June 25, 2014

Momma’s Email

Momma’s email stung. I miss Jake and Ike. I wish they’d never gone to college. It’s not the same without them. I’m sitting here in winterland Chiberia, worrying about the projected sales of stickers too old to be retro, while my nine year old sister – my only sister among four younger siblings, my baby sister who still sucks her thumb in her sleep, my sister who climbs all over me like I’m a tree, who finds something to perform or exhibit at every family gathering – lies on the couch with the aches and shivers and occasional vomiting and more occasional groaning of influenza. Now I feel sick. Ready to book the next one way flight to Albany or load up my car and wish the roommates the best of lives before driving seventeen hours. To abandon a recent promotion for the baby girl without whom I can’t imagine life, but live it every day.

But instead I read a few lines preceding.  Abe and Joe have been keeping her entertained. The fifteen and eleven year old, come into their own. They’re the older brothers now. They’re the big boys; the head honchos. They are the ones who know best, who know her best. The two most affected by the move. The two extroverts struggling as nomads, as aliens, as their biblical namesakes. One who was vocal and nothing less than hesitant about the northeast, who does not hide his anger, but is slowly, painfully, ever so fucking painfully – like slivers under your fingernails – growing, forging his resolve and identity. And one, who vocalized nothing but withdrew into the core of himself, steeling himself in the absence of peers into a self-reliance unmatched among his siblings; one – pantomiming before he could talk – who prefers physical contact to written correspondence, and written correspondence to faceless phone chatter.

But in spite of their solitude, their independence, their anger, their despondence, their frustration, their ongoing depression, they have such grace and mercy to spend time with their weepy sister. Their weepy little sister who cries for the absent older two living hours away, who she won’t see, who worry about sales numbers and final grades, who can’t spend their hours entertaining her other than by phone. Whose absence enables the others to become men, unnoticed, unappreciated, but necessary.

June 14, 2014

In Atrophy

The end isn’t near, it’s here. It gave its warning shots across the bow. Scotty’s pictures, black and white photography with black frames, mounted over the half-bookshelf in the hall, were gone, holes emptied of nails in their place. I had never paused to inspect them closely, just acknowledged their presence as one of Sarah’s touches giving our walls an artful caress. Now the emptiness of the wall with bore holes screamed like a loon with camel hair cassock and sandwich board soliciting next life preparation.

The next week the lamp from my favorite reading nook was removed from its locale. The last publicly displayed item Scotty planned to take into his new life with Sarah. Another piece I had accepted, with much pleasure, into my life and become accustomed to it. Unsought, but appreciated, and now gone. The spring sun through the windows keeps the space usable, but it’s a conclave no more.

The house is in atrophy. It’s not just Scotty’s absence, but that is the harbinger.

I’ve lived with Scotty longer than anyone who doesn’t share my last name. We had never met before he walked in the apartment that September. Four consecutive years of disparate lives; we would occasionally both be home during waking hours, but usually we had to schedule any extended sightings.  The insomniac night owl and the regimented nine to fiver. An apartment, two houses, and six other roommates circulating. During the Snopacolypse he was an EMT in The City and he slept at the station for days. The overgrown house with the plumbing disaster. The day we walked in to find a roommate unconscious in a pool of Cheerio-vomit. The house with attached garage and leaky basement where Scotty earned his Master’s degree.

He and Sarah signed the lease on the apartment they’ll live in after their wedding early, and he’s been moving in there, not too slowly. I don’t know the last time he was actually in our house. Some of his stuff is still here, shelves, old bed, mini fridge, freezer, homebrew kit; basically I live in his storage unit.

This is the last month, not only with Scotty, but David, too. It has been four years with David also, but not consecutive. As his wedding has approached his presence has gradually diminished, though his possessions have all remained. His absence is not as jarring as Scotty’s, although that could be just because it hasn’t really started yet. He moves to his new place in the couple weeks as I move to mine.

He’s been the stoic observer to my volatile relationships, sipping whiskey sympathetically as I nervously pace my way through anxieties and neuroticisms, silent witness to my aimless rage. He’s watched me plunge to the abyss of Assassin’s Creed and Community in attempts to alleviate heartbreak. When the plumbing disaster rendered the kitchen unusable, we subsisted on Chinese takeout and hydrated on beer. Between the two of us, we’ve imbibed a lot of whiskey and vodka over the past three years.

And when my rage has given pause, he’s had the well-placed, unexpected word of encouragement. Even in the morning when my rage is most piqued and the last thing I want is to speak.

The shelves are empty and corrugated is everywhere. In less than a week, there’ll be no furniture in these rooms and only kitchen wares to be divided. There is a torn window screen and two bathroom towel hooks to be repaired. The Goodwill donations have already begun, clothing, speakers, lamps, tube televisions; I wonder how much they’ll keep and find useful and how much they’ll just discard.

The end is here. In the next two weeks this house will be polished, emptied and scrubbed of the inhabitants. We will be scattered like grass seed to grow thin, but sufficient, roots in new dirt.

April 19, 2014

The Blood of Christ

It’s exhausting. It lasts no more than fifteen minutes, but afterwards I sit down exhausted.

They come forward to the First with begging hands, extended for the meal, crossed for the touch. Those who ask, receive; food or touch, none are denied. From there, they proceed to the Second.

At the First, there just the one exchange, no confusion – The body of Christ, the bread of Heaven. I am Second. I stand pensively, careful not to spill. I pass to them and they pass back; I wipe and twist. I try took look each in the eye, speaking to them personally, unlike the response tree at your local customer service center.

The blood of Christ, the cup of salvation.

I’ve heard some people say, The blood of Christ, shed for you, but it doesn’t have the right meter. It fits better when the first says, The body of Christ, broken for you, but since this is rarely said, it’s a moot point.

The Blood of Christ, the tears of Heaven.

That sounds

So poetic

So romantic

So religious

But I’m still not convinced of Heaven, not in the colloquial sense. When your boy returns from his coma Heaven, I’m more than skeptical. Not because I have abandoned the hope of Christ or because I doubt the earnestness of your conviction, but because I am fairly certain that this Heaven is not Christ’s. It is because I have a greater hope than ethereal, gaseous soul-consciousness peacefully resigned and dissolved into frozen water droplets and lethargically strummed harp tones. I’d prefer my current purgatory, with its vibrancy, vitality, and promise of bodily resurrection to the passive, minimalist, eternal Nirvana so often advocated.

But let’s reign in my tangent, during which I turned into UPS’s 1-800-response tree.

She walks slowly, perpendicular to my orientation, swallowing the Body and thinking upon

Upon

Upon

Upon what, I don’t know. I don’t know how the mysteries of Mass enact themselves upon me, much less her.

But she stops, turns ninety degrees, and executes two sharp steps, almost a single lunge toward the chalice in my hand. I’ve barely raised the earthenware chalice and I’ve barely recited the liturgy before she’s clutching at the stem, whispering her Amen, lifting the chalice, with my hand, to her lips. She has no time for ceremony, she is thirsty for the Living Water, the water turned to wine, the simple feast shared among unnumbered multitudes in history, the sands on the shore and the stars in the sky, promised to Abraham. She doesn’t shroud her thirst in dignity; she holds no illusions of having earned the drink she receives. But what she has within her grasp she will not rescind, she cannot.

She imbibes so quickly I haven’t had time to remove my hands from the chalice before she returns control to me. She quickly turns to her right and walks back to her pew, head hung humbly, not shamefully. I twist the chalice counterclockwise as I wipe the rim. I look up and there is the next sinner, earnest for his turn at the well, with others lined up behind him. In my hands is a grace not my own, but one I get to share, one that we return to as often as we can. When the last has had their fill, we linger for a moment, the bread-bearer and I, waiting for the last sheep, or maybe Elijah, before putting away the leftovers, the twelve bushels we have left.

I return to my pew with the same posture as she did, though mine might be more rooted in exhaustion. Some might argue it’s just the residual effect of a quiet introvert having talked with fifty some people in a matter of minutes. Some may argue it’s the weight of the Holy Spirit, while others argue that the Spirit is not present in liturgy. But maybe it’s the weariness of a derelict painting doorposts in lamb’s blood for reasons he doesn’t fully understand, but knows are necessary.

 

February 1, 2014

On Langston Hughes

It is fitting that February is African American History month as February 1st is the birthday of the esteemed poet, Langston Hughes. Students across the country in various grade levels will be reading such works as Harlem, The Weary Blues, and The Negro Speaks of Rivers as the obligatory nod towards the progress of civil rights, as though now that literary pedagogy recognizes black authors for a month, deceased for half a century and nearly a century past the height of their writing, we’ve reached the pinnacle of racial equality. News flash: we haven’t yet.

Though Langston Hughes may be the easily packaged totem, the go-to African American History literary lesson, it is not a denigration of his literary talent or his racial importance. And, despite the “antiquity” of his writing in a culture that uses Snapchat, he should be taught as the seminal figure he is. It is merely disappointing that the bulk of this month’s curriculum will only focus on a movement last less than two decades and ended eighty years ago, rather than the whole of African American literature.

But today is Langston Hughes’ birthday; were he still alive he’d be 112. He was a prominent figure in the Harlem Renaissance, the literary time period associated with the rise of jazz, black literature, and a black middle class. I mentioned his three most popular poems, at least among Caucasian middle class educators, but he was also a literary critic, essayist, and playwright. While others can provide better historical and literary analysis, his writing has impacted my life.

Reading Langston Hughes in high school was the first time I remember realizing that good writing is integrally tied to life. Though I did not live in the 1930s, either in Harlem tenements or the Georgian sharecropper’s shack, their days were shared with me, not just as action, but concerns and joys, sorrows and loves. Paying rent by day and feverishly dancing by night. He laid bare before me the hypocritical and gnostic tendencies of American Christianity. In anger, in joy, in tears, and in laughter, Hughes’ poetry gave flesh to the intellectual struggles of inequality, racial and economic. It was art, generally perceived as emotive and evocative, but it was physical and grounded.

Langston Hughes served as a chronological bridge between me and the next writer I would become infatuated with, Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Hughes’ writing, placing equal balance between technical skill and intellectual message, was in line with Dostoyevsky’s. Through their writing, both exemplified the same central tenant: that what you think about the world directs your interactions with the world, so you need to be precise in your thinking. Your thoughts do not stay in your head; they enact themselves in your life. While they thought very different things about the world, that they held to this tenant gives their writing greater significance and longevity.

The importance of precise thought, particularly in regards to one’s own racial identity, is seen most acutely in the essay, The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain. In it, he confronts the black artist who seeks to write, not as a black poet, just as a poet. Hughes recognizes that there is nothing wrong in writing something that anyone can enjoy, but danger lies in sterilizing one’s own voice and identity. If writing is an expression of thought, and your thought is disembodied from your existence, then your writing will not be tied to your existence. If your thought denigrates your own physical existence, how can your writing be a positive force in a physical world? To Hughes, it cannot.

Langston Hughes is my life’s literary linchpin. His was the major literary voice inspiring me to write poetry in high school, which caused me, before I had declared a major, to take more English classes at community college. Those classes were what caused me to declare myself an English Major; without Hughes I don’t know Dostoyevsky or Dante, Hemingway or Herbert. It was his voice that drew me to Dr. Christina Bieber’s African American Literature class and exposed me to Jean Toomer, Toni Morrison, Robert Hayden, James Baldwin, Gwendolyn Brooks, Elizabeth Alexander, and others. Without that African American literature class, I would have kept the pseudo-Christian, gnostic thought to which I held. Without my English degree, I wouldn’t have sought a career in publishing. Without my job, I wouldn’t know many who have challenged and encouraged my writing.

Though I rarely write poetry anymore, though I work at publisher that does nothing with poetry, I would not be who and where I am without Langston Hughes’ writing. I needed to pay homage to this man who has inspired and influenced my life. I’m not going to end with a poem which neatly ties together what I’ve written, but just one that I hold dear: I, Too.

January 13, 2014

New Shoes

This is for the new shoes, the fresh kicks. The shoes that high-schoolers unlace to relace, to rebrand the brand, using textile blends in long bands, signifying the signing of their own brand. The sun reflects off our feet to pierce your eye and cause retinal blindness; crystal bright and minty breath fresh. Fresh from the box; wash your hands before you even look. I am no heretic, vandal, or villain, but these shoes are not for your children. I am steeped in a hundred percent flavor and two hundred percent proof from the crest of my head to the heel of my hoof. The cap flipped back is white on black mirrored below by the white trimmed with black. These aren’t Jordans, this is not about flight. The DC on the side is like the city where my allegiances lie, though the politicians can suckle on pesticide. These are high stepping shoes; the victory’s in sight. These are not shoes for your closet; they’re shoes for your feet, worn by the every man, for every man on the street with his mind on his stomach and pocketing money for something to eat. These shoes will hopefully age with grace to a greyed out end with holey soles that can’t be replaced.

2013-11-03 13.41.52

Tags: , ,
December 25, 2013

First Snow

I was crouched down to talk to four year old Ellie as her dad talked to Nick. She commented on how crowded it was and I agreed. I glanced out the plate glass wall to my right and barely saw the white dust swirling as though caught in sunbeam.

“Look Ellie! It’s snowing”

“Yes,” she replied, as though it were perpetually snowing in the world she inhabited. “I like to make snow angels.”

A boy ran past us. “That’s one of my friends. I’m going to go play.” With that, she followed him out of the adult forest and I stood to rejoin the grown up conversation about work and books and entrepreneurism. Eventually, the second service began and I wandered to my usual section.

I sit in the back left side of the sanctuary; I’ve always been a back row student and a back row congregant.  The upper half of the wall to my left is windows. Looking out through the bare tree tops, I’m often distracted by the freight trains lumbering past the church property, their groans and bellows surprisingly mellowed by the refurbished factory walls.

This building is a miracle. The story is older than me; I barely know the details of the five years I was present for. But a migrant church body, like Israel fording the Jordan from the wilderness, crossed the city of Wheaton to their promised land. And today, I stare out the window as snowdust turns to flurries to snowflakes, accumulating on window ledges and tree branches, car roofs and train tops.

The white quiet world beyond the glass is contrasted against the deep purples of the Advent service and the hymnody selected. The most liturgical congregants conscript their clothing to match the altar dressings. The least liturgical wear Christmas reds. I, like others who forget to dress accordingly, am a smattering of greens, browns, blues, and greys. But purple, ranging from pale lavenders to weighty violets, owns the sanctuary, dressing it as a throne room.

Our voices rise in the E minor verses of O Come, O Come Emmanuel; lacking an organ, the music team has taken an ascetic approach to the song, stripping the instrumentation to a minimum. The minor key is beautiful, but mournful, at odds with its imperative to rejoice in the promise of redemption, of resurrection, of a messiah. Some have abandoned that hope, finding it propaganda, a cruel joke, or the mass’ opiate. Others are ignorant of the mourning, idealizing humanity’s progress and potential, finding the hope unnecessary. But some are starting to recognize their own brokenness in a dying world; a brokenness that might be made right. They sing a mournful song to the only one who can save anyone or anything, gasping out words in desperation, unable to abide outside of the song’s hope. This is what I ponder as the homily explores the lectionary, what I pray as the parishioners kneel, and what I ingest at the Eucharist.

As I pull into my neighborhood, there is just enough snow for me to start fishtailing. When you’re good enough at driving in the snow, this is fun. If you’re not good, I’m sure this is terrifying.

I pull into the garage, disappointed my tires have crushed unshovelable stripes into the snow. I quickly peel of my oxford and jean for fleece pants and a thick, lined hoodie. The DCs are replaced by boots. I am a hodgepodge of warm, ill-fitting clothing. I return to the garage, grab the shovel, and begin.

There is enough snow in the driveway for me to shovel, but the snowfall is deceptive. It’s light enough to not be noticed, but heavy enough to completely dust everything I’ve shoveled within fifteen minutes. But a little bit of work now will make any work later just a bit easier. Plus, it’s been weeks since I’ve worked out, every little bit helps right now.

If today was truly idyllic, it would be Saturday and I would have nothing planned, no looming responsibly, no desire for growth. I would rise from a restful sleep, sit on a couch looking out over my yard, and a mug of rich hot chocolate with mini marshmallows would make its way into my hands. The ascending sun would cause the fallen snow to glow in rich colors as though it were the sun’s mirror.

But today is not a vacuum sealed Saturday. It is Sunday afternoon, a Sunday afternoon with much to do. As I drive through the snow filled streets, I am reminded of how difficult it can be to drive in snow and how frustrating it is to drive behind people who are terrified to accelerate. And then I pass an accident and remember I’d rather be stuck behind Granny Georgia Tuscaloosa than be stuck in the traffic jam caused by an accident. I’d also rather be stuck in traffic than caught in an accident.  The snow continues to fall as I meander from task to task and town to town where the plows are infrequent; the drivers have a long night of snowy streets ahead of them. When I return home, there will be significantly more snow in the driveway. I’ll probably just park on the street so the snow remains undisturbed until I attack it with a shovel.

Winter has arrived in Chicagoland. There will be snow drifts at the ends of the driveway for the next three months. Our gas bill will rise to heat our house; the electric bill will rise as we light the early darkness. I will occasionally drink hot chocolate when I force the idyllic moment for which I yearn. If it snows during the day I will skip the gym to shovel. I’ll have to remember to lift my windshield wipers every morning at work. Ellie probably struggle to lift the toe of her boots above the top of the snow, but she will make snow angels.

October 6, 2013

Writing in the Plains

It has been a long time since I have written. Summer is not a writing season, at least not for me. The summer time is spent searching for pitchers and fielders and batters. Or quarterbacks and receivers. Or ballers. Or tennisers. Or frolfers. Or I accept that no one will play, and so I play alone; I grab my blades, stick, and ball, and I find an empty parking lot. Or barren warehouse. The point, I believe, is that summer weather welcomes all sports and so summer weather envelops me.

But that is too simple, as if my summer life boiled down to sleeping, working, eating, and sports. The fact is that life is busy. People meander in and out of the coffee shop of my life, some lounging, some making a pitstop, some commanding the space, some working, some cowed by the environs. New responsibilities, new challenges. Life changes and priorities change. I wanted a retreat, a time to withdraw and to pray and to write and to write and to write. But responsibilities do not stop; the world does not press pause and let you regroup. You must prepare for the continuation before you withdraw or else everything will erupt. And for me, even when I withdraw, I’m not withdrawn. So why waste time in retreat.

I’m about eight hours from home at the moment. With some friends, I’ve driven to Nebraska for a wedding. We reserved a motel room claiming three adults and then snuck in an extra three. We made whiskey milkshakes and played board games and card games and listened to Lorde; we crammed into the bed and wriggled into sleeping bags and giggled and chortled until we collectively stopped talking. I “forgot” to turn off my alarm, the alarm that plays the most abrasive metal song I know, The Dillinger Escape Plan’s 43% Burnt. I slipped out of the darkness into the continental breakfast in yesterday’s clothes, Junot Diaz’s This is How You Lose Her in my hand.

Breakfast is like every other motel breakfast; the TV hoisted to the ceiling displays everywhere-but-local weather coverage, the clear dispensers hold nondescript cereal, OJ and AJ, cigarette flavored coffee, bleach white bread, waffle mix, yogurt, cold biscuits and crock pot gravy. Diaz attempts to describe Dominican American life above the caterwauling television and the gossiping diners, whom I don’t know, but we all know from every motel continental breakfast. Geriatric couples mingle among the tables, making themselves waffles. They speak to each other as old friends, as though this is the local diner where they typically meet each other on Sunday mornings. Maybe it is. The couple to my left are wearing matching red polos tucked into pleated khakis.

Well, are you ready to hit the road? one asks another behind me; I suddenly envision every one of these couples creaking out into the parking lot, only to gingerly position themselves onto the most badass Harleys I’ve ever seen, red polos and all. They do not suddenly transform into badasses themselves; they remain, fragile old men and women. This posse rides their hogs like they drive their Lincolns and Buicks, ten under the speed limit in the fast lane with their blinker on for miles.

I finish my liquid cigarette, pour myself another, and slip back into the dark room where no one has stirred. I set down Diaz and leave the room again with my laptop, this time for the lobby. This is the outskirts of the great Nebraska City, where the lobby computer still runs Windows 98 and sounds like it requires its own generator. Cloaked in white noise, I settle in to write; it has been a long time and I’m not sure how to start. I open Word. I sip on coffee. I open Chrome. I am eight hours from work and I can still connect, logging into my email to check for emergencies so they don’t become someone else’s emergencies.

But really it’s distraction. I’m not ready to write. I don’t have anything to say. Not that I often have anything to say. But after an absence I feel I need to explain myself. Why haven’t you been writing? Why do you bother writing now? Why should anyone bother reading this? I don’t have any answers for any of those questions except that they don’t matter. This was fun, sitting on a surprisingly comfortable couch as my fellow vagabonds slept; the random conversations of the continental breakfast and the occasional lobby attendant functioning as my morning background.

The view from a cramped Nebraska City motel room.

The view from a cramped Nebraska City motel room.

Tags: ,
September 2, 2013

My Mind has a Hole

I am sitting in a Starbucks about twenty minutes from my home. When I left home, I wasn’t hungry. After a long morning at church, I had much to think upon and write about; my mind  churned as my tires turned. And then, half way to Starbucks, the pangs of hunger laid their hands upon my stomach; why had they not appeared before I left home? Before I left the residence of food I had already paid for?

The need to be satiated drove me to make a pit stop before Starbucks. But my mind continued to churn over the morning’s significance as my teeth gnoshed on green noodles. When I arrived at Starbucks, I stood patiently as the busy baristas prepared my simple coffee, and waited for my computer to turn on and connect and load. But then I found my churning mind had leaked everything I had pondered; there was residue caked to the walls, but the meat I had previously gnawed upon, tasted and moved about my mouth with my tongue, was gone. Like the keys that slipped through the hole in your pocket; like the wallet nested in yesterday’s pocket when you find yourself at the restaurant.

July 25, 2013

Wallball

When I was growing up I spent more time at church than anywhere else. One of the things my friends and I loved to do was play Wallball against the main edifice of the church. One of the great things about that was a ridge that ran across the wall about a yard above the ground. Hitting that lip just right could send the ball sailing over everyone’s head. A friend’s mother recently asked me to write up the rules of the game for younger generations to continue the game.

Wallball Rules:

Equipment: tennis ball or other rubber bouncing ball approximately the size of a baseball; wall

Numbers: 2-infinity, but I’d recommend something less than 10

The object of the game is to be the last man standing. Generally, you mirror baseball’s rules, with three outs before you sit and tie goes to the runner.

General concept: free for all throwing the ball against the wall and fielding the ricochets. There are no turns – if you want the ball, field the ball.

The ball MUST be thrown toward the wall.

If a ball is thrown against the wall and caught on the fly (by the thrower or another player), the thrower is out.

If a fielding error occurs, the player who erred must touch the wall before another player can field it cleanly and throw the ball to the wall. If the ball beats the runner, that is an out.

In wall ball, error is used broadly to mean having the ball touch the ground after you have touched it. A ball that rolls as you try to pick it up is an error. You can’t dribble the ball, but you can toss it up in the air and catch it.

However, a ball that bounces off you and is fielded on the fly by another player would not constitute an error. But if that other player doesn’t field it cleanly but drops it, both players would need to touch the wall.

Throwing Errors:

There are two philosophies on throwing errors. The first and most straightforward is that to not hit the wall on the fly is an out. That means a bounced ball, blocked throw, or clean miss is an out.

The other philosophy is that to miss the wall constitutes a normal error. One could miss the wall and yet avoid the out by touching the wall before the ball can be fielded and thrown against the wall. Obviously in this case a bounced throw would beat the thrower to the wall.

Butterfly

Often a younger player’s favorite aspect of the game, “Butterfly” maybe yelled once another player has grabbed the ball to force them to throw from that spot. To be called in general play is obnoxious (hence a younger player’s favorite part) but a key facet when the ball is fielded in an unfavorable location, i.e. far from the wall, behind a tree, behind or nearly parallel with the plane of the wall.

In situations where the ball is in an unfavorable location, the person closest must go get it.

For the attentive and competitive, there is Butterfly Bending Over. If this is called as soon as the player grabs the ball and is still bent over, they must make the throw from that position. If they have stood up before this is called, they don’t have to be bent over, but they must still throw from there.

The very cynical player would probably just throw the ball in the other direction, but so the clause was instated that the ball must be thrown towards the wall. The slightly less cynical player often drops the ball in these situations, taking the error and tries to beat the throw to the wall.

Situational Rules:

You may block other people’s throws. Depending on the rules you follow in terms of throwing errors (above), merely catching someone’s throw before it hits the wall may or may not constitute an out.

If your throw ricochets off the wall and is in danger of being caught, you may try to block the catch. The cynical jackwad would swat it to an unfavorable location, which, while legal, is not really within the spirit of the game and will probably result in said jackwad not having friends. Contact is permissible, but nothing flagrant is within the spirit of the game; the risk of losing all your friends is your own. Also, no one likes a whiner.

If you commit an error but out of reflex still field the ball, it must be dropped before running to the wall. You may not carry it to the wall, you may not throw it away, just drop it. On your way to the wall you may try to block another player’s throw, but that is usually inadvisable as it will probably slow you down.

Play ball!

Playing wallball with my siblings at our old church.

Playing wallball with my siblings at our old church.

June 21, 2013

LeBron 2013: The Villain is King (Again)

The Miami Heat have now appeared in three straight NBA finals and won the last two. Tuesday night they were a Kawai Leonard made free throw away from losing two of three NBA finals. Thursday night they took what the Spurs were providing – high risk, low reward jump shots – and they capitalized with frightening precision. Their physicality was able to just barely, in game seven, exhaust, and finally rupture, the finely tuned Spurs offense.

In the 2012 playoffs, I saw flashes of a LeBron that I begrudgingly respected. I saw him get pushed around, get knocked down, and battle back. But while he gained that modicum of respect, he was not dethroned from his role of villain in my eyes, the Heat his loyal cohorts. The relationship has remained thus throughout this season and postseason as LeBron and Co have turned into the largest whiners in the game (though it could just be the camera’s fixation on melodramatic temper tantrums).

For years now, the knock on LeBron was that he couldn’t be clutch, that he evaporated in big games, and in the past this was true. But that was the past. If you still want to pull out the LeBron is a Choker placard, you also need to set your Tardis to pre-2012. The better option would be to just open your eyes. In game six, LBJ recovered from a demure start to dominate the fourth quarter and send the game into a winnable overtime. Before game seven he attached an IV of ice to his veins and shot the lights out of the building. The difficult long range and low efficiency mid range jumpers were handed to him on a silver platter and he gorged himself. San Antonio challenged the apparent weakness in his game and he proved resilient.

LeBron and the Heat now have two straight championships. What stands in the way of a third? In the East: A rejuvenated Bulls offense as Derrick Rose returns to balance their stifling defense; the schizophrenic Knickerbockers; the blue collarish, gold swaggerish Pacers crew? In the West: Bionic Vampire Kobe Bryant and minions; laser guided Warriors, the Zombie Sonics of OKC? The Spurs are not decaying the way the Celtics currently are, but the prime of their Big Three is long past; even if their mind-numbing precision can bring them back to the Finals again next year, their joints will be one year closer to chronic rheumatism. LeBron is the captain of a juggernaut with no opponent left standing.

People, both LeBron’s lovers and haters, love to drag out the Michael Jordan comparisons. I don’t care, it doesn’t matter. They will never play each other in their primes, just as neither will play Kobe Bryant in his prime. Or Bill Russell in his prime. The 1992 Bulls are not in the league to stop the 2013 Heat, so we don’t need to complain about it. But you also need to stop whining when I tell you that LeBron will remain my villain for the foreseeable future. Just like you on the other side need to stop saying that he’s a choker. He has proven his mettle – he is the best player in the league – but that does not in the least mean I need to like him.