“Hard to believe mom, Charlie Paradise an official upper class man, take a bow!” Brooke exploding in laughter seamlessly flicking me in the nuts ala the old mans not so magic trick “Doh!” And I took a bow for teenage next steps and new freedoms most notably open campus for everyone of course except me.
And after my mother quadrupled checked my entire outfit to ensure clean cut she quality checked my khaki crease patted me down in a beeper / cane search we were good.
“Let’s go, let wummy look at you, bathroom mirra kid, I want you to look at yourself kiddo really look at yourself” “OK.” After all I loved the mirror, my mother and all the attention that came with me. I was sixteen black in America trapped in a white body, indestructible. “Looks are the only thing you got going for you kid, don’t screw that up too.” “Ma get the lint brush over here.” “I’m like your manager.” And she laughed. “Teammate.” I clarified.
"Well mummy think you could be a model. I should send your pictures in, give me something to do."
My mother had survived off one-thing, high cheekbones. The daughter of a janitor, a boxer, a sniper, he never could understand why god took the one thing that got him through that Korean war, his wife taken from him birthing my mother. Thank you Jesus. Looks are everything, blonde hair, blue eyes pared with pair of dimples, it's a joke, looks are everything yo, unless you really want to bust your ass for the rest of your short ass life.
“Look at that face Charlie, what a good looking kid, what a big heart, look at those dimples, look in your own eyes, look deeply into those eyes, you can be whatever you want to.” “OK, Ma, cool, I get it." "Look Charlie, look into your own baby blues" "Ma, what is all this?” I loved the Jerry Maguire pep especially on first days but this was new wrinkle off track shit. “What?” My tone had everything to do with the sanity of the house my actions that stirred the pill pot harder to explain. “I’m sorry Wummy, I love ah you, but what are you doing?” “Look into those eyes! Can’t you see? Can’t you see you can be anything you want go be!” “Yeah ma, anything I want to be, thanks, got it, terrific look I have a schedule you know like getting to the ACE / PLACE institution, you know the place for the crazy kids, OK?” “Yeah I know I’m so sorry I can’t do anything right.” The sea-saw of emotion just her tone after being so enthusiastic like a Big Guy summer camp collapsed. I hated the accountant role of her emotional ledger. “Your lucky I didn’t steal one of your Xanex.” But I didn’t say that shit oh the thoughts in your mind against what comes out of your mouth in situations that are critical to you are critical. “Ma! Please I love you OK? Just don’t bring up how awkward it is. What’s the whole after school special look into your eyes shit anyway?” Realness has a direct correlation to experience and finally, then, truth, golden truth and there’s nothing better. “I don’t know I saw it on Oprah with Tom Cruises mother used to do it to him. I thought it might help, I do believe you can be something very important and not just a hooligan.” In puppy voice this was powerful. “By mom! See you at school Charlie!” Mom and myself raced to the window and saw a car full of her friends peel out with cigarettes hanging out of every window as Brooke descended into her senior year in a dash to a heavy metal soundtrack. God I hate electric guitars
“Brooke didn’t tell me some maniac race car driver would be screaming in here to scrape her out of the blue, were they all smoking in there? Was that a joint? Who the hell was that?” “You smoke?” “Please Charlie, don’t start I want you to have a good day.” “Yeah I will, big year besides I’m the man ma. Where’s Mercedes?” “You’ve been saying that for years. Mercedes is just like a little sister to you. Oh the two of you.”
The end of my summer was official when Porsche, Mercedes and their sense of entitlement returned to the cul-de-sac from their sailing adventures down on old Cape Cod. “Mercedes!” My mother yells like the Pope had entered our kitchen. Mercedes assailed my mothers concerns. That being said rare was the case anyone came to our house sans police it was always a mini celebration. We failed being normal, tryingly time after time.
“Well I heard you guys made it to the finals in the summer league Charlie congratulations. I know that's important to you. It’s good to hear something like that instead of police reports.” "You can say that again." "Thanks Ma, Mercedes don't, come here." Mercedes and I smile for our “hi” hug! She was very proper when she wasn’t screaming at me. I was quite certain carried a booty that had yet to be officially taxed. I knew because she’d dated half the gang. “Yeah we did.” “No listen Charlie, and Ms Paradise I want you to hear this.” “My mother raced to her Swedish oak chair that had been with us since the lawnmower lighting a ciggerrette shuffling in frantic anticipation, “Everyone shh! Mercedes is about to speak. Please Mercedes now what exactly were you going to say? Help me with this kid” “If I drive you to school this year” “listen closely Charlie!” “MA, Jesus, all on my nut sack, dam” “OK Charlie you have to be nice when you see me in the hallways. And don’t slash any tires of any friends of mine unless I ask you no punching in the face or knocking out like u like 2 say any of my guy friends. And don’t call General Hospital 900 #’s from my house because you can’t wait until Monday and no Sugar rays and B-Dawg. “Fine” After rolling off the different Ivy League schools her summer pals were attending and where she thought she wanted to (yawn) apply the scene had expired. “Yo gotta go” “OK time to go to Magic’s?” “Nah just me & Magic today.” “Wait he got a car and a license?” “Peace” I dyed laughing inside with an I’m so high no fucks given all American smile forever eye contact. “Wait he has a car?” Mercedes was clearly aware new cars for kids that turned sixteen was a rarity in my gang. Besides Magic and I brought an excitement on first days and Mercedes after frosting her front with a windex of her rear view clearly adored us.
Not only were we the future backcourt of Lexington basketball but we knew everyone from the decades past. I’d ask Magic if we were legends yet and he’d shake his head like a teacher being asked an absurdly preposterous question. “Of course not! Why cause we know Bart and Des? This is a big year. If we win the summer league this year maybe we can bathe in it all senior year. Fuck mad chicks.” “Word is born.” “Charlie, it’s word is bond, bond Paradise not born, Jesus, word isn’t born.” Cracking up I detect potential Blotch. “All right!” And Mercedes loved these discussions. Mercedes and Magic for the most part carried the same “idea” of what it meant to get “ahead.” After all in Madison it was all a race to an Ivy League college or high school legendary status. I was the latter. Ivy children became Madison’s proudest possessions. It made me puke. I’d seen the operation. I was wise to the game reckless to its challenge. The rich of Madison ain’t shit and no nothing and are typically for all their smarts racist, not understanding and judgemental, and big money don’t work hard hahaha and everyone lies and judges, not me, I love it not me
It had always been a show. We’d count break necks. “Charlie! See Gayle, this is what I’m talking about the ADD!” “Charlie!” My mother stomped her foot gasping her if scripted astonishingly dramatic line. “Relax!!!” I hated this. “Jesus fucking Christ Ma, reminder I have to walk into the ACE program this morning in front of all these curtains.” “Not on the first day Charlie Paradise not on the first day, god I need a Xanex and it’s not even nine in the morning!” Shaking my head Mercedes had the neighbor view she was my sister she understood as I viewed her now gigantic boobs. I thanked Jesus. “By Ma!” “First varsity basketball player ever in the history of Lexington basketball to be in the fucking ACE program.” Always the last word. I was over it. And we left. My mother in tears, I’d grown raw. It’d been years since I let that break me. I’m a G And as we walked out of the house holding hands, I gave Mercedes and granted all of her requests denying ever breaking into her house to make 900 calls. “So wait Mike has a car?” “It’s Magic and yes he’s driving his brothers, pretty special day for us Mercedes Madeline.” “You guys always get excited over the dumbest things.” "Mike’s older brother Josh (LHS class of 89) lent him his car for our first day as an upper classman. Porsche was away at college in Rhode Island. I was worried knowing how Christian the Lion it all would be for her, i.e. the wild after being raised in the zoo.
“Good morning Magic.” “Well hello Mr. Junior in high school, dude!?” And like that our moment was snapped. “What?” Magic fucking always shaking his head at me. “As always you break out your best gear day 1. We talked about this last night and you said -” “yeah yeah yeah but” Ramble. Mike and I always discussed the strategy of holding your best gear out the first week and let all the masses run through their fly shit. And then in week two lower the boom. “I can’t overcome the urge.” “Be careful with that.” And Magic zipped the frown / eye brow opposite direction face plant. Second. His body language “umph” whose faces intent was created to guide and make you feel like you caught the “Dom Dom’s” in the life game of real decisions. “Whatever homo ass Mr. Want to fit in with everybody.” Magic laughed, his easily defeated phase 1 defense of protection in regards to the “soft” spots all gangs forever tug at was enough. Magic had gone from JH rival to my Ace one two his aging backwards against my own fast-forward on the Hayden stage created an audience fueled by our basketball ability and polar personas. So this ride while symbolic of miles traveled and new toys, open campus also meant. “So C are you nervous about going right up to ACE?” The basketball and brothers of hoops called me “C” “yes.” “I know your bugging listen don’t be man, first off all I’m fucken pumped to get the classic. I mean your going to see the Big Guy everyday, off the court conducting.” “Really? Like he had two retarded heads, and finally “I can’t believe this.” I knew varsity players weren’t in the ACE program “Hey remember we’re juniors, and you have Coach Sullivan and coach Gibbs up there. I can’t wait to hear the stories. It will be a good thing C watch.” Pulling into the parking lot signaled yet another reason to never attend class. The sun was in full glory. I never saw a first day of school to me it was all simply free market capatilism, and I was a part of it.
Dysfunctional kids everywhere. And trust funds. Slinky pieces of homework drudging through time to shock daddy phase. My crew was in a large frolicking circle. The student parking lot was mine. I smiled pondering upper class and soon legendary status. When would it happen? How would I know? Vader. And we parked. Magic waived and I lifted a point. His time was flexible fruits of the right thing mine was not. I was now in the ACE program the worst of the worst and promptly pulled off my sunglasses.
“Yo I gotta talk to you kid pronto!” Skeetah, Jesus Upper class meant more responsibility and that meant more meetings the privy piled my closest had cards after all I’d do anything for anyone kid that grew up with me. And after our growth and the summer league finals people were beg to notice.
Forever rattled was I when the first thing I heard was Skeetah before my Adidas touched pavement out of the whip. Skeetah was in a tie with Neil for getting caught for the dumbest shit. “Give until lunch buddy.” And I walked to warmer waters towards Scully, an anchor of steadiness. “Why hello good sir. You wanna skip the first class of the year?” I kick imaginary dirt, Scully is referencing a tradition I started last year six of us skipped the first class, first day and had a sit down proper breakfast at 1 Mariam St I covered from last fall's gambling profits. I held reserves now as year three of my waging parlor kick off with kickoff's nationwide. “Whatever.” I’d recently discovered just how much I loved saying that word. The last thing in the world I needed right now was that. “I can’t.” It was so hard for me to say those two simple words, "I can't."
Besides the stigma of ACE being for mental or crazy kids I now had the hubble telescope on me with oh just basketball and high school graduation on the line. But I had no idea, I was in the parking lot, we were upper classmen, I never wanted that bell to ring. I wanted that moment to last forever. We were all the same before the bell. After the bell they were in mainstream high school and I was now in the ACE program. They’d meet new teachers, find follow Young Guns in class, sit next to maybe an undercover slinky regarded oh so delightfully in our team and gang of hyper-active lunatics. Who knew? Maybe there’d be another tenth grade biology class. Nah, unless they got a Neil, B-Dawg, Monster comnbination.
But who knew, it killed me. I was going to be in a class with three or four kids, a couple I might know from my own zilla contributions around town, a couple I wouldn’t. I'd be patted down again. There was a metal detector. And the big Guy to detect everything else.
I’d have Coach Sullivan teaching me Shakespeare. Thank god for muffin. I’d never get another girlfriend I figured. I was too hospital. Like a kid I only saw the bad, hardly accepting that it was me that put me there. I’d just lost over 20 academic credits towards graduation. It was a huge #, out of nowhere and my “sorry coach I fell in love” response a little more than mildly retarded. And to top it all off I was literally scared of the Big Guy. He was easily the most controversial and talked about person in Madison. And he now had to monitor me during school hours. I was a wreck I felt I was going to prison with first hand knowledge of a warden of urban mythology. Dam, I’m buggen breathe C, breathe
The other side of paradise.