#MNR: PALZ, Part 3
Welcome to the third and final entry in the PALZ series. I hope you’ve enjoyed it thus far, whether it be the humor, the pen, or the confessions.
One mo’ ‘gin for my bro Scooter in heaven. Thanks for the love and seat at the table bro. I’m gon always speak your name in association with the confidence and moxie that have driven my personal success in this life. Like I said in the last blog, all of my core classes were Honors, and tough AF. My only non-Honors classes were Algebra I (no Honors option), Gym (of course), Literary Arts (obviously if you know me), and Art. That brings me to the next pal of mine.
Art 8 was a true sample of the student body at HCJHS at the time. Black and white boys and girls mixed throughout, maybe two or three Hispanic kids here and there. There I was, smack dab in the middle of it all. I found myself in my assigned seat day one beside a kid who I would come to find had a few key similar interests at the time. His name was Kevin. It’s not that it matters because a person is a person, but Kevin’s white. The seating chart forced our unlikely pairing, but it couldn’t have been more on point. Much like myself, Kevin wasn’t exactly quiet, but he was far from loquacious. At least not around those he was unfamiliar with. But I would find that he had plenty to say when he was in his comfort zone. It just so happens that we both had an affinity for sports, most importantly baseball. We ate, slept, and breathed baseball. I’m a day one Yankees fan, which basically means that in 1991 there was absolutely no allure to the distinction. But little did I know that with The Boss on forced hiatus from the team and sport, Good old Gene “Stick” Michael was quietly and methodically putting together the core (pun intended) of our soon (enough) to be dynasty. Kevin didn’t follow a particular team, but he was an aficionado of one player in particular: MLB career hit leader Peter Edward Rose. Kevin knew everything about Charlie Hustle, and repped him to no end. In addition to being big time sports fanatics, we were also big-time card and memorabilia collectors. Ironically, Kevin was an amazing artist. He would take a sports picture from a card or magazine, freehand sketch it on typing paper in pencil, and color it in with colored pencils. The pictures looked amazing. Like for real, amazing. I know y’all don’t believe me. Y’all like, “T capping”. That’s ok. Cuz I got something for y’all. Just wait till the end. But anyway, Kevin and I were like next of kin. We laughed at our own inside jokes. We debated the sports topics of the day. My bro Crow, a cool ass white kid named Raleigh, and a down ass Black queen whose name has slipped my mind sat beside us at long art tables in the back of the room. We had a good ass time every day and always went to sleep during movies/documentaries. Ms. Moore didn’t give a fidduck. She talked more shit than the kids. But those were good times. We didn’t have a care in the world.
That summer, both of us played Babe Ruth baseball. We were on opposing teams. My squad took league the ‘ship (you already fvcking know), and both of us made all-stars. What I remember most from that season other than us losing in the state finals was Kevin being locked in a competition for the league batting title down the stretch with my teammate and cousin Bobby “Boo” Venable. Boo edged Kevin last game of the regular season. Kevin could have actually sat the last game out and bettered his odds to win the title; he was a few points ahead of Boo going in. But he decided to do what any real ball player would do: he pulled a Ted Williams and played the last game. Unfortunately (for him), Boo slight edged him for the crown. I can’t lie, I hated on Kevin OD going into that final game. We talked shit all spring in Art and fought it out on the field through the early part of the summer. Honestly, I just wanted my folk to win, even though Kevin was also my folk. But you know what Sly said: “blood is thicker than mud”. Boo is actually my step pop’s nephew, and we’re cousins through marriage. But you know how shit go. I don’t know if that wee bit of tension on the diamond led to any type of strain in our relationship, but I do know that beginning ninth grade on, I saw less and less of Kevin. As we progressed through high school and I got up with my NFL clique, Kevin eventually became a face in the cloud.
Over the past year since the Lord allowed me to get up out that wretched hospital bed and walk my fat ass up out of Englewood Hospital, I’ve done a lot of introspection. From time to time Kevin has come across my mind, much like my dead homies, key difference being that I was pretty sure Kevin hadn’t met such a cruel fate. After all, Kevin wasn’t a street kid (not saying that all my dead homies were but most were). And if we know one thing, it’s that bad news always spreads like oxygen and water. So, I was pretty sure Kevin was somewhere alive and well. But I still wondered. One night a few months ago, the neurotic in me woke me up out of my slumber around three in the morning to Google search for Kevin Caudle. I was certain he was somewhere in America working as a renowned sports illustrator. But my Google search yielded nada. Ok, time for Plan B. I went to my backup plan and searched Twitter. I dug through all the Kevin Caudles until I found an account with a pic of a man who looked just like my junior high pal, only with a goatee. The man was seated beside the great Danica Patrick with a portrait of her, which she signed for him. It was definitely him. But he hadn’t tweeted in about three years. I took a chance and @ him anyway. Then I waited. And waited. Then it came to a point after a couple months that I began to figure that this was one of the thousands of still active Twitter accounts with absolutely no activity, making it effectively inactive. And then I wondered. Was something wrong with Kevin? Had something crazy happened? I mean, surely no one would just one day abandon Twitter, right? Not Twitter. Who would do a crazy thing like that? Soon after that I just figured it may never be. I had so much to tell my old friend, things I figured he never even knew. I had to let him know the part, the significant part he played in my life. In essence, he was my best friend in eighth grade, the pivotal year of all my school days. I was struggling to keep my head above water socially and emotionally. I didn’t have to act like someone I wasn’t just to be down. I didn’t have to be anyone but myself. That was more than enough. But hey, not every story has a story book ending.
About a month ago, I got an email from none other than my old pal Kevin. He is alive and in good health and spirit. He’s made a home in Chapel Hill, NC with his beautiful wife Ingrid. We spoke for hours the first time we conversed, and we text regular. We plan to meet up soon. Post Covid pending. Life is amazing. Twenty-five years or better, no contact. Now we right back like we never left. God is the greatest.
In the years since the three PALZ I’ve discussed these past few blogs (well over half a lifetime), I’ve met so many extraordinary individuals from all over the planet. Many have left indelible marks on my life. I have been blessed to form lifelong friendships with a few. Here’s the roll call: big ups to my high school team, NFL (you figure the acronym out) --- E, Nick, D-Nice, Vinny (Roger) and B. Grasty, my Hali fam Rahgie, Kenny Hodges, and the big homie Vinny, my bros Robert Williams and Kelvin Watson (my Wilson Memorial day ones), my VUU Huntley Fam --- my ace Rock Lark, my MF heart Louie, Keith Murray (I gave him the moniker), Mel Patterson, Marv, Jab, Dr. Dre Doggs, my sisters Kia, Lisa, and Jon Jon, my lil bros Darrell, Todd, and Corleone, all the big bros and sisters, and plenty of other great individuals (too many to name), my bros Jose, Papa Smurf, P.R. & Charles “Chubby” Chisolm (RIP to both Kings), and all my folk in Jeff Houses, my PNC Mr. Ten from Decatur and bro Sean, my 4th Ward soldiers in Englewood, and Crew UnB, most importantly my CEO, 2NN partner, and lil bro Christian Eaddy. LOVE ALL Y’ALL INFINITELY.
To my true day ones, my blood family: Thompson, Warren, Bradley, and Marable. To my best friend on this planet --- my queen Brandi. Y’all my
Well, that’s the end of our PALZ series. We certainly hope you’ve enjoyed it. Catch us next Monday for another installment of MNR. I’m out like Shout.