something deeper than these changes or being punk’d by punctuation
I watched the 49ers’ opening game early Sunday at The Old Pro, formerly The Old Pro’s Bar. The bar was in a quonset hut on Pepper near El Camino and Page Mill for many years; it was a dive you could go to if your kid brother was in college but had no i.d.
Bill Campbell the trillion dollar coach and Columbia football legend became a silent partner and the bar moved downtown to Ramona, the old Ramona’s Pizza, knocked down a wall– presumably not by Campbell and his teammates wearing pads — and expanded. It’s an upscale sports bar. When Bill passed, I watched from behind the velvet rope as Columbia President Lee Bollinger and former U.S. President Al Gore led the eulogists. When Gore left I said “Good luck to you, sir” and he said good luck to me, too. I watched with Phyllis Newhouse whose dress shop was across the street. Her brother Dave is a sportswriter, but I digress.
The Niners took a huge lead then held on to a win. I had a huge pull from a mimosa, riffled thru the Times and the Chron, checked my Fantasy Football updates and talked to strangers. I had a mask around my neck. I was relaxing after a long, good week producing free outdoor concerts at Lytton Plaza.
The Packers were on tv for the second game, and I have Davante Adams on my fantasy team, but I left after a few minutes. More concerts to advance, the dog needed to be fed, et cetera.
As I walked out, dog in arms, I noticed a group of six young Blacks by the window. Five men and a lady. Most wearing sports attire — mock jersies. Maybe he caught my eye, noticed me noticing them.
I leaned in, having exited the bar but still within hearing distance because of the open porch-windows.
“You guys are here to watch Davante Adams”?” – – I was referencing the Packers star, who before Fresno State and the Biletnikoff Award^ attended Paly High and Barron School, near Gunn. I had noticed that there was a slew of young Blacks wearing Packers jersies at Levi’s Stadium the previous year, and in fact a lady said Davante was her cousin. I actually said, attempting my version of “code switching” “Yall down with Davante?”
“Are you down with Da-Bag-of-Nuts?’ (He may have said “You down with dabaganuts?”).
I said “What?”. I held my hand, the free hand, not holding the dog, 14-lb Havanese, to my ear. I’m a middle-aged guy, I can feign slightly deaf. I also produce rock concerts for a living.
Are you down with Da Bag of Nuts? He said this more clearly.
“Are you down with the bag of nuts. In my pants?” Some laughter.
Interestingly, although I did not follow the opening, I have a friend named Keith Boykin, a Dartmouth and Harvard law grad, who also worked for Clinton White House and Dukakis campaign, who wrote a whole book on “the down low”. Apparently, if we can believe Keith, who is out of closet gay and of course Black, Black men have relations with other Black men but do not consider themselves gay, merely “on the down low”. Similarly, my friend Eugene S. Robinson, who just became a father again, at age 58, a Stanford grad from Brooklyn, a swimmer not a football player if that explains him at all, a writer and rock band leader — Oxbow — look it up — and he’s pictured earlier in Plastic Alto comparing the size of his fist with a white bearded successful MMA fighter, has a joke in his book that it’s only gay if you make eye contact – -he was talking about a wrestling hold. Eugene has a book about fighting. Like, he says, if you are in a knife fight make sure you have one with a rubber handle and not plastic. Or, if you are in a prison cell when shit happens, try to improvise and use hard edges to your advantage. Good to know. Anyhow, back to my bag of nuts, or lack thereof, my lack of interest in such, rather. Or the offer to, what? Join the down low?
“That’s not very funny, is it….(I noticed the mock jersey of the young man closest to me)… Blunt?” Sort of laughter.
“Of course we down with Davante…” explained the fellow with the best view of the rest of the party and me.
(Somewhere else, chewing on this interaction, I added the gratuitous riff that the Blunt jersey was referencing Mel Blount who was Terry Bradshaw’s fluffer…not funny, I’m just bitter about Franco Harris, G-d bless him, and that macular deception or what not. I remember a Raider told a paper, maybe Dave Newhouse’s, that they were letting him run out the clock but then misjudged their distance from the sideline..sho nut– my computer wants to change that back to “nut”– Sho nuf.
(interlude: I just met Del Potter, Del M. Potter of Paterson, NJ and the NBA Pistons talent evaluation and his friend because they have a little puppy sort of like Duffy, and he concurred that more or less I am on point with my analysis of the story; I said Dayna Stephens worked at William Paterson but its actually MSM).^^
I went to the Gunn game in San Jose and spoke with some parents and even a Yerba Buena teacher more than I watched the play by play, it was so one-sided. Fifty-six to six. I met Chris Davis who played for Los Altos not Gunn or Paly. He said he is cousins to the McCalisters (i.e. my schoolmates or neighbors, Danny, Stanley, LenRay et al. RIP Danny and LenRay). His son Denzel Davis is a stalwart for the Big Red, on the come. He had two young-ones in tow. He broke it down:
“When the man in the bar said ‘Look at that nigger-dog’ he actually meant ‘Look at that nigger’s dog’. He was calling you ‘nigger’, but not in a demeaning way. It does not modify dog. He dropped the apostrophe. It was vernacular, just short of code-switching.”
Gunn has a Black coach, Jason Miller and a fair number of Black athletes. That is one reason for their success. However, my sense is – and consistent with the message of the Broadway show by my former client Mark “Stew” Stewart, “Passing Strange” — about a middle class Black man who found in Europe that people liked him more when he pretended he was lower class, street or gangster (“gangsta”) that the Black community is diverse and not monolithic. So are the Jews. We are all sensitive people with so much to give, says Marvin Gaye who was not gay. But was killed by his own father.
I am organizing a reunion of Gunn and Saratoga schoolmates to come watch Gunn Titans (“Big Red”) versus Saratoga Falcons Friday evening, October 1 (and I am marketing it with a Hawktail free bluegrass concert at Lytton Plaza 24 hours later, on Saturday October 2 at 7 p.m.). I hope to serve some meat from Tony Nora’s butcher shop, some tri-tip cooked and ready-to-eat. Not quite a tail-gate party and social distant — maybe finger fulls of red meat individually wrapped single servings. I hope to lure 10 people or couples to the event, to support our old school and the current players and their families. There’s also a Stanford game that weekend, if that helps or hurts, not sure. Meanwhile Gunn has a bye, Paly played last night. I am still under the weather and nursing a cold but hope to emerge Sunday night to see Davante Adams and the Packers versus the Niners. I expect to see 20 people, of color, wearing his jersey and they are likely from the 650. (edit to ad: Tommy Jordan project Service Human will play at 5 — its a double header).
Duffy came with me to Yom Kippur at Frost. A first in several ways. But he will not come to Levi’s.
“Chock full of nuts” is a trope. It was related to baseball but I forget how. See below. Stew is working on a movie with Spike Lee about an article on the history of Viagra. Beyond “dick jokes” it is also true that a lot of the brutal racism in our history has to do with fear of Black male sexuality. So godspeed to Stew and Spike to make us laugh, make us cry, make us think, make us whole, and fill the hole in our lives that we are obviously neglecting. Literally. Or figuratively. Or both ways. Feel me?
Outro by Mary Gauthier coming to Mitchell Park October 17:
Mardi Gras Indians chant in the streets at sundown
Spyboy meets Spyboy, and Big Chief meets Big Chief…
^Davante Adams did not win the Fred Biletnikoff Award, for top NCAA receiver though he did pull down 233 catches for 3,031 yards for Fresno State, in only two seasons. But DaVonta Smith of Alabama did, as did Jerry Jeudy, also of the Tide, Amari Cooper at same,, Golden Tate at Notre Dame and Randy Moss at Marshall. Awarded since 1994, although its a little odd since I think of Biletnikoff as a good-hands, sideline dancing guy, not big play. Actually, since we are dancing the sidelines of race, its ironic that 24 of 25 winners of the award are Black. There should be a Cliff Branch award, too. Davante has 559 NFL receptions.
More on the playlist:
Olivia Rodrigo “Brutal”
Elvis Costello “Pump it Up”
Marvin Gaye “Let’s Get It On”
Pop Smoke “Dior” — I had a whole nuther riff on this song and the line “And she throw it back for an (nword)”
Frank Turner “How Not to Be an Idiot”
^^andand: this is flawed but from the William Paterson University website – I like the phrase “ear training”:
Dayna Stephens (Advanced Ear Training, Ensemble, Saxophone)
Education: Thelonious Monk Institute, Berklee full scholarship. Second spot in 2017 DownBeat Critics Poll “Rising Star—Tenor Saxophone.” Brooklyn born and Bay-area raised, he has performed, toured with drummers Brian Blade, Al Foster, Idris Muhammad, Jeff “Tain” Watts, Billy Hart, Marcus Gilmore, Bill Stewart, Marvin “Boogaloo” Smith, Eric Harland, Matt Slocum, Johnathan Blake, Jaimeo Brown, Victor Lewis, Lewis Nash, Jorge Rossy, Jeff Ballard and Justin Brown; with pianists Brad Mehldau, Fred Hersch, Billy Childs, Geoffrey Keezer, Taylor Eigsti, Muhal Richard Abrams, Kenny Barron, Theo Hill, Gerald Clayton and Aaron Parks; and with trumpeters Ambrose Akinusire, Terell Stafford, Tom Harrell and Roy Hargrove. Solo album projects include Gratitude on Contagious Music.
this is for Donald McNeil
edit to add:
Bigger Thomas. That’s a fictional character created by Richard Wright for “Native Son” and depicted on Broadway by Canada Lee. It sounds like “(N-word”). But also “Uncle Tom”. Meanwhile, or 81 years later we have the hero of this drama, Duffy, Duffy the Dog. Fourteen pounds. If he was bigger, we might call him Bigger. Bigger the Dog. We inherited him about four years ago from Susan Thomas, the widow of Professor John Thomas. So if Duffy was bigger and called Bigger he might have also been known as Bigger Thomas. But Thomas was in biology and not literature so he was likely named for Professor Dudley. Duffy does in some languages mean “the dark one”. Go figger.