WALKING ON EGGSHELLS: Excerpt #3

One of my coping mechanisms for when I get stressed out due to my Asperger’s tendencies: Looking at nature scenery like this…

 

Just like I did for the first two chapters of the book I’ve been working on, “WALKING ON EGGSHELLS”, Which I still plan on (self) publishing by the end of this year, here’s an excerpt from Chapter Three, called “The Bullied Life: We Were Just Playing”:

 

I will always recall – not at all fondly – the moment when Marlon (not his real name – if you grew up with me in Santa Monica, CA you can probably figure out who he is) first started to torment me. It’s a cliché of course, but it was as if it was yesterday instead of forty years ago…

I was in the fourth grade and had just started Will Rogers Elementary School, being among a most ethically diverse group of kids, rainbow-like in that all colors were represented after having exactly one black classmate (she was in my first grade class) during the previous four years that I went to school in Riverside combined.

It was around mid-morning when it happened:

My class, room 404, was outside on he playground with another fourth grade class, milling about on the blackish-gray asphalt in the cool, gray overcast weather that Santa Monica is famous for, waiting for P.E. class to start.

I was just standing there in line with the other nine-year olds when all of a sudden I felt this hard, sharp punch on my arm. I turned around to see who had hit me and here he was, this cocky kid with a big, toothy, arrogant-looking grin, posing like Joe Frazier with his fists up saying “Come on!”, looking like a wolf who had just spotted his prey and was getting ready for a possible meal.

It’s obvious from the perspective of a middle-aged guy that Marlon, in the grand tradition of inner city African-American youth, was “testing” me to see how tough I was, a requirement for social survival among that crowd.

Unfortunately to a nine-year old aspie, it was not so obvious to me what was going on – at all.

I had absolutely no clue whatsoever about how one needs to have a certain toughness or “hard” factor to be respected in the “hood”; I was a weirdo on the Autism Spectrum Disorder from the country, what the hell did I know about needing to fight (among other things) in order to be seen by the other black kids as “cool” as up until that time, about 99.99% of the youngsters of African descent that I knew were cousins, and even there I felt there was a culture clash as I was a rural kid with cows and feral cats as pets, playing in open spaces and hearing roosters crow in the morning, while pretty much all of my cousins were city kids from L.A.

When you put all of those factors together, I suppose it was inevitable that I would be a target to Marlon.

That little punch that Marlon gave me that morning would greatly pale in comparison to what would happen two years later in the sixth grade, the reason being that great Satan and I would be in the same class, room 502, and his unadulterated evilness would result in grade six being the worst year of  my pre-teen life as to say it was nine and a half months of hell would be an understatement.

To be fair, Marlon wasn’t the only kid in that class putting me through such nastiness that year; I’d estimate that roughly a quarter of the class, maybe a little more than that, including many of the boys, either did something or said something to me that made me feel bad in some way. One boy –  not black (to show that it wasn’t just an African-American thing) – who was harassing me said, when I asked him what I did to make him be so mean, forcefully answered, “You came to this school!”, as well as warning me to not go to John Adams, the junior high school across the street, near the end of the year.

Actually, I should have known that my social life at Will Rogers wouldn’t be great the first month I was there…

It was yet another cool and overcast morning: I was walking to the playground and was just about to step onto the wide open part of the asphalt when about eight boys bum-rushed me and , in my mind, were bugging the hell out of me, tugging at me and pulling on my shirt sleeves as it felt like I was being attacked by an invading army.

It was all a blur; as far as I was concerned I was being attacked by strangers for no reason when I just wanted to be left alone…which was why I threw a mini-temper tantrum, commencing to push one or two of those kids away and taking off running afterwards, those kids yelling “get him!” as they intended to jump me and try to beat me up. I ran to a teacher and ended up hiding in a classroom until recess was over.

I specifically recall one time when the teacher had me, Marlon, and another boy in the hallway outside the classroom door because of some shitty thing that he and that other boy did to me in class. When confronted, I’ll never forget what Marlon told her:

“We were just playing.”

This is a commonly used phrase for bullies when taken to task for their evil deeds, the teacher then telling Marlon and the other boy to leave me alone.

Needless to say, it didn’t work.

 

COMING NEXT MONTH:

Excerpts from chapter four of “WALKING ON EGGSHELLS”, called “The Black Alienation”, which describes my struggles with being accepted by my fellow African-Americans, particularly in the low to lower-middle income neighborhood I spent much of my childhood in, and my trouble with completely adapting to black social youth culture after spending my early childhood years almost exclusively among whites.

 

This reminds me of what I went through during my preteen years, especially in the sixth grade – only I wasn’t a red-headed kid with glasses. Photo courtesy of aceofgeeks.net

 

 

 

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TURNING FIFTY: Personal Musings About A Milestone Birthday

 

 

THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS FROM AN AFRICAN-AMERICAN WITH ASPERGER’S AS I APPROACH MY 50th BIRTHDAY

18, 263 days old – at least as of this coming Sunday.

I’ll be honest, as I usually am…

Anytime anyone reaches fifty years of life, it needs to be celebrated.

Particularly – considering the sometimes extreme tension and polarization that we are currently in – those who are Black males in America.

And on the Autism Spectrum to boot.

Which is why I’m celebrating my 50th birthday this weekend with something that I haven’t done in decades and won’t do again…

Throw a big party.

I can’t imagine being fifty years old, and I probably won’t be able to imagine it even after the fact as when I was a kid – and throughout my life, really – I saw fifty as being, for lack of a better way to describe it, on the border between regular adulthood and senior citizen status.

What’s more, it’s hard to imagine the people I knew as kids, who I went to school and grew up with, turning fifty.

Yes, I know what people say:

“50 is the new 40 (or 30 or whatever)”,

“Age ain’t nothing but a number”,

And I don’t disagree with those sentiments as save for a gout condition and the hypertension that I’m controlling quite nicely with medication, changing my diet and exercise as well as playing pick-up softball on a regular basis for over twenty years, I think I’m in pretty good shape.

 

 

I like this mug – shows the year I was born and the fact that yes, my parts are original! Photo courtesy of amazon.com

 

 

However,

It’s still weird to think of myself as a fifty-something.

Especially when I look back on my life, as I reckon folks commonly do when they reach a milestone birthday.

When I think about it, although there have been some struggles in my social and emotional development due to having Asperger’s as I was bullied and shunned as a young guy in school and have had troubles working for someone else in subsequent years, not being able to hold a job for longer for three years,

Which is the reason why I became a writer and online blogger with a book describing my experiences as an Aspie, “WALKING ON EGGSHELLS”, nearly done with a target date for (self) publication at the end of the summer,

And although I have missed out on some of the stages of life considered normal in American society such as marriage and opposite sex relationships as my behavior has for the most part rendered me as “not boyfriend/husband material” – which I have accepted as marriage is not for everyone,

I can honestly say that I have had a blessed life to this point, a life for which I am grateful.

I have a family, friends, and particularly a mother that has loved, understood and supported me, which considering my place on the Autism Spectrum hasn’t always been the easiest thing to do,

Grandparents who gave me an idyllic childhood, who I’ll always love and, as they are no longer with us, dearly miss,

And have enjoyed a relatively middle class life.

In other words, I have been quite lucky and fortunate that God has blessed me this way.

Especially since there are SO many people whose lot in life hasn’t been close to being how they would like as living in the Los Angeles area, the nation’s homeless capital, I see plenty of the less fortunate.

 

 

This is really cool; a list of things that happened the year I was born, including celebrities who will like wise be celebrating their 50th birthdays – though they spelled Kurt Cobain’s (RIP) name wrong. Image courtesy of Pinterest.com

 

 

My Biggest Birthday Wish (Besides the usual good time at my big shindig):

I want to spend Sunday – my actual birthday – in the place where I was born and spent my early childhood…

Riverside, CA, as that was where my grandparents gave me my idyllic childhood, living in a rural area (more suburban today) outside of town where my neighbors had horses and I had cows for a time; there’s even a picture of me at eight years old feeding one.

As there’s a heat wave approaching the area this weekend and my tolerance for 90 to 100 degree-plus weather has waned in recent years, I won’t be devastated if I don’t get to be there as I’ll do something else special.

But it would be fitting if I was in the town where I spent my early formative years fifty years to the day that I was born.

Outside of that, I just want to have an enjoyable weekend.

And if someone came up to me and said that I could have one wish, I would say to be in good health as a friend of mine puts it quite well,

“The best wealth is health.”

 

Summing Things Up As My Big Day Approaches:

The first thing I’m going to do when I wake up the morning of June 18th is say a big prayer of thanks to God for letting me see my 50th birthday.

I see it as a gift a there’s quite a few people I knew and grew up with who are tragically unable to have a 50th birthday as they are no longer here.

That’s why my overall feelings are those of appreciation and gratitude.

I won’t take this birthday, or any subsequent birthdays, for granted as being an African-American with Asperger’s, I am very thankful that my life has gone the way it has.

I hope that I feel the same way, and be able to say the same things I’m saying now, in the next three decades.

 

 

I certainly hope this birthday is a happy one for me. Photo courtesy of monicahswe.wordpress.com

 

 

 

LOS ANGELES REBELLION (or Riots) 25-YEAR ANNIVERSARY: Where I Was On That Day

 

REMEMBERING ONE OF AMERICA’S LARGEST RACIAL UPRISINGS FROM A PERSONAL STANDPOINT

 

I’ll get right to the point:

I was living (figuratively speaking) pretty far away from the infamous flash point of Florence Ave. and Normandie Ave. in Santa Monica, CA the day those verdicts in the first Rodney King trial in Simi Valley came down, setting those bigoted policemen free despite that tape showing the most obvious incriminating evidence of all time.

Though I was never brutalized like Rodney, as a African-American male in his mid-20s I could certainly relate to being racially profiled, being stopped by the Santa Monica police a number of times; there are two instances of this that stand out in my mind:

 

* I was getting some food from Campos, a Mexican place two blocks from my house whose food I grew up on, loved, and still love to this day.

As I was walking out with my order a policeman, out of the blue, stopped me and began to ask me questions, saying that I “fit the description” of someone they were looking for.

If it wasn’t for another guy walking across the street that yelled out, “That’s not him!” I would have most likely been arrested for something I had no knowledge of.

 

* One day in July of 1997, a month after my 30th birthday, I had left my house to get a newspaper when a plain clothes policeman stopped me when I was literally across the street from my home, exiting his car.

“Get your hands up!” he said, putting me in handcuffs.

Thankfully I was able to convince the cop to let me into my house so I can show him my ID, proving that I wasn’t a stalker.

To the cop’s credit, he apologized, but that did nothing to ease my irritation.

 

Being that I lived in the Pico Neighborhood, Santa Monica’s inner city for all intents and purposes, I knew deep down that being a young black man in that area, I was both a target and would be suspect for anything that went down.

The irony in all this? Santa Monica had an African-American police chief in those days, James Butts, who’s now the mayor of Inglewood.

 

 

TV news footage of that fateful day at Florence and Normandie, courtesy of YouTube

 

 

Anyhow…

I remember the day everything went down on Florence and Normandie quite well;

My mother and I were watching it all go down live on the local TV news. I specifically recall seeing a van ram into the front bars of a store, breaking the bars and leaving that store ripe for the looters, which we likewise saw.

I believe I saw Reginald Denny get smashed by that brick as well.

The other memory I have of that uprising – I’m making it a point to not call it a riot anymore – was the next couple of mornings as I was leaving the house to go to work; though no fires or looting happened in Santa Monica or the Westside, I could smell the smoke drifting from the many fires in the rest of L.A.

I was a physical education assistant teacher at a couple of elementary schools at that time, and the kids at both places, most of them white, were quite upset not only with what was going down, but also with the cause of it as being the liberal town that Santa Monica was and is, pretty much everyone felt that those four cops who beat Rodney got off scott-free.

At one of those schools there were a couple of African-American kids, both 4th graders, who lived in what was then called South Central L.A. (they were able to attend the Santa Monica school because their mothers worked in the town and were able to acquire permits) and were subsequently adjacent to all the chaos if not in the middle of it.

I knew that those two youngsters would be at least a little stressed and traumatized, so I made it a point to ask them if they were OK.

Things went more or less back to normal in Santa Monica and the Westside after the so-called “riots” ended, but you know what?

 

 

Rodney King’s famous “Can’t we all get along?” speech, courtesy of YouTube.

 

 

After 25 years, I think everyone – at least every one of color, especially Blacks and Latinos – would say that nothing has changed as far as young African-American men getting profiled, targeted, and killed by the police across America.

If you don’t believe me, ask the families of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, and the many other young men who are no longer with us.

And ask the black folks who live in places like Baltimore and Ferguson, MO, if things are better.

To be honest, particularly under the still relatively new leadership of our President-Whose-Name-I-Will-Not-Mention, I’m surprised that “riots” like what happened in L.A. in 1992 don’t happen twice or three times a year.

And the worst part of all of this?

Considering the polarizing climate in these United States, racial and otherwise, I honestly find it difficult to see any light at the end of this pick black tunnel.

At least for the foreseeable future.

As Malcolm X once said, it’s going to take God himself to solve this dilemma.

Which I wholeheartedly agree with.

 

 

 

 

 

 

BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2017: Just A Few Thoughts

celebrating-black-history-month

A great shot of some extremely well known people; I had the pleasure of meeting the guy with the boxing gloves in the upper left hand corner. Photo courtesy of 1966mag.com

 

MUSINGS FROM A MIDDLE AGED AFRICAN AMERICAN MALE

 

It’s my regret that I’m giving homage to Black History Month on this blog with just a few days to go in the month.

But as they say, no use crying over spilled milk.

Or better late than never; take your pick.

 

Having said that…

In light of our new President-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named’s regime, who’s celebrating one month in office and – as we all know – has attacked every group of people not white, male, Christian, conservative, gay, wealthy, or a combination of those six attributes,

It seems like we need events such as Black History Month more than ever.

Particularly since it seems to be a bad time to be black – or any person of color who’s not named Clarence Thomas,  Ben Carson, Omarosa Manigault, Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz – right now, what with the increased racist/sexist/homophobic/Islamophobic attacks across America.

Living in California, the deepest of blue states, I’m honestly a tiny bit scared to go east of the Colorado River as while I refuse to say that every white person, or white Republican for that matter, is a bigot who feels that people who look like me are naturally inferior and  need to stay “in their place”,  it seems that too many whites have that mentality in the red states.

The comments I read from every article that talks about racial issues are an illustration of this thought, as you would think some of those folks writing such comments are carrying their Ku Klux Klan cards in their back pockets with white sheets hanging in their closets.

I feel thankful that I live in a relatively liberal area and subsequently have not seen or experienced any real, hardcore ideological or racial animosity.

At least not so far, thank God and knock wood.

 

black-history-month

A really good message that needs to always be remembered. Image courtesy of wesleyunited.org

 

Personally, I feel Black History Month is sorely needed to remind Americans of how without Black people of African descent, there wouldn’t be an America.

And not just due to the 246 years of chattel slavery as so many things that we use and take for granted, from peanut butter to potato chips to the stoplight to open heart surgery, was invented by an African-American.

Imagine if blacks – as well as women, gays, and other people of color – were celebrated every month of the year rather than merely the one designated for them (the shortest month in the case of African-Americans).

Then perhaps a guy like our new Commander-In-Chief (my personal refusal to mention his name on this blog remains in effect) would never have been elected.

And there wouldn’t be a need for groups such as Black Lives Matter.

 

The irony of all of this, from a personal standpoint:

I won’t go into any details now, but in my book describing my experiences with having Asperger’s Syndrome, “WALKING ON EGGSHELLS”, which I’m in the final stages of editing and will begin the self-publishing process soon, there’s a chapter detailing my experiences of being black on the Autism Spectrum.

Unfortunately it hasn’t been the most fun experience, but that’s all I’m going to say at this time; you’ll just have to read chapter four of the book.

All right, I said I had just a few thoughts about this year’s Black History Month.

And I’m going to stick to that as I don’t want to ramble or go on and on save for this…

All I can do is as far as the extremely fragmented situation that this country is in is two things:

1. Hold good, optimistic thoughts,

and…

2. Be the best person I can be.

Which I reckon is all anyone could or should do.

 

 

full_pkn_20v13-064

Being the longtime baseball and softball guy that I am, this is perhaps the part of the African-American experience that I’m most proud of: The (so-called) Negro Leagues, with its two greatest stars, Satchel Paige (left) and Josh Gibson (right) featured here. I’ll be writing an article about these and the great black players from that era soon on this blog. Photo courtesy of pechakucha.org

 

Why I’m Never Having Children (As Much As I Like Them)

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I don’t wear tights, I don’t live in Neverland and I can’t fly, but like Peter Pan this is one joy that I feel I’ll never be able to know. Photo courtesy of newsworks.org

 

Let me make something clear:

I LIKE CHILDREN VERY MUCH.

They are, for the most part, energetic and fun to be around.

If I didn’t feel that way, I wouldn’t have worked in the education field for roughly twenty years as a physical education teacher, a sports coach – mostly baseball and softball – a tutor and an after-school counselor, with the bulk of that time being spent at the elementary school-age level.

But there’s a reason why as much as this is so, being a father, having someone call me “Dad”, will ultimately never be in the cards for me.

Here’s an illustration of this conviction:

A couple of times a week I visit my town’s local public library to do some computer work, to print some things, and to work on my book detailing my experiences having Asperger’s Syndrome and being on the Autism Spectrum Disorder, “WALKING ON EGGSHELLS”.

Every so often, as I do different things on various websites, some toddler in the children’s section would start crying loudly for whatever reason.

While I understand this is what young children do when upset, because of my being extremely noise sensitive, about a 30 on a scale of one to ten,  the sound of the kid crying borders on excruciating as though it has gotten a bit easier as I have aged, it’s still all I can do to not let that sound drive me crazy and wishing for a strict library policy of “Cry & Go” – they cry, they go, at least until the parent can calm them down.

If I feel this way as some random guy in the library, imagine me having to deal with it as a parent.

As much as I regret to say this and wish it was not true, I simply couldn’t handle it.

I also, with much regret, would have trouble and suffer too much stress over a child with any kind of issues, particularly behavioral.

Another reason why I feel that I can never be a father is something that I have thought about quite a bit…

As a person on the Autism Spectrum, I have suffered and struggled, sometimes mightily, to fit in and thrive in this neurotypical (non-disabled) world.

While this was particularly the case as a youngster, in some ways this remains the case as an adult, especially when it comes to being in the workforce as I found that as much as I have tried – and I tried for over 20 years – I just couldn’t succeed in the traditional working for someone else/top-down hierarchy.

Being someone with Asperger’s, there would be a very good chance that any offspring of mine would end up on some level of the Autism Spectrum.

Though I understand that there are many schools and programs today that help such kids with their social skills and teaching them how to fit in, schools and programs that didn’t exist during my formative years in the 1970s and 80s, I just can’t stomach having a child with special needs trying to thrive in a world that’s generally not geared towards them as they would be facing challenges that would break my heart.

In other words, it’s not the kid. It’s the world.

Also, and I feel this must be said as much as it may be unpopular and as much as it pains me to say it…

As an African-American male, I have seen FAR too many young black boys and men being racially profiled and gunned down by police and others simply because of the color of their skin; I was a victim of racial profiling myself.

Not to mention the blatant bigotry that seems to be increasingly rampant on college campuses and elsewhere.

If I had a son, or a daughter for that matter, while I would certainly feel joy there would also be a deep-down worry and sorrow due to those increasingly likely issues that son or daughter would probably have to face.

I couldn’t handle that stress.

By not having children, I feel I’m saving such children from that possibly rough life.

SO wish I didn’t feel this way, but there you are.

And I of course greatly admire African-American parents who are raising their kids in the environment that we seem to be in.

I know some will read this and see me as weak, or some other negative hyperbole.

All I can say to that is that I’m only doing one thing:

Being honest.

Which I hope people will appreciate as the bottom line is, as much as I like children and wouldn’t mind being a father, it’s just not for me.

After all, having kids is not for everyone as if it were, child abuse and neglect – which I certainly wouldn’t partake in – would not exist.

Simply put, I don’t feel I could handle the responsibility of raising a child.

As I have said, I’m just being honest.

Thanks for letting me vent.

 

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Some youngsters with Asperger’s working on what I’m sure is a school assignment. Photo courtesy of myaspergerschild.com

 

THE CURRENT RACIAL CRISIS IN AMERICA: Some Random Thoughts

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I love this picture, for obvious reasons. Photo courtesy of abc3340.com

 

Musings, based what has been happening in this country, on what seems to be a nadir on relations between races, cultures, and ethnic groups in this country with no end in sight.

 

Like seemingly every other black male of African descent in these United States, I have been the target of negativity solely based on my skin color.

I have been called the “N” word, particularly as a young boy in Riverside, CA, where the then-rural community I lived in (Woodcrest) featured numerous Caucasian folks of European descent from places like Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

I have been denied jobs solely because of my skin color, notably when I was in my early 20s and a lady, upon laying her eyes upon me and giving a less-than enthusiastic reaction after such an enjoyable conversation on the phone, told me that the job I was seeking had already been filled.

I have felt ostracized in various places throughout my adult years.

And I have been the target of racial profiling as I was stopped by the police in Santa Monica, CA, where I lived for over twenty years, on at least four occasions, being handcuffed during one of them in front of my house due to me fitting the description of a stalker;  if I didn’t show them my ID, I probably would have spent a few years in jail for something I did not do.

So when I heard about the latest killings of unarmed black men by police in Minnesota and Louisiana and what was apparently a retaliatory strike in Dallas with the lives of those five cops being snuffed out by Micah Xavier Johnson during a Black Lives Matter protest, my thoughts were varied…

 

 

Something that will hopefully induce hope: Cat Stevens’s (now Yusuf Islam’s) classic song “Peace Train”

 

 

First:  None of this was anything new as African-American men have been unnecessarily killed by authority figures for as long as African-Americans have existed in America.

Second:  Those cops who murdered Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and Philando Castile in the Minneapolis area, like pretty much every other cop who has committed similar acts before, will not be charged with any crime and will essentially get off free and clear.

Third:  It seems like race relations have plummeted and are at their lowest point in decades during Barack Obama’s presidency, as statements and efforts from conservative whites, in politics and elsewhere, to discredit our 43rd Commander-In-Chief have abounded.

Not to mention the rise in racist incidents at colleges like the universities of Oklahoma and Missouri.

Fourth:   As I have written in an article on Hubpages.com, despite the efforts and labors of icons like Martin Luther King and the advances that the Civil Rights Movement produced, there remains a certain amount of self-separation between races and ethnic groups due to cultural differences, a natural desire for people to interact based on what they have in common, and a notion that differences often breed discomfort, which breeds distrust.

I remember writing that no matter how many “I Have A Dream” speeches are made or how many times “We Shall Overcome” is sung, you can’t force a racist – in any color – to not be one.

You can’t force someone who thinks folks of different races are inferior, created to be subservient and who need to be “in their place”, to feel differently.

And you can’t force someone – black, white, Latino, or Asian – who vehemently frowns over racially mixed couples to suddenly embrace them.

 

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Why can’t we all get along like these two sweet little girls? Photo courtesy of blackyouthproject.com

 

Fifth:   This is something that has been in my mind for a while.

Based on all the current protest marches and confrontations between (mostly) white police and (mostly black and Latino) demonstrators, not to mention the riots that have resulted after incidents like this in the past,

I cannot help wondering if we are on the brink of a second Civil War.

A war not between the states, but a war between the races.

Judging from the comments I have read in articles regarding race that I have read online and the various statements from conservative whites (and African-Americans like Stacey Dash), one may well think such as I can’t help feeling that all it would take is one riot,

One skirmish between blacks and police that gets out of control,

One instance of some conservative white person who may be among some anti-Black Lives Matter counter demonstrators, who says the wrong thing and is attacked and (probably) killed by folks who are fed up, triggering an all-out brawl,

And you may well have the first battle of a race war, a Fort Sumter in a sense.

I also can’t help wondering if a hundred years from now, the dreams of racists will come true and America will be separated on the basis of color due to an impasse, the leaders conceding that the longtime racial animosities will never be solved and – like a divorcing couple or the Hindus and Muslims during the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947 (much to Mahatma Gandhi’s dismay) – the best solution being a formation of separate countries.

Of course it’s my sincere hope that this scenario will never come to pass, but…

Sometimes it’s a little difficult to be completely hopeful based on these recent and ongoing racial incidents and unrest.

However, I do know this:

Killing police officers will not do anything to stop racial profiling and murder of blacks by law enforcement.

Neither will rioting as if that were the case, attacks on people of color would have ended nearly 100 years ago.

I’m honestly not sure what the answer is – besides love and loving one another according to what Jesus Christ commands – but…

As Marvin Gaye once sang, war is NOT it.

I suppose that’s all I have to say about all of this, at least for now.

 

Group of diverse teenagers standing together and smiling for the camera. Horizontal shot.

Group of diverse teenagers standing together and smiling for the camera. Horizontal shot. Love this shot, too! Photo courtesy of ojaialano.wordpress.com

 

 

 

REMEMBERING MUHAMMAD ALI: A Tribute To “The Greatest”

Boxing gloves and a message sit amongst flowers at a makeshift memorial to Muhammad Ali at the Muhammad Ali Center, Saturday, June 4, 2016, in Louisville, Ky. Muhammad Ali died Friday at age 74. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Boxing gloves and a message sit amongst flowers at a makeshift memorial to Muhammad Ali at the Muhammad Ali Center, Saturday, June 4, 2016, in Louisville, Ky. Muhammad Ali died Friday at age 74. (AP Photo/David Goldman) Photo courtesy of macaudailytimes.com.no

A MEMORIAL TO ONE OF THE GREATEST ATHLETES OF THE 20th CENTURY,  (certainly) THE GREATEST BOXER OF ALL TIME, AND ONE OF THE GREATEST HUMAN BEINGS EVER.

 

To be completely honest, there’s not much more that can be said about this great iconic legend that hasn’t already been said in the days since his passing.

As for a personal remembrance, a year and a half ago on this blog I wrote about my encounter with Muhammad Ali in 1996 at a bookstore in Santa Monica, CA, where he was promoting a photography book featuring images from his boxing career that his photographer put together.

Seeing Ali in the flesh would have been thrilling enough if it wasn’t for the fact that just before he was scheduled to leave, he pointed at me and waved me over to him, shaking my hand and asking me if I “rumbled”, probably because I was (and still am) a big guy.

Everyone knows about Ali’s winning the heavyweight championship three separate times, as well as his stance against being drafted into the army and shipped off to fight in Vietnam due to him being a Muslim and a conscientious objector, costing him not only his crown, but his boxing license as he was not allowed to fight for three years.

Everyone knows about his epic upset of Sonny Liston in 1964, his “Rumble In The Jungle” in Zaire (now Congo) with George Foreman , and his three even more epic brawls with Joe Frazier, including the 1971 “Fight of the Century” and the 1975 “Thrilla In Manila”.

And everyone knows full well about his humanitarian efforts in the years since his retirement in 1981 as he battled the Parkinson’s disease that was ultimately the main factor in his death.

 

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Muhammad Ali’s (perhaps) biggest single moment: Lighting the Olympic torch in Atlanta. Photo courtesy of pressherald.com

 

As well as perhaps his biggest single moment, lighting the Olympic torch during the opening ceremonies in Atlanta in ’96, which incidentally happened just a few months before I got the thrill of my life (to date) in meeting him.

However…

There’s always been one aspect of Muhammad Ali that hasn’t been as noticed as it should have been, that not as many people have pointed out over the course of his life and career:

His sense of humor, as Ali was, in my opinion, the funniest athlete who ever lived.

 

 

A video from YouTube.com of Muhammad Ali’s interviews, speeches and various smack talk that showed just how funny he was.

 

 

Every time I watched film of him saying “I’m young, I’m strong, I’m fast, I’m pretty, and can’t possibly be beat!”,

Every time I heard Ali call Liston a “big old ugly bear”, saying how he was “…too ugly to be champ! The heavyweight champion should be pretty like me!”

Every time I heard Ali call Frazier a “gorilla” , punching a toy version of one while crowing, “Come on gorilla, we in Manila!” at a pre-fight press conference,

As well as call Foreman a “mummy”,

Every time I heard one of Ali’s poems and make outlandish statements in interviews,

I just cracked up in laughter.

In fact, Ali’s personality and sense of humor reminded me of someone else who had a similar personal chemistry and humorous nature, someone who I was very close to in my youth:

My grandfather, whose birthday, while not nearly in the same year, coincidentally fell in the same week as his.

Indeed, I’ve always felt that if boxing hadn’t worked out for Ali, he would have made a great stand-up comedian alone the lines of Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy, doing comedy routines at places like the Apollo and the Comedy Store.

 

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A triumphant moment in Ali’s career: Knocking out George Foreman in 1974. Photo courtesy of newslocker.com

 

Being the great all-around human being that he was, it goes without saying that the evening of June 3rd was a sad one for me; I was grateful that I was able to report the news of Ali’s death on my social media pages as soon as it was announced, as he certainly deserved that.

Ali’s funeral is schedule for this Friday, June 10th, in his hometown of Louisville, KY.

I obviously won’t be there, as I plan to watch it on whatever TV station is covering the proceedings, but I’ll make a concerted effort to keep my sadness to a minimum as I want to celebrate Ali’s tremendous life.

No one deserves it more.

I’m positive that Allah had two words in greeting for the champ as he entered Paradise that June 3rd evening:

“Well Done.”

I’ll now take this moment to say this…

May you rest in peace, Mr. Ali, sir.

Meeting you that time in Santa Monica was the thrill of my life.

I hope you will and Joe Frazier will bury the hatchet once and for all up there.

Give Nelson Mandela, Jackie Robinson, and John Wooden my personal warm regards.

And if you see my grandpa, tell him hello from me and my family, and that he is very much loved and missed.

 

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One of the most legendary images of Muhammad Ali: Standing over Sonny Liston, exhorting him to get up after his “Phantom Punch” in the midst of their fight in 1965. Photo courtesy of gossiponthis.com