If You’re Happy, Then I’m Good…Maybe I’ll See You Next Lifetime…



Have you seen the movie 10 Years? If not, what will follow are some spoilers of sorts. If you’ve never heard of it, then don’t sweat it and just continue reading.

It’s a 2011 movie that stars Channing Tatum and his wife (can’t remember her name) and a cast of folks you’d know by face if not by name and my boo, Rosario Dawson. It’s a movie about a 10 year high school reunion. Pretty simple premise. You’ve got the bully who wants to make amends even though its not really that genuine despite his protestations that it is. You’ve got the guys who never grew up; the wigger turned back white boy whose wife is agitated by his prior life as a Black kid trapped inside of a white kids body. You’ve got the now famous recording artists whose…well, no need to spoil it all. Point is, it’s a movie about a high school reunion.

Well the crux of the story is about Jake (Tatum) and Mary (Dawson). They’re both in committed relationships now and really both wanted to see one another even if Jake probably mostly only brought his woman assuming that Mary wouldn’t be there. Clearly, they’re high school exes who fell apart, not because of love but because of circumstance. Let me be upfront, I’m a sucker for movies like this. Any movie that has significant nostalgia, reflection, and realization is a win for me.

It’s clear that Jake and Mary still have “something” for one another even if they’ve both moved on. The love is still there, evidenced by the awkward hug they give one another. You ever notice that when you have any sort of feelings for somebody, hugs are awkward? That’s the best way to tell if somebody is feeling somebody else…the way they touch one another in the most innocent way possible. It’s poignant and telling.

Well, after they’ve effectively pissed off their significant others with tremendous awkwardness, to the point that both SOs excuse themselves from the festivities from the evening, they get the moments they needed.

The moments to know that the other is okay. They haven’t spoken in 8 years and likely never stopped thinking of one another the entire time. Hell, they admit to trying to find each other, something I’m sure we’ve all done and do with people we care about even if we don’t contact them any longer for various reasons. That’s made even easier with social networking – which neither of them has.

After the night comes to a close and everybody is leaving, neither is truly ready to leave until they get to have a short but necessary conversation where they catch up and find out if the other person is happy. They embrace. The thing that stands out to me about their situation is that its clear that they never stopped loving each other. They just had to move on.

Even Jake’s girlfriend has to ask before she drives off, “what happened? Why did you all break up?” because it’s clear that there’s a “there” there. And while neither is prepared to explore that “there” anymore, they still love one another. They have an entire world to themselves that nobody else can truly appreciate or understand short of their closest friends there at the reunion.

But in those final moments you can tell that they are two people who got the chance to make sure that the person they truly love…like that real palpable love, is cool. And that is needed to go on about life okay. Even if they never speak again…they got that satisfaction. In the most non-sensical parallel possible, its like when you have a insane sexual chemistry with somebody for so long that you just need to smash to get it out of your system…and when you all do, you can go on about life either as friends or as folks you never speak to again. Odd, but it makes total sense and I’m sure along side Miley Cyrus twerking right now, it is happening somewhere in America.

In the words of Anthony Hamilton, and the point of it all is this: I wonder if most of us have that person that we truly love even if there isn’t anything more that can come of it. Jake and Mary were completely innocent in their desires to reconnect. They just needed to know. I know I’ve had that person…and I know she’s good. We’ll always have the weirdest of connections, to the point where I’m not even sure I can explain it. So I don’t try. It’s unnecessary. I’m good. She’s good. And we’ll always be people who love one another and it goes no further than that. It’s not active love. It’s somewhere out there, somebody is thinking about me so I never have to worry about being a nobody. It’s mostly odd because for many of those situations it is offputting for significant others, and it seems more guilty than it is…but sometimes you just need a few moments alone just to know folks are okay. That’s love.

So…do you have that kind of person? Is it okay to have that kind of person if you’re in a relationship? If you do, how the hell did it come to pass like that? Or are you one of the fortunate people where the past is always the past for you….period?

What’s love?


The Man In The Mirror: Michael Jackson, and what our memories about the dead say about us

***In light of Conrad Murray being found guilty of involuntary manslaughter yesterday, The Champ has decided to revamp and repost an entry he wrote a week after Michael Jackson’s death***

Admittedly, I wasn’t as affected by Michael Jackson’s sudden death as many others seemed to be. Despite this relative detachment, I was completely mesmerized and amazed by the consensus public reaction to that news, which, if I recall, was characterized by a public competition to be the best at accurately memorializing him while completely glossing over how f*cked up the last 25 years of his life were.

Mind you, i’m not attempting to throw more salt on Michael Jackson’s ridiculously star-crossed life. Still, when a person has been…

A) Largely defined by their abject weirdness for 90% of their adult life,

B) A lazy punchline for 50% of their adult life,


C) A suspected pedophile

…I dont see how you can’t at least acknowledge this when putting their legacy in context.

MJ aside, his situation sheds a bit more light on the fact that while we don’t have definitive control over how we’ll be remembered, we can control what we remember about everyone else. You can even argue that making the conscious choice to only recognize the positive aspects of a person’s life is just a desperate hope that this same luxury is extended to us.

Thing is, whether you view this type of projection as practical or pathetic, you can’t argue the fact that there’s no bigger affront to what makes us fully human and no more disingenuous way to recall a person’s life, especially when you consider that our deeds usually come from the exact same place as our demons.

This is supremely true in regards to celebrities. The same visceral fervor that made Tupac iconic killed him before his 26th birthday, and the hyper creative eccentricity that made Mike moonwalk also contributed to his multiple self-mutilations, arrested development, and early death.

Omitting these facts downplay and dishonor their accomplishments. There’s no such thing as an adversity-less icon. How can you fully appreciate Malcolm X without being completely aware of Malcolm Little, street hustler and addict, and what future relevance would “Black or White” hold without knowing that the song’s architect was actively attempting to be both black and white?

I realize that this isn’t the most popular line of thinking, that some will see this as (at best) tactless and (at worst) malicious, and that its (extremely) presumptuous to tell someone how they should remember a person. Still, this isn’t about Michael Jackson as much as my fascination with our peculiar reliance on technicolor memories. I just happen to prefer HD.

The more I think about it, the more I’ve begun to realize that there’s probably a connection between my sports fandom and my infatuation with people being remembered the right way. Die-hard sports fans are obsessed with legacies — the feeling that what a particular athlete accomplishes doesn’t matter unless we know exactly what he had to deal with to get there. This is part of the reason why so many veteran players, fans, and sports scribes still harbor a distaste for Lebron James. They felt(feel) like he was cheating history, taking a competitive shortcut to ensure a legacy he didn’t particularly earn. Although I don’t share that sentiment, I understand the thought process behind it. Everything — the airballs you shot as a rookie, the fumble in Super Bowl 10 years ago, striking out each time up to bat in your first playoff game — matters, and your championship rings, retired jerseys, and Hall of Fame busts don’t mean shit without acknowledgement of your struggles and your attempts to overcome them.

You know, with all this being said, I still hope that the half-page obit in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette honoring my (eventual) passing chooses not to include a half paragraph burb on my (future) infidelities and (present) p*rn addiction. I guess i’m not so special after all.

On second thought, including that stuff might not be the worst thing in the world. At least it’d show I was human, and I think Mike would have wanted the same thing.

—The Champ

Disconnect: My 9/11 Story

The relationship between our perception of the passage of time and our age is something that I’ve never been quite able to grasp. I mean, while I know that one second in 1991 and one second in 2011 are supposed to be the exact same amount of time, my mind somehow convinces me that they’re unequal, and I’m not sure why it does this.

For instance, I’m 32 years old. On Sept. 12, 2001, I was 22. 10 years before that — Sept. 12, 1991 — I was 12. When I was 22, it seemed like there was an eon of distance between my age then and me being 12. It may have only been 10 years, but being 12 or 13 or even 16  seemed so foreign and distant to me that it felt like my teens happened an entire lifetime ago.

Now, though, the distance between 22 and 32 seems much, much, much smaller. I remember everything about being 22. I remember what my apartment smelled like (Guardsman, Curve, bbq sauce, sneakers, and condoms). I remember the color of my roommate’s girlfriend’s hair, and I remember trying to find a subtle way to ask him if that was her natural color. I remember exactly how I felt when first learning I’d been betrayed by two of my closest friends. I remember riding to some party with my boy and seeing the face he made as he listened to Eminem’s verse on “Renegade” for the first time. (Any diehard hip-hop fan knows this face. It’s the exaggerated squint/”I just smelled the worst smell on Earth” combo face you make when first hearing an outstanding verse. It’s almost like you can’t believe what you’re hearing.)

I’m bringing this up because of the psychological disconnect currently going on in my head regarding the 10 year anniversary of 9/11. It doesn’t seem like it’s been 10 years already because I (think I) remember everything about that day.

I remember my roommate waking me up to tell me that a plane flew into the World Trade Center, and I remember my half-lucid response. (“N*gga, stop playin. I’m still not letting you hold my watch.“)

I remember the shared collective consciousness of everyone on campus. (People use always use “surreal” to describe this feeling, but to me the best way to explain it was that it seemed like we were all extras in the same movie.)

I remember not wanting to talk or even think about anything other than what the hell was happening.

I remember not being able to reach my parents until early in the afternoon, and manufacturing anxiety even though I knew they were probably just home, watching the news like I was.

I remember that the two or three people I knew who were actually able to get service on their cell phones became rock stars that day.

I remember wondering exactly how “big” this was going to get. How many planes were hijacked? 4? 10? 24?  How long would this continue to go on?

I remember watching CNN and trying to put myself in the shoes of a person near Ground Zero¹ to try to imagine the fear they must have been feeling. I also remember failing at this, becoming annoyed with myself for not being able to produce that level of empathy, and then wondering whether the people around me who seemed completely distraught were genuine or if they were hysterical because they felt that the moment called for hysterics.

But, despite the fact that 9/11 almost seems like it happened 10 months ago instead of 10 years ago, it doesn’t feel that way. The memories are still vivid, so you’d think that when watching a 9/11 related news story or tribute or memorial with footage from that day interspersed, the same feelings I felt that day would come back. But, although I remember how I felt, I can’t reproduce those feelings. I watch the 9/11 footage now, gripped and transfixed by the imagery and the sounds the fact that I remember seeing much of this before, but surprisingly unmoved.

It’s almost as if my heart is outsmarting my brain, convincing me that it’s useless to actually feel the feelings associated with those memories; emotionally downgrading 9/11 from “an event that left everyone shook in some way” to “an especially intense thing that happened on TV a decade or so ago” — really no different than the first 20 minutes of “Saving Private Ryan.”²

I think I understand why my mind does this. While remembering important events helps us make judgements, decisions, and predictions, continuing to go through the emotional rollercoasters associated with those events would probably make us insane. Still, while watching a few of these tributes last weekend and seeing the tears roll down the eyes of people in attendance, I wonder if I’ve gone too far, if becoming as emotionally detached as I seem to be is dangerous. Hmm. Maybe I’ll figure it out by 2021. Seems like a while to wait for an answer, but if the last ten years are any indication, it should be right around the corner.

That’s enough from me today. People of VSB.com, what are your 9/11 stories? How did it make you feel, and how much of a disconnect is there between how it made you feel then and how it makes you feel today?

¹It’s also interesting how my mind continues to think of 9/11 as just a NYC event, even though I’m very aware of what happened at the Pentagon and in Shanksville, PA — a city maybe 60 minutes away from where I’m sitting right now.
²I didn’t say this in the entry, but I do also realize that if I personally lost a loved one that day  (or even was in NYC or the Pentagon or Somerset County) my feelings about this would probably be much, much different. And, for those who did actually lose someone, I don’t mean to be flippant or minimize any pain you might be feeling.

—The Champ