.

I flat ironed my daughter’s hair the night before and this was an internal invitation for her to be a girly-girl that day. Fly Light Skin was one as well and I think Cydney liked the idea of having an adult woman to do that kind of stuff with. I took the two of them to get their nails done and we all went to our dining spot after.

FLS gave my child a hand mirror and that little girl was obsessed with it. She looked at her reflection and brushed her hair all afternoon. I captured the moment and posted it on Instagram; not paying attention to the purse in the right corner of the shot.My phone vibrated with social media notifications for the rest of the evening.

While leaving the Bronx, I observed a certain person liked the picture on Facebook. I chuckled to myself for a moment because I knew the person all too-well. She almost never comments on my pictures; but she did on this one. Nothing was ever coincidence with her; so I paid very close attention to this break in her typical behavioral pattern.

The cross-country trip across the lower New York peninsula is about a 25 minute drive. By the time I exited off the expressway onto Yonkers Ave, I received a text message from my Facebook friend I had a checkered history with, to say the least.Even in this brief moment of being direct, she was communicating passively. I smirked and left the message unread.

While watching the Giants game, I told Kalique about the day. Every Sunday began with a synopsis about the never-ceasing drama that is my life outside of parenting. My longtime friend inferred that while there seems to be an ever-present amount of discord around me, I am always calm and in control. The way he said it was a lot more profanity-laden; but that’s what he meant. I think a direct quote was “Chad, you are the muthafuckin’ puppet master.”

I had to laugh at my consigliere because it’s very true. This evening was the moment that I realized it. I believed it before; but this was the day that I was truly convinced. I let all parties I interact with that day feel as if they were making the decisions. If and when they felt like they no longer wanted to deal with me, I created an environment that made them feel as if they were calling the shots. “They’ll be back” I would think to myself.

I operate in this manner because it’s easier. You can tell people what they want to hear or directly make a decision for them. However, they will not listen until they come to the conclusion themselves…I’ll just facilitate the process.

As we continued to shoot the shit, FLS sent me two or three text messages. I wanted to enjoy the game in peace with two of my boys I have known since middle school in peace.  I needed a little peace from everyone. Texts often lead the interpreter to jump to conclusions, especially when there is a non-platonic dynamic between men and women. My Samsung was on silent like I ain’t need the stress (For all of my PARTYNEXTDOOR fans).

It seemed like my Facebook friend always came around when things were ending with someone. Her reemergence always signified the beginning of the end. On an unconscious level, I probably let it happen. I always let her back in. Even if or when people knew of her, she always flew under everyone’s radar.

That was last fall. This summer, the same thing happened. The cast of characters have changed and the situations even more interesting; with the exception of one person. The summer is over…

There was supposed to be some kind of existential tale to take away from this. I guess that went out the window for me to just tell another story.

 

Flashback Friday: Star Trek Edition

 

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Tuesday afternoon, I received a text message from one of my editors.  She asked me if I would like to go to the advance screening of Star Trek Beyond the following day and to bring someone with me.  Immediately, I thought about bringing my father.

My pops is a little too cool to be going to conventions and speaking Klingon.  However, since day one, September 22, 1966, Travis Milner has been a Trekkie.  While I don’t recall seeing him ever watch them, my father had every episode of Star Trek-and the Mary Tyler Moore Show-recorded onto VHS (Maybe this was because he worked so much or wanted to keep his nerd-dom under wraps).  For Christmases and birthdays, I knew a can’t-miss gift for my dad was something Star Trek–even if I knew absolutely nothing about it.

Almost anything that revolved around Star Trek was because of my father.  On a family vacation to Universal Studios, my family acted out a thirty minute episode via blue screen (the screens were still blue in 1992).  I played Mr. Spock and donned the Vulcan ears.  How did we celebrate my ninth birthday?  By seeing Star Trek Generations, the film starring Captain Kirk and Jean Luc Picard’s crew.  Why?  Because it was released on November 22, 1994; my birthday.  These were some of the rare moments in which it was all about dad.

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My sister and I as members of the USS Enterprise

After speaking with my editor, I immediately called my father.  I asked him if he was free Wednesday evening and wanted to go to the screening with me.  One to rarely ever show his excitement, I had to read between the lines.  He told me that he was debating whether or not he was going to watch the movie online or going to the theater to actually see it had decided on the latter.  In Travis, that meant “Oh hell yeah!  It’s about to be LIT!”

We met up in Wednesday evening at the train station in Baldwin and took the Long Island Railroad into the city.  When we got to the theater, my father told me that he’d rest up against one of those large, green garbage cans while I waited in line.  I looked at him and thought “Line?  Please, we’re walking right in there!”  I gave him a minute while I went to will call and thirty seconds later waved him in, saying “Let’s go.”  He asked me “We don’t have to wait in line?”  I replied “Hell no!”

During the screening, I pulled the most Travis Milner move of all time: I fell asleep fifteen minutes into the movie.  I was tired as all hell from entertaining my daughter all day while trying to fit in a full day’s worth of work.  Briefly waking up every ten minutes or so-just enough to pay attention and write my review the next day-I could see and hear my father following along intently (he too pulled a Travis Milner and dozed off for a couple seconds).  He laughed when the rest of the crowd did and all of that.  Because I knew of the millions of times this has happened and the roles were reversed, I laughed internally.

For all of the years I’d gone backstage to see my father perform in various parts of the country and the nights I hoped to see of one of my favorite rappers at his job at Soundtrack Studios on 23rd and Broadway; I finally was able to take him along and say “This is part of what I do.”  At this point, my father has seen me sit in front of a laptop for years and shared dozens of articles I’ve written with my tagline “Read It Because I Wrote It.”  This was something tangible.

I am almost certain that in his mind, my father was replaying the memory of taking his five year old son on the F train from Queens to Madison Square Garden for WWF’s SummerSlam, ’91.  He’s not the virile thirty-three year old anymore.  The long, black ponytail he donned is not a blonde caesar cut with gray roots.  His knees aching from almost sixty years of wear-and-tear slowed him down.  Standing a little taller than he, there is still a part of me that still looks up to my dad as if my eye level is slightly above his waist.  To some extent, the evening was centered around both of us fondly reliving moments of youth.

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The Answers To Life’s Questions Always Find You

 
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We never receive what we pursue with fervor until we acquiesce…I have been reminded of this by way of searching desperately for a sample to one of my favorite songs.

Ever since his cameo appearance on Trinidad Jame$’ “Southside,” I have been a fan of Atlanta indie artist, Fortebowie.  He is one of the most creative rapper/singer/producers I’ve heard in a very long time.  In his music, Fortebowie flips fairly obscure samples.  Half of the fun in listening to his music is trying to find the original song he lifted to create a brand new song.

Sampling is an art form.  It’s a form of audio manipulation that takes a a creative ear to perfect.  In almost forty years of audio production, engineering, and knowledge of musical theory, my father couldn’t sample as well as I can on his best day.  Because of this, I appreciate someone who can do this beyond well.

On his 2015 project, Something Else About Bowie, there is a song called “Wrong Girl.”  In the first verse, I listened as Bowie apologize to all of the hearts he’d broken.  Attempting to justify himself, the last four bars made me pause:

“Only love one muh’f*cka and she won’t let me rest.  Runnin’ round in my mind, doing laps.  What the f*ck?!  Tryna act like she irrelevant; but I don’t give a f*ck.  But my mama know, and my daddy know, and my n*ggas know who run my world.  And until she comes back…I’m f*ckin’ with the wrong girl.”

Those lines summed up exactly how I was feeling during the summer of ’15.  After things ended with my ex, I began dating my “What If” girl.  Shortly into our courtship, I knew it wasn’t going to work out.  It would have never worked out between us; however I may have been a little more patient.  I wasn’t over someone I was very much in love with.  As a means of proceeding through life with no unanswered questions, this period was something that needed to happen.

While thinking about how I related to Fortebowie, I began trying to figure out what was the sample in this song.  After doing some searching, I put into the Twitter universe that I was looking for the sample in “Wrong Girl.”  Fortebowie replied saying that he’s keeping that a secret and the fans just have to find it.

I scrubbed out Fortebowie’s vocals on my computer.  I tried to speed up the sample to see if I recognized the voice.  I Googled the lyrics.  I downloaded Karaoke apps to scrub out the middle frequencies of the track and then play into Shazaam to see if it would recognize the sample.  No matter what, Shazaam kept telling me that the song sampled was “Wrong Girl” by Fortebowie.  I would leave it alone for a little while and every few months, I would try again to see if someone on the internet had found the answer.

What often prompted me to try once again to look for the sample was another person on Twitter asking me if I had found the sample.  The searches got shorter and shorter.  Knowing that one day, probably the day I truly said “fuck it,” the answer would find me.

On Monday morning, something prompted me to look for this sample one last time.  Well, the honest answer of what inspired me to look was that once again, those four bars-and other parts of-the first verse were ringing true in my life.  Nonetheless, I looked for all of five minutes.  The first result that popped up in Google’s search engine was Fortebowie’s Soundcloud page, where he originally posted “Wrong Girl.”  I decided not to look there because I had repeatedly and no one had yet to find the answer.

The next morning, I saw a Twitter notification in which someone asked me had I found the sample to “Wrong Girl.”  I replied that I still hadn’t.  Immediately, the person said “Wrong Girl by Latrelle.”

The lightbulb went off in my head.  I knew exactly who Latrelle was.  Because the sample was slowed down, it sounded like a man singing; but it was a woman.  Latrelle was a singer that was signed to Arista Records in 2001-2002.  She had two singles, “Dirty Girl” and “House Party;” both produced by the Neptunes when their music was ubiquitous.  I loved “House Party” and was looking forward to her album being released.  However, it was shelved indefinitely.  “Wrong Girl” was the second-to-last song on her unreleased album that of course, was on YouTube.

Repeatedly listening to what I coveted for over a year, I decided to Google “Latrelle, Wrong Girl, and Fortebowie.”  The first thing that popped up in Google’s search engine was Fortebowie’s Soundcloud page.  THE ANSWER TO MY QUESTION WAS THEE ONE PLACE I HAD BEEN IGNORING BECAUSE I HAD LOOKED THERE REPEATEDLY AND COULDN’T FIND IT.  SOMEONE FOUND IT A MONTH AGO!

By nature, I’m both assertive and proactive.  It is beyond difficult for me to stop looking for the things that I am “looking for.”  I feel as if I can find the answers quicker than the universe can reveal them.  I guess this is my way of manifesting “faith without works is dead.”  In the bible, Jacob was dealing with a lot.  One night, we literally wrestled with God until God blessed him.  Jacob had to literally be subdued in his hip.  Most people don’t exhaust their resources until divine intervention steps in.  I try to live my life doing just that.

One of My Proudest Moments as a Father

 
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Little league baseball is a rite of passage for boys.  In America, one would be hard-pressed to find a man who has not spent a spring on the diamond.

Even though I played basketball year-round as a child, spent my high school years on the football team, and follow the NBA and NFL intently; baseball is my first love.  Ever since that first game in the St. Albans Little League on Liberty Ave in 1991, I’ve been hooked.  Once the weather gets nice, I get the “itch” to play.  There’s a part of me that wants to play in a 30-and-up hardball league; but I don’t have the time.  However, my needs are satisfied through my nephew.

At ten years old, my nephew is in the middle of his fourth year playing organized baseball.  He started off with tee ball and began to show he had potential.  But he was and still is just a kid.

While playing catch in the backyard, after I threw the ball, he would flinch as it came in his direction.  I’d tell him “The more you flinch, the harder I’m throwing the ball,” and I would do just that.  Every once in a while he would get hit and begin to cry.  I’d look at him and this would be our conversation each time:

Me: You got hit because you were playing afraid.  What’s the worst that could happen?
Courtney: I get hit with the ball.
Me:  You just got hit.  Was it that bad?
Courtney: No.
Me: The absolute worst thing that could happen just and it wasn’t that bad.  Now you have nothing to be afraid of.
Courtney: *ceases sobbing and continues to play*

In the past four seasons, my nephew has had amazing tutelage in Coach Frank.  The combined talent of Coach Frank’s son, my nephew, a few mainstays and a revolving door of other teammates has lead to something I love: winning.  Those two boys-and my nephew’s friend, Mike-have enough talent and potential that I truly believe one day I can say “I knew them when…”

At first, I watched from the stands.  It was six year olds hitting a ball off of a tee and everyone bumbling around except for Coach Frank’s son and my nephew.  The more time I spent around Coach Frank and his team, the more I became invested.  The families of the core five players have become extended family and when the draft comes along in the spring, there’s a strategy to keep “the band together.”

This spring, all of the boys moved up a division and my nephew was drafted to another team.  Coach Frank wasn’t having that and traded his first pick to make sure he kept his son and my boy together.  It worked out.  Coach Frank’s son had the highest batting average in the league and I watched my nephew clinch the championship with three strikeouts in nine pitches.  We celebrated for three days and then it was for travel-ball in the summer.

Travel-ball is a completely different beast.  The boys are playing against ten and eleven year olds.  Our team is comprised of half ten, one eleven, five nine, and two scrappy eight year olds.  The first few games have been an adjustment and rude awakening; and quite a few of the boys are more than up for the challenge.

Yesterday, our U-10 team practices with the U-12 boys (Note: U-12=twelve year olds).  U-12 is more intense; but I liked the idea of seeing who out of our bunch would rise to the occasion.  Almost everyone did.  I was proud of all of them; but I was especially proud of my boy.

Because my nephew has a cannon for an arm by ten year old standards, he plays third base.  The first drill consisted of fielding and gunning the ball to first base without breaking their stride.  With a longer distance than the ten year olds are used to, my nephew nailed it.  On the diamond, he looked like one of the U-12’s.

While the teams scrimmaged, I conversed with Coach Matt, the manager of the U-12 team.  We talked about how as an organization, all of our teams are mentally lazy and show up once we’re in the hole.  My nephew just happened to be at bat; so Coach Matt and I looked at his form while he was at the plate.  He sent a line drive that dropped mid-center field and rolled all the way to the gate; the furthest hit ball of the evening.  Coach Matt looked at me and asked “How old is he?”

“He just turned ten May 30th,” I replied.  Coach Matt shook his head, chuckled, and told me “He’s ten?!  Once he gets the rest of those mechanics…whew!”  I couldn’t have been more proud of him.  Coach Frank couldn’t make it that day; but I wish he could have seen my nephew-and how many of the boys looked-that evening.

My slowly degenerating shoulder may not allow me to play competitive hardball again.  However, watching my nephew scratches the itch.

 

 

These Are the Best Years

 

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Cydney's getting bigger...It might be time to update the logo.

At the celebratory brunch for her graduation, Cydney walked up to each member of her family, hugged them, and graciously said “Thank you for coming.”  No one told her to do this; she felt compelled to show her gratitude on her own.  The after party for Cydney’s big day consisted of her crying on my lap due to an earache.

Cydney and I stopped at the local drug store to get some children’s Motrin.  Headed back to the car and holding her hand, an older man looked at us and smiled.  He said “I remember those days.  These are the best years…enjoy them.”

I acknowledged the sentiment and reciprocated his grin.  “She just graduated from Pre-K today,” I replied.  The man looked at me and said “I remember that like it’s yesterday.  My daughter is thirty years old.”  The man couldn’t help but smile even more.  His body language suggested that he saw himself twenty-five years ago and reminisced fondly about that time.

There will be a day in which my little girl isn’t going to want to hold my hand everywhere we go.  While I am all but ready for this day, eventually Cydney will not want to sleep in the bed with me.  Almost every problem in her life can be solved with a positive word or affectionate gesture from daddy.  To her, I’m Superman.

In an attempt to understand the world as Cydney sees it, I find myself looking into the reflection of her irises.  There is something about me that she associates as a positive stimulus.  With limited life experience, all my five year-old knows how to do is express how she is feeling in the moment.  My adult life has forced me to mature at a very accelerated rate; and I’m still affected.  While I see myself as someone who is constantly battling a jaded cynic, all this little girl sees is a man that can do no wrong.

I know exactly how my daughter feels.  I remember being much smaller than my parents.  I literally looked up to them and their gestures of love seemed larger than life.  There is a memory that flashes in my mind of being about three or four years old, and my father carrying me on his shoulders after a concert he was performing at.  It’s a moment I often recall when placing my daughter on my broad trapezius muscles.

These are the best years; they’re pleasing to a parent’s ego.  To someone on the planet, we are the most amazing person.  There is a human being who doesn’t see all of the flaws the we constantly harp on.  Without reason, second-guessing, or condition, we are the light in the life of this miniature person that physically and behaviorally resemble us.

There will be a brief period in which Cydney will figure out that I’m not superman.  I remember thinking that my father and because of Moonwalker, Michael Jackson, were the two people on earth that actually knew magic; and my mother was just perfect.  One day, my that light in my daughter’s eye will dim like I once did upon realizing that mom and dad are mere mortals.  She will be disappointed in feeling like her childhood was a facade.

That will change when Cydney becomes a mother.  I have learned to appreciate my mother and father because I can relate.  Behind those smiles were moments of feeling beyond overwhelmed, disappointment, broken hearts, and days they probably were unsure how they would be able to pay bills.

A few days ago, my father sent me a series of text messages.  He told me “You are Superman.  You single-handedly, with only limited parental assistance rescued Cydney.  In her book, you are the best father possible.  That’s awesome.  I get to live on through you and her.  That’s the role of dad.  Superman.”  This is why I look into my daughter’s eyes…because I don’t see it sometimes.  Yet, I know exactly how she feels.  In that moment, there was nothing more rewarding than being called Superman by the man I still see as Superman.

I am almost certain that this man in a CVS parking is much happier as the father to a thirty year old.  However, the only way to explain to someone with much less life experience is to meet them where they’re at: tell them to enjoy right now because it doesn’t last forever.