Deconstructing a Philadelphia Eagles Fan

Before we get into the crux of this here topic, allow me to touch on the obvious:  yes, I am an ardent, avid, staunch, voracious, and sometimes borderline homicidal Eagles fan.  In years past, I’ve dyed my hair green, chanted the Eagles fight-song in my head at weddings, birthday parties and wakes, owned jerseys of players I’d like to forget and players I will always remember.  Eagles fans are not better fans because we are Eagles fans; nay, nay, we are better because as a collective group united as one fan base, we become our team.  However; it is crucial to understand that our fan base is an army of subgroups that when combined, can wow you with knowledge, amaze you with our fervor, and if you don’t come correct, will hit you with fists.  I’m kidding; we hit you with snowballs (if you’re Santa…and that narrative is complete bunk, by the way), or we throw up on your kids (that actually does happen in Philadelphia).

If you are an Eagles fan, you will most likely find your fan type listed below.  If I missed any, feel free to contact me and we will make sure this list is air tight.

THE LUNATIC

A highly volatile individual, the lunatic is the guy that scoffs at things like windchill.  -10 degrees?  Shirts are for p#$%^&.  He’s the guy with Smurfish blue skin, nipples like doorstops, and a blood alcohol level that defies human comprehension.  He screams until there are no screams left to give.  His neck looks constantly constricted; as though flexing his windpipe for the world to see.  He stands shirtless for three hours while temperatures drop and blood alcohol levels rise.

The lunatic is the guy that does not care how the Eagles win, so long as they win.  He more than likely chuckled when Michael Irvin’s career ended at the Vet and wrote anywhere between eight and 346 letters to Donovan McNabb after we lost the Super Bowl.  He most likely hails from the Northeast, gives directions by referencing bars instead of streets, and once got into a fight with someone over a lawn chair in a parking spot after a snowstorm.  eagles-vs-giants-football-bradley-cooper

The lunatic is a liability due to his explosive personality and affinity for all words vulgar.  (I’m no prude but these are the kinda guys that throw effin’ between “Merry” and “Christmas.”)  They are great to have around if a scuffle were to break out because these are also the type of guys that will get into a fistfight with a streetlight and win.

**Also, this fan owns pieces of player paraphernalia that can’t be authenticated.  “Seth Joyner once blew his nose in this napkin.  Randall Cunningham once used this toilet seat.  I saw him at the King of Prussia mall, he walked into the bathroom, took a dump, and I took the toilet seat.”

THE LUDACRIS’TINA

Do you know the song My Chick Bad by Ludacris?  Well, the Ludacris’tina fan is of the female persuasion and knows her football front and back.  She does not use terms like, “Quarterbacky Guy” and the “Ball Catcher Guy.”  They know every position, listen to sports talk radio daily, question the front office’s decision-making, and never, ever back down when it comes to showing support for their favorite football team.

They know the difference between a nickel and a dime defense and will talk about Buddy Ryan defenses like it’s Sunday and you’re at church.  The Ludacris’tina may be modest and professional during all other times of her life, but looks nauseated at the mention of Eli Manning, laughs at the Redskins as a whole, and can’t say Dallas without throwing a very descriptive verb before mentioning the Cowboys. ludacris-black-and-white

Now, the Ludacris’tina fan is not to be confused with the Nikki Minaj’er type fan: fake, clueless, and only at the game because, “their boyfriend, like, totally got them tickets.”  The Nikki Minaj’er is NOT part of the fan base.  Most fans tolerate them because, well, women in football jerseys is just a sexy look.  Sex appeal and misogyny aside, these are the best fans because they don’t call and ask if they should pick up wings for the game, they just get them.

DOPPLEDIDIGANGER

Ray Didinger is kind of like the Moses of Eagles football.  He did not invent the game or start the organization; he just knows damn near every piece of knowledge one should know about the Birds.  A “DoppleDidiGanger” sounds an awful lot like the actual Ray Didi.

Schooled in the history and operations of the Eagles, this is the person that schools others on the actual history of their team.  A person that can talk about the famed legacy of Pete Pihos while others scratch their head and wonder if Pete Pihos was a utility player for the Phillies in the early 80’s.

These are the fans that understand the science and the art of being a fan.  They weave immense knowledge with a resplendent and mesmerizing prose that makes the team you love, that much more loveable.  The most important characteristic of a “DoppleDidiGanger” is their poise under pressure.  An insufferable loss looks like a learning experience, an incredible blowout is a time to reflect on what worked and no matter what, they keep their wits about them. 102613_EAGLES_GIANTS_WHIP_SEG_WEBBESTVIDEO_640x360_57221699687

They are guided by pragmatism and experience.  Their ability to dissect and analyze without having to battle with bias and partiality is zen-like.

THE FATALIST

The fatalist can be a bit dramatic at times.  They like that stewing and simmering feeling one gets from lamenting over that which is already done.  They call three days after a botched field goal and question the decision to keep Cody Parkey by using the argument, “If the Colts didn’t want him, why should we pick him up?”

When dealing with a Fatalist, one has to prepare for the minutia of the Fatalist’s knowledge.  This is the same person that will remind you that a fourth string linebacker once kicked field goals in High School.  “So, he can like, kick and tackle and then it’s like two players in one!”  There’s no arguing with a fatalist because even though they provide “solutions” to problems from week to week, they are eternally convinced that something, no matter how perfect the situation, will still go wrong.eaglescry

They do not undermine the essence and spirit of the team; they are too caught up in a history of not winning a Super Bowl.  These are the people who get the most upset even though their first inclination is to say, “I told you so.”  Usually in their 40’s and 50’s, these are the generations of the “so close” group, bound by the overwhelming need to say their team won the Super Bowl.

THE SMARTY JONES’ER

Like the storied racehorse straight from Philly’s backyard that wowed the horse racing world in 2004, the Smarty Jones’er is a fan that loves the Eagles because they are from Philadelphia.  Philadelphia sports fans are often buried in the muck of other teams’ success.  The Smarty Jones’er knows that winning it all may be a long shot, but we are undeterred.

How many rings have the Eagles won?  Say “0” and the conversation is over.  The Eagles fans are the worst fans in sports! Oh, really?  Hmmm, cause the last time I checked, no one was ever killed at an Eagles game.  Oh, we threw snowballs at a fictitious character that makes kids believe this magic man drops off toys and electronics out of the kindness of his heart?  Imagine if snowballs were thrown at Santa because he was a drunken, last-minute replacement and the fans were tired of seeing marginal  play their team and a Santa that looked more at home bellied up at a bar than greeting children at a mall.

Philadelphia is a classless city.  Yeah, you’re right.  We don’t have world-class restaurants, performance centers, stadiums, hospitals, Colleges and Universities, museums, or landscape.  Our brethren consist of mouth breathing, knuckle dragging buffoons that communicate with simple grunts and pointing.  We wear animal pelts and hunt for food in the heart of Center City.  We loathe babies and children, push old people into traffic, and our favorite pastime is poo-flinging.

If you’re a Smarty Joneser type fan, you know the truth behind the lies, aren’t afraid to question the coach when he makes a decision that is questionable, will quickly turn around and admit when they are wrong (usually), and DVR’s games so they can go back and watch each play so that when they call into the local radio show on Monday morning, they have their facts straight.

A Smarty Jones’er knows what the ultimate goal is but appreciates a good race.  A Smarty Jones’er will lament the loss but will immortalize the player that gave it his all and will quickly admonish the player that did not show up to play.  We believe players should leave it all on the field.  Whether we are blue-collar workers with sandpaper hands and squared jaws or a $1,000 suit wearing, courtroom running, big deal negotiating, sale closing white-collar fan, we don’t just watch the Eagles, we are the Eagles.

THE LOWDOWN

Philadelphia is a city rich with history.  While many Eagles fans may have never stepped foot in the Philadelphia Art Museum, gazed upon the Liberty Bell in real life, taken a class at Penn or been on a walking tour of Philadelphia’s historic downtown, an overwhelming majority of its citizens and those in the surrounding area identify with the Eagles because we LOVE our team.

When Brian Dawkins left the Eagles and joined the Broncos, our city felt decimated.  We were not betrayed by a greedy player looking for the big payday, we were betrayed by the very team we love so much.  A cornerstone of our defense and an iconic player with his own alter-ego, Brian’s departure felt like a terrible break up.

When Jerome Brown died, though only a small child, I remember crying because, like myself, thousands of young boys aspired to be just like Jerome.  Reggie White left the Eagles to play for the Green Bay Packers and many, myself included, hoped that if it was not the Eagles year to win, that Reggie would get a ring.

If a player demonstrates heart and plays accordingly, we are quick to give our hearts to them.

Whether someone lives in a Brownstone in Rittenhouse Square, a row home in North, South, or West Philly, or they reside in a quaint little town outside of Philly proper, the Philadelphia Eagles are the roots of one immense family tree.  We win together, we lose together, and when the dust settles each week during the football season, we are looking ahead to the next game together.

Say what you want about Philadelphia Eagles fans and I know someone with an indignant comment about why the Eagles suck will surface, remember the words that I wrote here are a testimony to a word that our formidable coach, Chip Kelly, truly believes in: culture.

We are not just a fan base, we are a culture.  We may not literally bleed green, but I will be damned if our heartbeats do not, from time to time, beat to the cadence of an E-A-G-L-E-S chant.  This is not about what team has the best fans; we already know the answer to that.  This is about identifying with our warrior animal.  The Eagle!

Outsiders can mock, question, ridicule, attack, denigrate, lie about, or ignore us all they want.  Like an Allen Iverson tattoo, we are “CRU THIK.”

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The Biggest Little League

The new kid, regardless of how self-assured and confident they may be, always feels a little different.  A new home, a new school, a new street, new strangers and like anything new, new opportunities. My new opportunity began in the spring of 1988.  Baseball; America’s pastime and oft-ridiculed sport that moves too slow, felt like a whirlwind while I played.

10375978_10203996748224924_3268098830116186128_nI joined Bridgeport Little League in 1988.  Eight years old and with a mountain of adult experiences prior to my family’s new start, Bridgeport Little League became the first constant in my life.  Coached by my Dad, Little League quickly became the first opportunity to share something wholly my own with a man I was just starting to get to know.

After years of struggling with a methamphetamine addiction, my Dad found himself in a familiar place that brought him joy.  Not until I was eight years old did I start to find out who my Dad was as a man.  Ironically, I started my own journey into self discovery around that time, too.  Baseball offered us the opportunity to build a relationship that mirrored the “good, simple life” that many parents want to provide for their children.

Bridgeport, Pennsylvania, a little hamlet situated in Southeastern, Pennsylvania remains nothing short of an idyllic memory.  Sure, I have bad memories but it is in the memories of playing Little League that I reserve the right to reflect on my hometown with the sort of irreverence found in Norman Rockwell paintings and Whitman musings.  Perfect?  No.  Perfect to me?  In so many ways, yes!

I aspired like every other kid playing Little League to one day wear a major league uniform, to hear my name on the loudspeaker and to score the winning run in the World Series.  Though ultimately a dream, I remember the number of home runs I hit (one), surely lost count of the errors I committed, and I remain certain that the number of times I laughed with my teammates is incalculable.  I owe that to Bridgeport Little League.

11214175_802036416579767_3002762539656206529_nI remember running out to center field before games to hoist the American flag and feeling an overwhelming sense of pride in doing so.  Mindful to never let the flag touch the ground, I learned about respect and history.  Regardless of your political ideologies, there is something to be said for understanding the importance of symbolism.  I would think of my grandfather, a WWII P.O.W and how running the American flag up that flagpole felt like an opportunity to pay homage to every man and woman that ever fought to protect America.

Little League does not “make” better men and women, it gives boys and girls a chance to understand the importance of teamwork, to applaud sportsmanship, and to learn what it means to work and try as hard as one can.  Bridgeport Little League, at least for this one-time player, allowed me to finally call a single place my home.  No matter how many different places I live throughout life, nothing feels more “at-home” than Bridgeport.

Bridgeport Park and the Little League field exists as my own personal oasis.  When I come home to visit my Mom or to spend some time at my Dad’s grave, I tend to end up at the Little League field.  I can hear my name echoing over the speakers and feeling my right foot dig into the batters box.  As cliched as it may sound, even the smell of fresh cut grass takes me back, plopping me behind  home plate or manning first base.

Back I go…

Rivalries were reserved for the baseball field.  Best friends became enemies for six innings.  Nothing bitter, nothing violent; an enemy in an instant, you hoped your best friend would strike out four times, your team would win, and that you could still sleep over his house Friday night.  We respected the game and even the terribly itchy uniforms that mentioned polyester but apparently omitted the burlap and fiberglass that helped construct our uniforms.

I am an “Indian.”  Drafted to the team in 1989, I subsequently broke my arm in the middle of my first season in the majors  (Actually, a teammate broke my arm but I’m not holding it against him twenty-six years later.  I swear.)  The year I started playing for the Indians, the movie Major League came out and immediately I figured it to be kismet.  My team always felt like a hodgepodge of misfit kids that simply loved to play baseball.

We are all grown up men and women now; living lives that, unless we have children that play sports, does not include getting  homework done before the game.  Our lives no longer involve shortcuts through the woods so we can get to the field ten minutes earlier.  We’ve traded shortcuts through lawns and neighbor’s houses for GPS reminders of the impending traffic doom ahead of us.

No longer will two dollars from our Dad’s wallet buy us some Swedish Fish, a Gatorade and a hot pretzel.  No one is so focused on us that they give up hours upon hours of their time to help us get better at something, anything.  This is adulthood.  This is where things get done, bills get paid, and instead of asking Mom for a ride to practice, we are now the chauffeurs.

Bridgeport Little League, I am sure, means more to some than to others.  Yet, in the middle of the summer heat a few weeks ago, dozens of adults from decades of Bridgeport Little League players came together to see old faces, rekindle nearly forgotten memories and to spark off dormant rivalries from decades past.  Younger guys mixed with the middle of the pack guys, rounded out by the aged wisdom of those in their golden years.  A group of men and women, once bound by something as simple as a game, stood shoulder to shoulder, honoring what is nothing short of an institution.

Hugs between old friends and people I vaguely remembered served up just enough nostalgia that as I sat in the dugout, I could almost feel my Dad’s hand on my shoulder, coaching me about laying off the first pitch and choking up on the bat if I fell behind in the count.  I could see my Dad in his terrible cutoff jean shorts (let’s all take solace in knowing those days are over) and giving the customary baseball butt slap followed by a reminder that I sometimes forget: “Go have fun, bud.”

Some say that with age comes wisdom.  Personally, with age comes appreciation.  I appreciate every game I ever played in Bridgeport.  I appreciate every moment that Bridgeport Little League ever gave me with my Dad.  I, also, appreciate that twenty three years after I took my last swing, dug out an errant throw, rallied around my team, and said goodbye to the simplest years of my life, I still carry with me a fondness of a time that resurfaces in old stories and reflections on my childhood.

Three weeks after our alumni game, my right knee is no longer swollen and my calf muscle feels fairly functional again.  The scab on my elbow from diving into second base has healed and I still cannot wipe this smile off of my face.  Going home has nothing to do with addresses and cross streets; home is the place where when you arrive, nothing, no matter how much the aesthetics change, the feeling will always stay the same.

11755252_802036159913126_1173394588225360649_nTo whomever is up next, “have fun, bud!”

Tilghman Harpel (Chris Smith) can be followed on Twitter @TilghmanHarpel

Happy Birthday, Beautiful!

Prelude to a List

Every birthday I tend to ruminate on who you are as a person: a mother, a wife, a professional champion of the disenfranchised and forgotten, a cheerleader, a mentor, and the best damn friend a man could ask for in a wife.  After all the thoughts pop in my mind like wonderful little effervescent bubbles reminding me of simple snapshots splayed out in my memory, I look at you and feel like it is our first phone conversation that went until five in the morning.  I want more. Sometimes, mired in my own selfishness, I get caught up in my personal romance and realize that your love and focus must be shared not because it’s the unselfish thing to do, but because others need your attention more than I do.IMG_3151

The first time I ever pulled you close to me, I felt the weight of the world disappear from my shoulders.  Broken and quite a bit lost in some ways, you were the light that guided me through my own darkness.  I can sit and type away about being in love at 3:30 in the morning and do so with a smile if only because this smile that I wear now is all your damn fault.  You happy with yourself?  You make me happy.  Me…this guy.  Cast away and unlovable, a lost soul that even in my loneliest hours still held onto the faintest idea that I was not a “hopeless romantic,” but instead I was a “hopeful romantic.”  You…you did this.  

Why I Love You…Let Me Count the Ways

  1. Your adorable face you make when you wake up in the morning; disheveled and confused, you look at me with your scrunched up nose and eyes, pouring through the 5 W’s like a 6th grade teacher stressing the importance of asking critical questions.  “Who was, what, okay, where, huh?”  (Sorry, it’s cute to me!)
  2. Your voice:  Yes, for the love of all things holy you may have the loudest voice in the room.  The caveat: regardless of your octave, substance trumps decibels.  You pique my interests, tickle my curiosity, and walk me right out of my comfort zone because you challenge me with the wonderfully insightful ideas that come from those lips.
  3. Okay, your lips.  I’m not going to lie.  During our first conversation I warned you that I had a dichotomous mouth: my weak upper lip is like a shy kid around new adults but the bottom lip, that lip brings the thunder.  I think I held up my end of the bargain.  Your lips, however; straight thunder on the top and bottom.
  4. Passion:  No one tackles a career quite like you do.  Out the door by 8:30 a.m. and some nights you don’t get home until 10:00 p.m. because you just don’t half-ass anything.  Your thoroughness is the difference between a child waking up in a safe home where love is not a commodity, it’s a fulfilled necessity and waking up in volatility. Your family loves and supports you because of how much you love and support us AND others.
  5. One Word: Booty  <——Seriously, you didn’t see that one coming?
  6. Your Laugh:  More honest, more brutal, more captivating, more visceral than any laugh I’ve ever heard.  You build me up with your unabashed laugh and let me down lightly when I’ve failed to impress.
  7. The Beatles:  Before I met you, I knew about six songs and thought they were “okay.”  Now, I can’t skip past a Beatles song without hearing it to the end.  As a lover of words, you introduced me to a group of poets that happened to make other worldly music.
  8. We’ve discussed Shakespeare, shared Neruda, explored Oscar Wilde, and theorized over countless other authors.  You can meet a person half-way in just about any topic.
  9. You believe in your roots.  Where we hail from can say a lot about who we are.  How we reflect on our childhood and recall the days of growing up with a fond recollection no matter how dark that past may have ever been, it’s still ours and the way you celebrate yours reminds me to never stop appreciating mine.
  10. Italian Passion:  Italian passion is a little different than the passion you have for your career.  Italian passion is what gets you up and moving around while you pour through point after point, regardless of the topic.  The kind of passion that makes you wildly dangerous to sit next to during an Eagles game is the same kind of soulful fervor that makes the people around you appreciate whatever it is you’re talking about.
  11. This blog will mean more to you than any present I buy you.
  12. You are the first vegetarian I met that did not try to convince me that meat is murder and if I just watched a twenty minute movie produced by PETA, I would be a vegetarian too.  Plus, you smile at me when you see me eating a good burger or a delicious steak.
  13. You’ve never “dealt” with me.  I am as complicated as they come and never have I felt like you have tolerated me.  Instead, you accept me and when I veer from the course, you guide me back again.  You’re the truest definition of friend as one could ever hope.
  14. You’re WICKED smaaaaaat:  Do not think for one second that I’m not one of those name dropping dopes we laugh at but whenever I’m around certain people, I boast your accomplishments like somehow I graduated from Penn or can talk at length about American history, music, pop culture, or psychological theory.  (I mean, I can talk about some of those topics but the most refreshing part is having a tag-team partner that can pick up right where I left off.)
  15. The way you answer the phone when you’re close to home:  Whenever I call you and you’re close to home, you answer the phone by saying “Haaalowwwww” and I immediately know you’re not far from home.  There’s excitement in your voice; a legitimate growing anticipation knowing that we get to be together again.  You really are my north star.
  16. 50 lb. suitcases: When we went on our Honeymoon to Jamaica, I remember looking at our luggage and realizing that I could hear the zipper of our suitcase crying out for help.  Undaunted, you got that suitcase down to 50 lbs. exactly.  Nothing was keeping you from your hair straightener and blow dryer.  (You are a SOLDIER!)
  17. Our feet touch: Each night, we find a way to get our feet to touch.  Waking up in the middle of the night, I can always feel the soft skin on the top of your foot as it snaked around my ankle.  Even when we are unconscious, our bodies are still conscious of each other.
  18. Your vision: Let’s be perfectly honest; I was very much prepared to never perform comedy again.  I literally had buried a dream and you, like a creepy grave robber dug that dream back up again and went all Dr. Frankenstein on it.
  19. Frau Blucher:  Any woman that acknowledged the genius of Mel Brooks and did so with Dr. Frankenstein as her reference point was bound to be my wife.  Well played, you adorable minx!
  20. Carry Each Others Pain: Whenever you use this term to describe your job, I hope you know it is a lesson not lost on me.  We cannot always be everything to everyone, but that does not strip us from our responsibility to, at the very least, listen.  You’ve carried my pain while I pulled myself from some of the darkest recesses that life allows us to create.

In Love

I wish you the happiest of birthdays and think today is a very big deal.  Our road to each other winded and twisted, took us through shortcuts that left us tattered and torn, but wiser from having taken the journey.  When I’ve fallen, you didn’t just throw your hand out to pick me up, you sat there with me and just listened.  Without knowing it, back on my feet I went and you carried my pain some more.  You are infinite, I hope you know.

We will set off into this world three daughters that all will carry pieces of you with them.  They will live by example and some day, hopefully, will reflect so many of the idiosyncrasies that they learned by merely being in your presence.  You are not perfect but you love me perfectly.  I know this because you love me.  The profundity of your love does not exist in its abundance, it exists in its purity.  March forward, beautiful bride, and always know I march beside you.  When exhaustion from the march sets in, I will fall asleep next to you, our feet intertwined.  I will dream of the first time our lips touched and fantasize about the next time I feel your lips on mine.  I love you because in finding each other, I found myself.  He could use some work, but I like him.  He’s got to be something if you fell in love with him, right?

Happy birthday, baby!

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Just Accept It Already

If I have to explain what I am doing in this article, then I suspect you need to find a place on the internet that explains things through mono-syllabic means and utilizes a great deal of pictures.

The Racist Experience

You are born into a dysfunctional white family where the word “nigger” is commonly used.  It is often uttered whilst your family is piled into a pick-up truck adorned with gentle reminders of the family’s political and social proclivities:  a Confederate flag (actually, the battle flag of Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Northern Army because, well, history is highly revisionist), an NRA sticker provoking anyone to try to come take their guns, and a tattered bumper sticker that is intact enough to make out “Bush/Cheney.”

Your Ma and Pa use the “N-word” without any hesitation.  They graduated high school but are as minimally educated as a high school graduate can be.  Political discussions are as deep and wide as a Mississippi mud-puddle after a summer rain shower.  Reading is reserved for the Fox News ticker at the bottom of the television screen and for select Bible verses that justify hate and intolerance.  Your family does not like the following: Blacks, Mexicans, Gays, Liberals, Asians, Arabs, Eskimos, Hippies, Mulattoes, Indians (Dots and Feathers), Pro-Choicers, Democrats, Uppity Women that don’t know their place, the Media (except Fox News), the Transgender community, and anything or anyone that does not look, act, think, pray, or live the way they do.

You are taught the fundamentals of life through a series of experiences and like all children, you listen closely and watch even closer.  You emulate those around you and during your metamorphosis, you navigate from childhood into full-blown adulthood; you are the “apple of your parents eye.”  Not only do you look like them; you think, feel, vote, and act like them as well.

This is a tremendous example of what a parent should do: lead the way by setting the example.  Unfortunately, in this case, it is a terrible example that feeds into the pipeline of the skullduggery running rampant in America today.

People get upset when someone says, “it’s the parents fault.”  There are multitudinous reasons why a person learns to hate but when do we stop making excuses for ignorance and bad behavior.  Is it the same for black people?  Chinese people? (Or anyone that may be different from you or me?)

http://www.worldaroundu.com/2015/03/harmony-day-2015-whatsapp-quotes-images-wishes-messages-australia.html

#BlackLivesMatter

This crosses into the argument over #BlackLivesMatter and #AllLivesMatter.  During its inception, I took an exception to the idea that we (Americans) are professing only #BlackLivesMatter because it is my contention that “All Lives Do Matter.”  Then, I thought about it and realized, there is absolutely no need for a Twitter trend professing #AllLivesMatter because the current political climate proves that a great many people need reminded that “Black Lives Do Matter.”  Where is the great assault on white lives?

Some argue that Affirmative Action is proof that somehow the white man has taken a back seat in the professional world.  The people who I personally witness up in arms about this are either blue-collar or no-collar individuals.  Those that think they were passed up at the Burger Barn because they were white should stop and think, “Oh, I get it; over a century and a half of inequality and now it is time to even the playing field.”

Maybe the problem is in white America’s perception of police brutality and lethal force.  If you have never been pulled over before, I do not care what race you are: It’s scary and probably one of the most intimidating experiences a person can have.  Now, considering the “liberal” media keeps replaying all of these videos of black men, women and children being assaulted and in many cases killed by the police, I suspect their nervousness and hostility towards police is warranted.

“Stop resisting arrest and maybe so many black people wouldn’t be killed by the police.”

Should I go through the names?  Should I post the videos on here so the blowhards that read this can bloviate about the standard procedures for dealing with police?  If my example of being raised in a racist household does not mirror the experience of black individuals (especially living in abject poverty) in their dealings with the police, then you will NEVER get it.

#AllLivesMatter is a truthful statement.  However, the infinite truth of that statement does not supersede the need to honor the lives of black Americans because the proof is in the pudding.  No, I am not black and I do not, even for a second, pretend to fully understand what it means to be a black person in America.  Recognizing that fact also makes me aware enough to know that I also do not know what it is like to be a police officer.  Yet, those on the side of defending the deplorable actions of police endangers the integrity and spirit of black Americans that do not receive equitable treatment at the hands of the law.  #BlackLivesMatter is relevant, needed, and unavoidable because America treats racism with a band-aid mentality.

If I cut my hand open with a knife and I could see the bone through the bloody gristle, I would seek medical attention.  I would want a team of nurses and doctors to tend to my wound.  I would want them to treat me for the pain.  I would want them to thoroughly clean out my wound.  I would want them to stitch my hand back up with precision and care.  I would not tolerate two Tylenol, some Neosporin and a gauze pad.  Stop treating racism like a splinter and accept that it’s not just a sliver or wood or metal under the skin, it is a full on impalement of the dignity and spirit of an America that tends to overvalue “things” and undervalues people.

Is this simply a hyperbolic musing, an exercise in knee-bending in the face of political correctness?  Call it what you will but when truth needs the flowery exploitation of FOX News and governmental talking heads that flap their gums and engage in ad hominem attacks to validate inexcusable behavior, I scrutinize its impetus and label it nothing more than verbal chicanery.

Are all cops bad?  No.  They’re not.  Can they act badly?  Sure.  Are all black people bad?  No.  They’re not.  Can they act badly?  Sure.  Are all white people bad?  No.  They’re not.  Can they act badly?  Sure.  Are all Mexicans bad?  No.  They’re not.  Can they act badly?  Sure.

The infallibility of racism is a hard pill to swallow.  However, while I personally wish we could treat racists like crabgrass, their infestation is far more difficult to handle.  Wouldn’t it be divine if we could spray some “Racists-Be-Gone,” go to bed, wake up, and the front lawn of America would be racist free.  I also wish money grew on trees and thinking about exercise had the same health benefits as actually exercising.  Unfortunately, I’m S.O.L when it comes to wishing.

The Solution?

If ignorance begets ignorance, then what can we expect from silence?  I do not need to apologize for being white because I had no choice in the matter.  (For the record, I LOVE being white.)  However, I do not love that others with the same lack of pigment get to open their blowholes and paint MY race with any other brush than the one I choose to paint the events of my life with each day.  Speak up.  Be heard.  Be what everyone never expected because it sure seems easy to live up to expectations when we have allowed the bar to drop so low.Follow Tilghman on Twitter @TilghmanHarpel

Pizza Shop WTF’s

While I would not say that when I was 12 years old I thought, “Man, I can’t wait until my mid thirties where I’m searching for work and end up moonlighting in a pizza shop.”  Nevertheless, there is absolutely no shame in working to provide for your family while you search for work in order to better take care of your family.  However, here are a few examples of the things I’ve encountered while working at a pizza shop that proves that while I may not be the smartest man in the world, I am certainly not the dumbest.

Body Conscious vs. Mind Unconscious

“Do you guys have gluten free pizzas?

Yes, we carry gluten-free pizzas.

“Oh, so do you, like, have gluten-free toppings?”

(Hesitating) Uhm, what do you mean?  Were you looking to put croutons on your pizza? (No response) I’m sorry but I’m not quite sure I understand what you’re asking.

(Indignantly) “Do your vegetables, like, have gluten in them?  Like, I wanted a gluten-free pizza with mushrooms and black olives.  So, do they have gluten?

Oh, so you’re asking if our mushrooms and black olives are gluten based?  Yeah, no, there’s no gluten in our vegetables.  I mean, if I rolled them in flour, then yes, I would say they have gluten.

Okay, can I have a regular pizza then?

**This is an example of why in certain species of animals, the mother will often eat the offspring that doesn’t seem like it’s fit for this world.  Bon Appetite, Mom.


Size Matters

“What size pizzas do you guys have?”

Well, we have a Medium, Large and an XL pizza.  The XL pizza is called our New Yorker.

“What’s the difference between a Medium, Large and New Yorker?”

Our Medium pizza is 14 inches, the Large is 16 inches and the New Yorker is 18 inches.

“Okay, but what’s the difference between, say a large and a New Yorker?”

(Confused) Uhm, two inches.

“Yeah, but like, what’s the difference.  How much bigger is the New Yorker than a Large?”

(Less confused and more aggravated) It’s two inches…I don’t know how to explain it other than that.  What size shoe do you wear?

“Huh?”

Your shoes.  What size shoe do you wear?

“I wear a ten.”

Okay, then your shoe is six inches smaller than our large pizza.

“Oh, okay, great! I’ll have a large, please.”

**If an arbitrary example helps to clarify the size of a pizza, then all I ask is you stop listening to what your dog tells you and remember that window curtains are not a cape, nor are they magical.


This is Euclid.  For the mental math midgets like myself, this is the dick that ruined 10th grade math for me!

This is Euclid. For the mental math midgets like myself, this is the dick that ruined 10th grade math for me!

Uncommon Denominators

“I’d like a large pizza.  Can you put anchovies on a 1/5th of the pizza?”

On 1/5th of the pizza?

“You know what, could you also do another 1/5th of the pizza with mushrooms and pepperoni?”

Our pizzas come in eight slices so do you want me to make one slice with anchovies and another slice with mushrooms and pepperoni or do you literally want a second slice that is cut down into fractions?

“What do you mean?”

That’s kind of what I’m asking you.

**Can someone please explain to me if this is an example of an individual that really, really understands math and assumed I’d break out my calculator, find a common denominator of forty and use a protractor or were they completely clueless?


Party Line

<Phone Rings> Can I take your order?

“Uhm, yeah, can I get two large pizzas and a…oh, hold on…(whispering in background), uhm, can I get that one pizza with pepperoni and (more whispering in background), oh, wait, can I get pepperoni and sausage on the one and then oh, hold on…(more whispering in background again)…oh, can I just get five cheese steaks?

<Phone Rings> Can I take your order?

“Uhm, yeah, I just called and got five cheese steaks; can we get also get that large pepperoni and sausage pizza and take one of those cheese steaks off?  (whispering AGAIN) And could we get a meatball parm sandwich?

Are you sure you don’t want fries or mozzarella sticks?

“Uhm, do we want fries or mozzarella sticks?  (whispering) Uhm, yeah.

Yeah, what?  You don’t want fries and mozzarella sticks or you do want fries and mozzarella sticks?

“Uhm, we do want them.”

You sure you don’t need anything to drink?

“Uhm, yeah, like, two, two liters, I guess.”

**Now, what I did there was an up-sell.  For the feeble-minded that never thought to actually take everyone’s order in one fell swoop, I will continue to appetizer and soda the hell out of an individual because the weakest link in the group was forced to do the ordering even though they suffer from terrible anxiety and have the personality of a hermit, my job is to make the business money.


The next time you decide to patronize a pizza shop (or any restaurant for that matter), do yourself a favor and think about the things you are about to say or do.  Common courtesy and preparation is the key to being a decent human being.  I would never do anything to a person’s food because I have a slight moral compass and messing with a person’s food is just downright disgusting.  However, I also understand why pictures surface from fast food restaurants where a kid is slapping his dong off of a bean burrito at Taco Bell or you see a big ol’ ball of lung butter floating in someone’s Dr. Pepper.  You’re not supposed to fight douche baggery with douche baggery, but it’s why it happens.

#jussayin

Dear Daughter

Dear Daughter,

Though you are not my blood, you are my daughter nonetheless.  When we came into each others lives, you were a ten-year old “kid” breaking into the world as a young person destined to see the world through a lens that I may have never seen the world.  Your presence, your struggle, your beliefs are very much a reminder of the tremendous amount of work we all must put into this world in order to see positive change.

Coming out to your mother and I, hopefully, was something you felt safe doing.  I know that in your vast knowledge and support of the LGBTQ community, you have seen first hand what families that are not accepting look and feel like. You, my wonderfully complex friend and daughter, carry a special light with you.

Sure, you’re a moody teenager that perplexes her family and retires to a world of technology and social media that levels heaps of praise and admonishment on you for your beliefs.  You are also wonderfully creative and the sparkle of defiance and social responsibility that helped me fall in love with your mother is the very quality that makes me so very proud to call you my child. <—-(See, I’m trying.)  The world, though we wish it were kinder and gentler, is going to have its hands full with you.

Love is more than a feeling; romantic or familial, it offers us the proverbial food that feeds our soul and the safety to explore who we are as individuals.  I want you to love whomever you want to love.  I want you to defend those that are defenseless and lack the words or strength to defend themselves.  In light of Caitlyn Jenner’s transformation, I see you as a transformer of ideology and acceptance.  Though only seventeen; age, like gender, sexual proclivities, tastes in food, music and movies are merely a way to describe.  It helps to identify and as you are well aware, it also helps to indemnify.

lesbian8

I know the world will judge you and a vast part of the coming years will be wrought with hard decisions.  It is in the universality of love that your mother and I will forever champion for your cause, for your beliefs, for whomever you love and for whatever you become.  When the ugliness of the world rears its head, we only hope that you defend it with the entirety of the beauty that envelopes all of who you are.  When words won’t suffice, battle vigilantly with your smile.  When the struggle seems unbearable, fight it with the knowledge that I will never not help shoulder the weight.

Fear is a wickedly divisive tool employed by the throngs of those that are just too afraid to learn about the things they claim to hate or refuse to support.  Fear can paralyze the soul and the spirit.  Fear not, for nothing you do will ever be done alone.

Thank you for your spirit and understanding that while I sometimes mix up my pronouns and do not always understand the standard rules of LGBTQ engagement, I will always try to keep my mind and my heart open.  I am proud of you because if I had never met you, you would be who you are regardless.  You are not shaped and formed by influence, you do the influencing.  While bigotry casts great shadows on our world, it’s comforting to know that light like yourself will always burn brighter than the darkness created by the hate of others.

Shine, beautiful daughter and never, ever, ever forget that you have the kind of potential that can only be stunted by you.  Greatness is defined by the passion with which you choose to live your life.  As far as I am concerned, you’re well on your way.

Love,

Me

Shut the F@&* Up, Bigots

I cannot for the life of me find a news station that presents what is unfolding in Baltimore as a call to action to stop the absurdities that are carrying on in America.  It seems that people are expected to choose a side against the police or against the looters as if suddenly Americans are expected to believe that there is never a place to meet up in between.

imrs.phpI do not know what it means to be black in America from a first hand experience.  I certainly have a far greater understanding after nearly a decade teaching in inner-city Philadelphia and Camden, NJ.  I know what abject poverty looks, sounds, and smells like.  I know how a child becomes cold and aloof when no one truly cares about them and the only time they feel embraced are when the adults on the corners that they sell drugs for “take them in.”  Yes, selling drugs in order to eat dinner and yes, can you imagine a teenager wanting to wear the most popular shoes and clothes as a teenager.  (It may come as a huge surprise to some, but children, regardless of their age, race or socioeconomic status reflect the same hopes, fears, and interests.)

Do we turn to the counterparts of inner-city black males and ask those in the suburbs what it feels like when the cops are waiting for them to screw up at any moment so they can harass, beat, and arrest them?  It is not what happens in suburban America; however, here we are getting “schooled” by those individuals that have exchanged “nigger” for “animal” and get to play the finger pointing game from their homes as they sit on their smartphones, tablets, laptops and smart-watches.

An incessant clacking sound fills this country as we all take to our keyboards and pound out our opinions and respond to those that are like minded.  We retweet and favorite, we like, comment and share and all the while, like little hamsters we run on our wheel hoping someone un-like minded calls us out.  We enjoy dismantling opinions the way rioters like tearing apart city streets and we love hurling insults and “stats” the way the Baltimore Police Department hurled rocks at rioters.  (Yes, that happened!)

We are a violent nation predicated on kicking the ass of anyone that does not agree with us.  We are losing a war with ourselves while we remain as divided today as we did yesterday.  There is a simple solution to much of what ails this nation but we shy away from the real fights because that means actual action.  It means standing up for something and not just looking at the situation from the very spectacles we use to see the rest of the world.

Before we start the tired argument droning on and on about what our Forefathers would say, remember the drafters of the Constitution needed help getting the essence of democracy to represent ALL Americans as it did leave out women and minorities.  Hell, there are some people in this nation that believe “equal rights” is something we can bend and meld into an amalgamation that discounts sexual preference as something protected by laws.

Oh, a law is essentially a rule that says a person cannot do something.  For instance, it is illegal to burn down buildings, rob stores, destroy property and to kill people.  According to many, “those animals” do that everyday in their cities.  There’s only one small problem to that argument; this occurred because the enforcers of laws and protectors of citizens have acted in a way where they are killing the people they are meant to protect.

That does not give either side the right to do any of the things that they are doing or have done.  It is okay to say, “Hey, stop destroying your city,” as much as it is to say, “Hey, cops, could you stop killing suspects (regardless of their rap sheet).”

I am not ashamed of the color of my skin and I am not ashamed that I am American.  I am ashamed that some of those that share the same skin color as me feel compelled to belittle, berate and denigrate those that do not have the same hue of flesh.  I am ashamed of America and how we continue to sit around with a giant elephant in the room that individuals choose to ignore because it is far easier to respond to a mass of individuals rioting and looting than it is to stop long enough to realize that people of color are under assault in a Nation that boasts freedom as the cornerstone of it’s existence.  Maybe Bill Hicks was right; “You’re only free to do what we (they) tell you.”Bill_Hicks_1361365056_crop_550x405