Monday, August 22, 2005

Operation Green Machine

OK, I know in my last post, I said I’d continue with “Supporting Cast Part 2: Joan, the Kind-Hearted (aka "Go Outside And Get Me A Switch")”, but I decided to tell a story featuring my father before moving on. Going forward, each family bio will be immediately followed by a story about that individual…unless I change my mind again. It’s my thang y’all!

It was great growing up in the 70’s. That decade held all kinds of cool toys. I’m talking about toys that made you use your imagination. Toys that didn’t “do” anything. If the toy moved, you made it move. If there were sound effects, chances are the sound came from your mouth. No betteries needed here, folks. From Stretch Armstrong to Evel Knievel and Superfriends action figures to Matchbox Cars, we had them all! One of our favorite toys was the Green Machine.

“What’s a Green Machine”, you say?

Well, Madame, The Green Machine just happened to be a Big Wheel on steroids. As plastic vehicles went, it was the coolest, and way cooler than the Big Wheel. The body was kind of a light army man green with an adjustable seat. Like the Big Wheel, the Green Machine sported three plastic wheels: one large, narrow wheel in the front and two smaller, wider wheels in the rear. The best part was it incorporated a revolutionary new steering system. Instead of the run-of-the-mill steering wheel or plain-jane handlebars, you controlled the Green Machine using two stick shift style controllers. If you pulled the left shifter back, the right shifter would go forward and the vehicle would turn left.
One day, somebody left the Green Machine out in the yard (It was probably my brother Mike). While we were inside taking a breather from “rippin’ and runnin’” up and down the alley behind our house, someone came in and made off with our beloved toy! I can’t recall how we found out who took it, but we knew that Trouble and other knuckleheads in the neighborhood were the culprits.

Trouble was a kid who was around our age, but was much bigger and meaner. His given name was Trevor, but “Make sure you don’t get into any Trevor” just didn’t sound right so, it was changed to the more fitting name. He was known for terrorizing kids who were smaller than he. Trouble lived wayyy down at the very end of the alley, well beyond our parent-imposed boundary markers - the telephone poles. If you were to stand in the middle of the alley and look to the end, you could see the wooden fence of his yard. This seemed like a distant land because, at that time, we weren’t allowed to go that far down the alley.

While we agonized over the loss of our dear toy, almost simultaneously we all got the same idea: “Wait ‘til Daddy comes home!” We talked about how Daddy would kick their butts and take back our Green Machine. I wanted Daddy to come home at that instant, but it seemed like an eternity before we saw his silver chariot approach. At that time, the silver chariot was a silver Gremlin – GM that is. Yep, THAT Gremlin. More on that later.

Just as soon as Daddy was able to park the car in the yard and crack the door open, we were on him like spandex on a superhero, pelting him with a mish-mosh of overlapping run-on fragments that were our individual renditions of what took place, blurted out all at once and delivered at 90 mph.

“Daddy, Trouble stole the-“, “He came right in the yard and-“, “You gotta go and get it –“, “Michael probably left it—“, “AND KICK THEIR BUTTS!”.

Fortunatley, Daddy was able to glean the necessary facts from our grief-strickened plea.

When the smoke cleared, Daddy closed the car door, slowly turned around and strolled up to the house to say hello to my mother just as he did every day.

“Didn’t he hear what we said”, we thought. Somehow, Daddy didn’t seem to grasp the serious nature of the events that transpired. He didn’t act like it anyway.

Agonizing seconds ticked off the clock. And with each passing moment, anxiety mounted. After all, Trouble and the gang probably had some sort of toy chop shop operation going on in his yard that dispatched stolen parts to the far reaches of the city. Every second counted!

Finally, Daddy came out, walked past us and headed up the alley to restore truth, justice and the American Way to the neighborhood.

Daddy made his way down the alley with his deliberate and unmistakeable stride. We watched as he got smaller and smaller and disappeared behind the fence. Feelings of relief and excitement gave way to worry and fear.

“He shoulda been back by now!”
“What’s takng so long?!”
“He shoulda drove up there!” (Yeah, we knew that “driven” was the proper form of the verb drive, but who cares about grammar at a time like this?!)

All kinds of thoughts went through my head. I remember thinking maybe they all ganged up on Daddy or something. Before these thoughts took root in my mind…

“Here he comes!”

Yep, like the conquering hero that he was, Daddy made his way back dwn the alley with the Green Machine on his shoulder. He walked in the yard, set the toy down in front of us and said, “Ya’ll take better care of your toys,” like it was nothing!

That day, in my mind, Daddy’s stock rose 1,000 points! I don’t know what became of the Green Machine after that. We probably broke it up as we did most of our toys. What I do know is this story, and many like it, helped me to realize that Superman was real!

What a wonderful thing it is when your father puts on his cape and becomes your hero! I can’t wait to do the same for my kids!

The End.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Some background

I guess it would make sense to give you a little back story so you can get the full impact of my stories. So, here goes...


I am a 36 year-old Christian African American man who was born and raised in Washington, DC aka Chocolate City. I currently live just south of DC in suburban Maryland with my wife Michele and our 2-year-old, Cydney. We are a Christian family. That's important to say because it may save some folks a lot of time and trouble. This blog is and always will be G-Rated. No nonsense here! We're very active in our church. In fact, Michele and I are part of the leadership of our little church.

It all started: May of 1969 at Providence Hospital. Yep, that's when I made my grand entrance as the 2nd born of Joan and Milton Jr. That makes me Milton the third ("there are three of us and we're all good lookin'" - to borrow a few lyrics from Whodini). That first year of my life we lived in the Fort Chaplin apartments off of Benning Rd. NE, not far from the Shrimp Boat.

When my parents brought me home, Lisa (my older sister) was none to pleased. Up to that point, she was livin' large as the only child. Life was good having 100% of the attention. That was all shattered when I came to the roost! I have pictures of me in the crib with Lisa glaring down at me. You can almost see the daggers shooting from her eyes!

A year later, we loaded up the truck and moved to Riggs Park.

*Cue "The Jeffersons" theme**

We traded up from our little apartment to a three-bedroom, semi-detached brick home on Chillum Place. It was great growing up on Chillum Place. It was a nice, quiet block complete with an alley behind the house, which would be our playground. More on that later.

Ahhh, Proximity!

Our home was what you might call "centrally located". We were within walking distance of shopping (Giant Food, People's Drug (nka CVS), Crown Teaching Aids and Dobson's Barber Shop), schools (Jesse LaSalle Elementary and "Dirty" Bertie Backus Middle School) and transportation (A few years later, Fort Totten Subway station would emerge within a stone's throw). Each of those places would figure prominently in my life. Again, more on that later.

Supporting Cast Part 1: Who's Your Daddy?

Milton Jr. was my mother's husband, my father, my daddy, my pops and my Idol. In my mind, Daddy was the strongest, smartest, bravest man there was. He always had an answer and sage advice ready when I needed it most. He was also the bearer of "The Look". The Look was Daddy's chief tool of discipline. See, whenever we misbehaved or looked like we may have been thinking about possibly misbehaving, Daddy would give us this stare that said "DON'T...MAKE...ME...GET...UP!" Ten times out of ten, that was all we needed to be replanted on the path of righteousness.

Daddy stood about 6'1", in the neighborhood of 225lbs, had a light complexion with hazel eyes. It's also important to note that Daddy usually operated outside the laws of fashion. More on that later.

Daddy also always seemed to have a pocketful of change. I'm talking $30 or $40 worth of coins! This was our "Early Warning System" of impending doom. When we'd be sent to bed, whether as punishment or regular bedtime, we'd sometimes lay awake laughing and giggling. Daddy would hear us and issue Warning Number A: "Y'all go to bed now!" Normally, we'd quiet down for a minute or two and then the shenanigans (<---I said "shenanigans"! HA ha!) would start right back up. This prompted Warning Letter 2: "I said, go to bed! If I hear any more noise, I'm coming up there!" Most times, this put an end to chuckles for that night, but there were those rare moments when our "common sense" took a "common break" and we'd continue to cut up. This would be met with a full deployment! Instantly, you'd hear "CHING, CHING, CHING". You guessed it - all that change in Daddy's pockets that signaled to us that he was a man of his word and on the way up the steps! Now, there were twelve steps leading up from the first to the second floors (I know this, because for some strange reason, I always counted them as I went up or down the staircase). There were only three "CHINGS" because Daddy took four steps at a time! At the top of the steps, Daddy would kick in (really!) our bedroom door and, in one fluid motion, unsheathe his belt and commence to administering one whap of the belt each. Usually, we had blankets on us so, we wouldn't feel the actual sting of the belt, but the thought of Daddy unleashing on us "stung" enough. Well, that's background enough on Daddy, but rest assured that there will be plenty more entries about Daddy in the future. Next: Supporting Cast Part 2: Joan, the Kind-Hearted (aka "Go Outside And Get Me A Switch")