Saturday, May 31, 2014

Here we go again… I Will Always Love You December 1st, 1993

The Outside World: On November 5th Bill Clinton became the 42nd President of the United States. It would be a turning point for the countries sobering post eighties America. Had to see that one coming until it happens again five years later unbelievable. I was OK with it ever since I saw him play sax on Arsenio. Little did we know how what a great president he would serve as. He balanced the budget. It’s worth saying again. We were coming out of dark place. The 80’s were gone leaving their imprint on the good times rolling. Not in America’s inner cities but by 1990, kids were again depressed like they always used to be, white high flyers were jailed, buried in addiction, infliction or strapped with vast amounts of debt. Classes cut, music cut, sports cut, buses cut, jobs lost, heroin was back and it all looked so foolish at that point. Not in Astori though, I had long maintained that if you grew up in Astori you had no right to get angry about anything. Except for me though I was furious. The Rising Sun back then was Japan and boy were we fucked. They bought Hawaii and Disney Land and everything yo! I mean our smartest kids are Japanese but in Japan it’s all Japanese, I mean I didn’T think it was possible to be more into business than me, but these guys take it serious.

And worst of all my beloved Dow Jones was still in a major correction from its biggest 80’s boner. Yup, its official, the 80’s are over and I hate it. I heard all the stories And even though I didn’t own any shares of anything yet, I still prayed to Jesus for the health of the US stock market and broader index’s. Also, soon within earths gravitational pull, Dr. Dre’s masterpiece the Chronic would be released, thus taking this “fad that would never last” worldwide and beyond. Keep bangen, keep bangen keep bangen dance with me come on same song just another pop song And as the high schools most marketable rapper and budding legend this was a great thing. I’d spread the freestyle. The writing of rap lyrics in Junior High sparked my great affair with the healing and calming presence of your own written hand. Even if it only has one tendon you can’t put a price on free therapy. Rap was the other half of my shtick. Up in the ACE program I could really tweak the comedian side of my game. This was also huge, I believed, in avoiding “the crash.” And since a crash would involve everything getting fucked up and us not winning the state title, no movie, I aimed to become one funny kid. Do anything to avoid the crash, all of us, dental floss. This week we’d also first hear about a country Somalia. It was almost 1993 and change was in the air. I was a Junior in high school, upper class, varsity basketball, well should be…

The 1st day of practice Junior Year:

It all came down to this. Varsity selection, this precious next five-minute span would define for me, Magic, and Goldy. I played varsity for half the year last season but that was last year and you never knew. It was a big honor to play varsity for almost three years. I almost cried right there thinking about that, my smiling mother my hope my pride and my sister, my proud father. Maybe it’s not that bad Finally something to really root for me outside of the bare basics, these would be my mother’s nightly prayers, she prayed for all of us, YG included without a doubt, nightly basis.

Ace is going well, I feel good. I’ve grown and ate and slept this shit since jump. I’m the best defender in the gym, well, outside of Kevin Nolen Terrance standing next to me elbow nudges. Hides the smile like he thinks we’ll both be in that circle momentarily. The logic of it all calmed me as I tried to name all the people I knew whose name begun with the letter C. And even though I felt good about ACE and getting to spend time with Coach Sullivan and the Big Guy, this was all business. The best thing I had going for me was that I stayed out of trouble of fall. My heart beat frantically screaming, “gotta pick me yo gotta pick me yo gotta pick me! Chris, Carly, Carl, Carey, Clyde, Cliff, Costello, Claus on the Santa tip, Charlie…” It was three o'clock after school and my stomach was shaking with real life butterflies tickling my heart rate to jump! On a brighter note I was pimped out in the new line of AHS practice gear. My socks, as always, were immaculate and folded over twice like Jordan's. Elastic bands curled my wrists with a stick of Juicy Fruit gum munching against my braceless choppers. Yo if you look fly inherently your performance follows suit During the mid eighties a very cool t-shirt was given to the varsity. To us it would, through the passage of years, become a collector’s item. It was navy blue with an actual revolutionary Astori Minuteman standing in a defensive stance with a musket over his shoulders. Standing right in the middle of the town's historic green the caption beneath read “Astori, where the defense began. The Big Guy like Astori predicates his landscape on defense. Only Rashad, Kevin and Darren were standing in the middle of the court, within the “I'm on the team” players nest behind the Big Guy. We had lost that many seniors that the rest of the team outside of these three is up in the air. It’s why we were barely ranked pre-season in the top twenty after appearing in the semi finals, which was a rarity. Slowly the Big Guy paTROLLED back and forth eyeing effusively the many players that had waited their whole lives for this one defining moment. That moment only to be accepted into the sacred culture of Astori varsity basketball under the astounding tutelage of the Big Guy. The Big Guy takes his time. He knew we were squirming and you know what? He loved it. I loved it. The first step in his process. A guaranteed winner I would have taken my time as well. Our new vertical addition Stretch was the first to be plucked from the lines of normalcy. The Big Guy in his dark monotone would point an additional tiny upward yank of the head and you're in. The Big Guy loved to hear himself speak almost as much as me. I had learned that in the ACE program despite my inclinations. However in a moment like this he had little to say. Santo greets Stretch as the only Young Gun pre-programmed behind the Big Guy due to his year status on varsity last year. Next John “Wellsy” Wells as chosen followed by freshmen (Sophomore) Brek Kohler (need some background on Wells and Kohler here. We haven’t heard much about Wells or anyting about Brek at this point and you need to explain why they are picked ahead of you, Mike, Goldy, etc., Now I’m starting to bug, Yo don't make me look like a punk please Jesus hello? Fucking just be cool and take me next. I'm nasty and it shouldn't be that hard of a decision besides dude, I've been in your program all fall, just take me, Jesus where you at?! “Cahl” he was all business and looking directly into my eyes. All time calms and washes over me. On this day the Big Guy would not disappoint the kid. He shot me the nod and I coolly stepped towards the crow’s nest and gave soft pounds to my newfound varsity teammates. Saying what's up to Rashad on the court felt like Tim Hardaway. Fudge’s younger brother we should have called him Nestles Dark. Rashad was the favorite to win league MVP and perhaps player of the year as he had a year prior. Rashad had white veins ripping through his black shoulders. People get these stretch marks when their muscles rip themselves apart so much from there own accord that actual scars appear on the surface of the skin. If you see a brother with stretch marks (white dudes cant get that shit) then you know that brother is a ripped SOB. Spec was selected and so was Magic but not before the Big Guy, in a not so fast political power play, placed Magic on JV. Develop this more, foreshadow the cool relationship they had and how Farias was on Mike’s head like no one else ever was or ever has been. I watched Magic, astonished, walk over to that chump JV sideline towards Coach Gibbs. “this is bullshit.” I read his lips. Coach Gibb’s agreed. I kind of laughed internally, instinctively, the ever favorite, ‘glad that wasn’t me” percolated a brewery of security within my sphere. Now that I had made the team I could immediately begin making fun of the players that didn‘t, it was like virginity. Better be quick because ten minutes later Magic was placed on the team. My next big concern even before our first tap drill, was how much press would I get in Thursday musket when they ran the Astori High Scholl boys basketball preview. Growing up my favorite part of every season was reading the Musket’s preview of the team. The first practice was a success. I thought we were tough. That Thursday the Musket was released including the annual basketball preview to be mulled over by me, my sister my Mom, players, their parents and fans. After reading the preview we all had a moment. I got some ink as did a few YG, Santo got his picture in the paper. That was always big. I couldn’t believe it, the paper said I was going to be receiving a significant boost to my varsity minutes as the primary spell for Kevin off the bench. Santo would start, Stretch would start, Wellsy would start, Goldy, Magic, myself would compete for minutes, Terrance was also on the team. A moment of clarity again as it appeared that my mother knows what I've been planning this whole time (click). She read about my friends and finally (I think) looks like she understands why we beat each other up like we do without ever coming up for air. Not because we hated each other, but because we respected each other in a very fucked up way. We beat the shit out of each other physically and even more verbally because we loved the game as much as one possibly could. Emotions like that are going to register some volatility. All of those little-league games we spit in each other's mugs. All those games on the weekends when we’d come home crying and bloody cursing our best dawgs, she now understands. Were going to win a state high school championship and finally people will take notice. A lot of my mothers panic hastened in that she thinks I might be OK. Santo, the lucky dawg, got his picture on the cover of the paper practicing in argyle socks. This prompted the Big Guy the next day in ACE reviewing the article and photo to bellow, “Yo who the heck is going to practice in socks like those?” and then a five second pause on account of bafflement before rekindling his voice and finishing his statement, “what a joke.” The Young Guns getting press. Of course with the Big Guy it was always an on going commentary, “Carl it looks like you and your friends are all the same, idiots. We’re going to have a good season if this center’s any good. Eh anytime I bring up your name anywhere it gets this big reaction, and I’m not saying that’s good, why is that?” “I don’t know” I reply astonished “Yeah well you better figure it out. You don’t smoke banana’s do you?” “No” “Good your already a bananna” And just like that it was on. Make no mistake about it our time was upon us, I felt like a chosen disciple of Confucius, I was wise, ready and built for the task. Coach Sullivan thought we’d be OK, everyone was curious about Stretch; was he a big time player or all hype? Basketball players from other parts were forever overhyped when arriving at your typical high school. My mother helped me focus during the season. Dana was my cheerleader, she had to, it was her senior year our last year in school ever together. Our first game was Tuesday and it was a monster. We had faired well in our Jambori, an elite invitation with Cambridge Rindge & Latin, Durfee, New Bedford, Salem and us. The most sought after Jambori in the state. I guarded Michael Edwards straight up, or so my father felt, I picked him once, my dad couldn’t believe it. Michael Edwards was a division one product, his brother scored the most points in the history of MIA MASS basketball. His brother went to Boston College on a full ride, played BABC. It gave me confidence and that’s why the Big guy always loved to play the best. “One way or the other we’ll know what we got.” He’d say. Our first game was a week away and it was a big one, a headliner on the road against Belmont. They were favored to win the league and ranked highly in the Boston Globe’s top 320. It was on the road and we weren’t sure what we had, this would let us know. Yo I fucken love this shit It was basketball season, this was everything, YG will play heavily into the success or not of this team. This had become a bit of a rivalry even though Lexington had dominated the league for every decade. Consequently both of the city majors the Globe, Herald along with assorted local publications came to cover it. We limped in with assorted question marks twined and feathered to much lower then usual expectations. A first game rout of the rebuilding dynasty would set the tone for the league, conference and finally the state. Understanding the hype and the story line I prayed only to see some action. Beyond the reporters, blow jobs, slinky web of stardom, scholarships and glory was my little script that one knew about. My legendary pursuit and movie in the making I wasn’t scared and was coming off a great nights rest. The Boston Globe reluctantly placed us in the top twenty; we were still Lexington and we still had Rashad. But Kevin was a question mark, Stretch was a question mark, Santo starting, Wellsy an inexperienced bench. The league knew very little from us and to the naked eye our lack of exposure and scrony bodies deflated any expectation especially after last season, what a year. This year might be the start of a bigger correction i.e. a piece of the time frame regarded as a down time in the impeccable annals of Astori basketball history. The Big Guy even admitted in the high school paper, The Musket, that he had no idea what to expect Game 1, at Belington: The mirror. The best part of game days for me was the varsity mandatory game day dress codes. This was some throw back in the day shit still breathing in the stale odor of a fundamental loss of core beliefs that the early nineties represented. The shirt and the tie like my once proud UNLV team hat symbolized something. It resonated with me and made me feel like I belonged to something greater than just the whack ass race of white people. Strutting around school like pimps I loved the well wishing, loved the buzz I'm part of this team yo! This shit is so ill. Just like I always knew it would be. The school is psyched that the crazy ass hoops season is about to begin for another legendary season Smiling ear to ear throughout the day it felt good to see every adult because one way or the other I always got some sort of reaction, it felt good to see them look upon me in a fashionable (to them) and encouraging way. I couldn’t explain what I might do tonight besides the fact that I wanted to dive on the floor, eat a loose ball and bleed. My thoughts on that inaugural day had nothing (as usual) to do with school merit. However, they also had nothing to do with the dumb shit. I could care less about money, gambling or credit cards. It all became so secondary next to being with my boys embarking on our vision and feeling good about thriving in what we loved. A vision I knew that we were as prepared for more than any set of kids in the history of America. Tonight we were heavy underdogs and I reveled in my hate amongst all others besides us. Our biggest question mark was almost seven feet and all day he appeared loose and lucid. Belmont was a choice or marquee place to live much like Astori minus the revolution. It had tremendous college like facilities. Yo Their school grounds are attractive I must admit Set on top of a small pond their gymnasium is fit for a division one-college team. It seats two three thousand easy, tonight it’s jammed and its state of the art unlike are classic old school arena. No talking on the bus meant focus and pulling up, game time. I felt like I had finally arrived. Walking past a cute blonde Belington cheerleader I thought, “yo how phat are our jump suits? I know these girls think we look good. Imagine if they knew how much I don’t give a fuck? What a dancer I’m?” The place was overflowed. I was also thinking upon entering and the sizzling hype permeated every fiber in your body, I thought how proud Mazzy would be of me tonight watching her boy play a supporting role in an event that was locally revered in an historical town. As I looked around I’m sayen this is sensational, dazzling, euphoric! Each town has an equal number of fans and chants are being blasted back and forth. There is electricity in the air. Watching Rashad warm up and Kevin loose and joking I feel bad that Rashad is the one with all the pressure on him. He’s the only one that has been here before. We certainly don’t know what the fuck to do This was his senior year, his last mission. He needs to provide us with direction. In front of three thousand people with a bunch of unproven maniacs by his side his reputation was on the line and his highly anticipated senior year was about to start. College coaches cramp in already Honk Kong scene, god, good luck Diamond There were huge state title expectations in Belmont. The noise was loud and the pressure of years potentially wasted was heavy and something better blocked out. Before the tip a fanatical trying to be classic and failing student from Belington ran on the court with a mask and a dummy Astori Minuteman hanging by its neck from a stick. He ripped the head off of the stuffed Minuteman. “What Cocksuckers” I whisper angrily to myself. I’m erupting with hate. This punk received a loud cheer and proceeded to run out of the exit door right behind our bench. As he swiftly glides right in front of my chin I perk up about an inch and launch a green lugy on his neck. The Big Guy sees this and darts a cold glare in my direction but surprisingly didn’t say a word. I pat Santo on the butt and tell him not to be nervous. I tell him to just to play his game. Ace Palmer was their 6-8 center, on his way to Dartmouth and was the talk of the league. His brother was already making big noise in college basketball on a national level. Ace was a lock all-star and possibly even league MVP. Tonight he was matched up against Stretch in his first start in an AHS uniform. Their point guard Mark Mulvey a fried of Rashad’s off the court was also in the MVP running. The floor was littered with scholarship basketball talent. All settle, the starting fives are announced the game was about to begin. I knew in my head that my record for when I dressed for varsity games was 12-1. Game 1, Junior Year, I had to be prepared for minutes. Had to focus, say a quick prayer. As soon as the ball is thrown in the air for the opening tip I feel removed from the set. Absorbing the atmosphere and slowly digesting the fact that all of these people are here to see us I suddenly feel like this has to be one of the few areas in currently functioning on such a classic level. I can’t think of many sixteen year-olds in America that could’ve ever had a better seat anywhere for anything than the one I have right at that moment. Game on: Boom Stretch wins the tap. “Dam did he get up.” I elbow poke Magic poignancy. The opening tip is controlled to Rashad who rockets the ball down the sideline to Kevin who broke long just like they used to do on the gridiron. Kevin catches the ball over his head like Willy Mays. Kevin secures the rock over his head and begins a blazing dribble towards the rim. He then, comes to a screeching halt just beyond the three point lines humping arch. “Take it top the h0le!” You can here the Big Shout as the ball is fired. Together from the bench we watched the bucket bury itself, silly. “Whew!” I stand and hug Magic Man as the AHS section erupts itself in loving bliss and the scantly Belmont majority sits hushed in vast astonishment cause we’re up three nothing. Meanwhile, Kevin Nolen who came up firing and hungry was trotting back to half court at about a half a mile a day clip. He’s laughing to himself almost like he’s saying to himself, “I still got it.” See the Big Guy’s rule is that he’d never tell you not to shoot. “But if it doesn’t go in I might take you out.” At halftime, and it was a game. Stretch didn’t flop, he was battling, impressing us all. Rashad was Rashad and Kevin was on fire. We led for stretches. On the road, game 1, Belmont had received all the press from Middlesex, an anomaly, were they for real? It was an exciting halftime. We were still at the end of the day the reining champions. This game came down to the wire. And with all of that said we lost in the final moments, but had some chances to win it. We sat in the locker room in frightened silence because the Big Guy said he wanted to sit and watch us think about the game tonight. A couple seconds later he said, “OK.” You could tell he was psyched. Walking out of the gym I’m not as mad as I think I should be after recognizing the Big Guys countenance as a supremely good one. It was a hard fought loss. But his biggest question was answered, Sean “Stretch” Groer was a big time player. After tonight you could make an argument Kevin and Rashad were one of the states best backcourts. Stretch in front of an intimidating audience out played the heralded Ace Palmer of Belmont up and down the court all night. The game was much different than the perceived blow out that we had read about all week. This was a tooth and nail struggle. Kevin hadn’t shot a basketball since July before the first week of practice. Tonight he buried threes from all over the place. The first shot was one of the most classic things I’d ever seen. The place was a mad house. I even checked in and within limited time the kid recorded four points, three rebounds, two steals and a foul. It was an amazing night at the house, the good moments were so tight. We all slept optimistic and happy, I loved my mother and sister so much. The Next Day: The Big Guy gave me a number of props in a spirited ACE that was very different than the often talked about urban legend of what ACE was like the day after a loss. “You made every shot you took, Eh, I was proud of you, you got in there and did your job last night.” Yeah boyee! I always remembered in exact preciseness my own stats. I've already had a cup of tea with the varsity. I’m looking to expand my role. We lost the game by one point and the Big Guy shockingly wasn’t that mad. He doesn’t even yell until we reach the bus. Scolding Rashad for acting what he called “a big hot dog” and me to “shut up.” But our real excitement was the same he shared, after tonight’s game we all knew we had a much different squad. I wasn’t scared and thought this was the year. The Big Guy told us after the game that basketball in Astori didn’t rebuild it reloaded and then he told Coach Gibbs “Gibbsy got a marker, make a sign and hang it.” Santo and Stretch fortified a frontal attack that much like a winning ground campaign on the gridiron set the all important physical tone of the game. They were skinny but spastic leapers using hunger as fuel. Santo stepped right into his new starting role without any hesitation and brought substance to the table. He literally was all over the place that night. I loved ADD and felt it to be an asset as opposed to a detriment for all of us. Ok, now the real biggest story though. Stretch is unbelievable That’s all I have to say about that and there will of course be no decline of hoops in Lexington. Underdogs no longer Magic spelled Rashad with much needed rest and Wellsy checked in and made worthwhile contributions. I on the other hand went in and kinda just tied everything together like Luke in Jedi yo. I feel like the Young Guns had arrived. Rashad had about twenty-eight points to Kevin’s twenty-five but we were the life of the game, the intangibles. Never the less it was a tough loss and we were 0-1. We just didn’t know we were that good.

Thursday, May 15, 2014