March 2nd – June 1st. 1992
A season that had begun with rehabilitation of my fractured left ankle had come full circle. I loved playing JV for Coach Sullivan, I loved the cup of tea with varsity and I looked forward to the upcoming summer league. I cherished falling in love for the very first time. The end of the season brought a welcome end to all responsibility, I can officially fall apart. I’d been expunging much of my time available kicking out with Mattie. My rap career had been on the sidelines as all of my thoughts revolved around “muffin.” On that note I informed my father through a translator that I would be working this summer on a shortened schedule downtown in the mailroom. I couldn’t again fulfill the grueling ten week, forty hours schedule and commute last years “opportunity” commanded.
However even my lust for my new love couldn’t sideline or take away from the time that I spent with my crew. In other news I’d begun smoking pot occasionally with Tick, Monster and Sully and although I didn’t think I’d gotten high yet (due to my not inhaling) I always pretended to be higher than the Chrysler building. I just wanted the fruits of pot acceptance without actually opening the gates. I felt that with the magnitude of legendary status I was pursuing I had to pretend to puff, at least a bit yo. Seeing it so much from all angles as a Hayden after hour’s kid, it had to be in the script. Also in heightened news us the Young Gun’s had begun to grow, inches not weed. For Mike and I, we went from 5-5 to 5-8. Goldy was stuck at 5-8 since the eighth grade. Santo, Jells, Sully, Spec and Tick all had eclipsed the holy six-foot mark and were not done. This comforted us all greatly keeping us all on that coveted “track.” For height is as important to the game of basketball as Alan Greenspan once was to the world at large. I’m a Republican G so once I like started smoking pot I decided, why not sell it? I was no stranger to seeing my shadow so I called Black Knight.
I bought my first ounce off the red line stop Broadway in South Boston. Black and I met a block away from Whitey Bulger’s most famous bar front the Triple O’s. All’s I wanted to do was hang out with black people, talk about rap and this wasn’t the place to do it. “Southie” was the cornerstone of fear, road block to racial progress. After all if your poor and white in Boston in America, white is really all you have to hold onto. And they did. Southie was a quick drop a halfway point for us. South Boston, Saturday, the Black Knight didn’t give a fuck. The Black Knight moved me my first ounce for a hundred fifty bucks, I sold eight “eighths” within a week to dirty white kids for thirty bucks a piece but didn’t much care for this hustle. This was right before the 2nd renaissance of weed in America (See Dr. Dre the Chronic) where dirt ounces would drop far below a hundred lizard backs in all cities across the country. We just weren’t there yet even so simply wasn’t my thing. Yo Ninety bucks profit a week? Plus I’m taking all this fucking risk carrying illegal shit on me, fuck that! I tried to get Monster involved, he blew it. “Your supposed to sell, not smoke it, all you fucking moron.”
“Never give me drugs.”
“You said, you could move, never mind.”
Gambling I perceived as a much more lucrative racket with the comparable risk far less minimal. I did however enjoy rapping about it. Consequently I continued to sell lightly throughout the coming summer. I’d stick to the football rackets in the fall. The Black Knight had begun pushing crack out in these sticks. Black said there was a market for everything in Madison, agreed. The Black Knight and I simply stopped attending the majority of spring classes to kick out, peep the times, markets and teenage females. In Madison most mainstream seniors were allowed to leave school eight weeks prior to the rest of the student body being dismissed, fucking liberals. And Mattie as a graduating senior was free from her daily class regiment much earlier in the spring than my sophomore class. This inaugural spring of real love had strengthened an already deep resolve towards my lackadaisical attitude towards attending class. And it came back to bite me tough yo, I done did it now C.
Another middle of the afternoon on a school day at Mattie’s house in the middle of the day drinking one of her father’s Samuel Adam’s Lager. I was elated when she suggested I drink a few. The two Zanex I had taken earlier in the day made my buzz that much more enjoyable, god I want her naked. Originally I was only going to take one Zanex, which I was now freely taking from my mother’s abundant supply until I remembered that I had a 38 pistol tucked inside a secret pocket of my Adidas duffel bag that I brought into her house with my gym shoes, thus a brother had to pop a two lot.
I could make the same profit selling a new .38 to Black in a half hour then dealing with a zip or Z or whatever the heel the curtains came up new to refer to an ounce as. I tell Muffin a few stories about the war from time to time. Rubbing the back of my neck where all stress settled I began to cry, broken hearted. “What’s wrong Cha wee?” I felt so relaxed and this is when rationalizations however charming faded away. “You can tell me anything you know.”
“I know.” I was so lucky to have this person in my life.
A short chuckle ensued that underpinned years of internal baggage. I told her everything, which meant I shared a few dark things. I could never tell her everything. I didn’t have the energy. I was writing more. Falling into Mattie’s protectionist arms I cried like a freak until I fell asleep exhausted from the disclosure. Upon my arrival back into the live and cognizant world Mattie was still rubbing my head peering into my own collective soul with altruistic eyes a warm gaze on a gorgeous May afternoon. “You are so cute.” She pinched my cheeks talked like a baby, fit right in. “Hi Chawee” I never felt so secure. “We’ll get through all of this.” And I nodded with the cleansed sense of perfection.
“Come with me.” And as we walked into the upstairs of a very Christian home my heart was beating with wild anticipation. As the slinky “Muffin” lay me down on her bed I was near faint status, all in, lights out. She kissed me on the mouth, neck and chest. Due to my present condition I was forced and fortunate to recall an emergency early massager lesson. I was close to tilt and did not want to release before my pants had come off. I went right back to the first lesson I derived to combat the inevitable gush of wonderment that precludes complete and sudden indifference. I just pretended Madison was actually my scotch-drinking racist Grandmother. This always delayed the inevitable. Muffin a nurturing spirit by design quieted me while placing both of my arms up vertically behind my head and began to peck my six pack and then (drum roll please, I’m serious this time!) unzipped my baggy blue jeans. I was about to receive my first blowjob. Minutes later I could see what all the hype was about, I can’t wait to call Uncle Clayt, I wanted to teach the world to sing!
“I’m not going back to school this afternoon.” There was no way, what I needed was another one of her father’s Samuel Adam’s Lager. “OK but are you sure that’s a good idea, you won’t get suspended or anything will you?”
“Nah.” And I burst into dance. Seeing my exuberance while skipping around her top floor in the full nude Mattie asked me why I had never rapped for her. She said that she loved to sing but got nervous to perform in front of others. Of course we already knew that from watching her sing the Star Spangled Banner at a basketball game this past Valentine’s Day while still seeing that “other” guy away at a good college somewhere in CT. I was in heaven and nestled next to her on her childhood mattress and poked my mouth close to her ear. I loved an audience. “OK, check it, only fifteen and life’s been hard my minds been marred and my hearts been scarred one too many times enough is enough no I’m not rough but circumstances made me tough and as the days turn and the years go by in a blink of an eye my childhood slipped by and now I’ve grown up into a hectic state decisions to make walls to shape and stress is building up and I don’t know if I can take it there’s too many folks that just don’t want to see me make it in a hazy state with a ton of weight sitten on my chest if I rest I’m second best so I shed a tear and move on I gotta stay long man I gotta stay strong cause there’s gotta to be more than life than I’ve seen passed the baseheads, crack pipes and dope fiends refuse to lose and end up like that die of crack and your labeled as a stat.” And I pulled back, just a taste and took a deep breath.
“Wow, better than the crap on the radio, that’s really good, you wrote that?” I loved that question and these were how many of my afternoons would play out that spring especially in the vortex of her senior year and the pedestrian nature of our grass roots love and free time together. Even when she thought I was going back to school / class I would hide in the woods, thank Jesus and think about how lucky I was to meet Mattie. With Mattie all of my love poured out quickly. It was a dream come true, a vision materialized. What blew me away to the outer rims of our and any galaxy was the reality of losing my virginity was now real. The Young Guns like, Mom, Parker most of the Madison general public were blown away that I had a girlfriend of this age and decorum. And that attention paradoxically settled me down it didn’t however help me attend high school classes.
Nothing ever just goes away. Yesterday is today is tomorrow is now. Karma is always watching and actions have long lasting consequences
I’ll Be There
June 3rd, 1992 and the summah
Physical scuffles are a natural extension of youthful development. Brawls, Mallholand falls, knife calls at suburban malls, scratches, eye patches, scrapes, eye rakes, kicks, quick flicks to sensitive dicks, headlocks, electric shocks and right hooks for kids that don’t pay book, deep breath. Dam, elbow drops, coronary pops and sprints from cops all fall under the giant insular cover of adolescents experiencing life through a fucked up suburban lineage of detached cats that never gave a fuck.
This institution is such a disgrace that my fight be never ending.
Yo the teachers are one thing, my mother is another and even these idiotic police officers are just about barely tolerable with my most intent focus. Yo it’s my classmates that unnerve me 2 no end. Not really my same grade peers for I got most of them in check. Yo it’s these older morons B.
Even given my isolationist policy upper classman never left me alone. My father once told me in Junior High that the one common thread binding all successful people was a strong vocabulary.
Yo Jesus, what should I do? Again I’m asking for your guidance father. If you don’t help me soon I’m thinking of changing my will to Allah. Start rapping with him and compare results although I did slip out of that red paint thing. So should I act white, get a braided belt, drop acid and talk about Led Zeppelin? Try to be individual in the country of individuality and you just see what kind of friction you scamper across. I’m a trash talken, lyrical shocken, Adidas jocken thug life gangster that likes his bad news on the fly, guy The ability to speak is why I’m a gem, dam dad.
Pink milk or not, summer was a very hyper, wet diaper foot tapping experience for me. Casting out the dark metaphors of old man winter and catapulting into the calming warmth of this new young air was appetizing. Anytime anything was too perfect for me there were issues. Anytime it leaned lopsided on the terrible tip, I rally. The whole question surrounding my High School career was, “can he survive the summer?” In the summer trite classes become dreadfully painful. This new weather bred worse behavior and put the risk reward system of class versus detention further out of whack. Couple that with the love of my Muffin and an ever-increasing swarm of bandits, sophomore summer and viscerally in my gut I knew new heights were barking just around the bend. The crew never deviated from each other much to this day. My multi-racial teen super group “Smooth Adolescents” had been demoralized ever since we did the Windsor School (all girls) Christmas dance. My voice kept cracking during my power ballads. MC Porn was in attendance informing me afterwards he wanted to record, “lick my balls and suck my dick” tellen me not to sing on the demo. I hesitantly concurred.
I of course would hesitantly from time to time attend the Madison mega parties that my girlfriend Mattie threw. Here it gave racist hockey players, past drunks and the “would be” seniors an opportunity, to try and convince me I was white. Once again I had immunity from beat downs. Everyone loved my girlfriend. “Dude what the fuck are you thinking? What is this? Why do you talk like you’re from the south? Why don’t you just like settle done bra, you could actually be cool.”
“Why do you have to be a punk?” I’d utilize the breath trick, so hard not to say fuck you and smile.
“I mean your sister fucken rocks man.” God I hated white vernacular. “Dude you’re not black, you have blue eyes, you’re white. I think you need to hear that bro, seriously, you are not black dude.” This was the usual protocol. My response was always the same, “it’s not what you’re on the outside, its what you are on the inside.”
Mattie at her parties would always rush to my security whenever she was forced to leave me for even the slightest of seconds paralyzed by the public. Sometimes depending on the size of the party a true legend of the past that had sacrificed much would grace us with their presence. Muffin always kept one eye on me and one eye on the foundation of the house to make sure it wasn’t collapsing. I’d always smile and say, “I’m cool muffin.” The good parties were always overflowing and Mattie only threw good parties, they called her the Glenda the good witch, fuck college. The much-anticipated 10th grade vs. senior fight never happened all in once and for all at Lincoln Field the old town dump like I had envisioned. But it slowly had unfolded over a string of events without closure from the major players at the root of the emotion. I’d apparently started a rumble months ago that recently had come to fruition where Freddy my gonzo aka adopted Korean Jew rap financer was cut on the neck and the ear. We’d retaliated big black and deep the flowing morning. I’d forgotten all about it. My immunity frustrated the segment most obsessed with seeing me bleed for unlawful social behavior and hatred of his race. I always seemed to get away, barely. Even the beat down of Grimly sent as a warning. He was hospitalized. He was on crutches. It was emotional. There would be vengeance. I’d get creative. It was weeks after his mother passed away of cancer. The white seniors high on PCP jumped us all after the year ending ceremony for all athletes at the high school.
And at my girlfriends (Big Boobs) parties in the spring of 92 these characters and their followers were regulars. And the truce there was delicate only out of respect for Mattie, seeing me there, alone and vulnerable with the “other” guys drinking heavily teased their burning desire to hospitalize me. I’d hold on to one of those .38’s. Stash it at Carlo’s. I was taking it all in, these parties I thought about what my friends were up to, what I was missing. Yo I can only imagine what the Young Guns are doing right at this moment, oh Muffin
At her house I found structure, safety and stock market conversation with her father. With Mattie the source of all of my panic and anger up until that point rested. When I laid back in her arms after yet another “incident” she popped her scrumptious neck kisses and strong hand rubs over defeated shoulders. She made me feel for the first time in life, at peace, yo I thanked the mutha fucker Jesus I’m fifteen and madly in love. I was for the first time in my life content. I felt guilty about it.
The Exam Scam: And never was my fortuity over the last five months more evident than the widely discussed and punishable 10th grade “exam scam.” The possession of answers ahead of the year’s final exams a few of my closest friends had come into possession of and they got caught. And it went deep. The story saturated the towns never ending gossip wire, was addressed at the school committee’s town meeting and been the subject of at least one editorial in the town’s weekly paper. Our next store neighbor and future school committee member was as outraged about us as we were regarding her mothering skill. Jelly was involved and stemmed from a widely prominent local family, “he better still not be accepted to Harvard.”
We’d quickly learn that in Madison Hills cheating on SAT’S and or heavily weighted final exams was the single worst thing in the world you can do. I was outraged. I can’t believe these people! It seemed white world was content to live completely oblivious of the real problems destroying our country and earth. This only strengthened my no listen resolve tilt, curtains, all of them.
My boy C of course had conned a janitor into borrowing a master key after hours. We loved the janitors and my boy C’s strong blue-collar work cemented the cool with. He gave a taste to any UNLV member attending the same classes with him that semester. And they were photocopied and returned to no one’s notice. And they had them all. And they nailed it. Idiots. You never get 100%. And yes the hoop players, Sully, Goldie, Jelly, Santo and then the fellas, Freddy, my boy C, Pos, Herby, a few others all went down.
And their universal denial after an uncorroborated leak mitigated what could’ve been worse. The punishment was still however the maximum Mr. Robinson was able to levy. It was outrageous. There summers were ruined before they’d even begun lucky they weren’t kicked out of school, i.e. lucky to be white, and Asian.
“I’m so proud of you for not being involved in this, the whole meeting I sat just waiting, listening, I knew your name would eventually come up and you know what it didn’t, I couldn’t believe it Charlie, I still can’t!” “Well believe it Mr. Robinson, I didn’t have any classes with my boy C!” He patted my shoulder. It felt good to not lie be apart of below average classes. As always we both had to get back to deal with other major dilemmas on our schedules.
And just as quick as we thought my good luck might have translated more to a behavior then a trend Mr. Robinson delivered life-changing news regarding my academia. Apparently you did have to attend class in high school in order to stay. I don’t give a fuck
The meeting was the latest reminder that my family was thin. It had been almost two years since my last super meeting complete with a nurse and therapist. To have to walk into your son’s school, which is the most important thing for him in his life “supposedly,” and to have to sit down with teachers, again and listen to them tell you what a derangement her only son is, well, it hurt and rises like water to the forefront your own faults and anxieties. The fact of the matter was a new enemy awoke. This new enemy goes went the name of academic credits or in my case lack thereof. Apparently every time you skipped the same “major class” more than five times you lost one credit towards graduation. I wasn’t aware of this clause regarding my degree. This isn’t even that big a deal because this only applied to English, Math, Science and History. The other sixty percent of your time was spent in Study Halls (excuse me while I laugh) Gym, and your own “electives.” So it’s just that a brother wasn’t hip to the fact that you lost a credit every-time you skipped a major five times. During my literal absence from school grounds during spring I had amassed a net loss of twenty-three credits, “fucking cocksuckers!” I screamed while being informed that you needed eighty-eight to graduate. I’m a freshman again, a year younger than Mercedes class, NO! This is worse than the 8th grade, at least that was just a year, holy fuck.
“Can I see some sort of” Cut off, prepared, Mr. Robinson the consummate professional threw a screen print out at me. “Your back to being a freshmen, you graduate in 96 if you make some serious changes, today.” This is how the meeting started off driving my mother immediately in tears. I was angered that they had done this to her. After that graceful opening I glanced a glare to my left and noticed that both the Big Guy and Coach Sullivan had walked inconspicuously inside the principals conference room seating themselves. What the Big Guy and Coach Sullivan did with their time, besides instruct championship basketball was run the ACE program, alternative choice education. The program was secluded away from the rest of the population. The kids who inhabited this program you heard about and rarely if ever saw throughout the day. I never get caught for anything. I’m black, I never get caught for anything, I’m black. I kept repeating to myself to anchor my emotions and not fall apart. But yep the credits, you can’t not go to class sport
And then with a fast tapping foot, I swallowed my throat unable to block out he fact the Big Guy was actually here and this wasn’t junior high. “Sorry Sir” and at that point all other forces in the room go deaf. All realize they have no place or power in a discussion between the Big Guy and one of his players.
Just by his presence, tone and role I knew my life was once again on the line. Everyone including Mr. Savage excuse me Mr. Robinson felt bad for me when they see the condition of my mother, she even asked Mr. Robinson if she could smoke a cigarette. Her request was declined and I whispered gently, “see what I mean.” To her annoyed response of “shut up Charlie dear god.” The Big Guy had seen enough. “Yo” he said one word with such austerity, I froze death. The air was thick and the tension could be sliced, diced and cooked. My mother had also frozen. I bit my inner gum and tell myself, not here pal, not here and reverted to my breath trick.
Mr. Robinson sympathizes when he sees in real time that I might be destroying the only thing that I had going for me everyone else was rendered insignificant regardless of title. This was a discussion between The Big Guy and his player.
“Acting like a jokah.” He shakes his head. I bowed mine in disgrace barely mumbling “Yo I ah missed a lot of classes in the spring sir.” Trying to eke out some sort of albeit weak justification I rally to share and impulsively explain. “It’s not my fault, I’m in love!” It was never my fault or my mothers. It was quite a conspiracy. He had a knee jerk laugh not to be helped before discipline settled. “Shows over, you’re coming to ACE and you should be grateful for that, one screw up and you’re done.” This last statement bit, sending me into a soft never-ending depression forcing me to name all the people whose names begins with the D. My mother began hysterically crying having a panic attack. Sitting next to her, hearing my hero was just too much and finally I avalanched along anxiety’s lines or in this case abject sadness, sorry ma, Jesus I fucking suck, sorry, sorry.
From what she heard the ACE program was the very worst place in school for the very worst kids. For her this was just too much. She’d never go to Stop & Shop in town again. My hero was beaten all alone, the source of all of my anger and resentment, what happened to her I’m perpetuating her gloom, her pain, sorrow and defensive deflector shields. I folded my hands to pray silently. Coach Sullivan handed my mother a tissue as she reached for her medication. Looking up all mugs of judicious teachers, therapists, it wasn’t empathy for they couldn’t relate. Settling through my breath trick I grabbed my mother’s hand underneath the table. After the meeting a few concessions had been made. Driving home my mother’s sole words were, “I’ll never be able to show my face in Stop and Shop again, thanks.”
I’ll be shopping for groceries in upstate New York by the time you’re done.”
My sister didn’t return until Saturday morning. She walked down the cul-de-sac alone. She didn’t look good. My mother, worried sick, resolved the lord upon her arrival. I was crushed filled with inexplicable sadness.
She had been at the funeral home last night. When pressed she’d told me she Brett had dropped her off at the foot of the street. I ran to Sugar Ray’s and cried. Frankie found out. His older brother was there. Daniel Boone was there. They were flirting. Brett made sure she stayed. She never seemed the same after that. She’d never tell me she was drugged and raped. Frankie broke up with her the next day thinking she cheated on him. He came to Hayden that night looking for Brett as Boone was closing up, Magic and I were hanging as custom.
“What a pussy,” is all we could say unaware of what had happened except Frankie wanted a word outside.
“Dude come on, hang out Mr. Boone!” The 6-3 blonde heir to the funeral home begged. He was scared shitless of Frankie. Magic and I had never witnessed such cowardice. “Brett, I gotta lock up.” Frankie tired of waiting eventually smashed up his luxury 40K infinity pretty good. Brett hid in a closet. Brett would’ve been an 87 guy and therefore six years the senior of my sister. I’ll never know why she didn’t tell me. Why it took twenty years. I’d be in jail. Nothing spoke more to white privilege more than rape. My sister. I died. We’d kill him. They would’ve lost everything. He got away. The bastard. I never knew more important the gang more important Spec. This wasn’t grabbing an ass on the bike path.
My mother was sexually assaulted when she was a child. The men that extorted her caretakers store she was raised above. It birthed her panic attacks, hanging out her bedroom window in the middle of the night. Blocked out the darkest corners. She could only remember the windows, her prayers and never being able to be intimate with men again. It was all so twisted, so dense, what happened to her, to us, I could never, tell, talk or explain how that felt. I never had the urge.
Baby Got Back
“As I stepped out from the darkness of the movie theatre into the bright sunlight.” Pony Boy Curtis
The first week of summer started off with the Big Guy’s summer camp. Camp gave me a chance to show off after all I was once them. And you’d never let a come up, come up on your watch. This wasn’t social. It was our craft. And we loved it. We loved the competition. I wanted to play in front of the Big Guy against anyone in the country. I was going to be six feet. I was benching the plates. I was fast, quick and shot 90% from the line. I was a Madison Minuteman. The next in line of the classic chest 2 chest full court pressing championship black guards, my class was stacked. I took charges. The Minutemen hadn’t lost since Rollie got there so many years ago. You just had to get in, stay and survive.
We wanted the best. The Big Guy gave it to us. The best basketball family a kid on the east coast of America in the 1980’s could ever dream of. And it was right there. But you had to pay the price. I was built to win and these afternoon scrimmages would cement the fact I would start at the two, Magic the point our senior year after Eric Slaughter and David graduated. We’d locked those backcourt slots in pole position ever since the third grade. And every night in the 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th grade we’d practice perfect until we couldn’t and then we’d watched the night games until Hayden closed. And every night we waited to be drafted. Displaying our skills on the sidelines making a pitch to players giving us a shot. But guys wanted to stay on and viewed Magic and at five foot one, one hundred pounds soaked as liabilities. Until one day. And that night the guy whose name we can’t mention, gold gloved, local boxing legend took us both on amused we’d waited every night all fall and all of last year for a shot. And I never missed. That night, I never missed. And we never left. And every day every scrimmage every stop every shot I’d never give an inch anywhere all the time basketball was mine and before YG the only family I ever had. So it was my mother’s too, Man, we still need a center, perfect practice Also this summer brought season 2 of the Young Guns, summer league everyone was excited for that. It had become a social event for our following. We expected even bigger crowds this summer with Magic finally joining us. Magic was the rare ADD patient with patience. He tempered our chaos with equal and appropriate distribution. The vertical inches we had recently grown did not however reflect growing life maturation. For our first game I wore a wristband on my calf years ahead of seeing anyone on TV rock something like that. 2 dope, if you’re going to win, might as well look slick
The Young Guns seemed a national draw (on a town level) eclipsing the bulging assemblies of the prior summer. Realizing for the first time collectively that our combined forces activated a Cajun hot show of theatrics simply upped the talking and wristbands. As the most insecure kid in the history of the planet the Young Guns vaporized that and with their support, loyalty and gang participation we played a reckless strand of fast break, full press all game run, rebel type freewheeling game of freedom.
I held down how I saw it, the “electric” two guard spot. Myself, Magic, Goldie, Santo and Jelly. 6-2, 6-3 upfront, we still need a center. The Big Guy always of course was a staple at the lighted courts on the small hills only bench summer nights to watch us play. In Madison basketball was thriving Tuesdays and Thursday in the summertime at the center courts. You could see the varsity’s home gym over the horizon as the past and present collided for bragging rights.
The summer of 92, the Young Guns appeared to have a different attitude from the first jump ball, focused and much angrier. We’d been unleashed. We were suddenly faster and quicker than everyone else, which significantly enhanced our holistic style of play we’d branded through our years of sweat, camaraderie and desire. We were the reason dozens of slinky pieces of high school homework were down at the “courts.” This had never, ever been the case and everyone in the league appreciated this. Close to a pay phone it was a scene within a scene. Coach Sullivan even told me, “this could be your coming out party” after one particular shock stomp our constitution is simple, run, gun, talk-shit and press. By the time it had reached August we were making a deep run in the playoffs. And it was not without notice. We’d be expected to contribute heavily next year. This was the preface. Our growth sport allowed us to ascend past the marginalized stars of the past that despite drug problems still controlled us the preceding summer. And another year of practice and our first commitment in the weight room allowed us to compete with college captains of the past that hadn’t marginalized themselves one way or the other. Our playoff run was affirmation in the belief we were a strong class and the tradition would live on. And slowly with each win towards the end of the summer more and more YG began wearing black armbands on their calves, my idea.
End of the Road
August 12th, 1992
“Cause basketball courts in the summer got girls there.” Fresh Prince
The Summer League Finals, 9:07 PM: Young Guns vs. Sphex
We were coming of age here. We’d surprised twice in the playoffs landing in the finals. I’d caught fire. We all had. And that night was a scene. It was fair to wonder exactly who the fuck we all were, these Young Guns. The old timers had never witnessed so many young people congregating at a summer league game. Our opponent Sphex was a college team littered with playmakers and past legends. They even had Smudge last seasons hero and his older brother. The Big Guy sitting atop of the courts small hill on his own public bench looked disgusted. He didn’t appear thrilled with all of the attention us trouble makers were receiving. In the opening three huddles we’d been screaming “Our way, our way, our way!” It was game time and I needed to get angry.
Daniel Boone loomed large at every game on our run to the finals. I could feel the tickle of his American Express card from the bench. Boone was fast becoming a great mentor that loved sports scams. “It’s our time down here yo.” I could just hear Mikey from the Goonies saying that over and over inside my head. Boone with Parker now curiously laughing congenially by his side was fast became the center of our “Oz.” Boone was there to pick up the Brett / Frankie pieces. They were now together. Boone was the man of our house now. It made my mother crazy. We’d still take the company. Boy did he have stories. All I wanted were stories. To hear, tell, experience and build, my legend, here. But there were steady fits, “I heard his brother is a criminal, the father is crazy, the brother just get out of the hospital.”
“Not what I heard.” I knew he was shady by then. I loved it. Boone had informed Magic and I, win or lose he’ll take us to Legal Seafood’s. And even though Magic always told me the system would eventually catch up 2 Boone and his brothers, he was no stranger to accepting a free shady perk. The game? Anticlimactic we lost to a much stronger club. We were a year away. I was a double, double guy. Santo erupted and I thought, maybe we don’t need a big man. He’s a zilla I love it. We vowed after the final horn, “next year we’re stronger, we win that game. Bring it in.” Until we did those guys would always “have us.” After the game Mike and I pushed our Legal’s dinner back. In fact there were several people that wanted to take us to dinner. Instead we headed to the back of our old elementary school, Bridge. After the game the team and a very handpicked select group of family were invited to join the “Firm” behind the school by the old reservoir for a night of forty’s, weed smoking and rap rhyming. The highlight of my summer during my first blaze with Santo, the star of the night deferred some lime my way. He pulled me aside, shaking my arms, “Charlie you played fucking great tonight. We’re going to be good. You can shut down anyone. You hit big 3’s. We can win something” It meant something. Santo after all was the first of us called to varsity. He smoked weed and practiced in argyle socks. He loved to fight. He loved to take charges. He was UNLV. He was a Young Gun captain. Coming up with that a great year slept. All in all to me, what I knew, I thought sophomore year had gone great. Everything was sort of on track. I had three major new characters in the heart of my script, Muffin, Daniel Boone and now the Big Guy, double down. Yo I have a hot girlfriend with big boobs and I only went to court twice this past year.
And just like that I was half way through high school. The Big Guy said all season, “it goes quick.”
And as yet another “first day” loomed I prayed for my mother. And she prayed for me. I prayed for basketball. And she prayed for me. And she prayed and she prayed. I asked black Jesus every night not to leave me. It was only in those moments all life washed away the mascara of my clown suit, my defensives like my mothers were our survival kit and if you gave an inch we’d be swallowed – she was right, there was no one to catch us. And I’d cry and I’d cry in my star wars sheets, clutching the stuffed animals, my first gang my mother and sister always found it odd I slept with eight stuffed animals. I never did quite understand why my mother was turned away at her own father’s funeral. Why he left his newborn daughter girl at the hospital. Why people closet to us always walked away. I couldn’t let myself ever go down that dark road of thoughts. That montage, a sniper, the Korean war, drafted, no glory, a boxer, janitor, home, love, wife, gone, birth, daughter, death, can’t handle, bills, reality, love lost, wife, home, my mother, he can’t, she stays, unclaimed, claimed, Jenny, old women, candy store, open windows, breath, anxiety, men, swindlers, violations, panic, faded, boundaries, holidays, her dad right down the street, Jenny’s death, on your own, eighteen, $1200, no family only pariahs, survival, sailing camp, the cape, my dad, almost, us, one present, maybe hard knock life fuck if I knew. And the worst part of it all, there was no one left to come back on, nothing, nothing made me run more suicides (when no one was watching) than my mother’s battle with panic and depression. The big P & D is a tough one. I was forever thankful for my lawnmower accident, the heart that it gave me. I’d be one evil prick without it I often surmised. I thanked Jesus for my roommate in intensive care. I thanked him for the snapping clarity of something so colossal so earth defying it could only be felt, and I loved that feeling of having a heart. Anything to shore up how far I know I’d go to make a bully, random rich white person or anyone that asked kindly to inflict suffering upon especially my crew. And it laughed. And it soothed. And it was exciting to not give a fuck. But that was the human brain and it’s timeless match against the human heart. Alone I needed that fuel. Now on top I needed it more. Meanwhile my best friend, companion, compass and tears, my own human heart was right inside of me the whole time. And those flashes, those heartfelt sequences, sights, handicap kids, aging widows, time bomb juveniles, forever, knowledge vs. wisdom, now, it moved me. And gave me confidence. I wouldn’t accept the labels “professionals” put on me. I was everything that couldn’t be taught. I was a leader. People were calling me a legend although I still didn’t know what it entailed.
Junior Year, I was alive and nothing in the whole wide world was going to stop me from reversing our fortunes. Nothing else mattered. I knew I was smart. I knew I was crazy. It was already happening. I could build the family and nothing meager would ever threaten us again. We had to win a title. Our lives depended on it. Tomorrow was my first day of my junior year, upper class status. I just want to look good.