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Posts Tagged ‘Cleveland’

Sorry! I have to take some time on this blog to talk about all this Lebron James insanity.

I feel I have to say something, not so much because I’m from Cleveland, but because I need to talk about the guy who first told me of this basketball phenom.

Eddie Robinson has sinced passed away, I miss him very much, but I’m glad he’s not around to see all this bullshit.

Eddie was one of the coolest of my dad’s friends.  I have fond memories of him holding court in my pop’s old bar room with the fellas. He’d sit there watching the Browns, making off-color jokes and giving everybody in the room the inside dope on all of Cleveland sports.

He was Richard Pryor and Sports Illustrated’s Rick Reilly all wrapped up into one, droppin’ science and entertaining us all as he sat royally in my pop’s old black leather rocker, rum and coke in one hand, a cigar in the other. He sat there like he owned the joint and he was one of the few adults us kids were allowed to call by his first name, because respect was a given. Placing “Mister” before his last name was redundant.

Eddie was the man.

When it came to high school sports the guy was especially dialed in. He’d take me and my big brother Julian to see these great Cleveland area High School football games, JFK, Cleveland Heights, Shaw… Eddie was able to give the 411 on a freshman running back as if the kid’s attributes had already been scouted, vetted and published.

One year, when both Julian and I were home from College for Thanksgiving break, my pop came into the family room and told us to throw on our coats.

“We’re going next door to see Eddie. He’s not doing that good and you two knuckleheads need to visit him.”

It was the last time I would ever see Eddie alive. He had lost weight and was frail. Still, he was funny as shit. What was ailing him or how he was feeling never came up. All we talked about Cleveland sports and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

“You haven’t heard about Lebron James?!” He asked us in shock.

Julian and I had been buried deep in college life, him at Howard University and me at Norfolk State (two Historically Black Universities… Holla.) And we didn’t know Lebron James from Adam.

But for those folks firmly on the pulse of the sports world, this High School phenom from St.Vincent-St. Mary was heir apparent to Michael Jordon. Eddie was the first person I ever heard utter his name, and I had never seen him so excited by an athlete.

“That boy… That boy is bad.”

The Cavs were horrible back then, and everybody in town was excited at their chances of snagging the local golden boy with their potential first round pick. As you know, Cleveland won the draft lottery,  Lebron was ours and the city lost its collective goddamn mind.

It was euphoric. After all the bad luck, the worm had finally turned. We had just landed the NBA equivalent of the great Jim Brown.

Unfortunately, Eddie didn’t even live long enough to see the draft. He died of prostate cancer soon after our last visit.

Again, I miss him very much.

Every time I saw Lebron I thought of Eddie. Every time Lebron made some amazing pass, or a last second shot to win the game, every time Lebron defied gravity with some insane dunk, every time Lebron chased down some fool from behind and slapped his weak shit into the stands, I thought of Eddie…

“That boy is bad…”

Lebron left Cleveland.

Bolted.

The brotha is ghost.

GONE.

But so what? That behavior is par for the course these days, and I’m not talking about Free Agent athletes.

I almost know just as many Clevelanders living here in Los Angeles as I know back in Ohio. If there’s a group of people in this USA that understands the concept of packing up and leaving town for a better opportunity it’s the people of Cleveland, maybe a close second the Detroit.

Eddie would’ve understood him leaving.

Besides, getting punched in the face in nothing new to us folks from C-Town. Allow me to remind you of our rich sports history…

Red Right 88 – January 4th 1981

The Drive – January 11th 1987

The Fumble – January 17th 1988

The Shot – May 7th 1989

The Move – 1995/1996

The Mesa Meltdown – October 26th 1997

What we Clevelanders never expected was the sucker punch, The fact that the next concert date would come from one of our own.

The Decision – July 8th 2010

WTF?

Lebron decided that a low-key announcement, a carefully worded statement placed on his website wasn’t good enough for “King James”.

Instead he opted for an hour-long masturbatory fiasco, nationally broadcast on ESPN.  An hour-long whorish spectacle, full of posh ESPN sets and state of the art electronic packages celebrating King James, the King of Akron, and his abandonment of his home town for the glitz and glamour of South Beach. The prodigal son.

To add insult to injury, he surrounded himself with a crowd full of squeaky clean brats from The Boys & Girls Club from some upscale city in Connecticut. As if their innocents would soften the blow. ESPN and Lebron had tacked on a half-assed charity element to the event.  You know… for the kids!

But why did they stop there? Why not have Lebron make the announcement with a box full of shelter puppies sitting on his lap? Maybe place AIDS ribbons on the dog collars and make the kids wear pink Breast Cancer t-shirts? That surely would’ve staved off the stink of villainy.

Unlike in the bible, this prodigal son will never return home. Lebron will find all he has ever desired on the beaches of Miami. An embarrassment of riches. He will win multiple championships and will create a World Wide brand.  The entire planet will eventually forgive him for his “announcement slight”, that is except for the people within his home town.

“What a bitter ugly little town.” Some kid in Tokyo will say to his best friend about C-Town (while wearing a number six Miami Heat jersey). “Why don’t they just let it go?”

When Lebron dies as a blessed old man, he’ll be surrounded by people who love and worship him.  ESPN, MSNBC and even Fox News will have live helicopter footage of his casket being driven to it’s resting ground, not too far from South Beach.  Flowers and candles will burn next to his statue, outside of American Airlines Arena. He’ll transcend mortal life, blissfully ignorant of all the pain he left behind in Cleveland, Ohio.

And the day he passes away, Cleveland might still stand as it is today, poor, maligned, with no championships.

Life ain’t fair.

Well, Eddie never lived to see any of this, so I guess we can all feel good for at least that.  However, please allow me to express what I think Eddie might say to Lebron as the honored Miami Heat champion walks through the Pearly Gates of heaven.

Eddie will already be there waiting for him, sitting on a cloud, rum and coke in one hand and his cigar in the other, as if he owned the joint…

“Hey, Lebron. Fuck you and fuck the horse you road in on.”

And that, as I like to say, is the gist of it.

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Today I’m going to give Stefania a rest and post an excerpt from my novel, “Empire Of Light” .  It combines two of my favorite things, Caravaggio and the city of Cleveland. Hope ya like it. Hope ya can read whole shebang someday.  Ciao. Buona notte, Vespina.

~

Chapter 14 – Cleveland is a Chiaroscuro City

Painting 1 :: The Crucifixion of Saint Andrew (1607) – Cleveland Museum Of Art

Chiaroscuro is a painting technique where the contrast between light and dark is jacked-up to spectacular levels. It comes from two Italian words, chiaro, which means light, and oscuro, which means dark.

Many artists had dabbled in the technique before Caravaggio, but he was the first to manhandle it by working in a completely blacked-out studio. His scenes are carved out of the darkness with a single light source, a 3D effect that shoots the models out towards the viewers while throwing the background into hostile blacks, an innovation used centuries later by cinematographers to create Film Noir. With Caravaggio, the subject matter might have been 1st Century Judas Iscariot, but the lighting is a straight up 1940’s Warner Brothers.

You can’t live in an unlucky little town like Cleveland and not figure out how to embrace darkness. Even when it comes to our sports, instead of celebrating our few victories we instead wallow in their most crushing defeats, cryptically listing them on the backs of t-shirts like concert dates…

Red Right 88 – January 4th 1981

The Drive – January 11th 1987

The Fumble – January 17th 1988

The Shot – May 7th 1989

The Move – 1995/1996

The Mesa Meltdown – October 26 1997

Even when Cleveland imports a ringer, a bona-fide winner from another city, it some how manages to fuck up beyond all recognition.

Submitted for your approval, golden boy, Elliot Ness.

After Ness put Al Capone behind bars in Chicago he was hired to clean up the City of Cleveland, which at the time was known as the criminal safe house of the country. He arrived in town like a white knight just in time to match wits against the serial killer, the Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run.

Ness promptly got his ass handed to him on a plate.

The poor guy was so stymied by the killer that in the end he decided to just set part of the city on fire, hoping lady luck would do him a solid and burn the son-of-a-bitch to death. However the Butcher survived and taunted Ness for years with post cards.

The great Elliot Ness caught Capone, but he never caught ME.

And Cleveland lived happily ever after.

With a history so dark, it’s no wonder that most people are shocked when they discover that a town like Cleveland has a world-class museum. The Cleveland Museum of Art, in contrast to the bleakness that haunts the city, glows like the face of the Christ child in a Caravaggio painting. Cleveland is a living breathing chiaroscuro.

~

I could’ve performed a Google search to make sure there was, indeed, a Caravaggio in Cleveland, but I wanted the surprise. I want to experience the discovery of it all, as if I discover it hiding behind an old wardrobe in my parent’s attic.

I walk the grounds of the museum and pass by an original casting of Rodin’s The Thinker, perched on the stairs leading up to the Museum’s entrance. His legs are blown off and the base is horribly disfigured, plumed out by a bomb set by a member of the Weather Underground revolutionary group in the 70’s. The town decided not to restore it, instead opting for a statement on the destruction of meaningful objects. The statue now sits disfigured; a symbol of how public art is vulnerable to “jerks with agendas”.

I burst through the CMA doors, drop a few bucks into the donation bin, grab a map and head towards the gallery called, Baroque. I stand a good 12 yards from the entrance, but even from here I can recognize the word “Caravaggio” in bold letters on the gallery sign.

Wow!

Could this really be a gallery full of nothing but Caravaggio paintings? I go giddy as I jog towards the room, but as more of the sign comes into focus my hopes are dashed on the rocks.

The Followers Of Caravaggio

“Shoot,” I whisper to myself.

This is like showing up to a concert and instead of getting U2 you get the tribute garage band from around the block. They were smart to put the word Followers in the title and not students. The man was too goddamn cantankerous to have students. The only way you could’ve leaned from Caravaggio was to bite his style and risk him giving you a beat down.

But you gotta feel for his imitators. How could you possibly go back to your old ways after seeing his new style? I imagine a Caravaggio victim lying in the street, nose beaten to a pulp, screaming at the top of his lungs as Caravaggio swaggers away.

“It was fucking worth it, asshole!”

I cautiously enter the gallery, still hoping there’s a Caravaggio hanging in the room somewhere. Out of the corner of my eye I spot the gallery jewel piece. It’s a crucifixion scene, massive and dark. If there’s a Caravaggio here, that’s it.

However, I try to ignore it. I want to save it as my ace in the hole. I instead scan the other paintings, and I sincerely try to give the paintings their due, but they’re too much of a dick tease. screw it. I make my bombing run on the jewel piece, reigning over the room like a king sitting at the head of his Christmas table.

The Crucifixion of St. Andrew – Michelangelo Merisi Da Caravaggio.

The painting is of St. Andrew who was to be crucified for trying to convert the Greeks to Christianity. He survived for two days, preaching the gospel to upwards of 20,000 people the entire time. The crowd was so moved that they demanded his release, but Andrew wanted to die on the cross like his savior. When his executioners tried to release him they were instantly paralyzed by God, allowing Andrew to die on the cross as he asked.

A miracle…

© 2010 Gregory Earls

The Cleveland Museum Of Art Blog

And that’s, as I like to say, the gist of it.

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Yep.  Stefania, my girl from Milan, ITALY arrived in Cleveland and my mom had a hot plate of spaghetti waiting for her. I walked into the house and saw the 3-pack pictured Ragu Spaghetti sauce and I thought to myself…

“This is effing GOLD!”

Of course I also had a bit of panic, wondering what kind of cultural shock we were all in store for.  I don’t think Stef ever had pasta with sauce from a jar. However I had two things in my favor.

1. Momma Earls’ mad culinary skills. She doctored the hell out of that Ragu, just using the sauce as a base and then hookin’ it up with her own “flava”.  The Pasta was DOPE.

2.  Stefania is no food snob. She “gets it”. Any girl that can get down at Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles just knows what’s up.  Right?  We inhaled it that spaghetti like it was nobody’s business and all was good with the world.

Suffice it to say, I absolutely love the two women of my life.

Stef arrived in Cleveland, Saturday 11/21/09 at 9:57 PM.  My boy, Curtis, and I boogied up 480 West to pick her up. I made a sign to greet her upon arrival. I know it’s wussy. Shut the hell up. Of course I missed her. While I was babbling on to Curtis, he gives me the nod to check out my 3 o’clock and there she is, draggin her carry-on bag across the floor and heading towards the baggage carousel.

Between my mom’s and Stef’s cooking (not to mention all the killer fattening restaurants and grub in this town). I fully expect to return to LA at least 15 pounds heavier.   Damn right, I’m gonna hit up some Chick-Fil-A while I’m home, too. Screw it. You only live once.

Happy Birthday, Dad!!!

Buonanotte a tutti.

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The guy wearing cop glasses is me, Greg. The dish in the cool specs is my beautiful fiancé, Stefania, who lives in Milan, Italy…  For now!

November 19, 2009

This is my first blog entry and it has nothing to do with “Reflections On The Lake”. That was the title that came with my iWeb template and I was too lazy to try to come up with anything better.  Plus the picture above was snapped above Lake Como, so it kind of works. Whatever. Screw you.

The last time I kept a blog I ended up with a pretty decent start to a manuscript, which I just finished last Saturday. So I thought I’d capitalize on my next adventure (getting married) by blogging about it, as well.  I figure if all hell breaks loose I’ll at least get some decent literary material out of it and maybe make some dough.

So let’s get the obvious bullshit out of the way…

She’s white. I’m black.

She’s Italian. I’m American.

She from Milan. I’m from Cleveland.

She’s relatively sane. I root for the Browns.

She’s hot. I’m engaged to somebody who is hot.

My life is a CBS sitcom. All I need is a job at UPS and I’m set. In the upcoming episode, Greg n’ Stefi fly to Cleveland for Thanksgiving so she can meet the family and old friends; and they can meet her. It’s all very exciting and absolutely terrifying at the same time, like having sex with Ann Coulter.

…Allegedly.

At some point during my proposal to Stef, I told her that she would either marry me or she’d end up handcuffed to a water pipe in my parents basement. Either way, she wasn’t going anywhere. She wisely chose the former. However I thought it might be a good idea to show her that water pipe anyway, just for grins and to keep her azz in check. Hence, the trip to Cleveland.

(Jus’ kidding, honey!)

Since we have to deal with the US Government to obtain a Fiancé Visa (something I fear will become a large part of this blog) we’ve got at least a good year ahead of us before we actually get hitched, so this blog won’t be going away anytime soon. Unless she wises up and dumps me, at which point this would become a blog of pure unadulterated vitriol and rage. So it’s win / win.

This is not going to be an easy transition, especially for Stefi, who is giving up the most.  It would be easier for both of us to find someone closer, at least in the same country, so we are obviously very much stupidly in love to go through all this.  And wouldn’t have it any other way.

Feel free to subscribe and read up on us. Should be fun. If you don’t subscribe, go pound sand. See if I care.

Here we go! 

Unbreakable ~ Alicia Keys


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