Friday, December 11, 2009

Tiger Woods Saga


One of the best things about Twitter is that it allows me to see a wide cross section of views on a hot topic at a glance. I follow a lot of people because I’m interested in learning plenty of opinions, particularly on the subjects of sports, politics, and social issues – especially regarding race relations. These are things that I read and wrote much about prior to discovering Twitter, but my exposure to the views of experts as well as the common man has been significantly increased by time spent reading op-ed. pieces of 140 characters or less.

In recent days the big story has been the mass infidelity of Tiger Woods. At a glance this doesn’t seem like it would be especially noteworthy. A major sports star has been unfaithful to his wife with a number of women. This is not exactly a shocking revelation, although this particular athlete had a squeaky clean reputation and plays a rather gentile sport, so even when single he was not a leading candidate from outside perspectives to be a womanizer. Yet the story has somehow blown up to near epic proportions. Common as the tale may be, we just can’t seem to get enough of it.

As tweets move down my timeline, one opinion I have seen echoed numerous times is that race is a major factor in the amount of attention being paid to Tiger’s situation. Many insist that if Tiger Woods was not married to a white woman, coverage of the story would be considerably less. I am not in agreement with this evaluation. One thing Twitter has demonstrated to me over and over again is that personal perspective and inclinations greatly affect how people translate and react to a story. A feminist will reach one conclusion, a misogynist quite another. Conservatives and liberals are not likely to see things the same way. One who frequently views issues through the prism of race will see matters differently than somebody who rarely thinks of our nation’s history of suppression and oppression. Religious beliefs dominate perspectives, as does the age of a person, as do various other factors. A single event will have multiple interpretations because multiple life experiences are brought to the table. This does not mean everybody is right. Sometimes one’s point of view causes them to see what isn’t there and to miss what is hidden in plain sight. In my opinion, this is what’s happening in the case of those who believe obsession over Tiger Woods’ troubles stems from the fact that he's a black man while his wife and the mistresses who have come out of the woodworks so far have all been white.

I am by no means color blind, but rather, one who fully understands that racism is not a plague we have banished by the election of a biracial president who by appearance we call a black man. This country has come a long way, but still has many miles to go. Yet another thing I recognize is that not every incident that involves people of different races is by definition a racial incident. Tiger Woods’ taste in women is heavily tilted towards Caucasian based on what we’ve seen, but this is certainly not the most fascinating thing we’ve learned about him over the past few days. I believe if his wife was African American and/or his mistresses were as well, sensationalism would still be in full effect for the following reasons.

1 – Tigers Woods is an international superstar, the best known and highest paid athlete in existence. This is in part due to race as I do not believe he’d be as heralded if he was an equally talented white golfer. Prior to his arrival on the scene golf was dominated by white men. Tiger literally made the sport a horse of a different color, expanding its fan base far beyond the pre-Tiger days. Very few people are more famous in America and worldwide than Tiger Woods. You have to go back to Bill Clinton to find someone with such a high profile involved in a similar scandal. Plenty of marriages involving celebrities have collapsed on account of infidelity between then and now, but none have featured equivalent star power. David Letterman’s exploits took us by surprise recently, but Letterman is no Tiger.

2 – Sex sells and this story has plenty of it. It seems a new mistress is revealed by the hour. A couple of them have even been porn stars, and the only thing that sells more than sex is pornographic sex. Plenty of steamy evidence has been provided in the form of text messages and voice mail, so it’s not as if everything is being left up to our imagination. Like the infamous Monica Lewinsky testimony we’re getting plenty of the gritty details and eating them all up.

3 – The pace at which new developments have arrived has been dizzying. First we’re learning Tiger Woods was in a car accident on his own property, either mildly or seriously injured. Within minutes conspiracy theories are being put out for scrutiny, and with good reason. The story Tiger tried to sell us was so weak that not even the most trusting person could fail to see the holes in it. Suddenly the breaking news was not about a car accident but about Tiger’s wife trying to go upside his head with a golf club on account of his infidelity. The name and photograph of a mistress is revealed, then another, then another, and on and on. By the time the number of women had hit double digits we were all hooked on an addictive soap opera. The race of the women is irrelevant. What matters is that someone who we thought was such a wonderful family man is in fact a super freak. The countless number of media outlets in operation today made sure the story was kept front and center and every which way we looked. Much of what has been written about the situation may in fact be inaccurate conjecture, but Tiger’s silence has refuted none of it so there’s nothing to do but watch his carefully crafted image be ripped to shreds.

If I’m going to read celebrity gossip I’d much rather it be about a legitimate celebrity than manufactured reality stars such as Jon and Kate. I’m not a golf fan, I don’t even consider it to be a sport so much as a game of skill, yet Tiger’s presence has been too monumental to ignore, his influence spanning the globe. Of course we care that he’s a man whore, that his goody two shoes act is a gigantic lie, that he is a world class hypocrite. Whatever your degree of fascination or disgust or disappointment or curiosity, Tiger isn’t the lead, middle and end story on every newscast because he’s a black man romantically and/or sexually involved with a variety of white women. Certain stories just grab us by the lapels and force us to take notice whether we want to care or not, and Tiger’s swift and dramtic fall from grace happens to be the latest one.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Ménage à 20 (Twenty Goodreads Authors)


I'm thrilled to announce the publication of Ménage à 20: Tales with a Hook. This short story anthology features 20 writers who are all members of the wonderful web site - GoodReads.com. Ménage à 20 (or M20) can be be obtained as a free ebook download or purchased as a printed book (either paperback or casebound edition) at Lulu.com. I'm a print guy myself, but to each his own. For some reason I warm up to new technologies rather slowly. I still take photographs with a 35 mm camera (my wife owns the lone digital camera in our household), have a cell phone that merely makes calls and sends text messages (no mobile internet access that fits in my pocket yet), and although I do own an iPod that is already considered an antique model (my wife won it in a contest), it was only just the other day that I first purchased/downloaded songs to it from the internet. Up until then my music library consisted of tunes burned to my computer from those relics known as CDs and then transferred to the iPod. No doubt I'll eventually do some reading on an eReader of some sort (I am the author of a novella sold exclusively in electronic format, after all), but eventually is no doubt a good ways off. I digress though, as the purpose of this posting is to let you know about a great new book that I highly recommed to readers who love stories with a twist/surprise ending. My tale in the anthology is "Double Fault". Find out more about M20, which would make a wonderful Christmas gift by the way, at http://www.menage-a-20.com/

- Roy

p.s. - I wonder how many new Tiger Woods mistresses have crawled out of the woodworks in the time it took me to write this posting.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Short Story Sunday XVI: THE TWO-WOMAN MAN















From Pitino to Letterman to Shaq to none other than Tiger Woods, 2009 has shaped up to be a bad year for monogamy and gentlemanly behavior. With that in mind I bring you...




The Two-Woman Man


By Roy L. Pickering Jr.
Copyright by Roy L. Pickering Jr.




“Latasha, I’m afraid this isn’t working out.”


“Is that right, Darryl?”


As expected, Latasha took my announcement in stride. She was not the sort to exhibit her pain. If the world believed she was tough, Latasha thought this would compensate for the fact that she was actually vulnerable and insecure. Perhaps no more so than the next person, but not any less either, appearances to the contrary.


“It isn’t you,” I said lamely, not bothering to mutter the “it’s me” part.


“Thanks. I feel so much better now. I would feel better still if you left.”


Without haste, that’s precisely what I did, officially bringing our relationship to an end. It had lasted a fair amount of time, but was in fact doomed from the start, though she had no way of knowing this. In order to explain myself, I must backtrack to a conversation with my friend Craig.


I had set Craig up with his girlfriend, Robin, and the two of them had recently gotten engaged. So I was teasing him that he owed me a future wife, and this is when he first made mention of his co-worker Latasha. He told me that she was a great catch who he would have gladly put a move on himself, if his situation was different than it was. Craig suggested that Latasha and I should meet. After he produced a photograph of the people in his department so I could judge for myself, I agreed that this was indeed a fine idea. Latasha possessed almond shaped eyes, braided auburn hair that no doubt included extensions, hips rounded just the way I like, and a pair of kissably full lips. An after work get-together was arranged for the following week, with Latasha promised to be one of the members of the gathering.


As it so happens. I was invited to a party the preceding weekend. In a stuffy Brooklyn apartment catered in “bring your own” fashion, I made the acquaintance of Cheryl. Her dancer’s physique contradicted an intoxicatingly husky voice, quite the enticing combination. She kept her hair short, usually not a preference of mine, but Cheryl pulled the look off nicely thanks to exquisitely carved cheekbones, sparkling hazel eyes, and an adorable button nose. Her phone number was skillfully obtained, if I do say so myself, and I do.


A few days later I met Latasha as planned, and we hit it off just as Craig had predicted. This put Cheryl and Latasha in competition against one another for my affection, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I felt pretty good about this at first. Find me a straight guy who claims not to be flattered by the attention of two beautiful women, and you’ve found me one outrageous liar.


I did not plan to doubly indulge myself for very long, however. Past history had shown me that one girlfriend at a time was more than sufficient. I was certain that one of them would pull ahead of the other in my esteem, leaving me with a clear-cut decision to make. Logic dictated that Latasha would come to stand out from Cheryl’s shadow, or else vice versa. But against all reason, neither scenario occurred. Instead, my love triangle continued to roll clumsily along. There is after all, no other way for a triangle to roll.


Despite the inevitable logistical issues to contend with, I must say that I did a masterful job of juggling during the next fourteen months. That’s right, I did say fourteen months. It was very hard work. There were numerous occasions when I was forced to disappoint one because of prior obligations to the other. Time and time again, I had to come up with plausible explanations for letting one or the other down. I handled this tricky business well enough to achieve my primary objective. Neither one suspected the existence of the other. I foolishly believed I was doing myself a favor by maintaining the status quo. Somehow it failed to dawn on me just how ridiculous the status quo was. Or rather, I failed to act on the recognition.


Since I could not choose between them, I suppose I could have concluded that neither one was my soul mate and broken ties with both women. But I was vigilantly opposed to starting over from scratch. Perhaps I did not believe that any single woman could accommodate the diversity of my needs as fully as the combination of Cheryl and Latasha. I was like a child who refuses a peanut butter sandwich as well as a jelly sandwich, only contented by the complete peanut butter and jelly package.


Both Cheryl and Latasha are wonderful women, but neither possessed all that I sought. Latasha’s best points neatly coincided with the things about Cheryl that I wasn’t too crazy about. Conversely, the finer aspects of Cheryl negated the areas where Latasha was lacking. I was unwilling to surrender what I would be giving up, and also refused to wholly embrace that which I only desired in part.


Latasha owned a superior sense of humor. Considerably less of my puns and wry observations floated over her head than was the case with Cheryl. Yet intellectually, I have to give the nod to Cheryl, who was nearly as well read as myself. If I seem to have an inflated opinion of myself, appearances are not entirely deceiving here. I freely admit that I am a self-confident man, proud of my attributes without being unaware of my deficiencies. I make no claim of perfection, nor am I deluded enough to be in search of a perfect woman. But I do hold out hope that somewhere out there is my perfect match.


To continue, Latasha was more proficient in the domestic arena, her cooking going straight from my belly to my heart, just as the old adage promises. Cheryl could not prepare a decent meal to save her life, but she did have a fully developed sense of playfulness, which led me to believe that she was the more maternal of the two. I found Cheryl slightly more attractive, which is a crucial factor. Yet I was aroused to a higher degree by the more sensuous proportions of Latasha’s body. Nevertheless, Cheryl was the one better skilled in the art of lovemaking, or at least possessing greater flexibility. However, Latasha was more vocally appreciative of my sexual efforts, catering to my ego and pulling the category of carnal relations to an even draw.


I fully realized that such a checklist could not be used exclusively to select a life partner. I was not oblivious to emotional factors capable of swaying the heart in whichever direction it was ultimately meant to go. Regardless of how a woman does in such a categorical competition, in the end, she will either make you happy or she will not. So I envisioned as best I could a future with Latasha. I then did the same for Cheryl. I tried to determine which of them touched me most deeply. Who could I imagine myself growing old with?


I came up blank. Or to be specific, I forecast a tolerable existence in both scenarios. I felt great tenderness for Latasha and Cheryl. A frustratingly equal amount. It was not greediness on my part that was responsible for the stalemate. All around me I saw men happy with a single, special someone, and I longed to have the same for myself. I was not interested in running around, I sincerely wanted a lone Pookie, or Snookums, or Honeypie. I simply could not decide who was better suited for the role. Can one possess too much of a good thing? Most definitely.


One twenty-four hour interval during this period distilled the essence of my situation. It started on a night when I lay awake in Latasha’s bed with her cradled in my arms, dead to the world. I held her not by choice, but because she had grabbed hold of my left hand and was clutching it to her breast like a child strangling a teddy bear for comfort. This was her standard post coital posture. Usually I would be exhausted from our lovemaking, so lacked the strength to protest and reclaim my captured appendage. Besides, I was somewhat touched by the gesture, even though I was certain that on nights when I was not around, a pillow served adequately as substitute for my body heat.


Since insomnia was keeping my eyelids open on this particular night, the discomfort of forced immobility proved more than I could bear. Ever so slowly, I withdrew my hand from her grasp. Then I propped myself up and examined Latasha’s face in slumber. The greatest beauty that people can aspire to lies in moments of such serenity. I wanted to preserve it, but did not know how. I only knew that if she could somehow remain in such beauteous repose, I would faithfully and eternally remain by her side. But of course, she would eventually awaken, shattering the perfection of the moment. So I rose and went to the bathroom. Then I returned, lay down on my stomach, and remained still until sleep overcame me.


The next day I met Cheryl for lunch. After a few minutes of small talk, she looked me in the eyes and calmly stated that she was pregnant. She awaited my reaction, but was surely disappointed because I gave none. I did not speak a word, did not move an inch, but merely stared at her unblinkingly, frozen, not even breathing.


“Just kidding,” she said. “April Fool’s.”


I kept still for a beat longer, then drained my glass of water.


“Suppose I hadn’t been joking.”


“I was just thinking the very same thing.”


“And?”


“And I’m not done thinking yet,” I honestly replied, after which I took a bite of my roast beef sandwich. Within a span of seconds I had grown exhilarated and mortified at the prospect of becoming a father, then both devastated and enormously relieved that it was a hoax. With so many emotions running counter to one another, no wonder my central nervous system shut down rather than allowing me to respond.


Fortunately, most of my days lacked such dramatic flair. With great dexterity I maneuvered around landmines such as New Year’s (spent with Latasha, belatedly with Cheryl) and Valentines Day (reverse arrangement), though I won’t pretend for one second that this was simple or inexpensive to accomplish. Quite a toll was being taken on both my bank account and my blood pressure. I had used up every excuse in the book and was writing a brand new one to stay afloat of my lies and misdirections. I feigned many an illness, fabricated numerous phantom business trips, did whatever it took to keep things running smoothly. Yet with each maneuver I pulled off, underneath was the omnipresent realization that my dual romantic status was functioning on borrowed time.


The importance of paying attention to detail is more crucial in a one-on-two relationship than in a one-on-one. Nothing is to be recalled with leisure. Early on I would occasionally stumble, mixing up who I had seen which movie with, or from whom I had borrowed what book or CD. By trial and error I learned not to be so careless with my recollections. The passage of time lived in such a manner regrettably made of me what extensive practice at any art makes of a person – an expert. And most behavior is far more easily learned than unlearned.


A nightmare began to plague my slumber on a routine basis. In it, I would invite Cheryl and Latasha to meet me at the same restaurant on the same day at the same time. Some nights Latasha would arrive first, on others it would be Cheryl. Once the three of us were seated and I had finished explaining the situation, the dream always took the same course. Cheryl and Latasha would begin to argue, their voices rising steadily, and once words proved futile, the disagreement would become physical. One would throw a drink at the other, then food would be flung, next a hand would grab a blouse and all hell would break loose. Then suddenly they would stop. It would dawn on both of them that neither of their wills could overpower or outlast that of the other. So they would turn with twin demonic smiles and unleash their fury upon me. At this juncture I would awaken, in a cold sweat and with a throbbing erection.


Occasionally I would find myself with only one girlfriend for a number of hours. The reason given in each instance was lack of commitment on my part, which I found rather ironic, since if anything, I was too committed. It was Cheryl who broke up with me first, after we had been dating for five months. Tired of my lack of accessibility, she decided that I was not serious enough about our future together. Once she walked out of my apartment, nothing would have been easier than to consider my quandary resolved and Latasha my one and only. All I needed to do was leave the break-up alone, allow it the time that such things require to cement. Instead, I called Cheryl and promised sweetly to make myself more available to her, emotionally as well as on the calendar. I threw in a bouquet of roses for good measure and we were back on track.


Why did I do this? Your guess is probably as good as mine. Perhaps a part of me was more proud than overwhelmed. Maybe I possessed a twisted curiosity to see how long I would be able to carry the madness out. The most likely reason was that however it was to play, I wanted to be in charge of the outcome. I felt the decision was mine to make, and refused to accept one that was handed down to me.


Three weeks later, it was Latasha who grew fed up. I went with tulips rather than roses this time, for Latasha has a preference for tulips. Other than that, same chiding speech, identical smooth talk rebuttal, mirror result.


I was given no less than tree additional opportunities to make things right in the months to follow, two more by Cheryl and one by Latasha. Each time I patched up what I should have allowed to unravel. It wasn’t as if I didn’t know better, but I was helpless against the power of irrational impulses. I was liking myself less and less, not dissimilar to an alcoholic downing glasses of liquor he is desperate but helpless to resist.


Sometimes, being with Cheryl made me regret that I was cheating on someone so wonderful. Other times, Cheryl’s flaws nearly convinced me that Latasha was the one I should settle down with. Time spent with Latasha was equally confused and contradictory. My desire for and dissatisfaction with both women went back and forth like a ping pong ball. The most consistent emotion I felt was guilt, but even this fluctuated, because human nature includes an instinct that allows people to justify just about any behavior. I knew I was not the first man to behave so badly, and was unlikely to be the last. Ridiculous as this rationale was, it managed to get me through the nights when I was made restless by my troubled conscience.


Contrary to what you may have opined by now, I am not a heartless man. I am merely a creature of comfort; an addict of stability; a coward in the face of confrontation; an impractical idealist; a seeker of pleasure; a fugitive from pain; a breeder of insecurities; both an opponent and advocate of chaos. I felt every ounce of Latasha and Cheryl’s hurt as they simultaneously strove for an intimacy that seemed within reach, but persistently eluded each of them. I empathized with the longing for closeness that they expressed in very different ways, but conveyed with equal effectiveness. They were both looking for a reliable brand of love. As for me, I was earnestly seeking a way out of the labyrinth of deception I had manufactured. I was being held prisoner by my own self for reasons that I freely gave to others when asked, yet in truth, possessed little comprehension of.


“You have to remove yourself from that mess,” my brother advised. “The last thing you need is two honeys on the warpath with you in their crosshairs.”


“If you were in my shoes, which one would you stick with?”


I had asked Meldrick this question numerous times before, in hope that an outside opinion might help sway me one way or the other. He had been noncommittal on the prior occasions and would be remaining true to form.


“I wouldn’t be foolish enough to be stuck in those shoes, Darryl. I think they’re both great. You don’t deserve either one, and certainly not both.”


“Maybe I should just flip a coin. Or join a monastery. I’m not cut out for this nonsense. I need to fix this somehow. I need to start living my life instead of letting it live me.”


“What you need is a backbone.”


“Come on, little bro. Cut me some slack. Believe it or not, I am trying to do right by both of them. It’s just taking a little longer than I had planned.”


“We should hang out this weekend,” Meldrick suggested. “Get the old crew together and go buck wild for a few hours. Maybe we’ll hit a club. No wives, no girlfriends, no nagging. What do you say?


“I say I’m in.”


The following Saturday night I got together with Rahim, Omar, Miguel, Jamal, and my little brother. We had not gone out as a group without significant others in tow since Meldrick’s bachelor party two years earlier. Since then, Miguel had also renounced his membership to the single life. There had been no carousing in advance of his nuptials, because he and Kathleen eloped due to disapproving family on both sides. Jamal had recently moved in with his long time girlfriend after finding out that she was carrying Jamal, Jr. Rahim was a seasoned veteran of married life, having gotten hitched shortly after college graduation. Omar had proven himself to be the fondest of our group of matrimony, if the criteria used was quantity. At forty-five years of age, he was contemplating proposing to the current love of his life, would be bride number three, a recently retired exotic dancer whose professional name was Butterscotch.


The plan was to drink a little too much, reminisce fondly about days of far less responsibility gone by, and laugh like the world was our own private amusement park, because for this one night, that’s precisely what it was. All about us in the trendy bar we had selected to hold court in were alluring man traps. These beautiful young women were done up in their best, eye candy for a group of guys on strict diets. Following a look but don’t touch rulebook, we contented ourselves with watching them glide throughout the room, neon spotlights framing their every move. Our commentary may have been deemed vulgar by devout feminists, but in fact, our only intent was to pay homage to the daughters of Eve.


I was pretty buzzed when my attention first became drawn to Lauren. One look at her was enough to sober me. She was quite possibly the most beautiful woman I had ever seen in the flesh. Perhaps that is why I approached her so confidently, convinced that this must be a movie in which I was the leading man, for before me was surely a celluloid heroine.


“Hi. Would you like to dance?”


“With you?”


I was momentarily taken aback by her reply. To my credit, I kept the moment brief.


“Well, not necessarily. Your choices are either myself, Denzel Washington, or Fred Astaire. But the thing is, Denzel ain’t here and Fred is dead. So what do you say?”


“I guess you’ll have to do then.”


She took my arm as I led her to the crowded dance floor. I knew immediately that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with this woman on my arm, by my side.


During the next three weeks I saw Lauren as frequently as possible. I had not been so smitten with anyone since high school, when the curly locks of Michelle Allen set my heart racing every time we crossed paths in the hall. Yet I could never summon enough courage to make my crush on Michelle known. Twenty or so years later, I would not allow Lauren to also slip away due to inaction. It was time to clean my slate.


“Latasha, I’m afraid this isn’t working out.”


And so I have traveled full circle, back to the beginning of my tale. Lauren supplied me with Herculean strength where before there had existed the meekness of an asthmatic mouse. The unpleasant things to be said and done were said and done, and then I was on my way.


The following evening was scheduled for déjà vu. Cheryl was not as talented at concealing her emotions as Latasha, so my second parting of the ways did not go as easily as the first, “easily” being a relative term. Like Latasha, Cheryl had seen that an ending was imminent. But she was not so willing to accept our fate. Her tears moved me, of course, but they could not shatter my resolution. Her sense of drama was unable to break my will.


I never intended to hurt either of them. Prick me with a pin and you will see that I am made of flesh and blood, not stone. I did not string Cheryl and Latasha along, nor ultimately choose to let go of the strings, strictly for my own amusement. It may appear to some that this is the case. I will waste no more words trying to convince them otherwise, for people will believe whatever their minds are set on believing. Sometimes there are crimes with no victims. Other times, there are victims without a true crime. Or so I tell myself.


Freedom at long last earned, I was anxious to forfeit what had been gained. I wanted nothing other than to possess and be possessed by Lauren. I had come to understand the spring that has characterized my brother’s steps ever since the day he met Sharice, and without a second thought or moment of regret, laid permanently to rest his wandering ways. Now I would do precisely the same. Now I was home.


Three weeks later…


“I don’t know how to tell you this, Darryl. The thing is, I’ve decided to get back together with my ex-boyfriend.”


“But why?” I managed to ask, as dumbfounded as I was crestfallen by this turn of events. “What we have is incredible.”


“I know,” Lauren said. “I just feel I owe it to James to give our relationship another try.”


“How about what you owe me?” I asked, determined to fight the good fight to the end, to salvage what I had come to cherish. “You must have broken up with James for a good reason. Can you honestly say I’ve given you reason to be anything but happy?”


“No I can’t. But the truth is, I didn’t break up with James for a very good reason. Actually, I never broke up with him at all.”


“What? Are you telling me you’re dating both of us at the same time?”


“No. I was dating both of you. Now I’m just dating James.”


There was no arguing with that sort of logic. Like all women, Lauren was not burdened with the task of having to make sense. She simply needed to declare her latest intention, which indeed she had.


“Can you answer me one question, Lauren? How did you decide which one of us to pick? How do you know you’re not getting rid of the wrong guy?”


She gave me a look that could be translated as nothing but pity. Tenderly, brutal pity.


“Some things you just know, baby.” Lauren kissed me on the cheek to signify the end of her mercy killing. Then she was gone for good.


I’ve always been fascinated by how a person can make but a brief appearance into the world of another, amounting to little more than the blink of an eye in a personal history, yet have a most profound and permanent effect on that life. Whether it stands to reason or not, the opposite is often the case as well. Someone can influence and be influenced by virtually every action of another person for months or even years, then be plucked away one day without leaving the faintest trace of having existed. The impact of my desertion of Latasha turned out to be far less devastating than I had egotistically foreseen. She has recently moved in with the guy she hooked up with after me. Ironically, or perhaps poetically justified, Latasha met Alvin the same way she got together with me, through an introduction by Craig. I get the feeling that the happily married Craig has a thing for Latasha, preferring that she be in a relationship in order to remove the temptation. People do what they must to preserve harmony in their lives.


As for Cheryl, instead of rolling over and dying, she married a hotshot investment banker within a year of our parting of ways. They are expecting their first child in four months time.


I’m glad that things worked out for Cheryl and Latasha. Do I regret letting them go? Do I wish I had been able to appreciate what I had prior to its being gone? Is there anything I would have done differently, like rendering a decision of some kind? Yes, yes, and maybe, but I still have no idea what choice should have been made. I’m older than I was then (given little choice in the matter), and maybe even a little wiser. But the heart has its reasons for everything, and I’m the last guy who can fathom them.


Of one thing I am certain. I’ll get by. I’m not dating anyone regularly at present. I thought a hiatus from the mating game might do me some good. Eventually, I’m certain I will be properly suited for a healthy monogamous relationship. Maybe such a state of maturity is just around the corner.


Then again, I did meet a woman at the gym the other day who seemed quite receptive to my charm. And I’m having great difficulty keeping a professional amount of distance from a certain shapely business associate of mine. So maybe I’ll hold off on growing up for just a little while longer. After all, there is no need to rush around a corner when the view straight ahead suits you just fine.


X X X X X
The End



Sunday, October 25, 2009

SHORT STORY XV


In honor of Halloween I've decided to post a story of love from beyond the grave for the fifteenth installment of Short Story Sunday. Enjoy!
HAUNTED






Michael gazed across the Hudson River towards New Jersey. He was treated to the sight of a seagull pirouetting just above the reach of waves that followed a ferry like a puppy at its master’s feet. Watching boats pass by his vantage point on the Upper West Side of Manhattan was Prozac to Michael’s soul. From here, all hurlyburly was put on hold. He came to this basin when he wanted to clear out the clutter in his mind, to banish matters of distraction so he could render decisions that would determine the direction of his life.

Not long ago, he would observe the rolling surface of this water on a regular basis as he contemplated the state of his marriage. He knew that Elisha was a good fit for him. There was no need to question her devotion, nor reason to doubt that he was far better off with her than without. When he looked into his wife’s piercing green eyes, he felt certain that she understood him more clearly than he comprehended the workings of his own mind, the longings of his own troubled heart. Yet with deep regret, Michael had concluded that he did not love Elisha. He could not, for he was incapable of loving more than one woman at a time, and his loyalty was pledged to another.

His life was supposed to have been spent with Isabelle. It was she who had answered wishes made upon stars and dandelions. But one tragic night, Michael’s fate had been re-written. Alone when she should not have been, taking a route best avoided at such a late hour, Michael’s first wife was confronted by a gun barrel placed to her temple and a demand for her belongings, to which she complied. When a nervous finger accidentally pulled the gun’s trigger, all for Michael was lost.

Time came to a standstill at the moment of the police officer’s pronouncement. Though seasons continued to change, historic events unfolded along with the commonplace, and people grew older if not wiser, for Michael, the sand had become trapped in the center of the hourglass.

Three years later, he met Elisha at a Super Bowl party. Both of them being equally uninterested in the game’s outcome, they fell into easy conversation. Neither exerted much effort trying to impress the other, or in feigning the characteristic buoyancy of singles on the prowl. Instead they spoke naturally of matters of consequence and mutual interest. When told a week later that she was interested in him, and prodded by busy body friends to act on this, Michael decided no harm would be done by giving her a call. So he arranged to have his first date since the passing of Isabelle. He treated Elisha to dinner and a Woody Allen movie. Not agreeing with friends who had promised it would just like riding a bike, naturally taken up regardless of how long an absence, Michael expected for there to be awkward moments as the two of them fumbled their way from intrigued strangers to passionate co-conspirators. But within half an hour it was as if they were an old couple, beyond sexual tension, too world weary for desperate optimism. Their relationship moved along from day one with minimal exertion. Michael and Elisha fit neatly into each other’s lives, allowing one another’s lonely spots to fill in with unquestioned silence. A year to the day they met, they were wed.

Michael truly wanted to be happy with Elisha, or at least a reasonable simulation, and thought for a while that this just might be possible. He had done, at least by appearances, what people are supposed to do, what concerned loved ones had urged him to do. He had let the past go and moved on. But once the honeymoon ended and they settled into their new home together, reality sunk in. Isabelle’s side of the bed could be filled by another, her title of Mrs. Michael Beechman could be passed on, but no one could hope to take her place. The trappings of supposed marital bliss served mostly as potent reminders of what had once been, of who he had once loved, of who he loved still.

To the best of his ability, Michael kept these feelings hidden from Elisha. He wanted to spare her from undeserved pain, for she already harbored more than a fair share from a tortured past of her own. He earnestly desired to fulfill the duties of a steadfast husband. Elisha was not to blame for the memories that held him captive, nor was there anything she could do to release him.

Doctor Sylvan came recommended by Michael’s sister. Without telling Elisha, he began to meet with the psychiatrist once a week. This went on for three futile months. Analysis could only explain, but not change the simple facts. He had fallen completely in love with Isabelle and could not figure a way to climb back out. Michael was not in denial that she was gone. He just did not want her to be. One impossible thing was all he asked for. He wanted Isabelle in his arms again, wanted his life as it had once been, wanted his destiny to be put back on course.

Laura Mesalina’s services came to Michael’s attention from a woman he worked with. Strong skepticism was his initial reaction to the thought of visiting a medium. Hocus pocus was well and good for entertainment, but no matter how cleverly a magician deceived people, no illusion could hold up to the scrutiny of common sense. The notion of ghosts made for spooky bedtime stories, but in real life, the people one came across were made of flesh and still pumping blood. Death was a permanent exit, with no long distance calls to those who had left. Michael considered psychics to be the equivalent of card sharks, kept in business by the pathetically gullible. Those lost souls were paying for fantasy. Nothing wrong with that. But it would be more economical to laminate the messages found in fortune cookies.

“It was an amazing experience,” Barbara proclaimed in one of her morning visits to Michael’s office for gossip and chit chat. “I know you think this sort of thing is silly, but I’m telling you, Laura definitely channeled the spirit of my mother. There is no way she could have known some of the things she said. My mother was in that room. She spoke to me, I spoke to her. It was real. As real as we are to each other right now. Laura has a gift. A very special, wonderful gift.”

Michael handed her his handkerchief, for Barbara’s eyes had begun to tear up at the recollection. She was a bit of flake, no doubt about that. This was not the first strange tale to have come from her lips. Barbara was one of those people in constant search of fantastical reasons for ordinary events. Since she was a sweet woman who doted on him, Michael accepted her eccentricities without ridicule.

“I’m sure it seemed quite real to you.”

“It didn’t seem real. It was real.”

Michael smiled and hoped his expression did not appear patronizing. He then excused himself and put the conversation out of mind. Or so he thought. But an idea had been planted in his brain, and in spite of his resistance, it took root and started to grow. Desperation caused one to ignore the laws of logic. One month later, he had his first session with Laura.

“Do you remember the day we first met?”

“Of course I do,” Michael answered, having decided to play along for a little while that the psychic’s body was temporarily in possession of his wife’s spirit, pretending that it was indeed Isabelle who spoke to him. He knew his patience for this game would be short. He had come primarily to rule post mortem communication out as a possibility.

“I returned Taylor to you.”

Michael did not bother to hide his surprise. Had this woman researched him after the appointment to see her had been made? Had she spoken to his friends and family members in the past few days? How else could she have known that he had lost his dog; that he had plastered the neighborhood with signs offering a reward for his safe return; and that just when he had about lost hope, Michael came home to a message on his answering machine that a woman had found Taylor?

“I could tell you would be a nice guy from the posters you put up. Something about your words stuck out.”

“They stuck out because you had my dog,” said Michael, feeling a bit foolish that he was still speaking to a charlatan as if she were his dead wife, but getting caught up in the bizarre scene unfolding.

Laura ignored his sarcasm, just as the real Isabelle had always done.

“When I spoke to you on the phone, you seemed really sweet. Especially when you told me who Taylor was named after.”

“Well I couldn’t call him Stevie Wonder,” Michael said. “My turtle already had that name. So James Taylor it was.”

“I was hoping you would be single, and cute.”

“All I wanted was my dog back. Until you opened the door. Then everything changed.”

“I had a good feeling about you before we ever met. It was just a crazy hunch, but sometimes crazy hunches are right.”

“I got my dog back,” Michael said, tenderness overcoming him, marking each of his words. “And I met a girl.”

“You met your future wife.”

“Sure did.”

“I bet you wouldn’t have worn that dreadful shirt if you knew who you were about to meet.”

Michael now knew for certain that Laura was for real. It was none other than Isabelle who sat across the table from him, somehow drawn from the realm of the dead into this woman’s body. Like his deceased wife, Laura had shoulder length chestnut brown hair. The two women also possessed similarly shaped mouths. This was the first thing Michael had noticed about Laura, and was now what his eyes focussed exclusively on.

“Of course I would have,” he said. “That’s my lucky shirt.”

“It didn’t make a very favorable first impression. I thought I would have my work cut out for me. Fortunately, the rest of your wardrobe wasn’t nearly as sorry looking.”

“I think it’s a fine looking shirt, but that’s beside the point. Luck doesn’t need to look good. It just has to work.”

“I was the one feeling lucky after I opened my door. I knew immediately that you were the guy I had been waiting for my whole life.” “I knew you were the girl I was supposed to fall in love with,” Michael said. “Plus I got my dog back. I didn’t even blame Taylor for running away once I saw who he had run to.”

“You never wear that shirt anymore, so why don’t you throw it out?”

“I wouldn’t do that any sooner than I would get rid of Taylor.”

“I know, Cuddlekins.” Michael had not been referred to by the silly nickname Isabelle had given him since the morning of her death. He forced the lump that had formed down his throat.

“I miss you so much,” he said.

“I know that too.”

Regular sessions with Laura were penned into Michael’s itinerary. What initially seemed unnaturally strange joined habits like his morning coffee and bagel and his evening jog. It was the closest possible thing to having Isabelle back. As the subsequent months went by, the distinction between these simulated resurrections and the actuality of such an event grew dimmer. Once a week he stared at a mouth shaped nearly identical to the one he had kissed countless times, recalling indelibly stamped memories with the spirit of the woman they were made with. It seemed to Michael that he had everything he could think to ask for, and then some.

He was living, or at least reliving, a wonderful existence in this room of alternate reality. But the rest of his time was spent in another world, with a woman who was legally acknowledged as his wife. The two situations could not mesh indefinitely. Guilt over his spiritual infidelity began to set in.

Isabelle was no longer relegated to private reflection in quiet moments. She was now the other woman. Or was Isabelle in the forefront while Elisha remained in shadow? Had reality been pushed to the background of his life in favor of an affair with an apparition? Michael didn’t know what to think, but knew something would have to be done to make sense out of the chaos.

He needed to choose between yesterday and tomorrow. Between the dead and the living. Between his one true love and his one true chance. Between remembering and hoping. Should he embrace a fate of sweet sorrow, or that of sorrowful sweetness?

His heart leaned in one direction while rational thought guided him the opposite way. He needed the wisdom of someone who would understand his dilemma and advise him without prejudice.

“So what do you think, Isabelle? Should I stop coming to see you and give my marriage a chance? Or should I leave Elisha, now that I know where to find you? If you want me to end my marriage, I will. But if you think I should give life with her a chance, just say the word, knowing this would mean me staying away from you. I will go by whatever decision you make. I will do whatever you want. Just tell me.”

No response came in the minute to follow. Finally, the silence was broken.

“She’s gone, Michael. She needs to think it over. Come back next week same time as usual, and she’ll have an answer for you.”

“Okay. Thank you. Thank you for everything.”

Michael’s eyes were not met, so his gaze fell onto Laura’s mouth as she spoke.

“Your time is up. I have another client waiting. I’ll see you next week.”

“Bye, Laura.”

“Take care, Michael.”

Three days later, he came home and found his wife sitting on the sill of their living room window. Michael did not ask her why she had been crying. This was not due to his being a callous man, but rather, one who easily adjusted to routine. The sight of Elisha in tears was not uncommon, for the measure of her grief was beyond containment. Twenty two years ago, after six years of torment, her accusations had finally been believed. Her mother found all the evidence she required and was forced to acknowledge the unthinkable. Shortly thereafter, Elisha’s step-father was arrested for his deplorable acts.

Michael walked over to his wife and rubbed her shoulders.

“Did I ever tell you why I was so adamant that this was the apartment we should make a home of?”

“You liked the moldings,” Elisha answered. “And the height of the ceiling.”

“You sat down right where you’re sitting now, the sunlight was framing you the same way it is today, and I knew I wanted to view that perfect picture as much as possible.”

To a stranger, it would not have seemed that Elisha’s expression changed quite into a smile. But Michael had mentally cataloged her many subtle looks and knew she was pleased.

“You forgot to mention that we got a good deal because of your business deal with the owner.”

“I’m trying to be charming here. Cut a guy some slack.”

“I’ve always been a sucker for smooth talkers,” Elisha said, placing her hand for a second on Michael’s cheek.

“So, you want to try the new Vietnamese restaurant that opened around the corner for dinner tonight?”

“You’ve read my mind. I suppose then you already know about the decision I made today.”

Michael sat back. Elisha was far more adept at reading his thoughts than the other way around. Nevertheless, he sensed correctly that she was about to reveal something of greater importance than her choice of new drapes for the bedroom. Since first meeting her, Michael had never ceased to marvel at Elisha’s habit of dramatically reacting to mundane events, and conversely, describing the extraordinary in a banal manner.

“No, I don’t,” he said.

“I guess my mind reading is reserved for culinary matters. You’ll have to tell me.”

“It’s time I claim myself back from him.”

Michael took hold of his wife’s hands. He knew she had traveled a long road to reach this point.

“If I don’t,” she said, “it hardly matters that he was caught and punished, or that he found religion in prison, or that he’s dead now, so changed or not, there’s nothing he can do to me anymore. I’ve never stopped feeling used and degraded. And there’s no use continuing to blame him. I’m the only person who can do anything about it. So that’s what I’m going to try to do, with your help. I don’t want to be that terrified thirteen year old girl anymore.”

Michael sat back quietly as his wife spoke. He had wondered for a long time if she would ever be able to say these things. Now that the moment had arrived, he wasn’t sure how to feel. Certainly he was happy that she was allowing her wounds to heal. But their lives would undoubtedly change on account of this, and Michael had not adequately prepared himself for a different sort of existence with her.

“I want a baby,” Elisha said. “I want a family. I’m ready.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, I’m sure.”

Michael’s question was a reasonable one, given the circumstances. He and Elisha had been man and wife for twenty three months, but their marriage was not yet consummated. Elisha had never willingly given herself to a man. The period of hell that ushered her from childhood to shattered woman had closed her mind and heart to the possibility of lovemaking. Their marriage had therefore been arranged with the condition that Elisha would be unwilling and unable to accommodate carnal needs. This arrangement had worked out fine for both of them. Michael had been celibate since Isabelle’s death, and the urges of his flesh had remained subordinate to the quality of his grief. He and Elisha had been content to cuddle together like lost orphans nursing the wounds of their pasts. While setting up this tepid life, it scarcely occurred to Michael that one of them might eventually want more from the other than a shoulder to cry on.

Elisha ran a hand through her husband’s hair. Their relationship was not conventional, perhaps a little more complicated than the norm, but this in no way subtracted from the authenticity of her love. Her mind was made up to act upon this. There was however, an important issue to be addressed, a question that she had to ask.

“How about you? Are you ready?”

Four days later, Michael stepped through the doorway of Laura Messalina’s mystical chamber. Melodic chimes announced his entrance. As was his habit, he took a moment to adjust his vision to the room’s dim lighting. The duration of his pause was longer than usual, filled with innumerable thoughts. This would either be the final time he communicated with Isabelle, or else the passing of the verdict that his marriage must be sacrificed.

Elisha’s decision to remove the chastity belt binding their marriage had been no less surprising to Michael than his subsequent yearning to comply with her wishes. When she leaned forward to kiss him, he anticipated blankness. But what he found was passion. The kiss instilled uncertainty and even a degree of fear into him. It unearthed desire, which could only compromise his ability to reason at this most critical juncture. Yet he did not wish for the kiss to stop.

Michael did stop, however. He had to. He told Elisha that he needed time to get used to the idea of legitimizing their wedding vows. Her change of agenda had certainly not been made swiftly. Still, it came too suddenly. Especially since he was just days away from finding out what Isabelle wanted. His marriage might soon be over. It seemed ludicrous to begin a love affair with his wife now.

“Hello, Laura. Well, this is it. Time to find out what Isabelle has to say.”

Michael sat down across the small, round table from Laura and tapped his fingers on the elaborately embroidered silk cloth that covered it.

“I’m prepared to do whatever she asks of me.”

Laura took hold of his fingers to still them.

“Sorry. Guess I’m a little nervous.”

Laura’s eyes issued understanding and compassion. Michael had looked into them for many hours, yet felt as if this was his first time seeing her. She was not merely the vessel through which Isabelle reached out to him. She was a kind and wise and beautiful woman who knew more about him than practically any living soul.

“Laura, does it seem nuts what I’m willing to do? I want to know what you think. I suppose it’s in your best interest if Isabelle asks me to keep coming back.”

“If I was to give you advice, I would never let money influence what I said.”

“Of course not.”

“But I’m not going to give you advice. I can’t.”

“Why not? Would that break some code of your profession?”

“No, nothing like that. It’s just … It’s just that I haven’t been completely honest with you.”

“How so?”

Laura withdrew a piece of paper from her purse and slid it across the table. Michael looked down and saw that it was a check. A check made out to him for fifteen hundred dollars.

“What’s this for?”

“That’s how much money I owe you. That’s the amount I’ve cheated you out of.”

Michael could do nothing but stammer that he did not understand what this was about.

“Fifteen hundred dollars covers how much you’ve paid for the last ten sessions. It isn’t right that I accepted payment for them, because I’ve been deceiving you.”

“This doesn’t make any sense. You’re a fake? How could that be? No phony could have known the things you knew.”

“I’m not a fake, Michael. I’m only reimbursing you for the last ten sessions. We’ve met far more often than that.”

“I’m lost here. You were really channeling my wife’s spirit at first? For months and months everything was legit? Then you decided to stop doing it, but pretended you still were in order to keep getting paid? Is that what you’re saying?”

“It’s not quite that sordid.”

Michael had come to this room with the weight of the world already on his mind. Now on top of this, Laura had it spinning in circles.

“Then what the hell are you trying to tell me?”

“I didn’t decide to stop channeling Isabelle. The choice of when and if a spirit wants to speak through me always belongs to them.”

Michael took a deep breath to help steady himself. “Yes, I understand.”

“Isabelle came voluntarily for a long time. Longer than most. She knew how deeply you were hurting, how badly you missed her. She wanted to help.”

Laura put a strand of hair into her mouth for a couple of seconds. This was not a habit that Isabelle ever practiced. Michael had spent a great deal of time studying Laura’s way of speaking and gesturing. Picking out which characteristics were reflections of Isabelle and which were Laura’s own had become a reflex.

“Continue,” he said.

“Then one day she told me something. It was a message I was supposed to pass on to you the next time we met. But I didn’t. I didn’t tell you that Isabelle would not be coming back anymore. She felt you were growing too dependant on these sessions. She wanted you to walk amongst the living again. She wanted you to seek happiness. Isabelle believes you can have a good life with Elisha if you would only give your marriage a chance to be real. The answers you expected to receive from Isabelle today have already been provided. But I’ve been keeping them to myself.”

Michael allowed the information to settle in. He felt almost as if he had lost Isabelle for a second time. And in a way, it was even worse this time around. She was now leaving him by choice. He put his hurt and disappointment aside to deal with later, on his own. For the present, he would focus on his anger at Laura’s deception.

“For God’s sake, why? Are you that greedy?”

“I knew you would only continue to come if you thought Isabelle was still showing up. That’s why I started pretending. I already knew so much about her, and about you, and about your relationship. It wasn’t very difficult. And it was necessary. You see, to answer your question, I suppose I am greedy. Only, my greed had nothing to do with money.”

“Then why have you been doing this?” Michael asked.

“Because I’ve fallen in love with you.”

An hour later, Michael looked across the Hudson River towards New Jersey. The setting of the day’s sun was nearing completion and he took in the routine miracle of beauty. While he watched a sailboat pass by on route to safe harbor, he did not reflect on what had been told to him in the past few days, but rather, on what he had figured out for himself. Something he learned the moment he last crossed Laura’s threshold, as if entering a chamber of essential truth. This knowledge had been lurking beneath his awareness for some time, waiting for a signal to announce itself. Without benefit of spiritual guidance or any variety of hocus pocus, Michael suddenly understood the bent of his heart.

“Goodbye, Isabelle.”

His words were caught by the same breeze that was carrying the sailboat along. Michael felt confident that they too would reach their destination, and was not perturbed that he would receive no reply. He scratched his dog behind the ears. Then he opened the case clasped in his hand and examined the necklace it held. Two weeks remained before he was to give it as a wedding anniversary gift. Michael put the necklace back into the pocket of his blazer and next examined the pocket watch that he wore. The heirloom had been passed down through three generations of first born sons in his family. One day, if ordained by destiny, it would be handed over to a fourth. For now, it merely informed Michael of the hour, from which he deduced that Elisha had probably just been dropped off by a taxi in front of their apartment building. She would be patiently waiting for him.

“Come on, Taylor. It’s time to go home now. It’s time to go home.”




x x x x x x



J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets


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Men who go to strip clubs for lap dances and people who root for the NY Jets have something in common. They are willing to invest their time and money in being teased. If you are in search of a sure thing, the Jets are not the team for you. Their roommates the Giants would perhaps be more to your liking. Jets fans have been the recipient of precisely one guarantee that came to fruition. Joe Namath stated that his team would win Super Bowl III and that’s what they proceeded to do. Subsequently the Jets have been perched on the perimeter of greatness on several occasions. Their fan base has been convinced over and over that the drought was at long last ended. It has been a decades long roller coaster ride. The Jets don’t spend much time near the top of the track, nor do they usually dwell at the bottom for lengthy periods. Instead they perform like the tide, approaching and receding, offering up and taking away, excelling only to screw up opportunities ripe for the taking, teasing us like a seasoned pro who knows her away around a lap well enough to bleed our wallets dry.

Okay, enough metaphor torturing. No doubt you’ve grasped the point. But don’t take my word for it, here are some chronologically ordered examples of post Namath’s #1 finger wag meltdowns by the boys in green. The 1982 Mud Bowl. They’ve made it all the way to the AFC Championship game. Behind the immaculate running of the spectacular Freeman McNeil there is simply no stopping us. Only quicksand could stop our offense, but NFL games are never played on quicksand. Well, the Dolphins manage to come up with the next best thing. Even though descendants of Noah quickly get to work on Ark II as a deluge of rain hits Miami, somehow the Dolphins conveniently neglect to cover the field. With McNeil unable to get his footing in the slop, the Jets must turn to an aerial assault. FIVE Richard Todd interceptions later, no less than THREE of them inexplicably grabbed by LINEBACKER A.J. Duhe who must have given Todd one of his kidneys prior to the game, and the dream is over.

In 1986 a personal foul penalty against Mark “the genius” Gastineau directly results in an overtime loss in the 2nd round of the playoffs to the Cleveland Browns. In 1993 the Jets needed to win just one of their last three games to qualify for the postseason behind the quarterback play of Boomer Esiason. If you’re thinking that they went 0-3 in that span I do believe you’re recognizing a trend here. In 1994 it was once again the Dolphins who did us in as the Jets allowed a 10-point 4th quarter lead to evaporate in a game punctuated by Dan Marino’s infamous “fake spike play”. In 1998 a 10-point halftime lead in the AFC Championship game is not enough for a Bill Parcells coached Jets team to hold against the eventual Super Bowl winning Denver Broncos. Still, getting so close to the Promised Land gives Jets Nation extremely high hopes for the 1999 season. The bubble is burst along with Vinnie Testadverde’s ruptured Achilles tendon in the first half of the first game, effectively ending the season and the Jets chances of becoming the third team to be led into the Super Bowl by Tuna. The 2000 season gave Jets fans the wonderful memory of the Monday Night Miracle game, but that Al Groh coached team which started out an impressive 6 -1 and had their destiny in their hands at 9 – 4 missed the playoffs by going 3–6 over the last 9 games of the season. I’m sure we all remember why Al Groh was coaching the Jets in the first place, how wrong the guy he replaced did us, and how well that guy ended up doing in New England after going Benedict Arnold on us. In 2004 the Jets completely outplayed the Pittsburgh Steelers in the divisional round of the playoffs, but victory was denied them when Doug Brien suddenly forgot that a critical part of his job security was the ability to kick field goals. And of course last season gave us the splendor of Brett Favre, a real live legend recruited on a short term basis to provide the arm strength lacked by Chad Pennington. Things looked pretty good after starting 8 – 3. Then comes yet another epic collapse and not only do the Jets fail to make the postseason, but the AFC East is won by none other than the Pennington led Miami Dolphins. Sounds like a joke, right? Nope, just another season for the “Same Old” New York Jets.

Other teams have eras of consistent greatness and periods of being steadily awful. Top franchises have many more good seasons than bad while inept ones have far more that are cringe inducing than are marked by superior quality. Game in and game out, season in and season out, even decade in and decade out, fans of those franchises know what to basically expect. If you’re a Steelers fan for example, you probably won’t spend a substantial portion of your life cycle in between championships. Same thing for Giants fans. On the other end of the spectrum, fans of teams such as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers probably did not secure extra mortgages on their homes to purchase tickets for the Super Bowl this year because they expected their team to be playing in it. The Bucs have been every bit as bad as advertised. There is a certain comfort in predictability. But the New York Jets rarely provide their fans with such comfort. When you expect them to be terrible, they often turn out to be pretty good, and just when you get used to it and perhaps even dare to gloat about their promising prospects, the clock strikes midnight and they are once again transformed into the Keystone Cops.

2009 is playing out true to form, a microcosm of the team’s history. After three games, all wins, Rex Ryan was declared savior and Mark Sanchez the Messiah. After the next three games, all losses, and visions of the days of Rich Kotite dance demonically in our heads. It is now perfectly clear that the rest of this season will turn out either really really bad, or really really good, or else… Nah, the only thing certain is that nothing is apparent, there is no crystal ball for Jets fans. Expectations serve as devices of torture for us. “Same Old Jets” is the most ironic expression in all of sports because nothing remains the same for them except for the fact that they keep changing from season to season, game to game, quarter to quarter, possession to possession. The fan base is perpetually on the edge of their seats, at the ready to either cheer in triumph or curse in disgust. Only another clichéd sports expression keeps us from the abyss of insanity at the end of yet another promising but ultimately heartbreaking season. Just wait till next year.














Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Fight Over Award for Peace







Once again, my thoughts one edited tweet at a time. Congratulations @BarackObama


1st black President: Check; Nobel Peace prize: Check; Best jump shot ever for a POTUS: CHECK; Cured cancer: Give him a few more months people.


Sometimes Peace Prize is awarded for promises made that committee hopes you'll keep, rather than for past accomplishments. Optimism prize.


As 1st black President, Obama was already expected to walk on water & end recession by multiplying a single loaf of bread. And now he's an Oscar winner!


Nobel Peace Prize - Academy Award, more or less same thing, right? My point is, ridiculously high expectations thrust upon our President are now even higher. Good luck & God bless.


If you're dissing POTUS for audacity of being given an award keep in mind that you're just joining chorus of those dissing him for audacity of being black.


Not to say that criticizing the President makes you either racist or "ungrateful". Just saying Obama has a massive agenda & it's not like he stole the award, he was deemed worthy by impartial jury.


Here's a sports analogy regarding Obama's presidency. It took David Stern quite a bit longer than 9 months to rehabilitate the NBA, and the U.S.A. is a whole lot bigger than the NBA.


Living in this ATM-fast food-DSL era, people have already forgotten days of waiting in bank lines on Saturday, waiting for food to be cooked, dial up internet service.


Not everything can happen in the time span of a tweet. Patience is not just a virtue, it's a necessity


I'm giving Obama 1 full year before officially weighing in on whether he's the Messiah or not, much like I give new sitcoms at least 3 episodes.


Perhaps peace prize should've been given belatedly to whoever first suggested 2-term limit for presidency. Otherwise Bush might have stuck around.


People believe in possibility of things like the Bermuda triangle, Loch Ness monster, Big Foot; they question whether earthlings are alone in the universe or co-tenants with Mork from Ork and ALF; debate who really capped J.F. Kennedy. That's because most of us love a good mystery. On my deathbed at age 115 I’ll still be trying to solve the two greatest puzzlers of all. How did Bush manage to get elected? How’d he get RE-ELECTED?!


And to think that just days ago people were mocking President Obama as impotent for not bringing Olympics to Chicago EVEN WITH Oprah's help. Apparently he still has some power and influence left after all.


With every future decision Obama makes he may pause to wonder: "What would a Nobel Peace Prize winner do in this situation?" That's gotta be a good thing, right?


Obama protected America & rest of world from being 1 heartbeat away from a Palin presidency. If that doesn't warrant Nobel...


Watching political shows on CNN & MSNBC I saw reactions of clowns like Rush Limbaugh & Glenn Beck & Michael Steele to Obama winning Nobel Peace Prize. Still shaking my head.


I find it completely reasonable to be a republican or indie voter who has not drunk the Obama Kool Aid and has legitimate differences of opinion with his agenda.


I also consider it reasonable to find fault with Peace Prize committee, feeling the President simply has not done enough to warrant it.


There are plenty of people who in general are supportive of Obama who nonetheless feel Peace Prize was premature at best, & I totally get that.


But at the very least, as an American shouldn't one be mildly pleased to downright proud that the democratically elected leader of our country is so highly regarded around the world?


If President of USA is highly respected by international community then we as Americans are now more respected than we've been in the preceding 8 years. That should be seen as a good thing unless you prefer to be regarded as an arrogant idiot.


So even if you're a Conservative right wing republican with bible in one hand and constitutionally protected gun in the other, I simply don't get why Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize provides you with nothing but motivation to mock. Yet this seems to be the case.


Regardless of tax bracket, views on abortion, gay marriage, etc., anyone with ability to think rationally therefore must conclude the GOP is currently anti-American. What other reasonable explanation is there? What's good for the country has become irrelevant to them. Only what's bad for our President (which by extension is bad for the country) is appreciated and hailed.


What else is a delusional pot to do of course but call the kettle black? Hence Obama is called a socialist, Nazi, etc.


Bush II was worst POTUS ever. Disagreed with him on most issues. Didn't think he was a particulary bright man, at least not by standards set in place for leader of the most powerful nation in the world. But I never once thought to question his patriotism.


"Our President is a world wide joke." - Rush Limbaugh


Rush Limbaugh is basically Howard Stern with political tirades substituted for sophomoric sex jokes and potty talk. He's a football guy, a Miss America judge, a junkie, a real Jack of all trades but master of none.


Is Rush Limbaugh the guy you want to be your moral compass and official spokesperson? Can you proclaim yourself a devoted supporter of his with a straight face? Really? Is Glenn Beck doing anything other than yelling "fire" in a movie theater for a living? How does Michael Steele manage to go about his business without ever accidentally looking in a mirror and becoming overwhelmed with shame?


"President Obama just won the Nobel Peace Prize. By any reasonable measure all Americans should be proud." - Rachel Maddow


Well said, Rachel. Now that’s more like it. The pride she speaks of should not belong exclusively to the democratic party or be designated strictly for liberals. The Nobel Peace Prize has not diminished in value like a Grammy turning into a BET award because Obama won one. As Americans we should all be able to put partisan bickering aside for a moment. It shouldn't take only a national tragedy like Pearl Harbor or 9/11 to force unity of spirit upon us. Citizenship of this country is supposed to be our shared honor, and the promotion of peace should be something we're unanimously in favor of.







~ ~ ~



If you're raising your voice in anger over recipient of Nobel Peace Prize, you've already proven you have no idea what a peace prize is for.






x x x x x



- Roy Pickering (Author of Patches of Grey)

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Another Twitter Rant








My latest rant on Twitter that I decided to cobble together with a little editing and post here as a semi-cohesive piece was set in motion by the murder of Derrion Albert, may he rest in peace.







I don't have stats @ my disposal so no idea if cases of police brutality nationwide dropped after Rodney King beat down & subsequent riots.




But if the number did go down due to extra spotlight on such behavior, is there hope that Derrion Albert's murder will result in less "black on black crime"?




“Black on Black crime" is what Michael from Good Times would have referred to as a “white racist term”. People of every race rob people of every race. When everybody involved is white it doesn't automatically mean Madoff is one of them.




I understand why the term is used in certain situations, but ultimately it pigeonholes. "Urban" or "inner-city" should suffice.




Examples of circumstances where term BoB is used to describe a crime: 1) When a black person is especially dismayed/shamed by a crime. 2) Someone of a different race has intent to be derogatory.




RT @edthesportsfan "It'll take a humane effort nationally 2 invest in2 the innercity, the school system, and social reform of broken families."




Those three ingredients are interrelated, but the older I get the more apparent it becomes that 3rd component is most vital.




For those raised impoverished within a terrible education system, a certain % will still give a shit about their future. But if no stability @ home, no chance.




Young project girls having kids for sport results in children with minimal chance to escape cycle of absurdity.


No simple solution to problem. Election of Obama a nice step primarily for symbolism, but root of problem still untouched.


Smart education reform would be great, but even in ideal situation if lessons are not being reinforced @ home they'll go right out the window.




We need fatherhood & motherhood classes in the church & the community center & in school, mandatory in the latter.




If you go through the adoption process with a reputable agency you need to take courses & write essays proving your worth as a parent in advance of placement.




If you get knocked up or knock somebody up, no matter how unfit you are to be parents no one asks a single question beyond can u pay doctor bills.




Becoming a parent is the single most important job you'll ever attain yet vast majority get no advance training & many clearly need it.




Obviously sex ed. needs to go beyond "wear a condom". It should extend to "no condom was worn apparently, so what do you do now".


There are very basic things about parenting that a 15 y/o girl/mother simply will not realize through no fault of her own. Start with that.




Metaphor Alert: You can't start with asking someone to write a great novel or even to simply read a bad one. First things first - the alphabet must be learned.



There are people out there who figuratively & practically literally don't know the alphabet, so how can they possibly raise a child properly?




The conservative right will complain, but the truth is that high school is too late. I had interest/opportunity for sex way before high school.


Obama caught heat for suggesting what I did in prior tweet, but since he got away with it & was elected anyway, he may as well act on belief.


Ironically, the people most against something like sex ed. for inner city pre-teens are the ones who look down their noses @ result of no sex education.



A sad, inescapable fact of life is that a tragic percentage of improperly raised children will grow up to be monsters and take the lives of innocents.



I bet there was black on black violence during the days of slavery (not coincidentally, those days impact unbalanced present circumstances). And I'm sure slave owners did their best not to let it get out of hand for purely selfish reasons. Fast forward to the present and rather than an occurrence to make efforts to stop, it's often a throw away line used by whites to deflect from an unrelated atrocity. 1st guy: "Can you believe that cop killed a compliant unarmed black man?  How awful. We should protest such police brutality." 2nd guy: "But what about black on black crime?"  Me: "What about water on Mars or the decline of jazz infused hip hop or the merits of print over ebooks and vice versa?  But rather than getting into all that now can we please stick to one topic at a time? I believe 'guy killed needlessly by cop' still has the floor. And I suspect if you actually did give a damn about BoB crime you'd bring it up other times, not just when you're uncomfortable with the current subject."



Sunday, September 27, 2009

SHORT STORY XIV


The war between the sexes and the races will continue to be waged, and casualties are inevitable.




CASUALTIES OF WAR



My name is James. I am being called a rapist and a murderer. But the truth is, I’m a good person. Not a saint by any means. But a rapist? Not at all. A killer? Ridiculous. I am innocent, though there is blood on my hands and I am responsible for it being there. But how responsible? Any minute now I should wake up from this nightmare. Except that I am awake, this is no dream, but the end result of things getting way out of hand. My wrists are in cuffs. I am being led by police officers to a prison cell. It isn’t fair. It wasn’t my fault. Why is this happening to me?


* * *

I am Dawn. My friend is dead and I am to blame, though it cannot be truly seen as my fault. David was standing up for my honor. Perhaps I should not have said anything, but I was so angry. Not at first. My initial reaction was confusion, and yes, acceptance. If I had remained in such a state, David would still be alive. As for my good name, this was given away as much as it was taken from me. I was raped, of this I am certain. Sex was forced upon me without consent, and although circumstances caused my refusal to be less adamant than the situation demanded, I nonetheless did refuse and was ignored. It is equally true that I got into that position of my own accord. James resorted to force only after his advances were encouraged for most of the night, and David need not have been involved at all.


* * *

It all began one week ago at a fraternity party. I stood next to Dawn at the bar and made two observations. She was real pretty and real drunk. I'd never been with a black girl before, never even tried. I figured they wouldn't be interested, so why make things harder for myself? But I could tell from the start that Dawn was definitely into me, and before I knew it we were headed to her dorm room. We started kissing, touching, you know the drill. Everything was going great.


* * *

I went well over my limit, that's for sure. My intention was to get a nice buzz going, but I was trying for a bee and ended up with an entire hive. That's not to say I wasn't in control of my actions, for I was. James was cute and funny, with a decent butt for a white guy. The overabundance of beer was no more than an accomplice to my curiosity and hormones. I wasn't planning to go all the way, not with some guy I just met. But I was feeling good and inclined to feel even better. I refused the offer to go back to his room, but didn’t want the night to end just yet. So I invited him back to mine where I would feel more in control. I would get a little crazy, but just a little.



* * *

We were half naked, and I was more than ready to get busy, when Dawn started having second thoughts. You know the thoughts I’m talking about. She was willing to fool around some, but when I tried to take things to the next level, she wasn’t having it. A lot of girls are like that. They want you to put in some overtime, so you won’t think they’re sluts. They’ll usually get with the program eventually, but they want you to work for it first. I guess they think this earns them respect, or love, or something. But they have to be careful, cause once a guy has been stirred up enough, it isn’t easy for him to just stop, and it isn’t really fair to ask him to.

Since guys have no choice but to play the game, we do. She said no, I said fine. A little later I tried again, another red light, once again I was cool about it, all the while about to bust out of my jeans. The third time was different. The beer had stopped bringing her up and was quickly slamming her down. Her body language still showed resistance, but it wasn't very strong, and her mouth didn't say much of anything I could understand, even if I had been paying attention. I suppose she did say no once again, but without much conviction. The time was right, though her light was not exactly green. I saw it as yellow, and it's perfectly legal to go through a yellow light. You just speed up to make sure you can get by.


* * *

In no time, James had made it as far as I was willing to go and trying to proceed further still. I let him know it wasn't going to be like that. Not rudely, but firm. Not firm enough apparently, for minutes later he was at it again. I repeated my stance and he backed off, but after that things get kind of blurry. My high had turned into a low, my head was spinning as was my stomach, and all I wanted was for James to disappear. He started to come on strong again, and I vaguely remember trying to keep him off of me, but there wasn't much I was able to do. Next thing I knew he was putting his pants back on, while I lay spread eagle with something warm and sticky on my stomach. We looked at each other, neither of us knowing what to say, so not saying anything. I was asleep before he reached the door.

* * *

I woke up the next day with Dawn on my mind. One whiff told me that she was on my body as well. I love the smell of sex. I examined a fresh scratch on my forearm and briefly wondered if I had done anything wrong the night before. The thought passed and I dragged myself out of bed. I had classes to get to, friends to meet up with. I hopped in the shower. By the time I stepped out, Dawn and my concerns had been washed away. She had wanted it, I decided, in fact, practically begged for it. I went to class, relaxed, refreshed, without a worry in the world.

* * *

The first thing I was aware of upon awakening was the pounding in my head. The second was the state I was in. Both of these were potent reminders of the night before. Many of the details were fuzzy to downright forgotten, but one fact remained clear. I had broken my rule and had sex with someone on the first date. Hell, it hadn't even been a date. That wasn't like me, sober or not. I tried to recall the moment when I changed my mind and gave in, but nothing came to me. All I could remember was holding fast to my rule, but having it pried from my fingers.

Someone knocked at my door. It was Michelle, who lived down the hall. We were supposed to study together that afternoon. I confided to her what my previous night's activities had been, for only by confessing could I make sense of what took place. When I was done, Michelle looked shocked, then furious. I knew she didn't approve of me fooling around with a white boy, and figured this was the extent of it, until she brought up the R word. That isn't what happened, I tried feebly to protest. But the longer I thought about it, the more real that word became. Raped.


* * *

Gary saw me leave the party with Dawn, so of course wanted details. “Did you? Was it hot? Is what they say about them true?” I told him what he wanted to hear. I never suggested that she was a sweet girl in a weakened state, and that I had sort of taken advantage of her. I didn’t want to own up to the thoughts that nagged at my conscience. They would go away after awhile.

I know I can be somewhat overaggressive at times. Ever since I was little, I’ve never handled being teased very well. The kind of teasing being done by Dawn is the hardest for a guy like me to take. I guess I did get a bit out of control. But she made me get that way. I think she wanted to get me worked up. She wanted to submit, which meant she needed something to submit to. I just did my part as she directed.

This isn’t quite how I described it to Gary. I painted broader strokes. I made Dawn out to be everything I ever fantasized of. Gary may have suspected me of embellishing, but I had myself totally convinced.


* * *

First shame set in. How could I, who took such pride in both my intelligence and common sense, have allowed this to happen? Too many girls from my neighborhood had gotten knocked up while barely in their teens. They had served as a powerful warning. I would never throw my life away on account of sex. I would take my body and mind seriously, so that others would as well. I had studied diligently all throughout high school to create opportunity for myself. Now here I was, the first member of my family to go to college, one of a minuscule percentage of blacks on campus. Up until last night, I had been very proud of my achievements and intelligent choices.

The words of Michelle on the morning after got me to view matters in a much different light. Not only had my indiscretion caused me to be raped, but raped by a white boy. They respected us so little to begin with, and here I was adding to their sense of entitlement and omnipotence. I might as well have been one of those slave women forced to bear light skinned babies by their masters. Only in my case, I had a say in the matter, I had the right of choice. But I did not, Michelle reminded me. My say and my choice were forcibly taken. Then she suggested a plan of action, and I wholeheartedly endorsed it.


* * *

I was going over my chemistry assignment when a knock came at the door. Without thought I opened it to the sight of the biggest, blackest guy I had ever seen. My first thought was - Isn't he on the football team? I didn't have time for thought number two. That’s because I spent the next several minutes getting my ass kicked. In between body slams, my new friend let me in on why he was torturing me. As he put it, I had disrespected a sista and would now have to pay. When finished, he left me in a sore heap on the floor, uttered some extra threats for good measure if I even looked at another black girl, then was gone.


An hour later when the door opened again, I thought he was back for seconds. But it was my roommates and some friends. After they completed repair work on me, I told them what had happened.


* * *

I holed up in a remote corner of the library for several hours. Being with those who knew, and that seemed to be just about everybody by the time Michelle finished spreading the word, would force me to think of what I wanted to forget. In the midst of my rage was a measure of guilt over what David had done to James with my stamp of approval. James certainly deserved it. What he had endured paled in comparison to what had been done to me. But I couldn't stop feeling that had I been more responsible, none of this would have happened. I also wondered to what degree I had allowed, or even desired certain things to take place, rather than James completely taking matters into his own hands. I should have spoken to him before getting caught up in the emotions Michelle had stirred. I could have told James how I felt, given him a chance to explain or express regret. Who knows, I may even have forgiven him. Now it was too late for such a notion.

* * *


My friends were really pissed. Football star or not, how dare David Jordan walk into the room of a white student as if he and his kind were the ones calling the shots, dispensing justice as he saw fit? That's not how it was supposed to work.


I was oddly unconcerned at first. Perhaps I felt I had brought it upon myself, and should consider the matter settled. But as one slur after another was spewed, I began to get into the spirit of things. My friends were right. David needed to learn where his place was, and who better to serve as tutors? Who cared if he was a campus hero because he scored a bunch of touchdowns? This did not grant him special privileges to mess with us as he saw fit.

David was a bit more cautious about opening his door than I had been, but the five of us managed to push our way in. I just watched while my friends jumped him. But once they had him down to his knees, I was invited to finish him off.

I already considered the situation to be adequately handled, and would just as soon have left it as it was and gone home. But everybody was watching and waiting, so what was I to do? I struck David hard, then again, then again. He barely budged. He was solidly built from head to toe. It was like punching a statue. I was probably causing more pain to my knuckles than to him. Then I noticed his football helmet on the bed. I grabbed the facemask and took every ounce of my frustration out on David’s skull with the very thing meant to protect it. By the time my friends struggled to contain me, the damage had been done.

You have to believe me. I didn't mean it, just as I had not entered Dawn’s room the night before intending to make her do anything she didn’t want to. Sometimes my emotions get the best of me. Adrenaline starts pumping and common sense goes on vacation. In ordinary circumstances I’m just a regular guy, no different than anyone else. I am not what people are now calling me. Am I really to blame for regretful actions taken in the heat of the moments? The cops who picked me up later that day certainly seemed to think so.


* * *

It's over now. The chain of events has been completed. David is dead. James is in prison. And I am left to contemplate my role in their downfalls. If at any point I had acted in a manner other than which I did, it would have made all the difference in the world. It's too senseless for me to claim a lesson learned. Sure there are things I will be certain not to do again. But will that stop such events from recurring, if not to me than to someone else? The war between the sexes and the races will continue to be waged, and casualties are inevitable. My name is Dawn, and I am a victim of these never ending clashes. If you are interested, I will allow you a glimpse into my heart so that you may see my battle scars.