Monday, November 26, 2007

Thanksgiving




I did not feel that I needed a reminder to be grateful this Thanksgiving. I may not show it as frequently or as overtly as I should, but I am quite happy and thankful about the life I'm living. Headed to the Bronx to partake of the feast being prepared by my mother, and to spend precious bonding time with my parents, siblings, and nephews, I considered myself to be a lucky man indeed.

My youngest brother would be moving from New York to Georgia a couple days after Thanksgiving. It saddens me that I will most likely see less of him and his family now. I didn't think I was seeing enough of them to begin with. The days fly by so quickly. It's easy to take for granted that our loved ones will always be conveniently around. But I am glad that they are moving from a crowded apartment to a house. The move is definitely an upgrade for them, so it was easy to feel good about their departure rather than selfishly grumpy.

It would not be a great exaggeration to say I barely had a care in the world as my wife and daughter and I drove from the garden state to Da Boogie Down. Even relative lightness of traffic was on our side because we hit the road earlier than most, yet were careful to coordinate our road time with Ava's nap schedule. Not a single snag had been hit as we made it past the toll and glided over the George Washington Bridge. When the traffic in our lane slowed suddenly, it was with some nervousness that Erin applied pressure on the breaks. Since we were driving within the speed limit and there were no bad weather elements to deal with, there was sufficient time for us to pull to a stop. This could not be said about the idiot driving behind us. Unable to stop in time, and quite possibly not even attempting to, he instead swerved suddenly around us, clipping the passenger side door but otherwise leaving us safe. Ava did not stir from her slumber in the back seat while Erin and I turned to each other and shared a moment of stunned shock.

The occupants of a white convertible that was a few car lengths ahead of us did not share our luck. Their vehicle was hit hard from behind, turned violently 90 degrees to the left, and sped across the lanes until coming to a brutal stop when smacking into the cement divider of the bridge. Their car was briefly airborne and then landed with an awful thud. The four passengers elevated within the car but none were thrown from it. From the look we got at them, they were stunned and quite possibly injured, but probably not severely or fatally. Then again, my unprofessional diagnosis from a gaze isn't particularly reliable. This all took place within a matter of seconds.

Police were on the scene instantly. We made our way around the accident area, grateful to be unharmed and not wanting to be held up for who knows how long on the bridge when good food enjoyed with loved ones in my childhood home awaited. Between the amount of people in the house, the tightness of space, and the energy level of a child who will not sit still for a waking second unless absorbed in a favorite TV show, Thanksgiving dinner was nearly as chaotic as those terrifying and illuminating seconds on the GW Bridge. But I'll take the good kind of chaos over the flip side any day of the week. Erin, Ava and I are safe and sound. This is what matters.

Have our lives been significantly altered by drastically changed mindsets? This remains to be seen. It's easy to state that we now intend to live and love and create with reckless abandon, but considerably tougher to pull off. Day jobs and daycare woes and less sleep than desired continue to intervene and make it challenging to live a life less ordinary. Then again, perhaps it's not so much about the results as it is about the effort. And since we did emerge unharmed, we continue to have an unspecified if not indefinite amount of time to pursue that which we dream about most passionately. I did not require extra incentive to feel gratitude for each breath I take, but it came anyway and accomplished just that. You never know which moment will be your last, and it's probably unrealistic to live each one as though that's what it very well may be. But what I can do is take the bare minimum for granted and try to make as many of them as productive and gratifying as can be managed.

- Roy


Friday, October 12, 2007

Boo!

I’ve expanded my fabric painting to bibs and am having a blast painting them. I dilute the paint with lots of water so it handles like watercolor. I created this bib for Ava for Halloween, and she wore it for hours last Sunday, by choice, as a decorative piece.

The bibs will be available for sale on ebay soon!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Over the hill gang OR Mature like fine wine?
























Two years after knee pain forced him to walk away from the NBA, Allan Houston at age 36 is trying to make it back with the New York Knicks, a team he led to an improbable berth in the 1999 NBA finals. If ever a team was in need of a Christian influence and a consistent jump shot, it would be the Knickerbockers. And if he ends up needing to play with a cane, he should still be no worse than the third weakest defensive player in orange and blue on the court at any given time.

Vinny Testaverde won the Heisman Trophy the same year his new Carolina teammate Dwayne Jarret was born. He was the No. 1 overall pick eight years before the Panthers entered the NFL and has thrown more passes (several of them as a 2-time member of my beloved and beleaguered New York Jets) than have been thrown in Carolina's history. He's also nearly four years older than his offensive coordinator. Yet the soon-to-be 44-year-old Testaverde — the man nicknamed "Dad" by his new teammates — will not only be in uniform but could very well start this Sunday for the banged-up Panthers at Arizona, going up against a Cardinals team that he turned down an opportunity to play for because of its farther distance from his family in New York City. Starting at quarterback for Arizona will the 36-year old Kurt Warner who is currently playing at close to the Pro Bowl caliber of his younger days, a surprise to everyone but himself.

Another athlete who would not be surprising himself this weekend if he emerges victorious is Evander Holyfield. At age 44 he is attempting to win his fifth heavyweight crown and envisions himself unifying all of the major championship belts before finally retiring from boxing (and committing himself fully to dancing with fellow stars?) for good.

I wish all of them luck and hope they are exhibiting better sense in pushing their bodies to the limit than the latest poster child for illegal steroid use (No, I’m not referring to Barry Bonds. No, not Floyd Landis either) - the lovely but sadly immoral Marion Jones.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Painting wherever I can

Ava lives life out loud! She is a dynamo and a fireball... ready to
jump in and try anything, do anything, and meet everyone that comes her way. I love this about her but her laundry tends to reflect her enthusiasm for life! It is a constant battle to keep her clothes clean and un-stained. On the weekend I often change her clothes a few times a day to keep stains from setting. During the week she goes to group daycare, and when I pick her up her clothes tell the story of the day's activities. Especially on painting days.

They don't seem to understand that 'washable' paint means 'wash it immediately or else pre-treat & wash it 5 times and hope for the best'. And, they don't seem to understand that babies and toddlers should be changed or put in a smock before painting. So I struggle to remove stains and salvage her clothes. Very frustrating. The added twist, as an artist, I certainly don't want to hold back Ava's creative energy - I love that she loves crayons, painting, and all art projects.

My solution, fabric paint! I purchased Jacquard fabric paints, http://www.jacquardproducts.com/ in a range of colors, did a few tests on old t-shirts and now whenever it makes aesthetic sense, will turn stains into patterns and designs on her clothes. Pictured is a lavender tank top that ended up with a large orange dot on it (it became the center of the largest flower)... never quite figured out what the stain was.

So, I stand with stain remover in one hand and a paintbrush in the other and say to Ava, "Go forth and meet life head on, Mommy is prepared."

Friday, September 14, 2007

IMHO
















Here are some of my random thoughts for the day.










1) Britney Spears IS NOT fat, and for a woman who has given birth twice in the past few years, she's downright ripped. Is she currently the leanest she's ever been in her life? Understandably not. Is she worthy of ridicule? Most certainly. From her choice of mates, to her "parenting" style, to her wardrobe malfunctions, to her ill conceived follicular decisions, to her seeming inability to remain sober for more than a few hours at a time, to ... America is a country that just loves to build idols up so they can later be torn down. As a celebrity who should credit sex appeal and slick marketing far more than actual talent for her immense success to date, I consider Britney Spears to be fair game for whoever wishes to mock her. The public has every right to put whoever they wish up on a pedestal, no matter how shallow the reasoning, and equal right to pull the pedestal away and laugh hysterically at the resulting crash landing. Britney can use her millions of dollars to wipe the tears away. But please people, let's not aid the afflictions of anorexia and bulimia by claiming that a woman with an extra pound or two on her frame is Porky Pig. There's plenty more material to work with if you have nothing better to do with your time than make fun of a former Mouseketeer.




2) If I've said it a million times I haven't said it enough. Bill Belichick is an ass. As an NFL addict, I really hope the Jets perform improbably magnificent this season. My fingers are crossed that I do prophetically well in the football pool I'm participating in. But what I most strongly desire for this football season is that it does not end with a Super Bowl victory for the New England Patriots. Even without another ring, I'm sure Tom Brady will have no problem when the time comes to move on from his current supermodel girlfriend to the next one. He won't suffer too much if the Colts repeat as champions and Peyton Manning commercials run 24 hours per day instead of merely the current 23.3 hours. But I'm pretty sure anything less than Super Bowl triumph is pure anguish for Belichick, and that's precislely what a cheater and all around jerk like him deserves. Other than that, since he's never done anything to me personally, I wish him well.




3) Bravo for medical advancement, kudos to the doctors and medical staff who treated Kevin Everett, and God bless that young man who seems to have miraculously escaped a lifetime of paralysis. We were all reminded how little sports means in the overall scheme of things as he lay still on the football field and reports later came that he was probably going to be a paraplegic. It did not initially appear to be a story that would have a happy ending, but an experimental procedure that utilized an ice cold saline injection to temporarily put Everett in a hypothermic state may have rewritten a tragedy into a tale of triumph.




4) It has been tough being a New York Knicks fan these past few years due to their display of ineptitude on the court. The previous general manager seemed to be trying to assemble the least athletic basketball team of all time. The current gm has simply reversed field, going after ballers who jump high and run fast but don't quite manage to play consistently well. They certainly have not been able to play particularly well together in spite of their individual talents, largely because they each duplicate the same skill sets (offense first / defense hardly ever). So they have settled for taking turns having good nights while regularly compiling team losses. They hired a Hall of Fame coach who by all appearances proceeded to try to lose as many games as possible in order to be elevated from the bench to the corporate offices. Only in America does one purposely do poorly in order to be promoted. The Knicks point guard Stephon Marbury has tried to change his image as a selfish player by coming out with an affordable sneaker, but in the process of increasing his interviews and public speaking engagements to promote the shoe, he has further highlighted that he isn't the brightest guy in the world ("dog fighting is a fine sport, is it not?"). As if all of this wasn't enough, now we have the off season distraction of the Knicks gm/coach (as plain old gm he was quite ineffective at just one job, so it was determined he might do better if he had additional responsibilities) being sued for sexual harrassment. Last year he needed to improve the team by an unspecified degree to keep his jobs. This year I believe he merely needs to refrain from flashing his "credentials" to the Knicks City Dancers. It certainly has not been easy to defend being a New York Knicks fan since Isiah Thomas strode into town, but nor has it been boring. If they're not going to enthrall their fans with synchronized championship level play, at least they're entertaining us with Desperate Housewives type theatrics. Go Knicks!!!


5) O.J. Simpson - WTF????? You'd think the concept of keeping a low profile would have occured to him by now. No Johnnie Cochran to save his behind this time around.


I'm out like Members Only jackets.

- Roy Pickering (author of Feeding the Squirrels: A Novella)















Monday, September 10, 2007

September 10th


Tomorrow as everybody knows is the anniversary of a day that will be discussed in solemn remembrance until the end of time, which according to global warming conspiracy theorists should be right around next Tuesday. Everybody with the ability to have an opinion will have something to say about where they were and how they felt and continue to feel about 9/11/01. And everyone with the ability to publicly express their opinions (i.e. - everyone but my parents and the approximately 19-20 other people worldwide who do not yet have a blog/Facebook page/Twitter account) will jam up cyberspace with odes to the end of innocence. Rather than adding to the monumental 9/11 pile, I've decided to write about September 10th. Since the box on the calendar corresponding to 9/11 symbolizes all that can go wrong when you least expect it, as I see it, 9/10 symbolizes the bliss of ignorance that envelops us when all appears to be (and perhaps actually is) well with the world. It is the day before you're diagnosed with cancer, the day before your wife walks out the door, the day before the drunk driver ignores that stop sign, the day before you are downsized, the day before the postman delivers that rejection letter, the day before you realize you forfeited your virginity to a callous dirtbag, the day before she informs you that she likes you only "as a friend", the day before you learn you are pregnant, the day before you learn you are not pregnant, the day before the blind man can no longer see and the deaf man can no longer hear and the fat woman has hit the final note of her melancholy song. 9/10 is the day on which we still have hope, ambition, fearless wonder and unstoppable determination. It is the last day upon which we look forward with zero caution towards tomorrow. For these reasons it is a date that is equally deserving as 9/11 to be remembered and commemorated.

That is why starting today I will make a conscious effort to record and recall the remaining 9/10's of my life. I made a promise to myself on 9/10/07 to get back on the saddle of writing regularly. I'm starting with this blog entry. Later today, perhaps I will resume work on my novel in progress or get started on a short story that I have yet to conceive. 9/10/07 is the first Monday after the first Sunday of the '07 football season. My New York Jets started off slowly and have a 0-1 record to show for it. I was at the game and hated to watch them lose, but enjoyed the fine weather and company of friends and family. My wife was at home with our daughter, and my highlight of the day was when Erin sent a text message to alert me that Ava said "touchdown" for the first time. I am so delighted by her firsts. They are coming at a fast and furious pace, and despite her incredible memory she most likely will not remember them. But I certainly will, at least until the onset of senility which I'm hoping won't kick in until the day after I'm buried. If Ava becomes a Jets fan like her old man, 9/10/07 is the first of many 0 - 1 starts she'll have to endure. The beautiful thing about being 0 - 1 is that you have 15 upcoming opportunities to redeem yourself. Not a bad deal, or a bad thing to realize.

I made a mistake yesterday that I hope not to repeat on 9/10/07 or any of my days to follow. Now I know to always open the cover before turning on my grill to make sure nothing is sitting on it. By doing so I should never again partially melt the plastic handles of utensils. I may not be learning new things at quite as rapid a clip as Ava, but I am still being taught valuable life lessons. I greatly appreciate this because it seems to me that once once you're done learning about the world, there's little point of continuing to live in it.

On 9/10/07 I read about the MTV award show that took place over the weekend. Apparently the ex-husbands of Pamela Anderson got into a scuffle. This reminded me that even though passion is often misguided, it is as necessary a fuel to the soul as oxygen is to the lungs. I also read about Britney Spears' comeback performance where she failed to master lip synching or to display much enthusiasm through her dancing or facial expression. This served as a reminder that when the world knocks you down, even from all the way up on top of it, sometimes it's best to stay on the mat for a bit rather than hopping right back up. There will always be another battle on another day upon which you can emerge victorious. Getting up too soon is usually a surefire way to be brutally knocked down again. You can't win them all, but you can learn from each loss so as to minimize the amount of them.

I'm done for today with attempting to be profound. Time to move on to other things, like lunch. After all, 9/10 is not about being wise or making practical plans or chasing improbable dreams or buying the world a Coke. It is simply a day to appreciate everything you have, however little or much that is. It is a day to eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow is no guarantee.


- Roy L. Pickering Jr. (author of Feeding the Squirrels: A Novella)

http://writeronlinebooks.com/book/feedingthesquirrels.htm

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Musings of a migraine sufferer, 34 years and counting

Subtitle: Living Gluten Free



Living gluten free is not easy – but it is an absolute necessity for me. I have celiac disease http://www.celiaccentral.org/What_is_Celiac_/13/ and gluten is my biggest migraine trigger. It takes vigilance and discipline to eat completely gluten-free, and it is the only way to control celiac disease. I have learned to be informed, to be strict, to read every ingredient http://www.celiac.com/st_prod.html?p_prodid=185, and to be very wary of prepared foods.

Being vigilant is extremely important now since it’s not just for me, but for Ava too. It is challenging enough to be a working mom, who tries to find creative time in all the craziness, but if I am not feeling well I cannot handle my basic, and most important, responsibilities… and Ava gets cheated.

Finding substitutes, acceptable substitutes, is much easier now then it was 5 years ago, especially since we live 3 miles from a lovely Whole Foods in Millburn. After moving to NJ, Roy and I visited Whole Foods for the first time and by the time we made it to the second isle I was crying… There were so many gluten free choices!! I was overwhelmed, relieved, filled with joy – I could start eating like a ‘normal’ person again.

One of the greatest gluten free products I have found is Chocolate Truffle Brownie Mix, by Gluten-Free Pantry http://www.glutino.com/ which is rich, moist, delicious, very chocolaty, and easy to make. The true taste test is that all the non-celiacs who try these brownies love them too! I add walnuts sometimes as an extra treat… but this mix is a winner as is. Bravo to the Gluten-Free Pantry. These brownies are especially near and dear to my heart since I had gone without chocolate for 23 years - I have a lot of catching up to do! I am overjoyed that chocolate is no longer a trigger for my migraines, but that is a story for another day.

- Erin

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Entrepreneurship at its finest


This is the sort of thing that makes America a great country.


He's not one away any more


The big one has been hit. Barry Bonds and San Francisco fans seemed to enjoy the momentous occassion just fine. The commissioner Bud Selig was absent, but the great Willie Mays was there and even Hammerin' Hank Aaron participated in commemorating the historic event (though not in person). Until and/or unless it can be proven otherwise, Barry Bonds is the legitimate home run king of Major League Baseball for however long his reign lasts.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

One Swing Away - Do you even care?






How strange it must feel to be Barry Bonds, a man who is on the verge of immortality yet scorned at every twist, turn and epic homerun along the way. He is in such a unique position that it may be beyond comparison. Has any other professional athlete ever been so reviled while in the process of rewriting the record books? None jump to mind. Race pioneers such as Jackie Robinson and Hank Aaron may come closest, particularly Aaron who was the recipient of death threats as he closed in on the homerun record held by the beloved Babe Ruth. However, the hatred aimed at him was mindless, based strictly on his race rather than his actions. Surely he felt the scorn aimed at him, but he was entitled to dismiss it as the viewpoint of the unenlightened. On the other hand, those who take issue with Barry Bonds have considerably stronger legs to stand on when they shout him down for being a liar and a cheat. Once he owns the Major League Baseball home run record, they will also declare him to be a thief, in possession of what he did not legitimately earn. Hard proof of his steroid use may not be in hand, but circumstantial evidence is in such abundance that it’s impossible to ignore. Outside of his home stadium, the most positive feeling to be found amongst sports fans about Bonds’ assault on baseball’s most cherished achievement is massive ambivalence and lukewarm apathy. Aaron and Robinson may have been looked upon angrily in baseball fields across the land, particularly those below the Mason Dixon line, but they had plenty of people (not just fans of their particular teams) pulling for them as well. They were genuine heroes, practically mythological. As for Bonds’ exploits on the field of play, many words are being used to describe them: suspect, fraudulent, reprehensible, shameful, staggering, impressive, unforgettable, irrelevant. The term heroic is rarely among them.

Barry Bonds most likely did nothing worse than what many of his peers did. Steroids do not enhance one’s hand-eye coordination or increase the ability to differentiate between a 90 mph pitch that will be an inch out of the strike zone and one that is ripe for the picking. Bonds was a tremendous player back when his body type allowed him to easily fit through door frames. Before he ran roughshod over the single season “vitamin” fueled homerun record that Mark McGwire was barely done receiving congratulations for, way back when he could pee in a cup on any given day without an ounce of concern, Barry was a specimen of excellence at his chosen profession. He is not responsible for the strike that drove many away from his sport and kept them away even after both sides of the table came to reluctant agreement. The surpassing in popularity of professional football and basketball over that of our national pastime cannot be placed on Bary Bond’s improbably wide shoulders. It was not his decision to spur the rejuvenation of baseball by causing more runs to be scored (especially via the long ball) by shrinking the strike zone and juicing the ball. When it comes to dishonesty, it should be noted that he also did not invent sign stealing, spitting on or scratching a ball with sandpaper, or any other form of cheating that has been employed practically from day one by countless players in cleats and caps. At worst, he gave himself an unnatural advantage that many of those around him were also enjoying the benefits of. Barry Bonds simply got a better return on his investment than most because he was a better player than most to begin with.

Nevertheless, he races (not so fluidly as in the past, but still effectively) to the top of the heap playing the role of villain rather than godlike figure that fathers implore their sons to be just like. No doubt had Bonds been more personable throughout his career, the press would have chosen to cover his story in a more flattering light. Since sports scribes and sportscasters are largely responsible for shaping the perception of fans, it is entirely possible that if he was a more charming interview, the world would be preparing to sing his praises and pronounce him the undisputed greatest of all time. Instead Barry stubbornly plays on through his aches and pains and minimal chance of postseason play, mostly cheered at home, verbally abused elsewhere, preparing to break a record that has belonged in the classiest of hands for the past three decades. Hank Aaron knows a thing or two about excelling in hostile terrain. Jackie Robinson did too. You could even throw John Rocker in there if you wanted to, though for very different reasons. Like Rocker, Ty Cobb was considered to be quite a jerk, though only the latter was an all time great. Another all time great, Pete Rose, did not bring heat and wrath upon himself until well after his playing days. But when it comes to demonstrating that one is the best at what he does while simultaneously considered by so many to be the very worst of what sports is about, there is no other perspective quite like that of Barry Bonds. To walk a mile in his shoes would be an interesting stroll indeed.


My fantasy scenario for Bonds' record breaking homer has him lofting a fly ball that initially appears to be a sure out before being caught by a fortuitous gust of wind. The nearest outfielder adjusts to the ball's altered flight pattern by making a hasty backtrack towards the fence. Even with Mother Nature lending a hand, the arc of the ball shows the hit to be of less than historical proportion. In trying to gauge how close he is to the wall however, the outfielder finds himself off balance as the ball makes its descent, throwing the timing of his attempted catch a fraction off. This causes the ball to pop out of his glove and over the fence for a blatantly "assisted" home run.

- Roy Pickering (author of Feeding the Squirrels)


http://www.synergebooks.com/ebook_feedingthesquirrels.html

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Class Act Graduates


Curtis Martin of the New York Jets, who has run for the 4th highest amount of yards in NFL history, retired today due to his bone on bone knee injury. Thanks for all of the wonderful memories, Curtis. It was truly a pleasure to watch you carry the ball. The loudest headlines went to individuals like Michael Vick and Randy Moss and Pacman Jones and (name your favorite pro athlete with a mug shot here) while you quietly and consistently carried your team on your shoulders year in and year out, letting your dominating play do most of the speaking for you and also serving as team leader and mentor to those who followed your elusive footsteps. You'll be greatly missed. I look forward to the day that the Jets retire your number and the day you're inducted into the Hall of Fame. Onward and upward.


- Roy Pickering (author of Feeding the Squirrels)








Source: flickr.com via Roy on Pinterest

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Dog Eat Dog World of Michael Vick


Michael Vick of the Atlanta Falcons once seemed to be the most potential rich athlete in the NFL, if not perhaps all of professional sports. Although not that easily impressed, I was moved enough by his skill set to gush about him in the article that can be accessed by clicking on the following link - http://www.suite101.com/article.cfm/sports_issues/113466

That was then, this is now. On the field Vick has not quite lived up to his potential the way you can say someone like Lebron James has somehow managed to equal his hype, but the greatness of Vick's athleticism is undeniable and has led to many spectacular moments from end zone to end zone. His career is still in a relatively early stage, his team is no doubt better with him on the field than off, so what he lacks in playoff victories he has more than made up for in endorsements thanks to his being a pretty decent quarterback trapped in Eric Dickerson's body - the NFL's ultimate double threat. The sky has continued to be his limit even though other players at his position such as Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have managed to achieve more tangible success with their physical gifts than Vick has with his highlight reel theatrics. To put it most mildly, when your turn comes up to play against Michael Vick (once known as the smarter of the Vick brothers, lest you forget http://www.break.com/index/marcusvick.html), you don't neglect to keep him in mind in your defensive gameplan.

If one has the proverbial whole world in his hands and opts to throw it away, hopefully the reasoning will be sound and heart true to self. Or in the case of Ricky Williams, you better at least have an excellent supplier of your favorite muscle relaxer (Isn't the brain a muscle? If not, it oughta be). The world of professional sports is full to overflowing with stories of superstars who screwed up their near magical careers, threw away the ridiculously wonderful opportunity to be paid a fortune to play a game they naturally excel at. The culprits tend to be repeat offenders - addictions to alcohol, to drugs, to whoring, to gambling, and combo packages of all of the above.

Michael Vick has certainly upped the ante when it comes to being a screw up. His vices fall within the genre of gambling, but they did not lead him to typical destinations such as the casinos of Las Vegas or Atlantic City. To the best of my knowledge he does not run in the same circles as Pete Rose or any NBA refs. Rather than falling under the spell of the blackjack table, Vick has managed to jeopardize his endorsements, his career, his reputation, and his liberty (not to mention safety from the wrath of PETA members and other friends to canines) by allegedly running an illegal dog fighting operation (not that there is any such thing as a legal one).

If guilty, and the evidence certainly does seem to be overwhelming, only one word comes to mine. ASSHOLE. Whatever interpretation you personally take from this description, chances are it applies. Unlike many, I don't expect or insist that the athletes I admire strictly for their athletic skill be perfect role models. I understand that like everyone else in the world they are imperfect, and therefore subject to temptation from all ten of the commandments and each of the seven deadly sins. Throw in tax evasion to either of those lists. I shake my head whenever these stories make front and back page news, but by no means am I shocked beyond belief or unwilling to forgive if they seek it sincerely. Child molestation is probably the one horrific act that I find completely beyond redemption, but it tends to be the result of serious mental/emotional issues that one can at least try to empathize with. But pitting dogs to fight each other to the death (not to mention killing pooches who aren't good enough at it by other sick means) to make a few bucks but primarily for the perverse thrill of it is about as low as the depths of hell gets. I've combed through my dictionary, thesaurus and extensive vocabulary of ebonics and a lone word of description keeps jumping to the top of the list.

ASSHOLE.


Here's the indictment for those who may find the specifics of the alleged heinous acts of interest: http://msn.foxsports.com/id/7035302_37_1.pdf

Consider this article the exclusive opinion of Roy L. Pickering Jr. (Author of Feeding the Squirrels)


- Roy Pickering (author of FEEDING THE SQUIRRLS: A Novella)




Thursday, July 19, 2007

And the drum of racism beats on


If you happen to wander into a major bookstore such as Borders, among the tomes you can find is "Tintin in the Congo" by George Remi (who wrote under the name Hergé). Tintin and his dog Snowy first appeared in 1929 and were featured in adventures until 1976, selling more than 200 million copies worldwide. Quite disturbingly, up until a few days ago this book (which is part of an illustrated series about a heroic Belgium journalist) was being peddled to kids. Why do I, much like David Enright who found a copy of it when perusing the children's section of a Borders in Britain, find this disturbing? Unlike the majority of the Tintin titles, this particular one is blatantly racist. A disclaimer is packaged with the book by its publisher and the author himself eventually acknowledged and apologized for the views expressed, reasoning that the mean spirited content was merely a reflection of naive views of the time. That is why Mr. Enright reported his alarming dicovery to a racism watchdog called the Commission for Racial Equality. The organization agreed with him, finding for example a scene featuring Tintin being made chief of an African village because he is a “good white man”, to be highly offensive. The book is filled with representations of black African people as baboons or monkeys, bowing before a white teenager and speaking like retarded children, and even a scene where Tintin's dog Snowy is crowned king. Borders did not agree to remove the book from their shelves, an act of anti-censorship that I somewhat reluctantly agree with, but they did eventually decide to move it from their children's section. Sadly, rather than this being the story of a minor moral victory, it is one of good intentions that backfired. Sales of the comic book have rocketed since the CRE declared it to be racist, shooting up by 3,800 percent. It has reached number eight on Internet retailer Amazon's most popular books list. So the end result is that children may now find the book a bit more difficult to find on their own when brought to the bookstore to pacify their hunger for reading, but racist adults are proving quite eager to buy copies for them.






Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Moment Has Arrived


My novella FEEDING THE SQUIRRELS has been published by SynergEbooks. For under $6 you can purchase a copy of this ebook in your choice of electronic formats. The fantastic cover was designed by the lovely Erin Rogers Pickering, and hopefully those who choose to buy it will find my prose to their liking as well. See below for a synopsis. To read an excerpt and obtain a copy for your reading pleasure,
  • CLICK HERE



  • “Feeding the Squirrels” tells the story of a self-absorbed philanderer who lives a life of leisure and usually manages to remain one step ahead of consequences for his actions. Michael reveals himself to the reader by chronicling his rapid fire sex life woman by woman. He is a prolific lover who defines himself by his various sexual conquests. Each chapter in between the first and last of this literary novella is named after a woman who has been seduced by him, and thus helped to shape his identity. Every one of the erotic encounters can be read as a story unto itself, with Michael’s single minded pursuit of pleasure being the common thread that unites them. Although his succession of affairs are singular experiences to a man who rarely thinks of yesterday or tomorrow, they eventually manage to intertwine and leave him with a web of his own design to untangle.
    I love to hear from my readers, so please stop by after reading "Feeding the Squirrels" to let me know what you think.
    - Roy


    Saturday, July 7, 2007

    Champion Again - She's Your Venus







    Thought I'd make a shout out to 2007 Wimbeldon champion Venus Williams for reminding the world yet again that she should never be counted out on the tennis court. Congratulations for exhibiting your skill, grace, and class on the biggest stage your sport has to offer.
    Below are links to a couple articles I've written in the past about Venus and her sister Serena, and above is a rough sketch Erin did of Venus Williams (going forward she plans to draw sketches to accompany some of my postings).

  • The First Family of Tennis



  • Female Athletes in Pursuit of Greatness
  • Thursday, July 5, 2007

    I am Teething Baby, Hear Me Roar!






    The lion was just completed today, and fits our current theme at home. Ava is cutting her bottom eye teeth, and a few molars, and it is driving her crazy. It is like changing, dressing, soothing, feeding - a tornado! We feel so bad for her, but anything we do to ease the pain just doesn’t last very long. So I dedicate this illustration to Ava, my little darling, as all those teeth come roaring in.








    "Lion Eyes"
    Ink on watercolor paper
    2.5" x 3.5"
    Copyright Erin Rogers Pickering

  • Lion ACEO at ebay
  • Tuesday, June 26, 2007

    Harry Potter Mania



    As a publishing phenomenon, I find the extraordinary success of the Harry Potter series of books (and movies) pretty interesting. As an avid devourer of fiction, I was unable to resist reading the first book to see what all the fuss was about. I found it to be a fairly enjoyable read, but by no means life altering. If I had read it when I was 10 years old, perhaps I would have been fully caught up in the Elvis/Beatles/Menudo-like mania (sorry, I simply could not resist a Menudo reference). But as an adult, and an author, it is beyond my comprehension why these books have become quite as popular as they have. I found nothing between the covers of the first one to be especially unique or ground breaking. To me it simply seemed to be engaging young adult fantasy fiction, well enough written to find a wide audience for sure, but not to inspire a literary revolution. If a single kid picks up a book to read that he would not otherwise have done because the Harry Potter titles make reading "cool", then it is a revolution that I wholeheartedly endorse even if I can't quite understand it. Yet as a writer who also works 9-5 in publishing and tries to keep abreast of what's going on in the industry, I do find it baffling that while J.K. Rowling makes an obscene amount of money due to one of the greatest jobs of marketing I've ever witnessed, there is a substantial amount of quality literature being written that cannot find homes at mainstream publishers or an audience of significant size. This I find to be a shame, not that anyone in particular is necessarily to blame for it. We simply happen to live in a world that celebrates mass appeal mediocrity over thought provoking brilliance. The phenomenon of Harry Potter makes about as much sense as people refusing to get bored of American Idol or young girls being allowed to wear pajama pants to school. That said, here's a link to claims of alleged revelations of the most dramatic happenings in the final Harry Potter installment by somebody who supposedly broke into the publisher's computer system and gained prohibited access to an electronic copy of the book. This may be the truth or it may be a hoax. The mystery will be solved soon enough. For those whose curiousity gets the better of them every time, here you go...

    http://seclists.org/misc/harrypotterspoilers.html

    Link to article about multiple people claiming to offer legitimate Potter finale spoilers - http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/19816389/?GT1=10150

    Monday, June 18, 2007

    We're Back!!!

    It was our initial intention for this blog to be a regular endeavor, although Erin and I never specified exactly how regularly (daily, weekly, every 2 weeks, monthly?) we would get to it. Those of you who have been stopping by have no doubt noticed the considerable gap between our previous postings and those we have entered today. What can I say about that but "Ooops, our bad". The process of day-to-day tends to interrupt even the best laid of plans. Or to put it more profoundly by paraphrasing from one of the great songs of our time - "Fish don't fry in the kitchen; Beans don't burn on the grill. Takes a whole lotta tryin' Just to get up that hill."

    We won't promise to do better, but we will promise to try. After all, chronicling our best efforts at being artists / parents / spouses / entrepeneurs / legends in our own minds / is what this blog is all about. As you can tell from Erin's latest posting, we have been doing a little more than just twiddling our thumbs. Despite our back-to-back trips to Virginia and New Mexico, along with a much shorter trip to DA BRONX, Erin did manage to create another wonderful ACEO -
  • Elephant
  • - and to do some artistic brainstorming for projects she'll eventually get around to sharing with the world. As for me, I made the decision to work towards getting my novella [Feeding the Squirrels] published as an ebook. If all goes according to plan, a copy of it in electronic format will be available for purchase in the not too distant future from SynergEbooks. Erin has designed the cover, so it's guaranteed to look sharp.

    I suppose I could take up some time and internet space to express the wonder of being embraced by the extraordinary landscape of New Mexico, or share my thoughts on fatherhood now that I've had the gig for over a year and almost know what I'm doing half the time, or write an essay on how to get your property landscaped for no cost and practically no effort. But for the time being I will keep these matters to myself and save the energy for future blogging, which I plan to do on a far more regular basis from this point on. When I become as accomplished at "doing" as I am at "planning to do", I will be able to officially declare myself the greatest of success stories. Until then, I have some more fish to fry and beans to burn. Take care.

    - Roy

    Bronx Zoo


    We spent Father's Day at the Bronx Zoo - one of my most favorite places. Luckily, we arrived nice and early so were able to see lots of the animals moving about before the heat of the day set in. Ava had a blast, seeing the animals and playing with her cousins. Roy shot a full roll of film for me for future illustrations... there will be lots more to follow after the Elephant.


    Elephant I, 2.5" x 3.5", ink on acid free paper

    copyright Erin Rogers Pickering

    Tuesday, May 1, 2007

    Trials & tribulations of motherhood


    I have read countless times to keep my sense of humor when all goes wrong, especially as a parent. I think that is easier said than done.
    Picture this… dragging a weary self out of bed at 5am on a drizzly Monday morning (we power-washed and stained the deck on Sunday, so the drizzle was more than a mood buster – the stain hadn’t dried yet), a baby that woke up ½ hour ahead of schedule in a big poop - this is the same child that is cutting molars and spent the morning acting like she had consumed the 2 cups of coffee that I desperately needed.

    In my mad dash to get her bottles and food ready for daycare, and to get us all out of the house by 7am, I knock a full bottle of Brazilian rum out of the cabinet. I know, keeping formula, bottle bag and alcohol in the same cabinet might not be the best idea. The kitchen floor is ceramic tile, the bottle literally exploded on impact… rum and a million shards of glass everywhere. Including all over me - with only 4 minutes left until we have to be out the door. Now my husband has to take her to daycare without me, and has to deal with her newfound separation anxiety alone. I am home changing clothes (with limited choices since laundry took a back seat to the deck – and teething baby - this weekend), sopping up rum, mopping multiple times, then vacuuming over and over to get up an endless supply of slivers of glass. I miss my regular train – and the next one.

    Laughing is not what I was doing, and cursing is what I was trying not to do. Though I did see the bright side, my daughter who is quite often under my feet in the kitchen was in the living room with my husband at the time. Not sure we could have explained it if she arrived at daycare stinking of rum.

    - Erin

    Tuesday, April 17, 2007

    Rhino


    Obviously I have fallen behind in my projected schedule of one illustration every 2 weeks - way behind. I am getting back on track as I finished the Rhino on Sunday and have almost completed a Zebra, which I expect to post by the weekend. I am getting faster which helps since there have been too many things lately to take me away from my art... I was sick, Ava was sick, I have had more migraines than I would even like to admit (because that might mean they are back). But, there has been plenty of good stuff too ...like Ava's first birthday, and a very full social calendar.

    I made my first sale on ebay - "Jaguar Emerging" sold 2 weeks ago. Currently the Rhino and Tiger Emerging are listed on ebay.

    Enough writing for now - my sketchbook is calling.

    "Rhino" ink on 140lb watercolor paper
    2.5" x 3.5"
    Copyright Erin Rogers Pickering

    http://search.ebay.com/_W0QQsassZateliererin

    Thursday, April 12, 2007

    Don Imus sticks foot (and leg and torso) in big mouth


    I do not listen to Don Imus' radio show, other than catching a few minutes of the televised version here and there. So I found it interesting, though certainly not surprising in lieu of recent events, to learn upon doing a google search that over the years Imus and characters on his radio show have:

    * compared the appearance of black NBA players to apes
    * called award-winning black New York Times journalist Gwen Ifill "the cleaning lady"
    * referred to award-winning black New York Times journalist Bob Herbert as a "quota hire"
    * referred to residents of Harlem as "molignans" (the Italian equivalent of "coons")
    * referred to the black wife of former Secretary of Defense William Cohen as a "big-haired ho"
    * called tennis players Venus and Serena Williams "animals"

    And in a July 19, 1998 interview on "60 Minutes," Imus admitted to hiring a producer specifically "to do nigger jokes" for the show.


    Somehow he managed to get away with all of this relatively unscathed. He may be the only "shock jock" with name recognition reasonably equivalent to Howard Stern, who is no friend or fan of Imus, but also no stranger to censorship. As a writer, I'm not a big fan of censorship myself. As a human being, I'm not a big fan of racist, anti-woman rhetoric. As a guy who appreciates a wide range of humor, I understand that insensitivity may not be politically correct, but it can often be damn funny and not especially mean spirited. I'm not a big fan of women's college basketball (I don't even watch the men. When it comes to sports, I typically stick to watching professionals), so perhaps I cannot speak intelligently about the Rutgers team. But if I was to make a blind guess, I'd say that probably not every one of their nappy headed players is a ho, that not every ho on the team is nappy headed, and that a pretty high percentage of them are probably neither nappy headed nor ho'ish. In fact, my research shows that the team includes includes a class valedictorian, a future lawyer and a musical prodigy.


    Repercussions are coming fast and furious. Sponsors such as American Express Co., Sprint Nextel Corp., Staples Inc., Procter & Gamble Co. and General Motors Corp. have pulled ads, the televised simulcast was dropped, Imus has been suspended without pay for two weeks, he has suffered the indignity of issuing a multitude of insincere public apologies, and he has become precisely what he likes to deliver - a punch line. Yet this is not considered by some to be ample punishment. They want Don Imus to be fired. His apologies ring false to them, and the assertion that his cruelty was unintentional holds little credibility. Perhaps Mr. Imus has a point. We all know how easy it is to accidentally refer to someone as a nappy headed ho. I'm sure I've done it at least three times today. And someone who merely gets paid an enormous amount of money to speak on public airwaves can't possibly be expected to pay attention and be held accountable for every little thing he says, right?

    Don Imus may be too much of a money maker to be fired by CBS for a faux pas they're surely praying will quickly go away once something even more ridiculous takes place, like Britney Spears and Paris Hilton becoming a televangelist duo. Or the resurrection of Anna Nicole Smith to proclaim that her daughter has no biological father, but was the result of an immaculate conception. And if enough outside pressure is mounted to force the network's hand, Imus will no doubt land on his feet with someone else in no time flat. He has already stated that he's sick and tired of apologizing, the one piece of honesty that I'll give him credit for. But if he expects me to believe he isn't a bigot, he may as well try to sell me the Brooklyn Bridge while he's at it. And if he expects anyone to side with his decision to make derogatory comments about a group of college girls who were fresh off the sting of defeat in the NCAA championship game, he may need to search long and hard among his most ardent supporters.

    I bet he thinks that if a black comedian said something equally offensive about white people, not merely as much grief would result. And you know what? He'd be right. Is this fair? Maybe not, but plenty in life is unevenly distributed. Call it reparations or affirmative action or whatever you wish, but after being dragged from Africa, enslaved for generations, followed up by decades of separate and unequal treatment that has black people perpetually scrambling to reach equal footing in this country (great strides have surely been taken to date, but have we arrived in the Promised Land that Martin Luther King Jr. saw in his fantastical dream? Not quite), the right to tell a few jokes at the expense of the oppressor has certainly been earned. Just try not to overly paint with too broad a stroke.

    Don Imus does not have any problems catching a cab or being offered a job after acing an interview, and he probably does not make little old white ladies in the elevator extremely uncomfortable simply by his proximity. He is not considered to be less intelligent or articulate or even an inferior swimmer simply based on his melanin count. So no, he has not earned the right to call someone he has never even met and whom he knows next to nothing about, someone who could be my mother, or sister, or daughter a nappy headed ho and expect to get a laugh from me.

    The line between playful tease with comedic intent and a personal hang up about members of a different sex and race is not all that fine. My advice to Don Imus is this. If you're too blind to see the line and distinguish which side you're on, don't go anywhere near it.


    Tuesday, April 3, 2007

    Fashion Statement

    WHITE
    TRASH
    GHETTO
    THUG
    PUNK

    I saw this list of words on the back of a denim jacket the other day as I rode up an escalator on my commute home from work. When the wearer turned his head to say something to his friend, I took notice that he was African American. This took me by surprise because "white trash" had led me to assume otherwise. I looked at the wording on his jacket again and realized that if the words "ghetto thug" had stood on it alone, I would have assumed he was black. If punk had been the only descriptive claim, I probably would have assumed he was white. But by having all of these identifiers grouped together, it was as if he was claiming to be above and beyond racial stereotype. Taking this a little further, I understood that the labels he claimed for himself could each be seen as unattached to any particular race as well. I interpreted the statement of his jacket to mean he was proud of his background, one that he was not defining based on race or nationality or religion, but on his mindset, his attitude, his dispostion, his code of conduct. He was not a preppy, or a jock, or a computer geek, or a (insert cliche personality type here). He was a WHITE TRASH GHETTO THUG PUNK. I consider myself to be an ARTISTIC INTELLECTUAL FASHIONABLE ATHLETIC HUSBAND FATHER BOOKWORM. What does that make you assume about me? Am I white? Black? Asian? Hispanic? Try assuming nothing. Try taking me for what my mindset, attitude, disposition, and code of conduct proclaims me to be. For this is what will tell you who I truly am. This is what should determine if I'm someone you'd want to hang out with or not. This is what my jacket would say if we lived in a world that was capable of seeing beyond color to the person beneath the melanin count.





    Tuesday, March 27, 2007

    Writing, Tennis, & Aging like a fine wine







    ********************************

    My fiction and sports writing are typically intended for separate audiences. But since I have a passion both for athletic games and for the telling of stories, I have found opportunity to merge them on occasion. In the past I have incorporated my appreciation of basketball and boxing as major themes in short stories. I also penned a short story that focuses on a tennis match. Who knows? Perhaps I can do for tennis what Ernest Hemingway did for bull fighting.

    Three of my idols are pictured above. Hemingway's succinct pen strokes were brilliantly effective in telling his stories, much as Serena Williams' mastery with a tennis racquet puts her multiple levels beyond the reach of his peers and Roger Federer similarly defies the aging process when working the various angles of a court.

    I took up the sport of tennis far too late to dare dream of elite status. Yet I stubbornly persist in trying to become as good and consistent a player as possible. My daughter has already mastered the Serena Williams grunt and fist pump so I'm hoping to be as good at coaching and inspiring as Serena's father Richard. As for me writing with the skill of Mr. Hemingway, I haven't given up on that dream yet. Unlike tennis and sports in general, entering my 40's does not place me beyond my prime and incapable of progressing to top ten territory. When it comes to writing I'd like to think that I'm just beginning to hit my stride, with plenty of literary aces left to serve.

    - Roy L. Pickering Jr.

    Wednesday, March 14, 2007

    Women Versus Men Debate Settled



    It has been proven beyond the shadow of doubt, at least to me, that women are way tougher and stronger than men. Throw biceps and triceps and bench press poundages out the window.  They mean next to nothing when it comes to monitoring true strength. I was given enough evidence of the superiority of women when my daughter was going through her colicky period. More often than not she would reach my breaking point as she cried uncontrollably and refused the sweet mercy of slumber. Inevitably the strain would grow too much for me to bear and I would be forced to make a hand-off. But my wife never faltered in such moments. The fact that she was able to slug through months of sleep deprivation and continue responding to Ava's call to arms provided yet more proof. Night after night my body stubbornly refused to give up its stranglehold on our bed at some ungodly hour as our daughter summoned through her baby monitor. Erin has always been able to patiently and lovingly respond. Yet in spite of all this, I still probably would have said if asked that men are inherently stronger than women, up until today when I stumbled upon a sports article online. It informed me that - [Five hours after giving birth to her first child, coach Carol Russell was back on the bench and encouraging her players in the North Central Region basketball tournament]. This would have to rank as the greatest motivational ploy of all time. Talk about not allowing your players any excuses to loaf on defense. The fairer sex continues to astound me. Who knows what wonders Ava will have in store for us in the years to come. She is baby girl, eventually to be woman, hear her roar.


    Saturday, March 3, 2007

    It's official - I am an eBay seller!

    "Tiger Emerging" (as seen in my original post) is officially listed for sale on eBay as of today. The latest hurdle has been cleared! Each small step feels like a huge accomplishment. It's amazing what I can do when Ava naps. If you get a chance, stop by and take a peak.

  • Tiger Emerging at ebay
  • Thursday, February 15, 2007

    Jaguar Emerging



    Second in the series of animal portraits, the Jaguar took much longer to complete than anticipated. Not the actual execution, but finding the time to work on it. Ah, finding time, my ongoing challenge.
    My ink drawing style is slow and labor intesive and I found myself anxious to move on to the next piece. So, I have decided to take a slightly different approach to the next portrait and see where that brings me. More paint, less line - it's time to loosen up.

    Recently purchased on ebay:
  • Jaguar Emerging



  • "Jaguar Emerging'"
    Watercolor & Ink, 2.5"x3.5"
    copyright Erin Rogers Pickering

    Sunday, February 11, 2007

    John Amaechi - Journeyman Trailblazer


    Recently it was announced by former NBA center John Amaechi, as preface to the release of the autobiography he is peddling – Man in the Middle, that he is gay. As a player, Amaechi did little to gain the attention of any but the most attentive of professional basketball fans. He was by no means a star in the league, but rather, what is commonly referred to as a journeyman. This is not to say that his career was completely uninteresting, for there were certainly some noteworthy accomplishments during his time on the court. Although it is rare for a male professional athlete to come out of the closet, particularly those who played team sports (the short list consists of the NFL’s David Kopay, Roy Simmons and Esera Tuaolo, along with Glenn Burke, and Billy Bean from Major League Baseball), John Amaechi had already claimed rarity status prior to telling the world he is homosexual by being a British player in the NBA. Even though the league has become increasingly international over the past decade plus, England has not been a primary exporter. Not only are players from the UK few and far between, but so are intellectuals who admit they performed not out of passion for the game, but simply because it was a logical business decision for a man measuring six feet – ten inches and weighing 270 pounds. Off the court he was known for being cerebral, introspective, multi-faceted, and a pretty good interview. On it, he only managed to score 6.2 points per game over the course of a career that spanned five seasons, with 10.5 ppg the most he ever averaged in a season. His focus was probably diluted by intentions to become a child psychologist and various charitable endeavors. Yet he managed to earn maximum significance from his baskets by being credited with the first hoop ever scored in Miami’s American Airlines Arena, and also scoring the first NBA points of the new millennium on January 2nd of the year 2000. Other than this, his most notable play was not cashing in on his best season by accepting a six year $17 million deal to sign with the world champion Los Angeles Lakers, instead returning to play for the Orlando Magic for about a third of that. This was a loyal and perhaps even noble decision, but not an especially bright one from a financial perspective. For his sake, the deal he made for his book was hopefully a shrewder one.

    Three years after his playing career came to an end, John Amaechi has made headlines by becoming the sixth professional male athlete from one of the four major U.S. sports (basketball, baseball, football, hockey) to acknowledge being gay, and the first pro basketball player to do so. There was a time not too long ago when this would have been a considerably bigger issue. But in the post Brokeback Mountain / Will and Grace era, overt homophobia is no longer politically correct. In this day and age when an actor on a TV show makes derogatory comments about the sexual orientation of a cast mate, it is not the outed actor who finds his job in jeopardy. Instead, the offending speaker is forced to remove his foot from his mouth and opt for rehabilitation. I’m not exactly sure what going into rehab for insulting someone’s preference of mate even means. Up until the Grey’s Anatomy incident, I was under the belief that rehab was strictly for substance abusers. But apparently there is a correctional facility for just about any socially unacceptable behavior. Perhaps employees of the advertising agency behind the Snickers commercial that first aired on Super Bowl Sunday, and was quickly denounced as insulting to the gay community, were sent to rehab as well. Might this also be the eventual fate of Jerry Sloan, Amaechi’s coach when he played for the Utah Jazz, who has been accused of being less than accepting of his former center’s alternate lifestyle? After all, when you consider that John Amaechi’s autobiography has been published by none other than ESPN, it seems clear that the sports establishment is officially choosing the path of enlightenment over stereotypical belittlement and old school disgust. The only thing missing is a catchy slogan. Let me the first to suggest – You’re so gay, and with that I’m okay.

    Reaction to Amaechi’s admission throughout the NBA has been predictably mixed. For every “to each his own as long as he does his part on the court and doesn’t dare hit on me” there has been a “that is not cool because we shower together”. To the perspective of some Amaechi has no doubt attained heroic status, the Rosa Parks of Black British Ballers. Then again, Rosa did not claim she had every right to sit her tired self in the front of that bus from the safety of the curb after choosing to quietly ride in the back. She took her stand, literally her seat, while she was in the line of fire of those angry glares from white passengers. So let us reserve the highest of praise for the first player to acknowledge he is a gay man while still an active player, preferably one who is of All Star caliber. A journeyman player can be cut from his team and not picked up by any other without much being made of it. But if Michael Jordan in his prime had said he was gay, what would have been the reaction to that by teammates, opponents, fans, sponsors, endorsers, and the media?

    Amaechi spoke on the subject of gays in the NBA in an interview back in 2002. “If you look at our league, minorities aren’t very well represented. There’s hardly any Hispanic players, no Asian Americans, so that there’s no openly gay players is no real surprise. It would be like an alien dropping down from space. There’d be fear, then panic. They just wouldn’t know how to handle it.” This strikes me as an accurate characterization of a hypothetical situation at that point in time. Would it be accurate in 2007? 2012? 2020? The answer, whatever it may be, is probably inevitable.
    By Roy L. Pickering Jr.

    Tuesday, January 30, 2007

    This Super Bowl Sunday Is No Ordinary Day


    The first Sunday of February 2007, aka Black History Month 2007, is fast approaching. Super Bowl XLI will be played on that day, not your average run of the mill Super Bowl, but one of historic proportions. No, I’m not saying this because Prince will be performing at half time, though I do find that to be pretty cool. The reason I’m excited about 2/4/07, even though it will be one more Super Bowl Sunday that does not feature my beloved New York Jets, is because African-American men will be patrolling both sidelines as the respective head coaches of this year’s participants – the Indianapolis Colts and the Chicago Bears.

    Black men are certainly not in short supply on NFL fields of play, in fact, they constitute the vast majority of those in pads and uniforms. But when it comes to the skin tone of their bosses, there has been shockingly little rise in melanin count from the league’s earliest days when Vince Lombardi and his pack ruled supreme. One could reasonably cite racism as the cause of such a slow rate of progression. How else to explain the rationale behind Richie Kotite being hired to run more than one team over his career while a large number of qualified African-American head coach wannabes have had to wait and wait and wait for their shot?

    The 2006 season began with 7 Black head coaches in a league of 32 teams. Two of them have since been fired and one team (the Pittsburgh Steelers) recently hired an African-American to be the man in charge of the troops, bringing the current total to 6. Two of those six, Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith, will face off against one another in this year’s Super Bowl. The odds of this happening were probably better than the odds of someone named Lovie ever being a professional football coach, but still, it makes for quite the story, an even bigger one than the castaways (This is not a Survivor reference, sports is my reality television) finally getting off of Gilligan’s Island.

    Tony Dungy has clearly paid his dues, overcoming what would seem to be debilitating personal tragedy with the suicide of his son and fielding a football team that was finally able to get over the hump and make it to the big show. For this reason, coupled with the fact that Peyton Manning slings the rock with precision abandon and shoots some pretty funny television commercials, my rooting interest is swayed towards the Colts, especially since this season’s version of the Da Bears is no where near as entertaining as the last team they sent to the Super Bowl back in 1985 (has it really been 22 years since America experienced its love affair with William “The Refrigerator” Perry and I was pledging Delta Phi during my freshman year at NYU?). If I was a betting man, I’d gamble that years of getting so close without grabbing the cigar is enough to give Indy the advantage over Chi-town, even if the latter is my kind of town, Chicago is.

    History in the making by a couple of class acts on the sidelines, the purple reign of Prince at halftime, at least one television commercial featuring the “talents” of Kevin Federline (who has somehow ended up looking like the classier half of his televised marriage to Britney “no need to put my baby in a car seat cuz I’m country” Spears), and a great offensive team going up against a great defensive one should make for quite a game. Since the NFL is famous for being a copycat league, perhaps numerous teams will go in search of a qualified black guy to be their head coach, much like many of them tried to copy the success of the west coast offense or the 3-4 defense in years past. Or will the NFL prove itself to only be a copycat league when the cat is a white feline rather than one who evokes fear simply by crossing your path? We’ll see soon enough.

    My hope if not quite my prediction is that the appearance of Tony Dungy and Lovie “the millionaire’s wife” Smith will lead to social progress. If the Rooney Rule required any vindication, consider this year's Super Bowl to be it. Perhaps in the not too distant future the number of African American head coaches will reach double digits. Or maybe the impact will be even bigger than that. This historic Super Bowl may actually have enough impact to finally convince the powers that be to move the celebration of Black History to a month with more than 28-29 days.

    - Roy L. Pickering Jr.


    P.S. - Being that Dungy and Smith are such classy guys, some might find them a bit on the boring side. So visit the link below if you wish to see a head coach demonstrating that he epitomizes the last three letters of class.

    Sunday, January 14, 2007

    "Tiger Emerging" first in a planned series of 6



    Success! I completed my first illustration of the New Year. "Tiger Emerging" is the first in a planned series of 6 animal portraits in ink on board in the ACEO format, 2.5" x 3.5". The animals will emerge from the paper as I re-emerge as an artist.




    "Tiger Emerging"
    Ink on 4-ply alpharag board, 2.5"x3.5"
    copyright Erin Rogers Pickering

    First line by Erin, remainder by me

    To get myself going in the new year, I told Erin if she provided a sentence that would serve as the first line, I would take it from there and write a vignette. So she did, and I proceeded to keep my word.

    The shadow men had pursued her for a lifetime and finally she was face to face with her demons. Surprisingly she felt neither fear nor resignation, but rather, impatient curiousity. After chasing her for many years, surely they had an objective in mind. Now that she had allowed herself to be caught, why did they not immediately pounce and devour? What did they hesitate for? Did they linger over their prey mainly to prolong agony, or had they hunted for so long that the original objective was long forgotten?

    When fangs were finally bared, she was surprised to see that they were her own. She stepped forward against all instinct and was forced to supress a grin when the demons took one back in retreat. She raised her line of vision to the heavens and howled at the moon, because for years it had been the lone witness to her terror. Now it was again her audience of one as she sprang to meet her demons head on. If she was to perish at their claws, at least it would be on her own terms. But instead of tearing into their flesh, she found herself clutching at the vacant air they had vanished into.

    She walked up to the full length mirror and let her robe fall to the floor, revealing her naked form. She regarded the violent bruises for a moment, then looked beyond them at the moonlight reflection of a woman made of cast iron. Her days of running were over. The time had come to start hoping she was not irreparably damaged, to begin anew by baptizing herself with the demon blood on her hands.

    Copyright 2007 by Roy L. Pickering Jr.





    Saturday, January 13, 2007

    Introduction to Us




    To blog or not to blog? For my wife and I, the answer to this question was an emphatic YES, followed immediately and diligently by procrastination. Days tend to be pretty full when you're both working full time and coming home to a lively infant on the verge of becoming a high speed toddler. There are only so many hours in the day, and they all seem to be accounted for with a variety of mundane but necessary tasks. During Ava's colicky prime, on the many nights when she would wake up every couple hours between midnight and dawn to remind us of her presence, the thought of extracurricular activity was ludicrous. The only extra that we craved, particularly my wife Erin who shouldered the bulk of the late hours load, was sleep.

    Lately though, the concept of sleeping through the night is one that our daughter somewhat regularly embraces. As for the never ending list of chores to be done, having a good system makes them a tad less overwhelming. We don't quite have that system in place yet, but with experience we have slowly but surely improved our time management, making the notion of writing a blog slightly less daunting. And so here I sit, scribbling our introductory note to the world, or at least to the World Wide Web which is close enough. We have no idea who will find their way here, so will leave that for fate for decide. But whoever reads these words may want to know what has brought Erin and I to the world of blogging. A paraphrase of one of our favorite quotes provides the motive - "A line a day".

    You see, Erin and I are both artists. She is a painter and I am a writer. We knew when we got married three years ago that our lives would dramatically change. It was our intention to go from urban apartment dwellers to suburban home owners, and that we did. We agreed to blossom our partnership of two into a family, and after a sometimes brutal and sometimes hilarious period of battling the fertility gods, we happily went the adoption route. We talked frequently about chronicling our experiences during this eventful time, but never quite got around to it. When you're in the process of being poked and prodded, making love in a closet sized room to a cup, and then abandoning that craziness in favor of voluntarily undergoing the Inquisition to prove your worth as future parents, it can take quite a toll on the creative process.

    All worked out perfectly in the end. We have a great house in a wonderful community filled with great neighbors, and Ava is the realization of our most beautiful dream. It is so amazing to watch her learn about the world around her, and to learn from the process of being her parents. But the purpose of this blog is not to tell our life story, which you now know several of the highlights of. It is not to blather on about our neighborhood activities, or our house projects, or even to brag about our precocious daughter. These are subjects that we will probably touch on from time to time, but they are peripheral to our main objective. What Erin and I are here for is to make good on the promise we made to ourselves and each other. As stated before and bears repeating, Erin is a painter. I am a writer. Neither of us makes a living at these endeavors, yet it is how we ultimately define ourselves. Without a pen or keypad, my sense of self is lost. Without a paintbrush or pencil in hand, Erin is still a beautiful and compassionate woman whom I love with all my heart. But she would not be the woman that I pledged to spend my life with. She would be someone else. Neither of us wants to be someone else. We want to remain committed to the aspirations that have sustained us for most of our lives. We want to tell stories with words and brushstrokes. Our wish is for the pages and canvases of our lives to be routinely covered with the magic that only we can make.

    It is much too easy and common to give up on your dreams. The far more difficult and worthwhile path is to rage against the machine of inertia. No doubt there are others out there who seek inspiration and motivation to continue their own noble pursuits. Perhaps by striving to provide this for those who happen by, we will simultaneously re-discover it for ourselves. John Lennon once wisely noted that life is what happens while you're busy making other plans. Other plans can be all consuming, but Erin and I refuse to be gobbled alive. Instead we will live, she through her painting and I through my writing, and both of us through each other and Ava and whatever other miracles the future may have in store. This blog will be the testament to our will power. Here you will find our opinions, observations, theories and philosophies about the things we are most passionate about. And above all else, you will discover our art.

    Goodbye for now. We are off to create stories and pictures that will hopefully add to the beauty of the world.

    - Roy L. Pickering Jr.


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    I will leave the writing to Roy since he makes magic with words, but want to give some insight to my images and where I am at. The bottom line is I did no painting in 2006 and it left me feeling disconnected and growly. The longer I went without creating, the more the nightmares came. I think I will be a better person, wife and mother if I am faithful to my desire to create art. With all that went on last year that, and also including a surgery, a few subsequent health scares, and my monthly out of town business trips, I simply could not find the time or energy. 2007 will be different.

    We made a promise to each other and ourselves to post new work to our blog every 2 weeks. I am hoping the deadline will help me to carve out time each day, even if it's a struggle, to work on an illustration or painting. So far so good. I started the ink tiger portrait on Jan 1st and have worked on it almost daily since... even if only for 20 minutes a day after all the daily chores are done and I am set up for the next day. It is small format so completion feels attainable. I am following the format for an ACEO which stands for "Art Cards, Editions and Originals".




    These cards are 3.5 inches by 2.5 inches - the size of a trading card. My goal is to complete a series of 6 animal portraits before moving on to my next subject. The cards will be put up for auction on ebay.

    Thanks for visiting and being part of our creative process.

    - Erin Rogers Pickering