#MNR: PALZ, Part 1
“…my enemies your enemies, cuz you ain’t never had a friend like me.”
When I sat at the table in 2011 to write the majority of 100 Blocks Stories, there were several things I wanted to accomplish in addition to ensuring the authenticity of the project. I lived it. If I didn’t do it by my lonely, I “seent” it. I said as much to say that my goods are 100% pure. But in addition to the authenticity of Eastside Harlem and its fictitious yet realistic players, I wanted to dispel a few myths and reaffirm some of the foundation. As pertaining to the foundation, I’m talking about African American culture and certain motifs that I went out of my way to establish throughout 100BS, namely friendship and loyalty. I wanted to show that, even though snakes are prevalent in the hood, there are still genuine and indelible bonds forged through shared struggle, both internal and external. Again, I drew the inspiration from my own life, from myself and great people I’m proud to call my friends.
The past month or so has been extraordinary, even amidst pandemic alongside political and social unrest. I don’t slight either, but I’m like the homie Joey Bada$$. I’m heavily God’ed. So dem ting no worry meh. My exuberance is attached to the fact that I’ve been able to reconnect with some of my closest friends in life from New York as well as in Halifax County, VA. It’s kind of surreal to me. I’d lost contact with some of them for over two decades. And if you don’t know me, please note that I’m in perpetual thought. My mind is always in thought and analysis. I guess it comes with being an only child. Throw in a nice dose of neurosis and my physical CPU never shuts down. Ever. I don’t dream, I build. I’ve lost so much in my lifetime. I know death is certain, but I’ve seen more than enough. This makes genuine friendship ever the more precious in my eyes. It also makes regaining contact with lost friends a paramount task. Luckily, there is thing called the internet. And on this internet, there’s this thing called social media. Shall we proceed?...
Before I moved to VA in 1988, I spent my first ten years between Uptown NYC (Bronx/Eastside/the Heights) and Bridgehampton, Strong Island (my mom’s hometown). My actual household was in the city, but problems at home, discourtesy of my pops, forced my mother to send me out to the Island from time to time. The craziest years were Kindergarten and Third Grade because those were the two years that I went to school in Bridgehampton. I often joke that I was the first ever 1st grade dropout. Shit got so bad that my mom sent me out to my grandparents in Bridgehampton for like a month and a half dead amidst the school year. I spent every day riding around in the truck with papi on his side hustles or at my great grandparents’ house. No books, nada. I missed so much time that the day I got back to school my classmates deadass acted as if I came back from the dead. They surrounded me, hugged on me, etc. My life was so crazy at that time that I just laughed it off to them like it was regular shit---because it was. Anyway---Bridgehampton is a very small town, way out in Suffolk County on eastern Long Island. People hear the tag Hamptons and automatically assume that because of its affluence that every resident is paid. That’s not the case. You do your own research. But I will reveal that my grandparents were hardworking, everyday folk who were blessed with a piece of land. But back to the school. As I mentioned, Bridgehampton is a small town. So is the school. And when I mention the school as singular, it’s because there is only one school. Bridgehampton is one of the 30 smallest schools in the state of New York (with a STORIED basketball program), with 189 students in TOTAL during the 2018-2019 academic school year. I could be mistaken, but I think my (would have been) graduating class of 1996 had eight students. In contrast, I was one of about 350 of the c/o 1996 at HCHS.
I love Bridgehampton to this day. After beginning in Southampton, my mother, auntie, and both of my uncles attended Bridgehampton School from mid to late elementary-12, except for the year my mother was a foreign exchange student in Brazil (she was so amazing; she saw Pelé live---arena live). Both my years at Bridgehampton were special because both years basically had the same kids in each class. There was Marcus, JP, and Nick, amongst others, and a cutie named Brandy (oh, the irony). All those brothers were cool (JP did a Spit from Beat Street inspired tag on a picture of a car I drew for Art and made me cry in Kindergarten but it’s all good). I always wondered what was up with those guys over the years. My big cousin Adrienne was born and raised out there, so she knew the scoop on all of them. JP and Marcus had some tough times over the years like most of us, but every story I heard about Nick was on the up and up. It only seemed right to me because Nick was probably the coolest kid in the class overall. He got along with all eight (or so) of us and always kept a smile. It was hard for me to wear a genuine smile a lot of those days, so it was an inspiration to see it from someone else. End of the day, we all came from humble beginnings for one reason or the other. But I always remembered him for his smile and cool demeanor. Fast forward to summer ’98. My uncle and I decided to take a trip to the Island for July 4. There’s always a parade that mirrors Englewood in that all us come out. You see folk you haven’t seen in a long time. I happened to see Nick as soon as we got there. I immediately knew who he was, but I was almost hesitant to approach out of uncertainty as to if he remembered me. I’ve been so many places y’all. Bounced around a lot. Tyrone had us under pressure. The way I see it, people tend to forget about folk like me over time. And we all know for a fact that colored folk will act like they don’t know a MF in a Madden accelerated clock minute. I was a bit iffy on whether to approach Nick. But I did. He remembered me from back when. We caught up on the eleven years we hadn’t been in contact. It was love. Unfortunately, we fell out of contact. You know how it goes from time to time. But it was 1998. I damn sure didn’t own a cell phone back then. And I didn’t yet have a dorm room number to exchange. So, it was what it was. I was just happy to see an old pal in good health and spirit.
It just so happens that I fell into one big ass Bridgehampton rabbit hole about a month back. I saw a random pic on a YouTube unsolved murder blog and immediately knew that the gymnasium I was looking at in the pic was none than the world famous “Hive”, a 37x55 foot pressure cooker that sent most opponents back “up the Island” with a hot and fresh L. From 1931 until this year, the Hive was the home to the Bridgehampton Killer Bees, winners of 9 New York state championships (second only to Money Earnin’ Mount Vernon’s 11), 25 Class D crowns, and 33 league titles. It’s the court my uncles Archie and Alan played on. It’s the court MLB Hall of Fame outfielder Carl Yastrzemski led the smallest school to win a Suffolk County championship on (yeah, Yaz played ball too). Y’all know I love perspective. For my Englewood folk, that’s like winning the Jamboree in a county with three times the population of Bergen County with a school a fifth the size of old Dwight Morrow. It’s the court my old pal Nick led his team to 3 state ‘ships on, the first as a freshman. Yup. Starting point gawd on the state ‘ship winners. He did that. So, I kept digging. The article I read mentioned that Nick Thomas is now the head coach of Center Moriches High School Red Devils, a bigger school up the island. He’s been doing that for the past nine years. That led me from Google to LinkedIn. I’m not new to LinkedIn, but I only recently began to really stay current on it in effort to expand my enterprise. I figured a person of such stature would have a LinkedIn profile. I was correct. It’s crazy though because he has so many connections that I couldn’t just invite myself to a request to be a part of his network. I wasn’t down about it; I was just genuinely happy to see my brother exceling. I think I was able to leave a message. I also put a random post on my page congratulating him on his success. No @. Just love. And of course, he linked up with a brother. We now have each other’s contacts and are in communication. That means a lot to a rolling stone like me.
I’m a keep it a bean with y’all. I had no idea whatsoever that this blog would be this long. This shall be part one of a three-part series titled PALZ. Part two will be on your doorstep a week from now. Same Bat time, same Bat channel. It’s my time y’all.