Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas 2009

Christmas is here again... I can hear a combination Charlie Brown instrumental coming at one ear and Prince's, Another Lonely Christmas aimed at the other ear.. I love both those songs... though, I'm not really lonely as my everything continues to spoil me no matter what time of year it is. Because of her I feel beyond blessed. She is beyond amazing and just like the perfect puzzle, we fit. When I rest my head on her shoulder, the comfort is instant. When I wrap my arms around her, I become a part of her.. it's just right..

I miss my mom on this semi-cold night in LA. Her voice would always greet me on this night/day, "Merry Christmas, Anthony Rivers..." and if it was a phone call she'd punctuate that with "this is your mother speaking..." I miss that sound though I can hear it in my mind... I miss the card with some money in it, attached to a box with some t-shirts in it. The card would have a note attached telling me she wasn't sure what I wanted but figured I could get something with the money.. It didn't matter. What was most important was how she went out of her way to make sure there was an abundance of Christmas spirit surrounding me and not to mention the delicious pies and pineapple upside down cake or even the big strawberry cake she use to make... whew.. delicious! Recently, I've been receiving cards from people I dont really know but who knew and seemed to have cherished my mother. Each of them I've written back to let them know of my mother's passing. I hope those people say a prayer and simply think of the good times with my mom rather than allow the news to sadden them too much... I thank them sincerely for thinking of my mom..

Anyway, I cant say that I've put much effort in the Christmas spirit this year. I tried, I thought about it, planned to do something special with respect to decorations around the house but when all was said and done, I did nothing.. No tree, no decorations except for the wooden Santa Claus that I bought a few years ago in my favorite Louisiana town, Natchitoches. I wish I was there for Christmas. They always have a really big celebration with a fantastic light show along the Cane River. I took a picture of my mother in that town and it instantly became her favorite picture not so much because of the shot but because she fell in love with that town as well and felt really good sitting there in such a peaceful place. She was healthy and happy during that moment. That was a good time. Just before she passed she asked that that picture be placed on the front of her funeral program.

Now it's time to rest up for Christmas Day.. Hopefully it'll be a good time... I'm sure Love will make sure I'm alright and my mother looking down will watch over me closely... Merry Christmas to any and all passing by... WarmBlessings..

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Nation Of Forgetters- Tiger Woods

As Yukimi Nagano of Little Dragon sings, "we're a nation of forgetters," the Tiger Woods saga instantly comes to mind. Folks will forget, especially once he gets on the golf field and starts to win, tournament after tournament. He'll probably see and receive a bunch of boos, angry letters, see some mean signs being held up and maybe a threat or two or three as well. He'll probably have to keep a big bodyguard or two handy nearby and all the other precautions necessary to protect when a so-called major personality/sports figure disappoints "the world." I feel more sorry for the kids and the wife than I do the world, for its them who will carry this for a long time and have to deal with some serious embarrassment. They'll also go through the torture of what's outside their window.... news media hounds trying to get the first scoop so they can sell their story to the world since everybody out there on radio and television pretty much report the same thing.. over and over and over again... How many times have I now heard Tiger's alleged voicemail message? Whew... way too many times!! Tiger doesn't seem to really be handling his situation right and perhaps feeding the flames of media curiosity more and more but then again, what is the right way to make up for your own very public indiscretion followed by your own moment of panic on such a wonderful day like Thanksgiving. Ha! The media thanks you for this story, Tiger. A sports hero-darling who seemingly could never do anything wrong though I'm old enough to remember when they thought the same thing of O.J. Simpson though he's in that category of stupidest person on the planet. Tiger's not there yet but he is where Kobe once was and just like Kobe, all he gotta do is win and win big on the field... people will forget.. Ultimately, it's really not the people who matter... it's family who is most important and perhaps the lesson learned, be it a positive lesson or just saying "I better not do voicemail, email, or text message any more..." *smile* Tiger is probably thinking, life was so much easier back in the days of pay phones and no round the clock internet/24 hour news channels... Life never gets a break now. It's broadcast every milli-second... My motto, if you will that I always like to say is that once you begin to feel invincible, that's usually when God steps in to remind you just how human you really are... Perhaps this is one of Tiger's moment to be reminded.

Hmmm...& why...

Why is it that habitual liars always repeat themselves?

Why is it that if you’re sitting alone in a room with 100 empty chairs, more than likely the next person entering the room will sit right next to you?

Why is it that we’re always trying to replace that which we love?

Why must someone who consistently makes efforts to do positive things, constantly fight an uphill battle against others who seemingly want the same thing?

Why do some say “huh?” before the first word rolls off your tongue?

Why do some assume they can call you something based upon the mere fact that your skin color, gender, height, weight, etc. might be different than theirs? (ie. what up! dude! Thanks boss! Hey bro! or the ‘over-indulgent handshake’)

RIP Tommy Jaquette

I wish I had known about this man before a call came out from a famous passerby to let everyone know about a celebration happening on November 28th, 2009 in Watts, California. The famous passerby was congress-woman Maxine Waters. I was stopped at a light, waiting for the commuter train to go by and she yelled out “here, take these and give them to friends and family!” They were flyers she wanted to hand to me but I couldn’t reach them. A man who was selling items near the little train station ran over, grabbed the flyers from her hand and gave them to me. Maybe he recognized her voice instantly just as I had. On the beautifully done flyers was Tommy Jacquette and when I saw the name, curiosity hit me hard. I really didn’t know who he was and from the dates listed on the flyers, I could see that he’d passed away recently. As soon as I got home and logged onto my computer, I looked him up. Ahh.. it was a cool discovery… This man is/was someone I should’ve know a great deal about and been inspired by. A great story. A man who definitely filled his life with purpose, sparked by an event that was/is historic. Thus, he made his life historic as well through struggle, hardwork, effort, believing, never giving up, and accomplishment. From what I could determine, he did what politicians only talk about and/or promise to do in an area where many forget exist. I hear more about cities, towns and places on the other side of the world than I do of the city of Watts. I often wonder about that but that’s how it is, unfortunately. Seems like Mr. Jacquette maintained his pride for Watts throughout his entire life and tried his hardest to reflect that in not only himself but all who were blessed to see and/or know him. I wish I had known of him before but I believe also that it’s never too late to learn, appreciate, respect, admire and say God Bless…. Rest in peace…

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving Day 09

Today is not a day for very many words or at least I can't seem to find them. Mostly I just think, feel and miss my mom. This being my first holiday season without her. It's been a lot of years with her spoiling me and making sure that I feel and experience some sort of Christmas/holiday spirit. Thanksgiving was always very special too. I miss her dressing. I tried to make some for myself this time. Two attempts in the last couple days but the second attempt was a success. Not as great as my mom's but still good. I held the plate up to heaven so she could smell it. It was a good day but one day could never be enough to give thanks to all she's given me...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Another Grand Escape

Hours ago the whole return to reality took shape. That’s just a fancy way of saying I’m back in LA after enjoying another incredible escape/journey, etched in forever because once again it involved someone so very special enjoying the experience along with me. The best part about the trips each time is the unexpected eventhough at the moment they happen they sometimes seem a little ridiculous, unnecessary, interesting, strange, disappointing, etc etc. We ran through the gammot of experiences from prejudice moments, to the not so good food, to weird personalities stretched across some of the most beautiful country landscapes and city environments you can find. One of the coolest moments was seeing the Cadillac Ranch up close and personal. I’d read about this landmark for many years, seen pictures of it and wondered how it would look whenever I got a chance to capture the scenery with my own camera. With all the folks who spray paint the cars over the many years that it’s existed, it’s got to be truly interesting to see what the cars looked like when the idea first hit the man who created this unique display.

Anyway, the Cadillac Ranch was really our second stop. The first was the semi-well known establishment called the Big Texan where they make a 72 ounce steak and challenge you to eat it with all the sides included in one hour. Our waitress told us that two guys had tried to eat the steak earlier but failed and almost threw up everything they ate. The atmosphere is fun and pretty cool. The waitress was very VERY talkative though she overdid it at times with the “how else may I help y’all” that ended every visit to our table which was like every twenty seconds or less. The food? Well, we left thinking that maybe the cook was having an off night or perhaps he/she was tired since it was just about an hour and a half left to go before the place would close for the night. If neither of those hold truth then we could only say that the actual taste of the food doesn't come close to all the hype. Hers was over-cooked and charred. Mine was just charred though eatable. The best for me were the so-called “mountain oysters” and strawberry margarita. The mac and cheese they need to remove from the menu completely.. *smile* The adjoining hotel is cool from the outside and just okay from the inside but it’s pretty much about the old time Texas/cowboy experience so I appreciated it just for that and for it being a part of the journey.

The next day we headed to Mt. Pleasant, Texas. The drive was long; a little over six hours but still very interesting.. I love Texas, the smell in the air, the little towns along the way, the great scenery of mostly farms and especially the beautiful horses. I also love it when a ‘DQ’ sign pops up aka Dairy Queen up ahead. My love and I always smile because we do love to treat ourselves to a big juicy beltbuster hamburger. We stopped at one small town after leaving Amarillo and the Cadillac Ranch where we noticed some subtle prejudice in the way we were treated as oppose to the several others that were there but again, it just added to the experience. *smile* We stopped at a really nice rest stop, which there were a couple along that highway. The sign read “watchout for rattlesnakes.” Didn't see any...

Night fell fast after a few hours of driving and I found myself relying heavily on the GPS to guide me the correct way. We drove down long two lane highways and breathed a sign of relief when we found ourselves in Paris, Texas where they at least had a nice freeway. Paris looked like a nice size city, too. I wished we would’ve gotten there earlier in the day but this was after six. We kept going and soon I saw signs that we were getting close to Mt. Pleasant; my second home since so many of my family are buried there. Love made sure I paid my respects and placed flowers on the graves and I felt blessed to have someone who showed so much appreciation, respect and love for what she knew and felt was important to me… Incredible. We ended the night with dinner at the brand new local IHop. *smile* Just like most places in Texas, it was clean, comfortable and we always got a kick out of the accents coming from those that lived in the area.

Next day it was time to hit the road again. I wanted to share another interesting place with my love and also see it for myself again. I hadn’t been to this interesting/historic mansion in many many years so I was curious to see how it looked this time around. The mansion is located in Mississippi near the river and not too far from the border of Louisiana. And just like the first time I’d gone there, I found it interesting how rundown the surrounding neighborhood is compared to the actual grounds of the mansion. Only thing is, the mansion didn’t appear to be very well kept up over the years since I’d last seen it or maybe it’s the affects of hard times, lack of interest and the “economy” causing it not to be as great as it was. For the most part the people there were very nice, except for the bartender who seemed to have a complex about his own reflection demonstrated by his reaction to me as oppose to the other patrons. *wink* But nevertheless it was all good as they say, except for the food which looked better on paper than on the taste buds. And the atmosphere was more highbrow society than downhome delicious. Most impressive was our waiter who did his best and seemed very sincere in wanting us to enjoy our food.

Time seemed to fly by once this evening was over. Before we knew it, it was time to head back to Texas. The drive was great. Love fell asleep and left me to my thoughts while cruising down the highway. I saw plenty of DQ signs but I kept going since she was asleep. *smile* Gas prices were wonderful compared to what you find in Cali, which seems to always be the case. Not to mention the rental car I was driving was super cool and comfortble; a 2010 Chevy Malibu with a two tone interior. It was very nice! First stop on the way back was Jefferson, Texas. Still looking beautifully historic and filled with the best places to go for antique shopping. I bought some old fashion syrup and jelly. Back in Mt. Pleasant we made a return to the incredible Walmart, which looked bigger than I remember it being in past years. Bought a bunch of “Pittsburg Hotlinks” and “Summer Sausages.” The trip had come to an end but the experience is forever… That’s the best part of traveling and the gift of actually paying attention to the moment in time. This is just a small reflection of that experience… till next time.. *smile*

Monday, November 02, 2009

Forward thinking..

Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal..

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Urban Surf Riders

I have to say I get a kick out of watching skateboarders ride the concrete waves, if you will. And when you find some that truly have a command for what they're doing, it can be a jaw dropping experience just to stand on the sidelines watching the display of creativity meets physical ability and guts, basically. I caught some of that with these fellas and since I had my camera with me, I tried my best to capture a great shot...

What's Inside Keeps Them Around

The beauty in the discovery of past lives is something I’m always fascinated by. I was never one that was interested in futuristic stories or movies. The last time I went to a Star Wars-ish, Fantastic Four-ish type of movie, I was asleep within the first ten minutes. I’m just not moved by the stuff. But give me a story showing the growth, the struggle, the survival, the triumph of the human spirit and you will keep me fascinated from beginning to end.. I especially love it when the stories are true; told by someone who received the gift generations later like with me with respect to my family and other’s who carry stories from so long ago and pass it down.. I always tried to get my mother to speak about the past and anything she may have learned from those that came before her but many times she would say she didn't remember or she would kind of brush me off. In the end as she battled cancer and found the end of her journey to be right around the corner, she began to open up and tell me more about the past. She didn't share all that she could and when I pressed for more details, she stopped. That's the one thing we didn't have in common. She held onto or suppressed so much that she couldn't remember stories. Me personally, I love to share any and all stories that I know about family, friends, experiences and anything else that reflects lives that have been lived hopefully to the fullest and even those that dont live it to the fullest we can learn from. Some miss out on their potential and others stifle any potential by embracing negativity, jealousy, and selfishness. They're everywhere among us... But imagine this, looking into the eyes of someone who is coming to grips with their own mortality as they watch a loved one whose days on earth could be over very soon. They smile and open up by sharing stories of the past. You watch as they find comfort in rediscovering the experiences and I felt really blessed to listen in. The human spirit on display, finding pictures in forgotten places and discovering hidden thoughts that resurface out of the need to feel closer to what once was... better times and places....

Sunday, October 18, 2009

As 1-Concert

Saturday night in Pasadena was a beautiful concert experience. It was both celebration and tribute. It was also a moving and very thought-provoking experience. I attended the AS-1 concert at the Pasadena Civic Center. As-1 features the incredible talents of Gary Valenciano and Martin Nievera. This was a new experience for me eventhough I am very much familiar with both entertainers via watching them on the TFC channel or just hearing their music via youtube. However, in person these two put on an amazing show and what's really great about them is the way they work together. The songs, the talent, the humor especially from Martin Nievera, and of course the pure energy and excitement of Gary Valenciano. This was different for me because my concert experience is usually Prince and more Prince.. *smile* and at the same time this show was attended by a mostly filipino audience and it was one of the most positive and celebratory experiences I've ever been a part of. I was impressed by the band and how they went from playing songs made famous by both performers and then going into sections of the show where they played a bunch of Michael Jackson songs and closed the show with about 4 or 5 Earth Wind and Fire tunes that truly rocked the house! I was most impressed by how personable these two performers were/are and as they spoke to the audience, you could hear a pin drop between the laughter because everyone paid close attention to what was being said. Case in point was when Gary Valenciano spoke about the "eye of the storm" being inside the concert hall. Meaning that for that 3 hour show, it was pure escape from the world outside but of course once the show was over, we know we have to return to what goes on outside in the world... the cellphone, the text messages, emails, traffic, and all that comes with our daily lives... I believe in trying to find that escape every weekend and every night when I rest from the days work. Escape from the world, refresh yourself so that you can meet tomorrow's basket of whatever life brings you... And inside that concert hall on Saturday night, it was a truly incredible experience that I was blessed to share with the most incredible special someone in my life... She too is my beautiful escape from all that this crazy world brings...

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Blast From My Recent Past

I’ve been seeing really cool reminders of my recent past.. The literary blessing, so to speak.. Books/stories that I’ve written a long while ago have been getting great responses from those that have discovered them by accident. And then even with myself, as I open up old programs and stuff that I created for the purpose of promoting the stories, I feel a sense of pride about where I’ve been in my life. With all the ups, downs, mistakes, good feelings, triumphs, etc etc, I feel like I’ve had a pretty interesting journey and with that, I’ve also held onto the many stories passed down to me from those that came before in my family. Sometimes it makes me hunger for the chance to pass down what I’ve learned or heard about… Even with all it’s sadness attached, life is truly amazing but of course it aint over but at the same time, one must cherish each single second because you just never know… And even as we all recognize and agree with the old cliché about not taking life for granted, we always do and we forget until something happens… The challenge of self should always be to consistently remind oneself to not forget and to truly live. Never forget real true loved ones and never forget to truly live your life…

Thursday, October 08, 2009

In Memory..

Usually around this time of year, my mother reminds me of the passing of my father. Sometimes we kind of just look at each other, share a memory and silence then keep moving forward. This year is so different now and something I will from now on have to get used to. My mother not being here though funny thing, this morning I could swear I heard her voice. I felt myself drifting into a deep sleep yet before that I knew that soon I'd be hearing the alarm go off so I could get up early for work. Instead of the alarm, when I sank into that very restful/peaceful type of sleep to where it felt as if all air had been released from my body, that's when I heard my mother's voice. "Anthony?" And then it was like I jumped up; wide awake I turned off the alarm ten minutes before it was due to sound off. So, all day today in between being focused on work, I thought about my parents and promised myself I'd do a little tribute to my father before the night was over. One of many things we shared in common besides our love for the highway, blues music, guitar, and Pittsburg Texas Hotlinks, is the love for photography. I developed the love and passion for it not too long ago but I was always aware of my father's love for capturing images the old fashion way with film and actually developing it inside his personal dark room he created in the closet. Amazing how things have changed when I can simply sit here at the computer and make magic with the images. I recently found myself re-discovering photographs that were taken by my father. Some have faded over the years but I tried my best to fix the images and keep them for myself on my computer. A few of these images I showcased in the video as a tribute and to say "miss you dad.." The years seem to fly by when someone is no longer around...

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Special mention

Special mention to my mother. I visited the place where her ashes reside and as always, the tears fell down my face. I miss her voice and presence. She'd have a lot to say or perhaps sigh about right now with the way things are going on and she'd probably escape the day to day by losing herself in some football on sundays and a good game of bingo. I thought I might keep up her tradition of writing and logging down all the football scores each weekend but it's just not in me. I have patience for some things but not all things. She kept the scores of every game since the mid seventies and her last time tracking the scores was last year. Anyway, last weekend I was happy to see the plaque on the wall with my mother's name. It took a while for them to do it but it's there now. As Forrest Gump would say "that's all I have to say about that..." for now anyway... God Bless my mom...

Our Climate Divide

What happened to having class in this world? What happened to common sense, good natured, celebrating and respecting the differences in each other? What happened to basic respect? I'm watching all these shows; folks arguing left and right about healthcare yet they hold so much disdain and anger in their hearts. Healthcare and hatred don't seem like they should be living on the same block but hypocrisy has always been a part of the fabric hasn't it? There's also a whole lot of denial going on as some try to defend arguing as a healthy ingredient to coming up with the final plan; the final bill that will satisfy us all and give us "affordable healthcare." Maybe one day that's gonna be a beautiful achievement but in the meantime and right now, there's a lot of anger that doesn't give me the impression of people gathered together for the good of everyone. That's more like a mirage... The climate is strange and it's good that some in the media talk about it; make people aware... It's scary and then you wonder on one hand why the White House denies it but common sense also says that it might be to their detriment if they did acknowledge the hatred. What they say behind the walls is for sure much different than what they say behind the mic while eyes and pens wait for mistakes... Then as much as I appreciate Pelosi, the folks at MSNBC, and others speaking up about the climate getting worse and the potential dangers, it also gets to a point where it seems as if everyone is positioning themselves to be THAT ONE individual who said, "I told you so." And should the unthinkable happen, they'll say that and others will try to prove they were the ones who said it first... It's like an out of control snowball rolling down the hill making a huge racket; so noisy you can't hear yourself scream. But the thing is, this snowball that's laced with disrespect, anger, rudeness, and contempt has been building for a longtime, waiting for an opportunity like now. You see it on a small scale in every day life in how some treat others, and how some embrace stupidity and unnecessary acts over simple kindness and caring... Stuff that takes very little effort. But all this anger? Whew... that takes a lot of effort and that's why so many walk, talk and act like the end of the world is on their shoulders... But somehow, they muster up a smile because they relish in the possibility of screwing up your day or being that thorn that sticks deeper in your side.... The world is a trip and here we are.... what's next?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Little Inspiration From Life..

Attempt to live right and learn from your mistakes. Any tests that follow are as they should be or should’ve been; keeping you on your right path if you listen. Those that never learn and continue to laugh in the face bad decision making will ultimately suffer the tried and true cliché of what comes around…. goes around. Be humble and grateful. Once you get over the hump, adore what you’ve been blessed with and remain passionate about your dreams. Humility and passion is a positively beautiful combination when focused upon all gifts and blessings placed in your path...

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Reunion Reunited

Not too long ago(a few weeks), I had the pleasure of witnessing real true friends unite. It was a beautiful occasion for a wedding that turned into a reunion. I stood back and watched eventhough I felt so much apart of it. The best part was seeing my love so happy and enjoying the moment. There was no way I would resist being there right with her.. The wedding was wonderful The church was beautiful. Sort of like a big circle inside whereby the audience can basically sit around the entire stage though everyone in attendance sat on one side. After the ceremonies and during the time that pictures were being taken, the old friends/classmates reunited. Faces were filled with wide eyes and uncontrollable smiles. People saying names with question marks because they weren't sure if that truly was the person they were remembering. And then there were embraces and more smiles. I stood back and captured the moment with my camera. A lot of times when I'd see the ladies together, standing side by side lost in memory and reunited, they reminded me of the ladies on that show, Sex In The City having fun together. It didn't matter that they hadn't seen each other in maybe 28 years as one said. To me it seemed like they'd just seen each other yesterday because they picked right up where they left off; great friends having a great time together... It was great to witness it...

Labor Day 09

Labor Day Weekend was a beautiful moment... Started off with a great time hanging out with the 3Kings. A friend of mine named Marquise and his very talented bestfriends reaching for their dreams in the Hip Hop world. I wish them the very best and I enjoyed doing the photoshoot for them/ with them... Then I capped off the weekend checking out my uncle Richard grabbing the crowd in Leimert Park in Los Angeles as he performed with the incredible LTD music group. I captured some cool images of the performance and other happenings in the park. But as always, the weekend was a beautiful and always needed escape from the world thanks to love who keeps me right there in her arms; spoiled and blessed like never before... It was hard to come outside...

Friday, August 28, 2009

RIP: Ted Kennedy

I've never known the full extent of Ted Kennedy's presence, his life, his impact but I've always heard his name pretty much my entire life. My mother loved it whenever she'd hear about him or see him on TV. "There goes Teddy" or "Poor Teddy" or "What has he done now?" would always echo in the house. As I watched some of the tribute and memorial service today, I kept thinking how sad and how glued to the TV my mother would be right now if she were here. Pretty much everything makes me think of my mom after her recent passing but this one really makes me picture her face, her eyes, her shaking her head because of life's twists and turns but I know she'd be the first out there in line collecting any magazines or newspapers that might have a tribute to Ted Kennedy. I am truly amazed by his life, how full and how varied the experiences have been. The tragedies are tremendous though the strength and resiliency of he and his family is even more tremendous by far.. Sometimes you can measure a life by the stories left behind, falling from the lips of friends, acquaintances, family, and even to a very small extent; enemies, jealous foes, and advantage takers. Ted Kennedy's measuring stick seems quite long and with that, it's kind of cool to see a smile attached to a tearful eye from so many that he touched regardless of the closeness or distances between he and them... Aint no more pain for him; he's smiling and perhaps being welcomed home by his brothers....

Friday, August 07, 2009

Bittersweet Discovery

Eight years ago I discovered an old letter hidden deep inside the bedroom closet of my grandmother's house in Mt. Pleasant, Texas. It was a love letter written by her to my grandfather in 1930 something. Just a couple days ago I discovered another letter. This time it was written by my father in 1971 and addressed to my mother. What a find; a bittersweet discovery because in the letter my father talked about being so thankful and claiming that "someone up there likes us!" when speaking about doing so well with roof over head, a wife and a son. He wrote in the letter, "I look forward to spending the next 100 years together..." A few years after that, I can recall when my mother ran crying into my room, telling me that my father no longer wanted to be with us. It was kind of a shattering moment. One of those times that changes everything... I'm amazed my mother continued to hold onto this letter and kept it close by for all these years... Despite the heartache, her love remained forever. Now I suppose she's in heaven looking for him. Perhaps hoping to share something about life that she learned and join in a whole lot of prayer, hoping their son does alright...

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Gates Affair

The Professor Henry Gates situation is a wild one.. I figure I'll weigh in with some thoughts, opinions, common experience and uncommon ground... First thing that came to mind when hearing about this was my own recent encounter, which wasn't at all like the good professor. Actually, my experience was a positive one... Maybe it was positive because I didn't over-react. I didn't display the higher than thou or invading my space posture. The police were recently called to my place, responding to an alarm that had gone off a little while before I arrived home. I had no clue. The alarm was functioning normal. When the police arrived, the lead officer asked for my ID and I like the good professor I had to go into another room to get it. The police didn't follow me but he asked for my name before I went to get my ID. I imagine he could see from my demeanor and non-threatening posture that I was cool. I made a joke that I was happy to see the alarm actually worked. Police laughed. Incident over. Police gone. Hmmm.. where's my invite to the White House now? *smile*

From what I can see with the Gates thing, it was a lot of overreacting going on from a lot of folks; Gates, the Prez, the media, and even the news conference holding police folk. And the media(the worse) has truly gone overboard with the coverage though at the same time, it's a good thing that the situation got folks talking. The only thing is, when race gets involved, people lose that part of the brain that holds tight to common sense. I was watching Rick Sanchez today on CNN. He's not one of my favorites but I do check him out from time to time. I think he half reads stuff and sensationalizes the most trivial things, mostly because it's his show and he likes to be in charge of the conversation. Don't upstage or look like you know more than him... Rowan Martin was on the show. He's funny. Makes good sense and has good common sense. There was also Bey Buchanon(probably spelling it wrong-yawn) who I totally can't stand and another guy who didn't really speak loud enough to get in between the semi-heated moments between the other three. After the segment was over, I could only shake my head and think how much of a waste of time that was. No one really providing any enlightenment upon the big issue because the issue is so much bigger than many are comprehending if they only focus on Gates and his moment in the police spotlight. It took this to get him to understand the vulnerable feeling that others beneath his blessed status in the world experience everyday... His first time, it appears...

I've had a few encounters/experiences throughout my life and know of others who've had it a lot worse. For me, most of my experiences in hindsight make me laugh or smile because the memory has lived with me for so long. Moments like when my mother was driving and in the back seat was myself and my uncle, both young teenagers at the time with afros. The police pulled my mother over and immediately asked if she was alright. My mother being such a light-skinned woman; she was mistaken at that moment for a white person. The officer had one of those classic egg on the face looks when my mother said we were her son and youngest brother.... Me and my uncle looked at each other in confusion like saying "uh, what did you do?" "Huh? Nuttin... what you do?" "Nuttin.."

Then another time during my Junior Highschool years, I was stopped by the police while walking home. It happened twice on the same day within a five block radius on the same street; Palms Blvd. At the time, this neighborhood was predominantly white. There were maybe three black families in that area. The first police said I fit the description of a liquor store robbery suspect. I shrugged. I was clueless and wanted to continue on home. They got in their car and drove off. No thanks, goodbye, apology or anything... A second police car pulled up a couple blocks later, questioned me and said I fit the description of a gas station robbery suspect. And I wonder what was the description? *smile* yep, my complexion was in demand that day. I shrugged again... And from that point on, I had loads of encounters, especially later on once I started driving and even though the encounters have ceased in one way, I still get the suspicious looks, stares and glares that's meant to let you know whose in charge... All that good stuff that Professor Gates has now discovered... So when I get my invite, tell the President I prefer Mountain Dew over beer. And if there's food being served then yeah, I'm like Magic Johnson; I'll have some grilled chicken.. *smile* I hope the hoopla is over...

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Trip That Changed A Lifetime

Everything was packed, boxes were everywhere. I sat on the floor next to my dog. I imagine we both had a look of bewilderment; wondering what was going on and what would life be like in the coming months. My mother was sad because with the change of scenery came separation. She’d be miles away from her mother, sister and brothers and once we’d reach our destination, she’d live on the other side of town from my father. That alone made the move one of the worse events of our lives.

It was a strange drive from Los Angeles to Texas. For the most part it was very quiet with a lot of pretending going on. I can say that now in hindsight. I remember my mother always looking back to check on me and my father being extra nice. My dog sat quietly in the very back of the station wagon. That was a rare moment for him that lasted a couple days. When my father drove at night, the dark shadows of his silhouette played tricks on my mind. I would sink down in the backseat and stare at him. The shape of his head appeared to change; sometimes forming into the shape of Frankenstein. I stared at him for long periods of time before drifting off to sleep. In between that, all I can remember is that we drove and drove all night and day. I don’t remember us stopping somewhere to spend the night or stopping for food, though I’m sure we did, stop for food. I guess my mind chose to release some parts of the memory so that other images might linger a little longer or possibly forever.

The image that always haunted me was when we pulled into the Dallas airport. My mother and I looked around wondering what was going on. She started to tear up and to make matters worse, it began to thunder outside. The rain came down hard as my father announced he’d be flying on to Houston because he had things to tend to with the business. He said we’d be alright and we’d have only one hundred miles left to drive before reaching the small town in east Texas where his mother lived.

My father never looked back. He couldn’t sense that he had a son staring at him with his hand pressed against the window waiting for a chance to wave goodbye. My father walked faster so he could get out of the rain. My mother took a while before she’d move over to the driver side. She cried. There were three pairs of sad eyes sitting in that station wagon; her’s, mine, and my dog. All my mother could say was that she felt completely lost. She had no clue how to find the highway that would take us up the road to east Texas. We eventually found our way but it would be a lot of years gone by before we’d truly find our way in every sense of the word. That moment changed everything...

Sunday, July 19, 2009

40 already..

Time flies, especially when someone is no longer around. The 40 day mark after my mother's passing is already here. It's crazy. It's like the ten years that's already behind me since my father's passing. You look up and wonder where did the time go and revisit everything that's transpired since then; the ups and downs, highs, super lows, and the blessing of being able to find your way back better than before. I'm grateful but I sure miss my mom. I smile and feel joy when I think of all the memories and yet I ache when I think about those final months, seeing her deteriorate or the finality of watching her lifeless body being carried out the front door. Before this life forced me into adulthood, they never warned me about the images/memories that would be imbedded inside my head and heart as if branded with a hot iron. Again, it's not all bad but if you truly pay attention and appreciate your journey, it can be quite powerful... what's next...

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Michael Jackson (I Wish You Heaven)

Rest in peace and love to Mr. Michael Jackson. I guess you can say that life moves on, moves forward and in many mysterious directions, good and bad. I've been dealing with the loss of my mother and as such, have given much tribute to her here on my blog and I'm sure there will be more times when my thoughts of her will be revealed here but now I want to take a moment to give my respect to Michael Jackson's incredible talent and gift to the world. I was blessed to have actually seen him in performance way way back when I was a young kid. My father took me to see the then Jackson Five at the Hollywood Bowl and for some reason, I can remember the experience, the vibe much more so than I can remember details of the moment. From then I was hooked on the group; watching the cartoon show every Saturday morning and using some of the songs like "Got To Be There" as the background soundtrack to when I would be talking to one of my kindergarden honeys over the phone... *smile* I would later graduate to Prince but that's another story. I continued to enjoy the incredible creativity and voice of Michael and his brothers for many years to follow though I have to be honest and say that I'm actually one of the few on the planet that wasn't really into the Thriller album but prior to that with the Off The Wall album and everything before that, I was lovin it! I was chatting with someone the other day about the songs that dont get much mention but to me are the songs that get me moving and smiling.. I can hear the grooves as soon as I mention the titles.. I'm talking about "I Am Love," "Get It Together," "Maybe Tomorrow," "Looking Through The Window," "Corner In The Sky," "Forever Came Today." I can remember listening to many of these songs one year when I drove from Los Angeles to east Texas. My intention was to truly drive back in time since I was headed to a place that holds so many past memories for myself. Listening to those songs really takes me back to a time when all loved ones were still around. A belief in forever is a nonexistent thing, especially when your mother is no longer among the living. That being said, I imagine many hold the same sort of loving feeling for Michael Jackson. I hope that on the strength of those feelings they keep within their heart a positive memory of the man who was without a doubt, one of the greatest entertainers to strut from coast to coast, all over this planet. And on that note, let me leave you with this really cool video from another very creative soul; a true artist... Dwele. His tribute is way too cool...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Memories Unexpectedly

I'm in the beginning stages of going thru some of my mother's things. It's not a task I've looked forward to but at the same time it's necessary and to a certain degree, very interesting/fulfilling... Once again it feels like going back in time. It also feels like discovery and surprise. I'm amazed at all the stuff my mother held on to for a lot of years. One moment I'm finding in one folder, my birth certificate, her birth certificate, her marriage license, divorce papers, an unused passport that she'd planned to use when my father promised to take her out of the country. I found old collectible magazines and more family pictures that I hadn't seen before. She hadn't placed them in one of her many photo albums. I laughed when I saw an old ticket stub from 1985. It was for Prince and the Revolution performing at the Fabulous Forum in Inglewood. That was the infamous Purple Rain Tour.

I found a ton of pens and old unused greeting cards for every occasion that might come in handy. My mother collected some things and I can remember a long long time ago tell her how cool it would've been if she'd collected things as a kid or if her parents and grand parents collected things that she could bring forth into the present and pass them on. She agreed though she didn't do that before but she quickly changed that habit. Her favorite things to collect were the magazines, stamps, and anything else she could organize into some cool folder with tabs. I'm sure I'll discover more as time goes on but for now I'm just grateful for the time and the memories...

Monday, June 22, 2009

Happy Father's Day

I meant to post this yesterday but I'll post it now for posterity sake as I say Happy Father's Day to my dad in heaven. Father's Day is for me a sad reminder of the passing of my dad ten years ago and my mom on June 8th. I'm grateful to all the love and concern shown my way recently. The folks making me promise to call them or they'll call me sort of thing. The list is becoming long; a blessed thing so it may become hard to fulfill that promise. I know they connect or relate with the fact that here I am an only child with no parents or even grand parents left in the world. That gives me pause and deep sighs because I miss all of them and so much time has passed by that it's just mind blowing. I didn't know my grandfather on my mother's side too well because I was so young but I do forever remember his huge grin and smile. His german features to the point where you could definitely see the german mixed with black heritage in him... I was very close to my grand father on my father's side. I feel like that closeness remained even after his passing so long ago in the early 70's. There's never a day that goes by without me thinking of him in some way. His influence on me was/is strong despite the short time we spent together. He is the man I always aspired to be like. Strong, hardworking, honest, carrying himself tall/confident yet gentle at the same time. I've always felt like he was/is my guardian angel all these years though perhaps they all are and especially now that my mother has joined them in heaven, she's probably watching me the most.

My father, Virgil "Sonny" Rivers was special to me and he lived quite a life. We at times had some misunderstandings or lack of communication when physically at a distance from each other but typically when we were together, everything was alright. Sometimes, I even felt a little jealousy coming from him because I reminded him so much of his father. It didn't help that his mother/my grandmother kept telling him and reminding him that I was the reincarnation of my grandfather. Later on when she got really sick, she'd even mistake me for my grandfather. Nevertheless, I was always proud and always admired my father for his accomplishments and his skills. He was gifted at carpentry even though he spent the first half of his life in the music/record retail business. And as time goes by, memories become like historical literature that would make for great books or fascinating movies... I know my father had fun in his life though I'm not so sure he recognized or even at times appreciated his journey. I think that's the best part of living is to recognize the journey you're on and to pay close attention to every phase of it, good and bad...

I can recall way back when my father was traveling up and down the westcoast working for Fedco's music department. Sort of like a salesman and bringing in the latest hot product into their various stores. Then when he had promotional copies or extra copies of albums, he would bring them home. Needless to say, I was exposed to a wide variety of music as I can remember him bring home the first Beatles record, Hendrix, various Motown stuff, Miles Davis, Coltrane, Issac Hayes etc. I didn't really know what it was because I was a baby but I'd always notice the different album cover images. After a while in the mid seventies my father got the opportunity of a lifetime to head a chain of record stores in Houston called Budget Soul and he ran with it. That was seventies heaven with the afros, beautiful ladies, cadillac sevilles, corvettes, cash flowing everywhere, bell bottoms and open silk shirts with some kind of gold chain and medallion. He got into partnerships with various music business folks in the Houston area like George Fraizer who was a DJ at KYOK, Steve who was a promotion man, Big George who was the muscle, Gil Butron who was his most popular at his number one Budget Soul store on Alameda. They all formed a little concert promotion agency called Family Productions. It was the limelight, the highlife and everything else. It made it hard for my father to come down to the reality of the slow times on Carmona Avenue with wife and kid back in Los Angeles. The life he was then living in Houston where eventually the mayor awarded him a key to the city for being a black man running a record retail business and generating more than a million in sales had him truly feeling himself. My father is originally from Mt. Pleasant Texas which back in his day was very few people. It was a country town in the best sense of the word and tradition. He had no indoor plumbing, they took baths by filling up an aluminum bathtub with water they carried in from the well. My grandmother truly made everything from scratch, whether it be churning the butter, making preserves from fruit off the trees, vegetables grown outside, chicken that they raised, etc etc. That was his life before and the reason why when he got old enough, he left though from what he shared with me, his first stop was Chicago before he made his way to LA. I'm not sure what he did in Chicago. he never went into much detail about it except to say that he struggled a great deal and that it wasn't what he'd hoped for.

As times went on in Houston and he decided to end things with my mother, eventually even his hightimes took a downward spin. As I always say, once you start feeling invincible, that's usually when a higher power steps in to remind you just how human you really are. He had some health issues, he started to get tired of the music business because it began to change and transform into something less personal, if you will. I mean, Budget Soul Records was the kind of place where you walk in and get personal attention from the person behind the counter. Is you weren't sure what was new and hot, the person would put the needle on the record and play it for you. I remember working in my father's store on summer vacation and having this one guy come in from one of the neighborhood discos and asking me to just show him what was out. I went through pretty much the top 40 plus records at the time. he'd hear the intro to the record and would already know it was good. At the time the hot stuff was James Brown, Rufus & Chaka Khan, Brick, Brother's Johnson, Tower Of Power, Crusaders, Parliament-Funkadelic who we always soldout, Al Green, Curtis Mayfield, Barry White, and the list goes on and on when the music was incredible... Those were the days but then that change happened. In Houston it was a place called Cactus Records, which was similar to Big Ben's in LA where it was like a huge supermarket size record store that sold not just albums, tapes and cassettes but also electronics and everything else. No more personal attention. You just shop and purchase. That was the perfect opportunity for my father to get out and do something else he enjoyed that gave him real true personal satisfaction. He moved to northern Cali and got into contracting; building homes, doing bathrooms, kitchens, etc. As he and my mother redeveloped their friendship and closeness during these latter years, he was greatly encouraged by her and thru her pushing him he studied hard and got his contractors license. He did well enough to where he would work six months and then take time off to travel and see the world... He lived and that's what I appreciate about him. In the end I felt as if he were slowing down and really contemplating or perhaps re-evaluating his life, his friends, his surroundings but before it could all make sense so to speak, his time was up. He had a sudden and devastating heart attack on Oct. 3, 1998. His body was put to rest in his hometown, Mt. Pleasant. Unlike my mother who was blessed with time to get things in order and to make all of her wishes known, my father wasn't given that opportunity. Time was hectic after his death and that which perhaps he was re-evaluating made life very tough for myself and my mother as we attempted despite the aftermath to take care of his mother/my grandmother, Senora Rivers. I believe my father would've been proud of my mother in how she stepped in made sure things would be in order with Senora. It was rough because of others but easy because our hearts were in the right place. Life is precious and such an amazing journey.. My father had a great one.