The NFL Draft 2017


It’s Philly, yo
Hosting a big ass party
That doubles as the NFL draft.

I’ve been here more than half my life
Choosing to adopt most of the style
That is the Philadelphia way.

I love the grit,
The honesty,
The take us as we are or just go away.

I dig when it’s hot
People find a way to watch TV in comfort,
Taking their sets onto the porch to catch a breeze.

So tonight as I live the high life
With mellow beats playing,
I sit on my porch looking inside to the tube.

I’m relaxed, no mosquitos yet,
And I’m chilled after a day in the sun.
Feel the love, brother!

That Was Then

Time has a way of distorting perceptions.
An athletic career is probably never
As good or bad as a retired athlete remembers,
So making comparisons to the present in the past’s context
Are sketchy at best.

I’ve been coaching for awhile now,
Really a millisecond in the life of my career
As a physical education teacher,
But it’s interesting
Thinking back to how I was as I watch my players now.

The demands on today’s players are too much.
Year round, open gyms, specialty coaches
It’s ridiculous
Because all the special stuff
Doesn’t help kids know how to play better.

I couldn’t survive in this environment.
I liked the seasons,
Winter basketball, spring and summer baseball, and
Fall was mine to piss way,
To just be a kid.

Yet, somehow I got as far as I could
With an understanding of how the games are played,
A sports IQ if you will, and yet,
As I coach today, I know there is still more to learn,
Mostly how to understand what I don’t…arrogance, egoism, delusion…

Then I think, maybe I’m carrying that baggage
Thinking I know the best way
Wanting the kids to be something they cannot be,
Wishing this wasn’t a recreational stop in their careers,
But something that brought some pride to the school.

I think about wanting to play Bruton.
I think about warring against Denbigh or
Sweating it out against Hampton and how
We tried to do right by our school coaches
So our school would be respected.

We knew when to pick and how to roll.
We understood that baseball is dynamic and
Standing around only creates an attitude of passiveness.
Whether it was coaches or players
We were together.

Then I remember some players
Who rode the drama train when they didn’t get what they wanted
And they turned on the coaches or teammates
Robbing us of whatever unity
We worked so hard to build.

Now I see
Then was not so different than now
I understand how time smooths the rough edges
Yet I can’t shake the idea that I can coach “as we should be,”
Not allowing the existing culture that so many are willing to accept.

The turnaround starts when kids carry equipment.
The attitude changes when kids drop the comebacks after being coached.
Hustling, making the correct play, dropping the stat line,
All of these things matter.
Helping the kids understand that is the hard part of coaching.

Looking back,
I think my coaches made those priorities.
They all had their way, but togetherness, team pride, and accountability
All rose from the standards that they set out.
Those lessons mattered more than my launch angle at the plate or a three on the court.

The time has come for some Coach Jones confrontation.
The controversial one once took a cocky white boy to the side and said,
“Son, you look disrespectable.”
Maybe this was the wrong word, a malapropism, but the message was clear,
“Get your shit together and represent your team correctly.”

It took me “being me” to learn the lesson the hard way,
But I got the message because my coach helped me to understand.
My talent level didn’t change, but my attitude about what it meant to be an athlete did.
Perhaps we need a little of that Melvin mental chiropractic adjusting
To align some of our pasts with the curvature disorders of the present.

I sure hope my coaches remember me as a team player.
I hope they remember me listening to them.
I want my teammates to have thought me a good teammate,
Better yet, a friend, someone they could count on
To be in the right place at the right time.

Ah, that what then…

And I’m…?

Is it sad identifying with television characters
Where every quality of the actor
Seems to be a reality of life?

Perhaps, the fantasy of who they are
Matches the dreams of who we wish we could be
All too perfectly.

Lost in the bleakness of Hinterland
Or in the steamy heat of Havana,
I get these guys.

Ah, enough of that
I am who I am,
They are who the writers intended them to be.

Friday Jamboree

A transient crowd is passing through

The kingdom’s one and only food court

While the band puts their journey’s on pause

With jazzy, jammy, and bluesy effects

Meant to ease the week away.

The patrons nosh on a variety of foods,

Brisket, burritos, burgers, and pie

Kind of in shock at the range

The band has brought to their home.

I’m taking it in,

Proud to have contributed to the show

As my son is playing guitar,

Killing it with his band mates

Dropping the notes and beats

I love hearing.

It’s kind of crazy

When people walk by

And I brag a little about the guitar guy

With a Hawaiian shirt and bending strings

That fits so well with the popping drums,

And massaging bass.

Ah, Friday…

Mortals

The issue of mortality came up today
One a light-hearted experience
In the game of youth.
The other the fragility of life
On the stage of getting old.

Practice found my team going inter-squad
With the head coach pitching.
He fired that ball like a twenty-six-year-old
And I watched with wide-eyed hope
That I’d have the balls to get up there and throw.

Sure enough, he tired after all those pitches
And signaled for some relief.
His eyes were on the screen and moving the mound closer,
But I swung my arm a few times, gave Father Time the finger, and
Stepped up on the hill.

Let me say that this was the first time I had pitched
Since Clinton was President.
I was hoping to find the plate and let the guys
Smack the ball all over the place, but it was not to be.
I kind of pitched instead of throwing…finally, Jamal…

I felt like Satchel Paige,
Free and easy, just missing a curveball for strikes and
A change up of any kind,
So I lived on two different fastballs that weren’t very quick,
But found their spots just well enough to keep me safe.

Somewhere in there I noticed soreness in my glute,
That would be the lunges and the pitches starting to add up.
Finally, the game ended with me pretending to have more in me.
The reality was that I was tired and
Fresh from going at something from my youth.

While that went on,
My grandmother was way down south
Getting her first MRI
After a morning of spilling her breakfast and
Having a lack of motor control.

She had a stroke.
The care she received found everything to be minor,
But at ninety-five this was a jolt
For this woman, who lives with a flare
And denial of aging in general.

My grandmother is something between
Auntie Mame and Maude,
A woman of style and grace who demands manners
No matter how simple the gesture
And she is a lover of the gab so long as she is in control of the direction.

I love her and miss her.
As a kid, she used to cut iceberg sized piece of ice cream
And warn me about watching Starsky and Hutch or Fantasy Island.
She would listen to me recount every detail of James and the Giant Peach
While whipping up the best damned lasagna ever.

She is my grandmom and
I feel her fear.
I know she realizes that a stroke is bad.
I know she is scared for what comes next.
I know she has the strength for upcoming changes.

In her day
She rode bikes from Jamestown to Yorktown.
She flew kites at the battlefield.
She convinced a crowd of men conditioned to help her
That they better not while she managed the steep slope with her walker.

The latter being less than two months ago.
For all the style that my grandmother has
And for all the “flightiness” that was attributed to her
My grandmother is one strong woman
Who taught me that it’s okay to be who you are.

I wish we were closer today.
I’d tell her that it’s okay getting older.
We break down, can’t go on as long, or just want to sleep more,
But none of that matters.
How we live does, though. And she’s lived.

I believe my trip on the mound,
It’s denial of responsible behavior I’ve exhibited for the last twenty-five years,
Was inspired by my high-spirited grandmother.
While things get tougher the older we get,
There’s no reason to quit living.

So Grandmom, thanks for that cake, it was damn good.
I hope you know I’m with you.
And that book you told me about with the “listening fetus,”
I’m loving it.
I love you.,

No Caution

No caution,
No care,
No worry.

Freedom to walk
Wherever I want
Without having to worry
About whoever might tag along.

Pittsburgh strolling
From East Liberty
To the North Side
Hunting photographic opportunities
While looking for art museums
Hidden by the directions
On my phone’s app.

I cruised through renovation
More aptly called gentrification.
I passed by urban blight
That can’t recognize the need for change
Or stop the tsunami of funding
Designed to end the dilapidation.

Life changes, baby…
Better be ready for a new home.
The capitalist developers are circling.

One guy found his fortune,
A little speck of land right on the river
That is dotted with signs
Warning of limited contact with the water
Since it mixes with sewage
When the rains overflow into the river.
He seemed not to care,
His tent proudly pitched with a view
Of Steel City’s downtown.

Directions led me astray
And I saw Warhola Recycling.
The guy with the buzz cut
And hands full of metal to be repurposed
Was super friendly and I wondered
If he was related to Andy.

Finally, I made it there
To the museum and took in the pop art experience,
Appreciating ODU and thinking how young Warhol seemed at death.
The video of Lou Reed was shocking
Since I always thought he was old, but
On film, he didn’t look old enough to drink.

Finding the Mattress Factory was tough,
The payoff was in the omelet and salad,
Everyone back home would be surprised to know
I housed the tomatoes and, yes, cucumbers
Before venturing into the world of installation art
That I feel woefully unprepared to discuss
Because the simple objects rarely incite
Deep thematic or metaphorical thought inside my feeble brain.

It’s cool to look at though,
Like the lady covered in tattoos
Who walked around the exhibit with a bit of pride
When people looked at her.
I wonder if she was thinking,
“Why are they looking at me?” or
“Perve.”
She was a canvas and while unavoidable to look at,
But she was more shock than show.

The two-hour walk back to the hotel
Was too much to attempt with threatening skies,
So I set up an Uber and wished that the old man in the fancy car
Had been my driver instead of the western PA racist
Who pulled up.
The crack in his windshield
Suggested the imperfection in his attitude about culture
And I was just thankful to be out of his car
Without reaching over and grabbing him by the neck, red as it was.

So, I’m back in the hotel,
Laptop on the bar
Typing away as I assimilate a beer, Amaretto Sour, and Moscow Mule,
All three being awesome, although, I can’t complain about anything here.
The crowd is cosmopolitan, hipster, artsy, diverse, and
Just appreciative of the space and its history.

I’m glad I’m here
No cautions,
No cares,
No worries…

A Day at the Master’s

So it started in a dingy gym
With the rim bent
And no schedule for the start
Of tournament games.
We played well,
Too many turnovers in the first,
But a nice rebound in the second
For a win.

I cruised back from the ailing gymnasium
To sample the ales in my hometown
That had been paired with cheeses
Under the sweet sounds of authors
Reading about the mysteries of life
To an ambivalent audience at best.

Unfortunately, one of the readers called out.
Previously my son implored me to be aggressive
And when I got there I cozied up to the owner
Who directed me to the organizers
Of the event.
They needed a body and as has been the case lately
I filled in without meeting any of the varsity authors.

Reading poetry from a phone is hard
Since the spacing goes a little crazy,
But the lines found a home and
People laughed just enough
To let me feel like I belonged on author’s circuit…
Well, at least in the KBC,
With its fine beer and tasty food.

Finally, at home,
Jim Nance and Nick Faldo offering commentary
As Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia offered entertainment
On the senior circuit at The Masters.
The shots flew, cutting through the excitement
Like a hot knife and butter, cream cheese, or nerves
To provide the end to a masterful day.

***Thanks KBC for the opportunity to read today…

Ah, Saturday

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Just a couple of days removed
From showering in the tepid water
Which may or may not be warm enough,
I got into a groove of nothingness today
That has me thankful
There’s no work this week.

This morning began watching the evil doings
Of all the characters in Billions.
They are all cock strong and that includes the women.
Sometimes I feel guilty liking those awful people,
But they still don’t measure up to my old favs
From West Baltimore…no real code up in NY…

The afternoon left me on the couch
Napping through most of Amen Corner,
But still glued to the action
Taking place down in Augusta.
My brother must be there,
I could hear him chirping with the other cardinals.

Now I’m sitting, dehydrating
With a Curmudgeon
And listening to my dog snore
As the group texts ping and
The Phillies pound out twelve in the first.
Ah, Saturday…

 

Photo Credit: Google Images