Columns

‘Day of Absence,’ a Drama I Can’t Wait to See

February 25, 2021 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

I just had
one of the nicest experiences
of my lifetime
via a dramatic piece,
“Day of Absence,”
a Douglas Turner Ward
masterpiece
of a play
on Zoom,
each actor
sitting
at their own place
in a room
facing a Mac
or a PC,
scrolling scripts
on a split screen
against a green screen,
performing in a
reverse minstrel show
with some parts,
as with the role I portray,
“Luke,”
played in white face

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February 6 – Then and Now

February 10, 2021 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

I got my first vaccine for covid-19 on February 6, 2021. One more to go for this old son of a gun.

But when I got back home after my shot I was reminded that this wasn’t the first time that February 6 was special to me, since on that day 61 years ago I took to the court with my teammates in Bear Down Gym at the University of Arizona and got to shaking and baking and whipping outlet passes to start fast breaks and shot the lights out all over the place, and came away with 46 points, a record that stands to this day.

The fun and glory of that will never go away.

And I couldn’t help but think, in those moments, what a difference six decades can make in one’s life. In so many ways. I was so strong back then physically, even with a bad back, something that’s plagued me since those days.

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Pick Out Your Peak and Climb (Thoughts with Black History on My Mind)

February 5, 2021 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

Black History Month is in the eye of the beholder it seems, with some saying that it’s too short of a month or that it’s an excuse to give Black folks a cold shoulder the rest of the year.

But to me it’s a month to reminisce about heroes in my personal Black history, people I hold dear.

Like my grandfather who lived the first fourteen years of his life on a sharecropping plantation in Hawkinsville, Georgia, late in the 19th Century, until the attacks on his dignity and his sanity and humanity became more than he could bear to any degree.

Sometimes I can see him in my mind on the day when he decided he had enough, squaring his broad powerful shoulders before snatching a sadistic foreman off his horse and pounding him into the ground unmercifully

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The GOP Just Might Be Our Country’s Number One Enemy

February 2, 2021 by Ernie McCray

The GOP Just Might Be Our Country’s Number One Enemy

by Ernie McCray

Much to my chagrin
I saw the ex-president
in a picture
wearing a
sickening grin,
standing
next to
the House Minority Leader
sporting the same
devious smile
above his chin,
signifying
that, in spite
of his friend’s
terrifying insurrection
against our nation,
the GOP
was still behind

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Nancy and Maria – the Loves of My Life

January 26, 2021 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

Often, these days, when the world seems grim, I think of how lucky I’ve been to have had two great loves in my life: Nancy Kay, a hippie White girl from Pacific Palisades, down the street from Malibu, and Maria Ester, a Chicana from San Antonio, home of the Alamo.

I remember my first image of Nancy, down on the floor of her classroom, water coloring with students whose love for her radiated in their smiles and comfortable postures, as they asked her, “Miz R,” questions like when are we going to the beach again?” or to Balboa or Chicano Park? “What are you going to teach us how to cook next time?” In that room there was so much rhythm and rhyme.

Some part of me, in those moments, fell in love with her too and we eventually got together and loved each other for thirty-four wonderful years and then she passed away and in time Maria came my way, a woman much like Nancy in so many ways.

And I fell in love with Maria in much the same way as I did with Nancy, …

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Feeling the Joy

January 25, 2021 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

Feeling so relieved
these days,
joyful
for this chance
to change our ways
to what “normal”
used to be,
when the news
didn’t necessarily
give you the blues,
a feeling of being
alive,
like a young eagle
taking to the skies
soaring above
dark clouds that
for years
dropped rainstorms
of confusions and lies,

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Is Impeaching the President an Act of Bravery?

January 18, 2021 by Ernie McCray

Is Impeaching the President an Act of Bravery?

by Ernie McCray

Bravery,
like beauty,
seems to be
in the eyes of the beholder,
bearing in mind that
those republicans
choosing impeachment
for the president
regarding his role
when tyrants
struck at our democracy’s
very soul
weren’t being “brave,”

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A Life Well Done

January 5, 2021 by Ernie McCray

By Ernie McCray

Oh, it’s quite a shock when you check into Facebook and the first entry on your timeline says: “My brother, Elton Harris, is gone.”

The absolutely last thing I was ready for was hearing that a friend had died.

Elton was quite a man and I missed a lot of his life when his aunt, my first wife, and I, broke up. I’d hear about him every now and then, though, as he was my son, Guy’s, favorite cousin and close friend.

What little I heard was mostly negative, but without any details, so I never made any judgments about him. He just became somebody who was out of sight and out of mind, as they say.

And then one day, not too many years ago, when I was in Tucson for a reunion of some kind, I stopped at Al’s Barber Shop to catch up with a childhood friend and, as Al and I reminisced about old times, I hear “Hey, uncle. How you doing man? Elton. Aunt Sweet’s nephew.”

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2020 Has Me Dreaming of an Age of Love

December 30, 2020 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

2020. What a year, huh?

I was in Cuernavaca, a town I’ve come to love, when the year began – a little groggy because New Year’s Eve in Mexico is an explosion of firecracker noises and gunshot noises against a background of brass and drums in surround sound at decibels seemingly without bounds.

All that aside, with a little ringing in my ears, I had a wonderful time on the first day of the year.

Our dear friend, Josefina, sat us down to fresh coffee and chilaquiles y juevos, over easy, and papaya, manzanas and peras and cheesecake and we spent the day talking away.

Then the next day we drank margaritas and dined with a beautiful view of a downtown park we had just strolled leisurely through, looking into smiling brown faces, meeting a man who offered us tickets to heaven and we joked about whether the tickets were roundtrip.

It was such a nice trip and the rest of January also was filled with pleasantries,

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The Best Christmas Gift of My life

December 28, 2020 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

Someone on Facebook posted “What’s the best Christmas gift of your life?”

My answer was swift: a bike.

I’ll always remember the Christmas it became mine. It was in 1947 when I was nine.

That morning, though, I was down as down could be. Because my mother had led me to believe (and she had never ever deceived me) that this Christmas there would be a bicycle under the Christmas Tree for me. But when I woke up that was not the reality.

I was crushed, to say the least, and I couldn’t hold my feelings inside and if my family had been an ass whuppin’ kind, my mother had a reason to tan my behind…

And after a little time of me giving my mother and the world a piece of my mind she says to me, giving me “the look” mothers flash when they’ve had enough of your ungrateful ass: “Shut your mouth and put your new jacket on. We’re going to Sergeant Hudson’s house to wish him a Merry Christmas.”

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Pursuing a Promised Land

December 21, 2020 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

I just finished A Promised Land, Barack Obama’s latest writing.

On the whole, laying aside my concerns about “droning” and such, abrupt departures from A Promised Land, it was an interesting and sometimes enjoyable read for me.

One way it was interesting was because as I read Obama’s words, Trump, of all people, kept popping up in my mind.

I mean like Obama would write something and I’d find myself trying to imagine Trump doing likewise.

I mean when I read Obama’s poetic description of his daily stroll to work along a walkway where, at times, he “felt the first slap of winter wind or pulse of summer heat” – all I could think of was a president who has, for four years, sat on his butt and tweeted, using words from a pre-school child’s vocabulary.

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In a Sabino Canyon State of Mind

December 14, 2020 by Ernie McCray

In a Sabino Canyon State of Mind

by Ernie McCray

My mind,
in these times,
often drifts
to Tucson.
Home.
Home to me
and home
to Sabino Canyon,
grounds that are sacred to me,

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A Musing Rising from a Photo Taken a Few Years Ago

December 9, 2020 by Ernie McCray

A Musing Rising from a Photo Taken a Few Years Ago

by Ernie McCray

As usual
my mind,
as the minds
of dreamers do,
was just wandering,
musing
as I scrolled through
a picture or two
and one made me pause
for a moment or two,
one of me
smiling
all relaxed,
kind of, if you ask me,
sharp as a tack,
looking like the world
had my back
on a warm sunny
Southern California day.

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Helping Black Students Shine

November 30, 2020 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

Lately I’ve been thinking of Black kids, Black students, specifically. Thinking of all the teachable moments out in the universe that I would call on to help them shine if I were in the classroom during these times.

And the first thought that came to mind is I would turn them on to what it means to be Black at this very time.

We’d talk about what we’d all just seen this past NBA season, superstars flying through the air slamming monstrous dunks and shooting rainbow 3’s with “Black Lives Matter” sewn into their jerseys.

We’d talk about the significance embedded in a Black woman taking on the role of Vice-president of the United States, the first of her gender to serve in such a capacity.

We’d talk about how Black voters showed up in large numbers, essentially rescuing a drowning democracy.

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Just Another COVID Power Trip

November 19, 2020 by Ed Decker

Straight Up With a Twist

By Edwin Decker

I received a few moderately angry emails in response to the tone my last column. The emailers believed I was downplaying the mortal dangers of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For the record, I am not against all the measures taken, however I do worry that the harm of these rolling shutdowns may exceed the harm of the virus – not the least of which is relinquishing too much power to government. And shortly after the writing of that column, I had an encounter in a bar and grill that reinforced my concerns.

November 7, 2020 (Red Tier) – With my trusty disposable mask (that I never dispose of) firmly affixed, I asked the hostess if a seat at the bar was available. I knew it was a long shot but the bar is my natural habitat and I really didn’t want to sit alone at a table. As expected, it was full, so she sat me a shorty in the dining room.

Given its low height, I’m guessing it was a wheelchair table, which wouldn’t normally be a problem if the chairs had been short too. However, all the other tables were cocktail tables, and the only seats available were bar stools. Whatever, I thought, these are the times in which we live and ordered an Ultra because, you know, I have my modeling career to consider.

While sitting on my tall stool hunched over my short table taking sips from my tasteless, beer-like beverage, I scoped the bar which was about 15 feet away. So close and yet so far,

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It feels So Good Calling Arizona my Home

November 16, 2020 by Ernie McCray

It feels So Good Calling Arizona my Home

by Ernie McCray

I’m so proud
of Arizona,
my home state,
for the mood I’m in.
For something
other than
its beauty
which I’ve basked in
since who knows when,
having hiked among its
Saguaros
and along the lovely trails
in Sabino Canyon,
in the Old Pueblo
when I was a little boy
not many years old;

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America, Who the Hell Are We?

November 9, 2020 by Ernie McCray

America, Who the Hell Are We?

by Ernie McCray

Whew!
Wow!
What a ride!
I was about
to explode inside!

I mean
as a dreamer
I had thought
this election
was going to be taken
in a landslide,

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Moments of Sheer Joy

October 30, 2020 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

Being a bit squeamish in this pandemic I hadn’t seen my family in a while but I saw some of them the other day in a neighborhood park.

Maria, my beautiful sidekick, and I were the first to arrive. And I had no idea when my offspring would appear as we are “see you when I get there” kind of folks.

So, I stretched my long self out in my beach chair and just scoped the scene, chuckling at a few squirrels playing “Stop and Go,” watching as children ran to and fro and I smiled and waved a “Hello” at a couple of passersby I know.

And then I looked up and saw Nyla, one of my twin daughters, coming towards me and shortly afterwards Tawny, the other half of the duo, drives up with her children, Lyric and Marley, and her sister’s little girl, Indigo.

Then my youngest son, Carlos, came and we were all good to go and I don’t know if I’ve ever felt, in my life, more sheer joy than what I felt in my moments with them that day, not to mention we were there basically on time – so there was no lost time.

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October 23 – a Bittersweet Day for the Widder Curry

October 23, 2020 by Judi Curry

By Judi Curry

Before I get into this more fully, I would like to thank all of you that gave me advice, gave me books, cited professionals as to whether or not I should attend my grandson’s wedding today. I truly appreciate all of the comments that were made – both negative and positive!

The day is now upon me and the decision to attend – or not attend – has been agonizing. I have 18 grandchildren (including a few “greats” in that number.) I am very close to all of them and talk to them frequently. Landon, the groom, is a twin and I attended his brother’s wedding just two years ago. Landon’s “best friend” – Tiffany, whom he will marry today, has been like a member of our family for at least 5 years, when the two of them began dating. I attended her graduation when she received her Master’s Degree, and I count her in as one of the aforementioned 18.

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Feeling Warm and Sunny

October 22, 2020 by Ernie McCray

Feeling Warm and Sunny

by Ernie McCray

It’s such a warm
and sunny feeling
to sense
human progress
in the air
like the other day
in a Zoom meeting
with a few athletes
at the U of A
about inclusion,
human beings being
valued for who they are,
me sharing
how, in my day,
there was little to no interest
in social
or political change,
how we athletes, in the main,
just played our games.

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Is the American Right Winning the Long War With Amy Coney Barrett?

October 19, 2020 by Jim Miller

Charles Koch’s Big Bet on Barrett Despite GOP’s Potential Big Loss in 2020 Electoral Battle

By Jim Miller

With all the ink spilled and word hoards unleashed on Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination, perhaps the only person who really clarified the big picture significance of her likely confirmation was Christopher Leonard, the author of Kochland, who put Barrett’s nomination in the context of the billionaire Right’s long war against democracy. In his New York Times column, “Charles Koch’s Big Bet on Barrett,” he explains how:

Since the early 1970s, Mr. Koch has sought to dismantle most federal regulatory institutions, and the federal courts have been central to that battle. In 1974, Mr. Koch gave a blistering speech to a libertarian think tank, called the Institute for Humane Studies, in which he outlined his vision of the American regulatory state, and the strategy he would employ over the ensuing decades to realize that vision.

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How to Handle Customers Who Refuse to Wear a Mask

October 15, 2020 by Staff

Straight-up With a Twist

By Edwin Decker

Dear Ed,

As a manager of a [501(c)(3)] non-profit organization, I am frequently confronted about us enforcing our state’s mask mandate. We will refuse access to our building to anyone if they will not wear a mask. . . I have been called names, screamed at, and even threatened. My question is how as the manager can I politely tell them to fuck off?

Sincerely, Barbara Curry
Cherryville, NC

Thanks for the question Barbara. Even though I have never been in a position to enforce a mask mandate, I have seen many-a YouTube video featuring customers throwing anti-mask tantrums so I do have an idea about what you, and others, are going through.

Now, I’m not going to get into the controversy over mask-wearing itself – whether it is unconstitutional for the government to mandate them, or if the COVID risk has been exaggerated or even if the pandemic is a straight-up hoax concocted by our alien overlords – because none of this matters when it comes to private organizations such as yours. Every privately-owned business, including a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, has the right to refuse service

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Meet the Newest Residents of Sunset Cliffs

October 14, 2020 by Judi Curry

By Judi Curry

They come in all shapes, sizes and colors. They heard it was a great place to vacation – food is plentiful; many different kinds available, although they might have to look for it under mounds of trash being deposited by other vacationers, residents, dog walkers, etc., but it a great place to raise their children, and their children’s children.

Sometimes it is pizza, sometimes it is hamburger, sometimes it is even dog food or food that has been left for the birds. Sometimes the bounty is so good that they can survive for days.

And how does all this wonderful food come to Sunset Cliffs? To paraphrase Elizabeth Barrett Browning – “let me count the ways.” There are tourists that come to the Cliffs to watch the sunset and leave their trash behind. There are locals

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Pray for Trump?

October 14, 2020 by Ernie McCray

Pray for Trump?

by Ernie McCray

There are folks praying
for the president
to get well
and I can only exclaim,
“What the hell?”
considering that
when I got word that
that he had covid
after he has recklessly
in line with his modus operandi
laughed at it
and scoffed at it
and lied about it,

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From an Old Jock to Young Jocks at the U of A

October 6, 2020 by Ernie McCray

From an Old Jock to Young Jocks at the U of A

by Ernie McCray

Hey, you Wildcats!
I write this
after co-hosting
a fundraiser
for a candidate for City Council
in my town
who’s totally devoted
to social justice
and equality
for everyone
no matter their ethnicity,
color or creed
or background.

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I Really Don’t Care Do U: The Trump Morality Play in Full View

October 5, 2020 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

“I Really Don’t Care Do U” read the designer jacket that Melania Trump wore in June of 2018 when visiting the New Hope Children’s Shelter in McAllen, Texas that housed 55 kids, including those separated from their parents as a result of President Trump’s draconian immigration policy. Of course, last week, we all learned that our worst suspicions at the time were correct as a new tell-all book by the First Lady’s now ex-friend and senior adviser reveals that she was less concerned about the children’s fates than the fact that they made the Trumps look bad while she was slaving away on her onerous Christmas work.

As CNN reported, Mrs. Trump whined at the time:

“I’m working … my a** off on the Christmas stuff, that you know, who gives a f*** about the Christmas stuff and decorations? But I need to do it, right?”

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The Twinkle in My Eye

October 2, 2020 by Ernie McCray

The Twinkle in My Eye

(Poem for My Youngest Grandkids)

by Ernie McCray

You guys
are the
twinkle in my eye.
And speaking of eye
hardly a day goes by
that I don’t,
in some moment,
see you all
in my mind’s eye:

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Musings of the Widder Curry

September 29, 2020 by Judi Curry

By Judi Curry

I received an email today from an even older gentleman this morning that stated, “Morose – not suicidal.” He went on to say that he finds himself “sinking into a perpetual state of quiet desperation” due to the political situation affecting this country.

The sad thing about his note to me and others, is that this is not the only piece of mail that I have received with the same message. I have read messages that start “since the death of RBG, I have been both depressed and/or angry.” Or, ”I can’t sleep at night; I find myself angry and irritated over the smallest little things.” Someone wrote that “ . . a sound I used to like – crickets in the night – is driving me nuts.”

I belong to a group called “Nasty Women for Biden”. The thread of this group is the same as I have quoted above. The fear, the anger, the disbelief that all of this is caused by the political situation today. Thousands of women – and some men too I have noticed – are writing in and seeking confirmation that they are not the only one feeling this way.

As a female, I am appalled at the number of women I see at the trump rallies.

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Will We Ever Breathe Free?

September 28, 2020 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

We Black folks
always wonder
if we’ll ever breathe free,
like others of our species,
ever since
we, caught napping,
were snatched
from our homeland
as kidnappees
and stacked
in boats
as contraband
and dumped
in shacks
as un-hired hands,
spending our lives
standing rigidly
for centuries
bent over long cotton sacks

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Vote Yes on Proposition 15: Ignore the Corporate Lies and Put Our Schools and Communities First

September 28, 2020 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

With the economic and budgetary crisis in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us are anxious about upcoming budget cuts at the state and local levels that will harm education and local services. It can be a helpless feeling waiting for the shoe to drop, but, in this case, with Proposition 15 on the ballot this November 3rd, there is something we can do about it—pass Prop 15 and bring billions of dollars of new, ongoing revenue into the system.

Proposition 15 will require that commercial property valued at more than $3 million be reassessed at fair market value every three years.

  • This closes a loophole that large corporations have used for decades to avoid paying their fair share of property taxes.
  • The richest 10% of corporate properties will provide 92% of the revenue.
  • Prop 15 specifically exempts all residential properties and agricultural land, maintaining full Prop 13 protections for homeowners, renters, and agriculture.
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