Columns

Wife Won’t Let Husband Help With Her Gambling Problem

May 13, 2021 by Source

Straight Up With a Twist

By Edwin Decker

Dear Ed, Me and the wife like to play blackjack at the casino from time to time. The problem is that she is a terrible player. It’s not the money I care about but the groans and eyerolls (sometimes even outbursts) she receives from players who are seated after her. As a blackjack player yourself, you know how much it sucks playing behind a bad player. Especially when they hit when they should be standing and end up taking the card YOU were waiting for.

I hate to say it, but I understand where they are coming from and cringe when she does that. But she refuses to listen. Every time I try to give strategy advice, she gets annoyed and says, “Let me play my game!” Any suggestions?

Sincerely, A Friend Who’s Been Reading You Since the CityBeat Days

Hi Friend, I do have a suggestion. “Let the woman play her game fer crissake!”

You said she gets annoyed “every time” you give her advice? I can only imagine how many times that has been.

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Feeling Langston

May 11, 2021 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

Feeling Langston.
Mr. Hughes.
Feeling how he could piece together
a rhyme
that gives you the blues
or string a line of words
sweet
as the floral taste
of late summer
honeydew,
making
Black folk’s hearts
sing
like a bird,
once caged,

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Liberty and Justice for All at Our Beck and Call

May 6, 2021 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

Hints of “Liberty and Justice for All” have come upon us suddenly like waters rushing from a broken dam, washing away long held resistance to social and political change.

How else can one explain a shift from disparaging notions such as “Don’t ask, don’t tell” and “God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve,” as well, to where a man can marry a man, and a woman a woman.

Legally. All across the country.

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Feeling Grateful for My Mother

April 30, 2021 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

I’ve been thinking about my mother as Mother’s Day nears, wearing that smile she wore when I brought home good grades, or had done a good deed, or scored a bunch of baskets.

Hers was a beautiful smile, befitting a beautiful woman.

And, I can see her not smiling, too, standing with her hands on her hips, flashing me a look that could change a charging lion’s mind, when I had crossed a line.

The biggest line for me to cross with her was lying.

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A Scare of Scares

April 27, 2021 by Ernie McCray

By Ernest McCray

Carlos, my youngest
and now only son,
has Covid-19.
But he’s got the battle won
it seems.

Yet, when the news reached me,
as quick as
a flash
of lightening
streaking across
the sky,
ghostly like images of
Debbie and Guy,
two children of mine
who have lived and died,
floated before my eyes
and I became weak.

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Thanks to a Jury for Keeping Hope Alive

April 22, 2021 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

Dear Jury: Waiting for your verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial was agonizing. No pun intended, because of what the trial was all about, but I could hardly breathe.

But when it was announced, regarding all charges, that you had found him guilty as guilty can be, air rushed from me like a river pouring into the sea.

I’ve never felt more relieved. But what does it really mean?

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Digging 83

April 19, 2021 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

There were times
when I was 82
that 83
didn’t seem in the cards
for me,
as Covid-19
had come on the scene
causing a run
on ventilator machines,
not caring a wit
whose clock it cleaned,
didn’t matter
if you were a pauper or a queen,

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A Nice Day Via a Haircut, a Couple of Tight Hugs, and a Meal at a Cafe

April 12, 2021 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

I had a very nice day the other day.

Not because, “I didn’t,” as Ice Cube once rapped, “have to use my AK,” which I don’t happen to own anyway, by the way, but because I got my first haircut in many a day, not wanting, during the pandemic, to give into my vanity in any way. No sirree. I took that stuff seriously.

And my trip to the barber shop, one I had never visited, was just what I needed in my path back to normalcy. Whatever that happens to be. I stepped into the place, walking one kind of way, and then suddenly I put a little dance in my step as I sought a seat, moving to the beat of some rather mellow funky R&B sounds playing in the background and I sat down slightly moving my head and shoulders to the feeling that was enveloping me.

And the next thing I knew I was engaged in some playful Black barbershop repartee

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A Team That Believes in Change

April 8, 2021 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

Wow! What a game!

A game that was truly anybody’s game as the University of Arizona Women Wildcat Basketball team lost to Stanford, 54 to 53.

A “March Madness” NCAA Championship game that ended like a well-crafted suspenseful drama where you really don’t know how it’s going to end until the very end of the last scene…

Oh, it was so much fun seeing those young athletes chasing their dream, steam rolling over one team like they were merely running drills, then scratching and crawling to get a win, then, voila, they were enjoying the thrill of being in the “Sweet Sixteen,” the “Elite Eight,” and the “Final Four,” rings on a ladder upon which no Wildcat women had ever climbed before.

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A Little Story of Bear Down Gym and Me

April 2, 2021 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

This is a little story about a place called Bear Down Gym and me.

I just found out that it’s in the National Register of Historic Places and an historic place is exactly what it is to me.

We were tight. It provided me a space that eventually led to me being in my school’s Sports Hall of Fame and Basketball Ring of Honor.

In between its bleacher-ed walls I’d do my thing to foot stomping cheers and applause that still remain as music to my ears after sixty-one years.

I loved every inch of the building, even the dead spot on its court that no one could apparently fix. But for a relationship to work you have to accept a pimple or a wart or two in the mix.

I can just picture myself, back then, walking to this beloved gym, on a game day, slowly putting on my game face.

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When I See Stacey

March 25, 2021 by Ernie McCray

When I See Stacey

by Ernie McCray

When I see Stacey
I feel pride
for my people’s history,
for how we
journeyed across the sea,
packed like spoons,
between the holds
and decks of slave ships,
shackled,
starving,
suffocating
in our very misery,
snatched from Mother Africa,
our homeland,
like the cotton
we would pick
in the Americas,
on the first leg
of a rocky path
to an as yet still undisclosed
destiny.

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Restaurant Review: StarFish Filipino Eatery in Ocean Beach

March 22, 2021 by Judi Curry

Restaurant Review

StarFish Filipino Eatery
1830 Sunset Cliffs Blvd., Suite E
San Diego, CA 92107

By Judi Curry

I am always intrigued when a new ethnic restaurant opens nearby. I have long felt that Ocean Beach has enough Mexican, Pizza and Asian – read Japanese – restaurants and not enough “other” kinds. I was thrilled to hear that a Filipino restaurant has now opened right on Sunset Cliffs.

When I was working at Job Corps in Imperial Beach, I had several instructors and secretaries that were Filipino. When they brought in food for different occasions it was usually the first to go. They could never make enough Lumpia to satisfy the staff – you have to know that I had over 130 staff members! – and the Pancit was the best I had ever tasted. I “borrowed” Alicia’s recipe for Lumpia, and would spend hours cutting up the vegetables the way she taught me to but it never tasted as good as hers.

The pancit was interesting, because Alicia would put a layer of raw oysters on the top, and that stopped many of the staff from devouring the tasty dish. Other staff members did not put any topping on theirs at all and they were the first to be finished!

Now we have a Filipino restaurant in Ocean Beach. They have very limited hours – close their doors by 6:00 – which I am hoping will change as the pandemic decreases.

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Looking Back at the Year With a Smile

March 22, 2021 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

Someone, unknown, once wrote “When life gives you a hundred reasons to cry, show life that you have a thousand reasons to smile.“

I can’t help but say amen to that just from having, the other day, read my journal about the past year and noticing how in between my comments about the enormous loss of human lives and a dangerous looney-ass president’.’ string of improvised lies, and wide political divides, and the like, there were so many entries that literally made me smile.

Especially one about me swatting a pesky fly just to see him die, borrowing from a Johnny Cash line.

And I sure smiled a lot at what I wrote about visiting Maria’s family and friends in San Antonio, home of the Alamo, and in Jalapa, Cuernavaca, Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo in the beautiful country of Mexico.

I couldn’t help but smile as my words made me recall how I, after being such a recluse, finally dared to go out during the pandemic and wined and dined and laughed outdoors with dear friends, wearing masks and keeping a distance.

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Rapper Mellow’s Epiphany of Love and Hope

March 15, 2021 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

One day
Rapper Mellow,
known for his
smooth flow
was kicking it in his studio,
free stylin’,
spittin’ lyrics
‘bout
nigga this
and nigga that
and bitches and hos
and who
had more
riches and fame,

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The Ring of Honor Represents the ‘Wow’ Moments of My Life

March 5, 2021 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

For being able to basically snatch rebounds and whip outlet passes to start fast breaks and swish the ball through the hoop from all over the place, a space has been made for me, alongside some other guys who could really play, in the “Basketball Ring of Honor” at my alma mater, the U of A.

Just the other day.

And pretty much all I can say is “Wow!”

I’m loving it and how.

And I’ve loved my university and its teams since before I knew what a basketball was.

I became a fan at my mother’s breast as she listened to Arizona Wildcat football and basketball games on the radio, humming soothing lullabies.

I used to pick cotton in Marana on Saturdays so I could pay for a cheap seat in the knothole section at the night’s football game and a butterscotch milkshake at Dairy Queen on my way home from the game.

Did the same thing after track meets, basketball, and baseball games.

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‘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,

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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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