"It's not the years, honey. It's the mileage." Indiana Jones got it right when he uttered these words in Raiders. I've had over 50 jobs and addresses in my 50+ years so far...and I would like to share some of those miles with you. I also recently published my first work of fiction, a short story. Click the link below to check it out!

I think, therefore I am…

I drink, therefore I am dealing…

I regret, therefore I am dealing with…

I persist, therefore I am dealing with it…

I dream, therefore I am dealing it subconsciously…

I wake, therefore I am dealing with it subconsciously successfully…

I want, therefore I am dealing with it subconsciously successfully alone…

They all came in uniform…of sorts. Each person wearing the outfit that most reflected the role in life that they now play because at one time, they played for her. There were mostly basketball uniforms, both college and pro, a couple of military uniforms, the power suit of a corporate leader and the robes of a judge. This last one spoke on behalf of the crowd as the casket was being carried by a few of the others. A few because the casket was not the normal size and length due to the petite size of the guest of honor. Only four people were needed to carry her from the hearse. But, upon looking at the casket being placed, the judge couldn’t help but make a comment that erupted laughter throughout the crowd.

She would have gotten the joke, but she would not have laughed…at least, not in their presence. Not because she didn’t think it was funny. She would have thought it hilarious! But when it came to her girls, she stayed above the fray. It was of the utmost importance to her that they respect her and not worry so much whether or not they liked her. And it was not because she ruled with an iron hand or wanted them to fear her. On the contrary, she wanted every one of her girls to know they could come to her about anything…for any reason. It was just that she was already at a slight disadvantage being only 4’11”.

This initial impression sometimes gave her an automatic disadvantage with some of the ladies that walked into her gym being that almost all of them were at least a foot taller or more. But that did not last for very long. She had a calm about her when she spoke conveying a seriousness that made you listen to every word. Also, it was the way she talked to you looking straight at you never swaying from eye-contact even as she pushed her horn-rimmed glasses back in place. One can only assume these practices were honed to an expert level from the way she had to fight for any respect at all being one of the first female basketball coaches at the college level after the passing and implementation of Title IX.

Growing up with 3 brothers quite taller, mainly due to their towering father, and taking her height from her equally petite mother, one might think she would be more on the demure side. But then, you would have to know her mother. Lovingly called “The Warden”, the occupants of this house knew the fear of having your name called a certain way, the stare that made you abate your eyes like a frightened puppy, or the sting of a pinched piece of flesh when you have gone a bit too far. The thing that sealed the deal for the children was the fact that their father was never heard raising his voice to her and often had a smiling, “Yes, dear” for her in matters of discussion.

So, it was that when their little sister wanted to tag along or play or get a turn, The Warden insisted on them treating their baby sister fairly and inclusively, something that wound up being quite a boon to the future men. Because while boys will be boys, each of the three will tell you quite honestly that their sister not the other two nor their parents are responsible for pushing them to play harder, study more and just be better people. Even if the rest of the world was not yet recognizing the equivalent potential of the female population, the men in this house could not ignore nor deny what they saw with their own eyes. Their smallish sister was the best basketball player of them all.

No, she couldn’t dunk, but she didn’t need to raining down set shots like perfectly drawn arcs. No, she couldn’t block shots, but she didn’t need to darting back and forth studying your every dribble until it was no longer in your hands but headed the other way in hers. And even when she was not in the game, she would watch so intently and uninvitingly offer advice on what her siblings could do to improve, which would often bring a scowl or two. Problem was…she was often right. There was only one real advantage her brothers had in basketball that she did not. They could realistically dream of being a pro ballplayer and she could not.

Though it is true that more than a few of the uniforms surrounding her casket were worn by former, current, and future All-Star WNBA Pros of the female persuasion, during her prime playing days that reality was a longways off. It was, however, that realization of her path forward that made her work as hard on the court as on the books that defined her coaching style and outlook on life. She had a tenacious work ethic and an equally driven desire for knowledge in all forms. Which is why all women who became a part of her basketball program were not only encouraged but required to give as much effort on their studies as they were instructed to play ball.

She had an encyclopedia-like mind for the world of basketball, but she was well-aware that as lucky as she is to have her dream job, most of her players would not find the same opportunities. So, she dedicated her time, her wisdom, and her foot in the behind of any of them that she felt wasn’t giving their all to their own potential. It was probably partly this reason that none of her teams ever got the chance to cut down any championship nets, but it wasn’t for a lack of hustle or spirit of teamwork. When it came time for recruiting, she had a way of cutting thru the bull in that prospective player’s living room. She would simply advise the parents that while she is the basketball coach, she is also a college faculty member and her players are students.

It had a way of reassuring the ones that were concerned about their daughter’s future aside from the game and weeding out the dreamers or singularly focused players that weren’t as serious about the books as the balls. No pun intended, but even on that subject she had a habit of keeping tabs and quiet console with most of her players to inspire them to see the big picture without sacrificing too much of the full college experience. This is not to say she was always right, or a saint, or that all her players felt gratitude or love for her. Hell, some of them probably wish that they were here today, if only to get the last word.

But it was the fact that she was honest and straight-forward in her ways and her words. You may not like what she said, but you knew why she said it. She also could have words with you one minute and the next she’s asking how your sick uncle from back home is doing and please give him her best. She volunteered in the community, she helped look in on her Dad after her Mom passed and was the best Aunt her brother’s kids could have…even if she was their only one. Every season she ran up and down that court shouting plays and giving refs the business. And year after year, she cheered for everyone of her players that crossed that stage, shook those hands, and got that degree. As loud as she was over the crowds in the gym, she was just as boisterous out in the audience of graduating students.

So, although she never won a championship or crossed over to the professional side of coaching when the WNBA came to town, she would always show incoming freshman the news clippings, announcements and letters of her former players that are now lawyers, doctors, engineers, and various other professions as well as the ones that also got paid to play. She also didn’t have to make trips to living rooms anymore as she garnered a well-deserved, if not, ironic reputation as the basketball coach you send your kid to if you want them to have a better chance to succeed in life in something other than…basketball.

So, it was that as the years passed on and she aged as did the building in which she coached, it was a fact that now professional ball for women was not only a possibility but a desired outcome not only for the players but also the school. Current administrators, as much respect as they had for her legacy, now wanted a coach in that living room stressing that while “Yes, of course, a degree is important”, they would do all they could to get that student-player to the professional league. And while they did not dare come out and ask for her to step down, she was and always had been smart enough to see things very clearly.

Even as the NCAA money started to pour into the university coffers on behalf of the women’s program as well as the men’s, there were plans proposed and signed-off for the construction of a new sports facility. The old gym and the old grey mare weren’t what they used to be as one was being set to be torn down and the other was being put to pasture. Yes, there were the requisite plaques, dinners, and there was even talk for a moment of naming the new building after her. But some local business member who had a hand in donating a great sum of money and being a former alumnus who played for like five years or so with as many teams was also mentioned in the discussion.

She didn’t care about any of that though. Things like that just didn’t rise to the level of love and pride she had looking back at all the students that she helped to build into monuments of society that stand tall on their own. The fact that a short tenacious basketball player born way before her time to shine as one of the best to play the game made an even bigger impact on the lives of numerous female legal and STEM graduates as well as a couple future WNBA hall of famers. One who has become the most well-respected judge in the whole state and stands ready to eulogize her true hero who lies before her in this tiny box.

It was in that moment that the judge looking at all the living examples of this phenomenal woman’s life’s work remarked, “Not for nothing but we’d all be doing sprints now if she could see this tiny box we put her in!” There was immediate laughter and almost as suddenly another spoke up to fill the next silence, “You know, it’s not too late to fix that.” Some puzzled looks, but also a couple of knowing nods as another mentioned, “They just tore out the floor in the gym. It’s just laying there in two big sections out in the field.” That was where the plan really started to take shape and people started to huddle close. Several female engineers, construction workers, the funeral director and the judge leaned in for the huddle calling a last play for their coach.

“Ok, everyone else go home and grab something that you would like to contribute, and we’ll all meet back here at…”, as she paused and looked at the huddled crew. The funeral director spoke up, “It looks like it’s going to take until at least sunset!” “So, sunset it is everyone!”, the judge shouted, “Don’t be late!” So as the crowd dispersed and the judge walked off talking on her cellphone to a probably very confused university dean, the grave digger talked to the construction crew about getting a much bigger shovel. The funeral director loaded the coach back into the hearse and headed back to the parlor.

When the construction crew got to the parlor, the body of the beloved coach was already out of the original coffin and waiting patiently on a slab in the next room. The funeral director and crew worked as fast and as efficiently as they could taking the pieces of the court that had been played on by hundreds, but consistently walked up and down by one very small woman with a bigger than life stature. The original coffin had been disassembled and the pieces and handles would be attached to this newer, much larger version. Although, the handles would now be mostly for show as this one will be far too heavy to be carried by even a greater number of pallbearers and will more likely be on the back of a flatbed with a crane doing the lifting.

Meanwhile, at the cemetery, a large excavator has been procured from a local site and is in the process of expanding the original hole that will still be the final resting place of the beloved coach, if not just a bit bigger. There are also people in their homes pulling copies of diplomas from walls, trophies from shelves, and various pieces of memorandum that they will donate to what can only be described a modern day tomb that will be filled shortly with the world’s biggest coffin in the biggest grave dug for one person.

As the original attendees gathered back at the site, word of the activities of the day had spread far and wide and now the site of the grave was surrounded on all sides with most of the town save for the group that is driving in to part the crowd with the now highly anticipated guest of honor. Before the crane is attached to place the coffin in it’s final resting place. The funeral director asks everyone who brought a memento to now place it in the newly built casket so it can be forever sealed. Everyone filed by dropped their items in and gave one last look to the coach. The judge now presiding back at the head of the crowd simply said, “You may have never won a championship, Coach, but your win record in our lives will never be beaten!”

The group lowered their heads in their last goodbyes as the crew close the lid and secured each side. The crane carefully lifted the monument up and into a now much bigger grave that could easily be the foundation for a small home. But then again, that is what it is now. Because in a small town with a small college that once had a tiny coach, the world’s largest casket filled with trophies, diplomas, law degrees, ribbons and medals of military honors was being lowered into its final resting place. The new home of a woman who taught each of her players to live life honestly, and with integrity to have a winning legacy.

I dream whenever I close my eyes for any significant length of time. It never ceases to amaze me. I quantum leap into some random situation and just play along until something happens. Last night was no different.

I’m in a small town. There aren’t very many tall buildings except for the insurance company, the police dept, the hotel and the hospital. I guess I work for the insurance company. It must be my first day as I’m being shown around the offices and being introduced to everyone. I’m shown to my cubicle. It’s my first day so there’s not very much for me to do. I’m given a puzzle of sorts to put together. It’s weird because the pieces are all black. Still, it won’t be very hard as the board is about 11 x 17 and the pieces aren’t very small. I figure it must be a noobie type of thing.

The day is over, and I’m invited to the bar after work. We are now at the bar and my crew is very lively for insurance folk. That’s cool. I’ve been known to tell a joke or two while drinking a few. The server is gorgeous and very familiar with the crew. There are a few other people in the bar/restaurant as well. I guess they’re all familiar with my crew too as nobody looks bothered or even surprised at the shenanigans. I sit at my table with my puzzle and finish it as I sip my beer. The crew is winding up and I look around at the neighboring tables. There are a few random groups here and there as well. There’s a couple across from me that are staring at each with the greatest amount of love I think I’ve ever seen. The man has a holstered gun on his hip and looks very much the part of the local constable. He catches my eyes and shoots me a smile.

The crew comes back down the aisle. They are putting their coats on to leave. One of the guys has a sandwich in his hand wrapped to go but the top is sticking out to allow for eating on the go. The female of the crew walks up, promptly places her mouth over the top of the bun and removes it with a very big bite. I think they are probably going somewhere together soon. Just at that moment, a guy comes running thru the aisle with another guy chasing right behind him. The second guy has the same holstered gun as the smiling constable. The constable, without moving anything more than his head and his lips, asks “You got him?” The second guy says, “Of course!”

I am running. The man in front of me is one of the local troublemakers and it’s just my luck that he starts shit on my shift. I just ran past my boss, so I have to make sure not to lose this asshole. He darts past a few cars and dips into alley. It’s well-lit so I don’t fret it too much. As he runs thru to the end, I’m thinking “This should be easy” as he now has nowhere to go. The alley stops at the back of a building with a locked door that he is pulling on but to no avail. Just as I get close to the guy, the door opens, and I’ve got 2 more assholes stepping out to greet me. The guy now with the courage of a punk with backup charges me. I sidestep the guy while lifting a knee into his mid-section for emphasis and toss him to the side. These other two won’t be so stupid. I’m not pulling my gun as I have no reason to kill anyone…yet.

The two ease up to flank me and the one to the left lunges to grab me as the one on the right does the same. I dip low and throw my shoulder into the left dude and spin him around to push against the right asshole. I thrust my shoulder deep into his ribs and push the two into the nearest wall. As the one behind is trying to grab forward, I bring my head up into the front guy’s jaw with enough force that he will lose a couple teeth and the guy behind will lose a bit of blood from the nose being smashed by the back of the head of the front guy. I now have a moment to breathe. But, of course, that’s when I hear a click from right as the first asshole has opened a knife. I turn to face him and notice my boss right behind him. The guy has no clue until he feels the brunt of a Billy club smashing down on his knife-hand and an arm now choking him very effectively.

“I thought you said you had it?”, says Boss. “I did. Did you see me pull my gun yet? Ok, then.”

We are at the station. The men are in the lockup and I’m getting a well-deserved cup of coffee while I notice the Boss’s family are here in his office with him. His wife is stunning and statuesque with no airs that she knows how fine she is while all at once being very comfortable in her skin. She’s holding onto their son who playing with a puzzle on the desk. It’s a weird puzzle because it seems to be all black. It’s not that big though, so the kid shouldn’t have too much trouble. He catches my look and shoots me the biggest, cutest grin. I return the smile.

Being a small town, we’re a small police force. So, we rotate overnight shifts, and the Boss takes his turn as well. The family looks like they came to stay with him tonight, so everyone hunkers down as the bunks are all in the same room. I had that late night cup of coffee and need to make a run to the bathroom as I pass the family on the way. In between the parents, the kid is still up and has his finished puzzle in his hands. As I pass by, he smiles and turns the puzzle around for me to see. In the dark, the black puzzle now has a picture. It is a beating heart that gets it movement from rocking it back and forth. The kid says, “I heart” as he beams that smile of his…but then it goes dim as he clutches his chest slightly. He tries hard to keep his smile as he seems to repeat “I heart” but it sounds to me like “I hurt”. I leap over to wake the Boss to alert him to the kid’s distress. Just as I reach out, the Boss grabs my hand in mid-air and looks at me,” Don’t do that.” The mother cradles the child closer in her arms and the Boss pulls them both close.

I am a nurse. I’m standing in a driveway with a clipboard in my hands. There are a couple of orderlies standing nearby as we wait for the cars to pull up. The first is the local sheriff. He’s with his wife and their son. I greet the parents as usual and as I look down, I get the best part of my day as their son gives me the biggest and brightest smile you could imagine. The orderlies grab their items from the car and the kid has his puzzle in his hands as they walk inside the hospital doors. Another car pulls up shortly afterwards as I make notes on my clipboard regarding the first family. This car has a pair of twins, boy and girl, dressed to the nines in a suit and dress, respectively. They both have cases with musical instruments…and their puzzles. The driver sets their luggage on the curb as another set of orderlies come out to assist. They twins greet me in the most fastidious way as they bow and curtsy but look at me like I should be jumping at that luggage myself. They walk inside as their car which of course is a luxury vehicle I will never have the chance to ride in…pulls away.

It’s a small town with not a lot of tall buildings except for the police dept. with a sheriff whose kid is suffering from a congenital heart disease. There’s an insurance company that covers all the costs for the hundreds of children that come to town for specialized care. There’s the hotel where the parents stay and there’s the hospital that has a ward dedicated to dealing with affairs of the heart.

I wake up with only one thought in mind:

Support St. Jude’s and your local children’s hospitals.

https://www.stjude.org/

https://www.rmhc.org/

https://larabida.org/

“What happens to a dream deferred?” (L. Hughes, “Harlem”)

I don’t know what happened, the 20’s were fun,

but the 30’s were a blur, the 40’s I just…gave up,

“Does it dry up, like a raisin in the sun?”

It feels like that, because I could no longer function…as a man,

as what society said was a Man, I was nobody’s provider,

the only security I gave to anyone was stopping a fight in a bar.

“Or fester like a sore—And then run?”

I ran…ran away to Indiana, left everything behind like a scared child,

beset by memories of mistakes made, loans unpaid,

Women I’d laid…but left disappointed

“Does it stink like rotten meat? Or crust and sugar over—like a syrupy sweet?”

The smell of failure reeks thru everything you touch, puts you to sleep at night,

and when you wake up…you have a feeling of maybe today, but that quickly goes away,

because you are the same you.

“Maybe it just sags…like a heavy load.”

Pushing 322…and 52, yeah, they sag, and you think maybe if I got in shape,

things would be different! But…for who? You left everybody and everything behind,

and even when you tried…these Sistas ain’t trying to wait. For who? You?!

You gave up long ago. Now you wanna make a comeback, but on who’s back…do you think is going to carry your big ass while you figure it out?

Or does it explode?

But…when?

(Jonathan Baran, James Pace-Cornsilk/The Washington Post)

Tweets from the Dark Side… That is what we get from the President of The United States! All CAPS mantras about Making America Great Again which is an insecure plea from an Old White Man who sees the country growing, evolving into the Great American Melting Pot we were told…(1/7)

…it already was in the first place! “A Shining City Upon A Hill” (too many White ppl to cite here)…a place where all people from wherever they may come to seek shelter and opportunity to live free without persecution of their faith, culture, race, or ethnicity. Yes, We Can! (2/7)

That is still the motto of the day, year and for the rest of our lives, because as Americans and I say that as an American with backgrounds as diverse as the country itself. We have a shared experience and although that history has grave underpinnings in itself, it is the fear… (3/7)

of that reality that keeps us from being that Shining City! From state to state, city to city, millions of Americans work side by side, worship next to each other in the pews, and socialize on a daily basis. But, unfortunately, politicians of both sides use this diversity to… (4/7)

divide us, to guide us, to speak out against one another to get themselves elected in order to better themselves, gain power and, give us the scraps from their tables that we as Americans and taxpayers provide. This coming election may seem like we only have a choice between… (5/7)

one or the other. But, it’s more than that. We have the choice to stand together to make sure whoever fills that position of the highest in the land, the most powerful in the world hears us, responds to our demands, and works to make this country better for all of us. Because… (6/7)

if we continue to embark upon the same path of hatred and divisiveness then we only have ourselves to blame in this Land of the Free, Home of the Brave. No man or woman should have to fear from their neighbor, for their health, or their well-being in this Shining City on A Hill! (7/7)

© D Jay Collins and Thoughts Of Sonny P, 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to D Jay Collins and Thoughts Of Sonny P, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

I Can Breathe
But I can’t swallow the pain inflicted on my brother
I Can Breathe
But I can’t deny the air is thick with hatred
I Can Breathe
But I feel guilty living when there are those gasping for that same air
I Can Breathe
But I feel helpless looking on when that last breath escapes my brother
I Can Breathe
But I want to use that energy to avenge my brother
I Can Breathe
But do I become next in the threads like this lamenting our loss
I Can Breathe
Like Jackson and Rush that watched as the last breath left King and Hampton
I Can Breathe
But do I knock that murderer off Floyd and submit to the consequences or do I just keep filming so his death doesn’t go in vain
I Can Breathe
But do I rant and rave on social media hoping that my cries and anger and likes and loves and cares and memes go viral
I Can Breathe
But is it enough?
I Can Breathe
But do you care…that I still do?
I Can Breathe
But should it get to the point that I don’t care that you can?

© D Jay Collins and Thoughts Of Sonny P, 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to D Jay Collins and Thoughts Of Sonny P, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Sears Tower experiencing a blackout due to a massive basement flood after a heavy rain.

I was a couple blocks away from the Sears Tower on 911. Even though they said there was a threat and we could go home, I didn’t have anyone to go home to and I could see from the floor I was on that I wasn’t getting anywhere in that traffic jam. So, I smoked a cigar down on the street in front of the building. It was a ghost town…except for a funereal procession of taxis from the airports with nowhere to go. Luckily, the Sears Tower still stands. But since that day, being the sentimental Pisces that I am, when I look up at the building I see it through the eyes of a kid who when it came into view was because I was on my way to do something cool. Going to the McVickers for Kung Fu Flicks, the arcade at the Greyhound bus station, Ronny’s Steak house, the Kool Jazz festival, and so on… Seeing it like this sends a melancholy chill thru my soul knowing that, like New Yorkers, this could be just the memory on the back of mind seeing a building that is no longer there.

I don’t have a drinking problem. I drink just fine, thank you. My problem is that I think that drinking is the cause and solution to most of my problems, only not at the same time. Whenever things go wrong, I find a nice neat glass of whiskey makes it more palatable. Unfortunately, when I look in the mirror, at my bank account or lack of progress in my life, I tend to think that maybe if I drank less those things would get better. Realistically, I’ve found that it just doesn’t work that way.

Every day I try to get off on the rough dry ground. Get off the Merry-Go-Round, the Carousel, or the Bandwagon…but because those things are fun, all my life it’s been much easier to take a ride or wait until someone tells you to get off, you fall off or the ride ends. And in some very dark place, you would much rather ride until it ends, once and for all.

I got to this place quite honestly thru no fault of anyone but myself. I can’t blame it on any particular family member, they all drank just not to any debilitating degree. Can’t blame peer pressure. Hell, I outdrink most of them and still was the most dependable designated driver. And, I really don’t see it as a disease, so much as just one of the defining aspects of who I am. So, in order to change it would be to severely alter my very DNA…or that’s at least how it seems.

I remember everything about how it started.

Holidays weren’t quite complete until my sisters and I could have a little glass of Mogen David Concord grape wine to celebrate the occasion. Football Sundays with Pops were made that much more special when I could sip on one-sixth of his ration of Old-Style beers for the Bears. Staying up late and crashing my Mom’s after-set with her Jazz buds weren’t complete until someone dared me to take a sip of whatever brown liquor, they thought would do the trick to put my lil’ ass to sleep. What usually ended up happening was them grabbing their drink back before I downed it and me doing my best Richard Pryor impersonation from beneath a ski mask as to hide my true identity and allow for the words I was using in my Mother’s presence.

The Granny’s helped a bit too. One time, Pop’s Mom was cooking something on the stove for hours and my 2 cousins and I bugged her all day about the contents. Turns out she, a Cherokee descendant, was making tomato whiskey or moonshine. After she was done late in the evening, she got 3 shot glasses and poured each of us a taste. My cousins cringed at the taste and fell asleep within minutes, but Granma Ruth and I stayed up listening to Al Green 8 tracks and finishing off a nice amount of her new brew. She also drank Old Grand Dad 100, but she wouldn’t start to share that until I was much older, like 12. My other Granny and her live-in daughter, my Aunt Jean, made wine in a large plastic garbage can bought for that specific reason, but again, they didn’t allow for much consuming unless it was tied to a holiday.

In the local neighborhood of 98th and Loomis, I had my share of being bullied by the “older boys” and didn’t really find common ground until the one night of “The Bet”. Hanging out on the porch of my next-door neighbor and his band of 15-16-year-old buds, a few “40 oz” bottles were procured. I had a couple dollars and when I asked to partake, I was told, of course, that I wasn’t Man enough to handle it. So, I bet that I could chug the whole damn bottle which was met with a bet of $1 and a ten second limit. I did it in 7 and used the extra loot to put in for the next liquor run. My status went up a bit, and from then on, I would often be included in any future drinking sessions.

My 4-foot 11 mother was a Jazz booking agent and I, all of 6’2” at 13, spent many weekends helping her carry promo material and hanging at the club while her musicians played. In that time, I met the owners, musicians, bouncers and everyone in-between. By me being so much taller than my mother and introduced as simply her son, nobody questioned my age and when offered drinks, I took them and drank them with the experience of someone who had been drinking for years, as I had by that time.

Now, it was my godbrother, a gay friend of the family that helped me take it to another level. On my 16th birthday, I suited up and joined him and his crew for a night of clubbing. We started the night with my first Giordano’s stuffed pizza, which I credit with helping me soak up the alcohol of my first and, by no means, last Long Island Iced Tea of the night. Sitting on a stool at the Bijan on State St., I was drinking a Screwdriver I’d had for years up late with Mom and her jazz albums. One of the crew had a tall drink with a lemon wedged on top. “Hey, what kind of drink is that?”, I asked. “Oh, you couldn’t handle this” was the response. Challenge accepted I took his drink, finished it and proceeded to have 2 more for the start of a legendary pub crawl. The 5-liquor drink immediately became my favorite and helped usher in a new, higher tolerance than had previously been held. That night also made me realize that the right clothes and attitude can get you in almost anywhere.

I still hung out during high school with my friends at house parties and House parties at local schools and venues. But it was just as likely that you would see me wearing a sportscoat and spending my hard-earned fast food and telemarketing money at Jazz joints like The Other Place, Chic Rick’s, and The New Apartment Lounge. It was also during this time that I found that I couldn’t take the hypocrisy of my Mom’s helping to end my childhood but wanting me to stay in a child’s place when it was convenient for her. Then it was my Pop’s bullying and asshole way of trying to make me feel less-than up to that night when he found that punch, he threw to my chest didn’t move me but ended in me moving in with my Granny. And finally, me moving to my own one-room apt because Granny’s curfew of 10pm was just about the time that the band would be starting their 2nd set at the club.

I have an idea how I was perceived in school because, well, I was there and present for most of the feedback. But most of my classmates have no idea that by the time I was a senior, I was dating women who were twice my age and may have been somebody’s mother that they knew. I’m not bragging about any of this, but it’s just a fact of my life that when presented with the quandary of who to take to my prom, I chose the youngest lady I was dating at the time, a junior from Columbia College.

Just to skip ahead a bit and wrap-up this sharing session, I’ll just say that drinking has been a part of life for as long as I can remember. I imagine for some people it’s easier to remember me because when they think of DJ, they probably think Jack Daniel’s and then JD and then “Oh yeah, DJ!” Like I said to start, that liquid I.D. or id to be more precise is nobody’s doing but my own. They say you shouldn’t have regrets because good or bad, your life has made you who you are and it’s up to you moving forward to make any changes you feel you need to make the most of the rest of it.

That sounds good and all. But for me, I just want to be happy. Do I want to look in the mirror and like what I see? Sure. Would that make me happy? Probably. But I’ve never been a “gym rat”, and would it make me happy to do it? Probably not. But who knows? Would I have more money in my bank account if I didn’t drink so often? Sure. But then what am I saving it for? Travel? Do the drinks taste better there? Would I get more accomplished if I were sober more often? No doubt. But for who? At this time in my life, I no longer have any contact with any of my relatives. I have no kids. My best friend is 2,000 miles away and, of the friends I have that are close by, we haven’t been close. And as far as a HER, well let’s just say that I let Her go 25 years ago and my attempts at a replacement have been laughable, at best. Also, my fault.

I don’t want pity and I don’t want prayers. I’m not that dude. What I would like is for those who have met me to have some sort of understanding as to the Why’s. I will continue for whatever and wherever this path will take me. And who knows, maybe I’ll even “do some good” before it’s all said and done. But I have no illusions that my dreams have, for the most part, been deferred and mostly because of my fears, complacency and procrastinations. I’ll have to live and die with that. But in the meantime, I’ll probably just drink to it and try to smile while I do.

© D Jay Collins and Thoughts Of Sonny P, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to D Jay Collins and Thoughts Of Sonny P, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

I was born a poor black child. The beginning of this story and one of the funniest lines of a movie…ever. But, then again…that’s not quite accurate, the story part.

When I was born, I didn’t know how rich I was at the time. In March of ’68, I had a Mom, Dad, 2 1/2 sisters and all of my grandparents. I can remember images in my mind as far back as 2 years old living on the West side of Chicago. It was 15th & Ashland in what were called row houses. Row houses are a long set of 2 story houses side by side, usually brick, with no space in-between. The front doors of neighboring houses are paired together with a shared one step concrete porch.

There was a high-rise project on the corner with two very cute twins somewhere upstairs, a store down the street next to a big church, a preschool at the end of our houses with a fenced-in playground and Ms. Jesse living somewhere in the middle. More about Ms. Jesse later.

I also remember an incinerator next to the parking lot. Probably from being warned to stay away from it many times. Parked in front of our door was my mother’s white 1968 Ford Mustang hardtop as well as my father’s blue drop-top 1968 Ford Mustang…sometimes.

I say sometimes because from what I was told my parents separated 3 months before I was born. I was told many things about before I was born, but more about that later.

I mean rich because when you’re born you have the whole world and the rest of your life to do whatever it is you were put here to do. Now for everyone, that means something different. I think that’s the best part of life. Choices…if given the chance to make them. Some know when they’re able to put a thought together, some when an instrument of some kind gets put in their hands, and some figure it out along the way. Alas, some don’t live long enough to figure it out.

But, since this is my story…let’s stick with me. I can say that I’ve had more than my fair share of time, talent and opportunity to do…something. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve done many things so far. Nothing that would garner much attention, but a lot of experiences along the way.

Wasted Talent. These words were uttered in the movie A Bronx Tale. However, I’m sure it wasn’t the first time they were spoken…and it won’t be the last. If things don’t change for me…if I can’t somehow find a way to change, they might be spoken over me someday.

Probably. If there’s anyone left in my life to say them.

Which brings me to the Coward title. Thus far, I haven’t made any progress towards much of anything. Some of it due to lack of support, some of it life events and some of it just Murphy’s Law. But, mostly just due to fear. Fear of failure, fear of success and just…fear.

I am a Coward.

I watch a lot of TV. It used to be my best friend growing up. When you have 3 older sisters by almost 10 years and you’re different from the other kids…you find a surrogate. TV, movies, music, and books were my friends.

Different meaning a kid with test scores 3-4 years higher than his grade.

Different meaning a pudgy, light-skinned kid with fine curly hair.

Different meaning a pacifist who believed there was good in all men.

But the boys in the neighborhood were more interested in beating me up…and the girls just weren’t interested.

So, I chilled with my friends.

Then, I started high school. There on the very 1st day searching for my division room, I met my best friend, my boy…my brother.

Fast forward 40 years and a lot of Jack Daniels & cigars later…he’s my soulmate. I thought for a few minutes about how I would say that so it would sound less gay. Love him…but don’t love him, ya dig.

But, the truth of the matter is if anything happened to him…

How close am I to crazy?

Without going into what would turn out to be a separate novel, I haven’t done a good job with my life. Not crackhead terrible, but more like Bronx Tale “Wasted Talent” bad.

I think I may be manic depressive, almost certain actually…but, I’m not going out like Tyson with the lithium. There are some pretty clear signs though. I relate not only to Jimi’s “Manic Depression”, but Gnarl’s “Crazy” as well. I see myself in Tony Shalhoub’s “Monk”, Robin William’s “Fisher King”. There was a mentally ill character on TV today describing the 1st time he realized he was crazy. It was very clear to him.

There is something very clear to me. I am trying to find some sense of belonging in this world, a purpose…joy.

And, the only thing that really does that at the moment…solid for decades, is my friendship with my boy. So, I know…if anything happens to him…that’s the day I go crazy.

I don’t believe I’m a naturally weak person. On the contrary, I think I’m one of the strongest people on this earth. Because a weak person just goes with the flow, does what is expected of them. A strong person tends to stand alone…for better or for worse.

Let’s just say I’ve been a bit too strong-willed for my own good. I’ve made every excuse for not being successful…at life. But the one true reason is this…I’m a coward.

Looking back at my life, (as I do on all too frequent occasions) there have been many instances where I should have done…something different, something more, just…something. See happiness comes and goes, depending on the events of the day. Joy for me is something that gets you thru those other times. For a lot of people, it’s faith, religion or spirituality. I’ve never quite felt connected to that world. Tried it, didn’t stick.

I’m a hopeless romantic. I let go of a woman years ago that might have been The One. However, if that is truly the case then I might as well go now. Cause what’s the point…you know. But, more and more lately, I’m finally starting to feel like there’s still a chance. Hope. And for me, the thing that’s going to give me that joy is getting myself together to a point where I’m feeling good about me, so I can share that with someone else.

But this is no easy feat. That’s where the strength comes in. I haven’t given up. Well, let me clarify. I almost gave up. For the last decade, I haven’t been trying…much. I’ve let things get out of hand. And now that I’m ready to dig my way out and try again, I’ve got some work to do. I never watch reality shows. Detest them. So, I have no intention of using this book as any kind of vessel other than trying to regain some of my sanity.

And for that…I’ve got to write. Put it down and get it out my system…off my mind. ‘Cause I can’t tell you how many nights when I should be sleeping, I’m lying there awake. Replaying my life thru my mind. It doesn’t help.

So, this will be my solace…my therapy…my confessional. Amen.

If you didn’t have the pleasure of watching Firefly, the series, when it was originally broadcast…you missed something…great.

I never got caught up in Joss Whedon’s Buffy…but I might catch up one day. As can you, thru the wonder of Netflix. Beautiful thing. Watch Firefly the series, then see the movie, Serenity. Now here was a cast that you couldn’t help but get caught up in and love. As the credits flowed, I couldn’t help but think about true heroes…the real soldiers of the world.

Artists.

Now before the “patriotic” of you get your camouflage panties twisted in a knot, understand that I respect and appreciate the men and women that put their lives on the line to protect their respective countries. I couldn’t do it. But that’s because I’m not designed that way. You know, the whole lover not a fighter thing.

But while wars, battle, and conflict “save” lives while killing others, artists… the best of them (and the one-hit wonders as well) create works that inspire life…for generations to come.

Artists make life worth living. No matter what a person does in life, what their agenda is or their beliefs…there is some piece of music, a movie, a book, a painting…hell even a comedy sketch that inspires them. I mean even the Bible is a literary work. (Yeah I said it!) No, I’m not trying to piss anyone off. Just making a point.

The Bible is perhaps the most enduring and inspiring work, and like all writing has been open to never-ending interpretation, scrutiny, and adulation. If you are a person of faith, then for you the Bible is Non-fiction. It’s in fact…factual. Doesn’t change the fact that it’s a book. Written by writers…artists (I know, writing the gospel). My point is that we as a people…humanity, we need to be inspired to make life worth living. And that’s what makes the lack of support for art/music/theatre in schools so infuriating.

Ok, let me drive it back home. My entire life has been driven by art. And, I’m guilty of not pursuing any aspects of the crafts in which I truly have raw talent. If not outright skills. But, I just want to acknowledge the many true soldiers that fight on the frontlines every day, putting their lives and livelihood on the line for their art, their craft and our spirits.

So, RIP General Richard Pryor, Major Prince Rogers Nelson, Sargeant Langston Hughes…and all the patriots that came before.

I also love the movie “Dan In Real Life”. Perfect movie. Start to finish, not a bad note in it. And, Juliette Binoche! That said, it made me think re: my own life or lack thereof. Dan is a widower with 3 girls who aside from them (and his newspaper column) doesn’t really have one either. Now Dan has an excuse, he lost his wife 4 years earlier.

Sans the girls and the writing career, I feel his pain.

No, I didn’t lose a wife or fiance for that matter to death, but sometimes it feels like it. As far as inclusion in my life, she might as well have. The fault being mine, of course. I’ve never written about her in detail, at least not publicly, but if you asked me the wrong question…like “Why aren’t you married?”, or “Why don’t you have a girlfriend?”, or even “How are you today?”…you might have heard of her.

I was in my early 20’s, never had a girlfriend (just dating and “hooking up”) and was just doing the slacker thing. You know, partying, drinking, hard-headed, working but not paying bills and just…kickin’ it.

A friend invited me to his birthday party at Sarah J’s on 75th St in Chicago. Ahhh, Sarah J’s! This joint had female oil wrestling MC’d by Chicago’s very own (RIP) Tornado aka Big Daddy Woo Woo! LOL! This, however, was just a birthday party. I was a lil’ husky at the time. And in trying to find something to wear, I picked the only clean pants I had in the closet. A tad bit tight, I might add. But, they would work to get me thru the night.

The party was, as we say, off the hook or the chain…if you will. This particular buddy was a popular guy with both sexes, so there were plenty of choices for everyone. Myself? I was just having fun dancing, drinking and overall just being my regular life of the party self. At some point in the evening, I noticed a table full of women. One woman at the table caught my eye…

And, she was sitting with her whole crew. But, I didn’t care. She had this smile, a glow…beautiful. If I remember correctly I kneeled next to her and asked her to dance. And, I think I sang a bit of Luther to her. Well, she agreed to the dance. There was house music on at the time. We got up and walked to the floor.

Once we got there, the D.J. changed to a slow song. As a matter of fact, it might have been “Play another slow jam”. Me, trying to be considerate and realizing not only was I sweaty, but she didn’t know me…asked if she wanted to wait ’til the music changed.

She smiled and said “No, I’m fine”, at least that’s what I remember in my mind.

“And, we danced and fell in love….on a slow jam”.

Literally.

I think I was 26 at the time. I’ve watched many movies in my time. But, it was exactly as advertised. I looked into her eyes. I touched her hand. And, I had never felt that way about a woman…ever. Now, I don’t mean attracted or wanting to be with her. I mean Sleepless In Seattle magic.

We slow danced and rocked back and forth to several songs. I’m sure we danced to faster songs later in the night as well. But, from that moment forward, it was us the rest of the night.

At the end of the party, with the lights coming on and everyone getting ready to go, I suggested to her and the crew to head over to Izola’s to get something to eat. They agreed and we went. Upon sitting at the table, next to one another…smiling and laughing at lil’ jokes here and there. She and I held and caressed each other’s hand under the table.

Later, we exchanged info and departed. The very next day, early the next day…I called. I had to see her. I drove to her house to pick her up and met her Mom’s. After talking a bit, we left. But I don’t think we left. I don’t remember ever driving away. And, maybe it’s just selective memory. We may have gone to a movie or had dinner or something. But I don’t think so. No, I’m almost sure we got in the car. Looked at each other…and started making out right then and there. In front of Mom’s house. For a long time. I remember the windows being very foggy.

So, that’s how it started. From then on it was a blur of love and happiness.

We had picnics on the beach. Very nice picnics in secluded spots. Dinners, movies, and death-defying sexually acrobatic car rides back to her house on the Chicago Skyway. Did I mention I’m an excellent driver? We even had a different kind of bump in the road down the line.

I was a club manager in Chicago and one night she wasn’t so sure I was going to be alone and concentrating on work that particular night. So, she showed up, on a school night for her, just to make sure. I was surprised to see her but very pleasantly so. She explained later on that she had tapped my voicemail and heard a female friend confirming she would be coming that night. To her surprise, my friend and her boyfriend showed up while she was there and thanked me for getting them in and comping the door.

I was pissed. I couldn’t understand why she felt the need to spy like that. And, I broke up with her. Not for long, however. She had a guy friend that made sure to invite me to his birthday party where she would be.

I guess I understood later why she may have done what she did. She once asked me if I trusted her. I said yes. She asked if I knew she would never cheat on me. I said no. I said in my experience it’s impossible to know what someone would do under certain circumstances at a particular moment with a select individual. Mainly due to the fact of me being “The Other Man” for most of my life.

I guess I really didn’t give her the answer she was looking for, but I was being honest.

The truth is I hadn’t had many examples of a monogamous relationship in my life. My parents were separated 3 months before I was born. And, I had a wealth of Pop’s friends and play Uncle’s to know that sometimes…it’s complicated.

But, I loved this woman. And, I wouldn’t and didn’t cheat on her. I was happy.

Unfortunately, life had other plans.

Both of my grandmother’s passed in ’95. Not only that but I was dealing with drama with the family and just trying to figure out what to do. And, here was a woman who knew what she wanted to be early on in life…and did it. She was a nurse. And, not just any nurse, but a Hospice nurse. That means she cares for terminal patients. She cares for you ’til you’re gone. Like I said, a beautiful woman.

And, at that time in my life not knowing what I wanted to be or do, I thought it unfair to hold on to a woman who knew exactly what she wanted. Marriage, kids, her career…and love.

And, in my infinite wisdom, I told her that I thought she deserved better. She deserves someone who was all grown-up and could start giving her those things without hesitation. And, she fought it. For a while. She didn’t want to let me go.

But I was strong. Ha. Yep. Stuck to my guns and let go the best thing that has ever happened to me bar none. Because I loved her enough to give her the very best. Not me.

And I know it’ll haunt me for the rest of my life.

Not regret. No. I made the right decision for her. She got married and pregnant a year later. She married the brother of her best friend. And I couldn’t be happier…for her.

But, after having the opportunity to be with someone like Jack says “Makes you want to be a better man”, how can you settle for someone that looks at you like “why can’t you be a better man?” before they even get to know you.

So, I stopped. Dating that is.

I can’t deal with it. I guess I am the coward that I confess to being. But, I’ve had loss in life. Too much. And, at this point, I’m more content to not letting anyone even get close enough to even matter.

Yes, I’m personable, a charmer…and I might even get a lil’ sumthin’ sumthin’ every so often. But, trust me, relationship status it’s not.

I’ve even gone so far as to cut family and most friends out of the picture. I’m tired. Joy and pain are definitely 2 sides of the same coin. To me it’s more if you don’t play, you can’t win…or lose.

I know that’s not entirely true or actually living…life.

But, I did mention the coward part, right?

© D Jay Collins and Thoughts Of Sonny P, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to D Jay Collins and Thoughts Of Sonny P, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.