In The Studio: Darius Tribute

I chose the words on this painting with careful intent. Many people call him Papa Gray, though he and I don’t really have that sort of relationship.

But the relationship he has, and has consistently cultivated over the years with others, becomes obvious if you hang around anywhere near him for any period of time.

Or really, his influence becomes irrefutable if you just hang around any black Mormons for any period of time.

The words I chose are Pioneer,

Teacher

Lonely

Black and Proud

Wise

Friend

Mentor

Faith

Unwearying

Advocate

and Moving Forward Together.

Thank you Darius

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The Fall of an Icon: Toys R’ Us

While doing a very strange thing, walking from one store to another in a large strip mall, I saw a hand written sign. This was odd, the walking that is, because normally people drive to one store then leave. It isn’t a “thing” to visit TJ Maxx then stroll over to PetSmart for a minute and then top the trip off with a meal at Bonefish Grill. No. The walking at these places only goes from the car to the big glass doors and back, and even this is done grudgingly in the event you are forced to park beyond the first three stalls.

I was walking because the first store I visited was out of what I was looking for, a shoe, and at the other end of the strip, was another shoe store. I looked at my car, over at the shoe store, then back at my car. The triangle between me and the store and the car was probably a total of 100 yards, yet somehow it was still a tough decision.

So I did that odd thing and instead of walking straight toward my car, I turned to my right, and I walked. While walking I saw that sign. It was taped on the inside of the big glass doors and and said “Toys R Us is closed forever.”

In seeing that sign I instantly flashed back to my childhood. There I was, sitting on the floor within arms reach of the numbered dial, I saw the commercial with the singing kids and that big giraffe. I’d only been there once but it was my Xanadu. A palatial place built just for me when the rest of the world was for grown ups. Aisle upon aisle of toys I never even knew existed, each one better than the one before, and if legend was true, they would even let you play with them in the store. Like I said I’d only been there once but those commercials and that song helped the legend grow in my mind and it all bubbled up as I walked past that day.

I was slightly perturbed by the idea that capitalist speculation brought this giant to its end. The idea that such an icon could be brought down in a board room or an exchange rather than a production line or register depressed me. And in that state I stopped to snap a picture.

Perhaps it was because I paused, a physical action that prompted my brain to do the same, but I realized then how hood winked I was. Or am. I was lamenting how capitalists had destroyed the object of my youthful, pointless, consumerist fantasy. I never got that 2,000 piece Lego pirate ship, nor the full size Castle of Grey Skull, I knew I would never have them, and yet I pined.

I pined hard. Can you pine hard? Does pining work that way? I don’t know for sure but I’m convinced thats what I did. And I felt the pangs of the pining looking at that picture and looking at my little digital screen it occurred to me, that I have never had any real need, or use, for a Lego pirate ship.

No one does.

Sure having one would be fun and cool but fun and cool aren’t, or shouldn’t, be pined for.  It isn’t that serious. They got me. They got inside my head and little heart those creepy craven consumerists! They got me so hard that I felt an actual emotion, sadness, at the sight of an empty consumerist icon falling away. I do not fault any child, myself included, for fantasizing about endless rows of things to play with. But really, no one needs endless rows of toys.

Reality is that my children will always have access to a toy. They already have too many, just like I did when I was little. Yet I as a child, and we as adults, keep pushing more and more and more. We produce and then watch commercials and we build Xanadus of stuff and most of it is just for the sake of more. We are all at fault. It is not just me lacking discipline and letting myself fall prey to materialism- though it is that too. But it is also us. It is all of us accepting that all of this is not just okay but ideal. Like it is and must be who we are as a society. I love beauty, and play, and fun. Those things are good. There should always be play and fun in all of our lives. But when we already have an abundance of that, should we be pining for more? We can and should be better than that. But we aren’t.

And I know we aren’t because when I walked past a hand written sign saying an icon of frivolous consumerism was closed forever, I felt sad.

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My Modern Man’s Modest Wish List: stuff I don’t have but should- part 1

Occasionally I drift into materialistic dreams of stuff that I believe would make my life, and myself, better.

I do not have these things in part because of the specificity of my tastes, but also, because I maintain a modest budget that leans more toward necessities. My real challenge in life is finding ways to make the following items necessary.

The items in question are:

Solidly made, water resistant, steel banded wristwatch.

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Black running shoes, no colored trim, no bulging or bubbling soles.

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Plain brown, no extra zippers, no colored trim, high collared, leather racing jacket.

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Brown leather, no adornments, waterproof, hiking boots.

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All black, no colored trim, backpacking backpack.

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Black sub freezing sleeping bag.

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Desert tan pack packing tent.

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Navajo blanket.

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Wooden longboard.

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Two, leather and wood, Kala armchairs.

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Original, large scale painting by Gregg Deal.

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1st edition 1891 copy of American Football by Walter Camp.

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I am somewhat surprised I am still alive without these things.

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Dana Point

Dana Point

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A Day in LA

A Day in LA

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A Brief Explanation of Why Americans Don’t Play Soccer (Association Football)

Most of the world calls soccer football. The United States of America calls football soccer because back when the rest of the world started playing that kicking game we were already playing something else called football. Today, despite being a (declining) superpower, we get beat by countries the size of a postage stamp who operate on budgets that can’t afford postage.

There is a reason for this, and it isn’t just that we don’t “get it” or that there is something in American culture that precludes our appreciating the finer points of slide tackles and dramatic flopping. The NBA proves we love dramatic flopping, and no, the reason why we Yankees don’t get the game isn’t some attention span deficiency either.  While soccer is incredibly boring, it is not arguably any more boring than that American game where you take a 1 minute break between every 20 seconds of action. So no, the real answer, or reason, is history. As in there is a historical reason we never got on the soccer bandwagon. Sorry, AN historical reason.

Soccer became soccer in London’s Freemason’s Tavern in 1863. That is when and where a bunch of football clubs got together and argued over whether or not the rules would allow a player to pick up the ball and carry it, as opposed to just kicking. The group voted to only allow kicking, causing those who supported the Rugby School’s version of the game, where you can choose to pick the ball up and run, to leave in protest. The two groups or factions never got back together. Forever after there would be two different games, association football, and rugby football, or as Americans know them, simply soccer and rugby- though we mostly ignore them both.

Back then England was very much meddling in the rest of the world’s everything. Business men, merchants, and their military were still colonizing and influencing all sorts of people and countries everywhere. It was all this influencing that helped both games, soccer and rugby, spread globally. It is also this influencing, and who was influencing who how, that these two games took on two sorts of identities or reputations. Soccer was, and is, the “every man’s” (or woman’s) game. Everyone plays. Kids kick balls of trash in third world hovels or favelas, while rugby is mostly for private schools and otherwise genteel clubs. A rugby shirt, or rugby “jersey” has a collar while soccer jerseys do not, mostly because rugby was played at clubs where the club houses required a collared shirt for entry. Soccer doesn’t really require a shirt for anything other than ripping off and twirling overhead after scoring a goal. It has oft been said that soccer is a gentleman’s game played by hooligans while rugby is a hooligan game played by gentlemen.

And this is why Americans don’t play soccer.

No seriously.

Back when those English guys were arguing about kicking or carrying the ball, Americans were busy killing each other in the Civil War. Once the dust settled and Americans found the time for recreation, the every-man game had already been established as baseball. There was some horse racing and boxing mixed in there too but respectable folks looked on those things the same way backstreet drag racing and MMA are viewed today.

There were of course those who weren’t the “every-man” or were the sort of men who wore collared shirts, and ties, and once those men were done with the war they went home to places like New York, New Haven, and Boston. They themselves were too genteel for any sort of game, kicking or otherwise (except perhaps rowing) but their sons having just gotten their blood all boiling with war and whatnot, were a bit more restless. These boys finding themselves confined in the classrooms of Harvard, Princeton, and Yale made an effort to find a way to expend energy, without lowering their status. They looked to the elites in England for ideas. Oxford and Cambridge were at that time favoring rugby football over the kicking style, and consequentially Princeton challenged Rutgers to a game of football using the rugby rules rather than the “association” rulebook in 1869. The game stuck- and spread. So while England was off influencing the sporting life of all sorts of people all over the world, football players at Yale and Harvard were influencing American kids in South Bend, College Park, and Chicago. Which is one half of the reason Americans don’t compete well in Soccer today.

The other half is money.

Back when all of this was happening, sports were just games, not business empires. This isn’t to say money wasn’t involved, but the idea was that sports, or leisure, was for people who already had money, thereby allowing them to spend their time running around kicking balls when others might be tilling fields or toiling in factories. An English gentleman would have, and there are some who still do, turn up their noses at the idea of playing a sport for money. On the other hand, an Englishman who isn’t gentle will absolutely invest money in order to beat someone who thinks themselves superior. Americans as a whole were never truly gentlemen in the first place, so in both places, England and America, around the same time, 1870-ish, “poor” people started paying people to play for their teams. Americans played baseball and organized a professional baseball league in 1871. English people played association football and organized, or legalized, professional soccer in 1885. So now the world had two very different games being played professionally by working class folks on 2 different continents. This professionalism was for the most part, in both places, rather colloquial with money being mostly limited to whatever some local deep pocket was willing to pay in order to beat the next town over. And here it was that the sporting world split in two, North America, and everywhere else.

Soccer was easily exportable. No matter the language, no matter your wallet, no matter your social standing, the world was ready to let you play association football (soccer). You could be poor and play, and for the most part, for another 100 years, this is what happened. Poor people played soccer and mostly remained poor. Some people eventually made some money, depending an on who and where they were, and eventually we got the Bundesliga and the World Cup, but it took a long time to build up to that. Or this. Whatever.

Meanwhile, back in the USA, you had all those rich boys playing rugby at fancy colleges. Rich Americans care a lot about winning. And being rich. Rich English people cared mostly about who your grandfather was, which is why the ones without cool grandparents left for the colonies in the first place and decided to beat the paternalists in a couple wars in order to better focus on making money (in fact Americans cared so much about money and so little about lineage that they were willing to kidnap the children of royalty from other countries and force them to labor in fields in order to make themselves rich. How’s that for priorities?). So with this mindset American colleges started paying coaches to come up with strategies to beat the rich boys at the other colleges. Then they started letting people without pedigrees into their fancy colleges, and paying them money, in order to beat the other schools. Pretty soon other schools, ones that were less fancy, started paying more money to local coaches and players, so that they could start beating the fancier schools in this game of rugby football. By this time every college, and high school, across the entire North American continent had a football team. Americans were so invested in this game that in the year 1905, 19 “students” died on the field of play. This paying athletes to come to college and possibly die got so out of hand that a group of schools met together in 1910 to start enforcing and changing rules to make the game safer- but mostly they combined to regulate pay for play. They called themselves the National College Athletic Association, or NCAA for short. It should be noted that by this time these simple games between two schools, were bringing in giant crowds of spectators (Harvard and Yale both broke ground for permanent football stadiums seating 30,000 and 70,000 respectively) and these crowds were being sold tickets. As is, and has always been, the American way, people were making money. As the NCAA started to flex its regulatory might and began pushing back against the profiteering in college football, those less attached to the collegiate life were pushed out and shortly thereafter a professional football league was begun (1921). The financial behemoth that is the NFL today sprung up out of the money that had already been seeded on college campuses. So much so that most Americans are more familiar with any particular college’s colors and mascot than they are with those school’s scholastic offerings.

While the English were off seeding the planet with this common people’s game, America was busy turning sports into business. Big business. Gargantuon business. FIFA organized in 1904 in order to regulate international competition, similar to the Olympic commission, but other than bragging rights, there was for the most part no money in it. Americans wanted money. This was back when Jim Thorpe, an American, sailed across the ocean to beat the rest of the world in track and field, just to later have his gold medals taken away because he had once played baseball for money. It took decades for the rest of the world to either build up enough capital to professionalize, or for the gentry to relent. By the time they did (relent) and the “beautiful game” stepped up to take center stage and cause earthquakes in Mexico, any given Yankee had plenty of other sports to choose from- and those other sports have a higher likelihood of making a good athlete rich.

Today, a ten year old in Texas with superior athletic ability who does not come from independent wealth can choose to either play American football, and compete with millions of other Americans in hopes of making millions of dollars, or they can focus on soccer in hopes of one day competing against billions of Brazilians, Argentines, Mexicans, Spaniards, Italians, and Germans to go live in a foreign country making thousands of dollars. For those who buck the norm and just love the game this may look attractive, but it is a lopsided choice. Also, if this young American fears concussions, he (not “she” as women’s sports, especially football, have not monetized at the same rate) could always choose basketball, baseball, hockey… or maybe even surfing.

So while the entire world sans-America joins together in sporting unity, and riots, let us not pontificate on what it is about soccer that doesn’t connect with Americans, or why it is that the USA just refuses to be like everyone else- or which sport is inherently better than another. We know why America doesn’t play soccer and it doesn’t have anything to do with shin guards.

http://www.newsweek.com/mexico-winning-goal-germany-caused-artificial-earthquake-world-cup-celebration-980478

https://www.factmonster.com/sports/baseball/baseball-america-history

https://www.fifa.com/about-fifa/who-we-are/the-game/index.html

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14616700600680930?src=recsys&journalCode=rjos20

https://sydney.edu.au/sup/downloads/MediaReleaseSUSport12jun08.pdf

http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1032373215615873?journalCode=acha

http://www.history.ac.uk/reviews/review/678

http://www.upenn.edu/pnc/ptlapchick.html

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International Surfing Museum: Huntington Beach, CA

While surfing is 100% a Hawaiian sport, it was California that exported it around the world. Whether it was Gidget, the Beach Boys, or Frankie Avalon who grifted the idea of surf culture away from Duke Kahanamoku or someone else, they did a great job of seeding said culture in the beach towns of Southern California. So now, surfers are thought of as blonde haired bros prone to using the word “dude” in places like Huntington Beach.IMG_5226

Huntington has embraced the image.

If you walk into the International Surfing Museum with a 10 year old child like I did, be prepared for the friendly woman behind the counter to do her best to convince the child to abandon any hopes of adult responsibility in pursuit of great waves- and to use the coupon on the back of your ticket stub for ice cream across the street. Her pitch almost worked on me but my child was unimpressed.IMG_5225

The place is small yet informative, with a good mix of information and artifact. There is a sculpture of the Silver Surfer, vintage Hawaiian planks, and a number of rash guards and trophies once worn or won by Eddie Aikau. Which is pretty much all you need for a top notch museum.IMG_5224

But Huntington’s offering is topped off by one large claim to fame, and by large, I mean Guinness Book of World Records large.IMG_5222

I normally ignore oversized objects mounted on poles outside stores, or museums, as props, but the giant surfboard mounted outside this museum once caught a wave and carried 66 people to shore. This seems about right.

To invest so heavily in an activity that is purely recreational for purely promotional purposes, is so very California. And I’m okay with that.IMG_5207

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