When my Dad was a young boy, he would be in his bed about to fall asleep, unaware that his older sister named Hope would be planning to surprise him when he would close his eyes and sleep. She would carefully move across the room , not to attract attention. When she would see that he was asleep,  she would yell and he would awake startled and scared.  My earliest memories of Aunt Hope was visiting her and her family at their house in Fredericksburg, Virginia. We would visit the Battle of Fredericksburg National Park and pick strawberries at a farm nearby. She  was a talented artist  and painter, my favorite painting of hers was a tobacco barn with a rooster walking on the road leading to the barn. Another painting of hers was a fishermen”s pier that was painted blue, it was on a large canvas and was at my grandparent’s house in Chatham, Virginia. I remember her and My Dad dancing to music at my Great Aunt Hope’s and Great Uncle Bert’s house. She made the mistake of wanting to pet a German Shepherd  named Spatz who belonged to Great Aunt Hope and Great Uncle Bert. Spatz did not like strangers and did not want to be touched so the dog bit Aunt Hope . Aunt Hope never tried to pat Spatz after that. Her husband  worked for the Associated Press and gave our family a book called ” The World In 1975″, this might have encouraged me or inspired me to be more interested in news, trivia and world events.  Our family would watch Aunt Hope’s sons play baseball and wrestle in Woodbridge, Virginia. They attended Stafford  High School so we would have to cheer and support the opposing team when they played Woodbridge High School. When I moved to Norfolk, Virginia in 1988, Aunt Hope briefly lived with us. That summer in 1988, I began to write many poems. I would show my latest creations to her and she would give encouragement and tell me to keep writing. At the time, her younger son was about to graduate from Old Dominion University located in Norfolk, Virginia .   She drove me to a restaurant in Virginia Beach where I had lunch with her younger son and his girlfriend who is now his wife. After 1988, we did not see other much.  In 1994 , My Dad and Aunt Hope’s father passed away.  My parents and I attended the funeral. I visited her at my Great Uncle Vince’s house who lived near Great Aunt Hope and Great Uncle Bert. She attended the funeral, her younger son and wife was with her. We had an enjoyable conversation. I asked for her address to keep in touch and to send her a collection of poems I had written.  She gave me audiobooks by Tom Clancy and John Grisham.  I sent her a letter with my poems, I was not expecting a response. Also, at this time, I was unemployed and looking for work. I was volunteering at the Baptist Church of  Beaufort and I might have started volunteering at the Beaufort County Library. Before I sent her a letter and my poems, she sent me a very thoughtful and encouraging letter, I had given her my address when we talked after her father and my grandfather’s funeral. She told me to keep volunteering because it might lead to a paying  job which it did . She gave some helpful advice about life, based on her life experiences. Also, she told me to always appreciate the unconditional love of my parents which I am still doing today.   The last time I heard  from her was when she  sent me a letter thanking me for sending her my poems and she wrote how much she and her friends enjoyed reading the poems.  Time passes , we become busy and wrapped up in our lives, we think of others but do not let them know that we are thinking of them.  After working at the Beaufort County Library in 1997 or 1998, I walked to my home and was greeted by my Mom who was sweeping the steps . I was not expecting to see her there and I was not expecting what she told me. Aunt Hope committed the cruelest form of irony, Hope committed suicide. This was not the first or last time that I lost someone I knew to suicide.  I did not attend her funeral. I wanted to remember her in happier times. I still have her letters and they encourage me to be strong. When I am about to fall asleep, her spirit is watching over me. 

     Get those ideas from the brain-experiences and imagination, just stare at the blank page and begin typing,, words appear,, that is how the process goes. What shouldI I write now? If I write about friends, they will recognize the memories and be wary of talking with me-lest they want to be mentioned in the future. If I make something up, have to make it seem realistic so that whoever reads might think what I write could happen. On the other hand, have to add something so it might not seem too true- embellish a few details or make it seem like a dream. Nothing really happened, just filling in space. What I am doing now, waiting for something to come from somewhere, an action that would cause a reaction- crying, laughter or empathy.  This could come from an awkward situation that everyone has experienced or a sudden unexpected loss or a familiar scene that reminds the reader of their childhood or where they live or someone they know. 

   Once upon a time in a land far away or  in a place nearby, a writer muses, hoping to find inspiration from whatever is around him or her. He or she could be facing a sunset, watching the waves break and water rushes onto the beach sand that is almost white in color, the tide begins.  Another scene, he or she could be sitting in a cafe or restaurant or bar,  having a cup of mocha or a glass of wine, looking out  at the tree lined streets and the different kinds of people walking past , wondering what stories are going on in their lives.  The sky could go from clear blue to dark,  storm moves through ,  rain falls or wind blows, people seek shelter or take out their umbrellas or if the wind is really strong-umbrellas are blown inside out. Add a person to the scene and there is a conversation, could be friendly with people smiling and nodding and seeming interested in what the other is saying. Something could happen,  voices rise. There is an argument, people disagreeing, one yelling at another. Someone walks away and soneone sits alone. Or a different settting, someone could be out in the country walking along a two lane road located in a valley  of green grass near a mountain. Someone could walk up that mountain  where the road twists and turns until one reaches the top. Then, one looks out and sees the green valley with other mountains and trees.. There are barns, animals and people below. The most important part of the story is the end.  There has to be an ephhany or a point in the story preferably happy so the reader feels that he or she has not wasted their time by reading this. Also, there has to be a quote tthat the reader remembers like words appeared then disappeared-this is how a story ends. He, said ” Hello”. She said ” Goodbye”. The writer is left to muse.

New Orleans is hot and humid especially in the summertime. The best way to cool down is to stay inside your house or step into an art gallery or record store where there would be music playing. On the weekends, my Mom would drive me to Jackson Square in New Orleans . The historic Saint Louis Cathedral is located there.  Around the square, artists have their paintings for sale. Sometime in 1988, I bought my first painting by an artist named C, Passage. The painting was of the garden at the Hotel Maison Deville in the French Quarter. He was selling the painting for $75.  I wanted the painting at a cheaper price so I stood there and kept looking at the painting. I told him how much I enjoyed the colors. Whatever I said or did must have worked because he offered the painting for $35. I still have and enjoy this painting for almost thirty years, it’s propped on a shelf in my house.  My Mom took me to see the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and Irma Thomas at either Audubon Zoo or park. I was introduced to the traditional  New Orleans jazz of sax, trombone, horns, and drums with an uptempo rhythm that made you feel good, I met the members of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band afterwards and told them how much I enjoyed their music. I enjoyed the rhythm and blues  songs of Irma Thomas. I was very fortunate to have someone with great musical taste, glad my Mom took me to see the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and Irma Thomas. For my sixteenth birthday, I wanted to go to the New Orleans Jazz& Heritage Fesitival. At the time, I was into Robert Cray who had a popular song  ” Smoking Gun”.  Sometime in May at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage festival, I was lucky to see Etta James, The Fabulous Thunderbirds and Robert Cray.  I was familiar with Etta James. My Mom had a copy of her great live album called ” Rocks The House” which had great tracks like ” Seven Day Fool” or ” Something’s Got A Hold Of Me. She also did a cover of “I Just Want To Make Love To You” by Jimmy Reed. Watching Etta James at the Jazz and Heritage festival was great. About thirty or more years after ” Rocks The House”, she still had a great voice and stage presence, soulful and rocking.  After Etta James, it was the Fabulous Thunderbirds who featured the older brother of Stevie Ray Vaughn named Jimmy.  The band played their style of Texas blues with a rocking feel. My favorite songs were ” Tuff Enuff” and their version of ” Wrap It Up” which was originally done by Sam& Dave.  The Fabulous Thunderbirds wrapped up their set. Then, Robert Cray took the stage and played songs from his recent album ” Strong Persuader” which featured ” Smoking Gun” and my personal favorite ” Right Next Door( Because Of Me). He played some older songs like ” Bad Influence”.  By this time, I was close to the stage and had a great view of the band, this gave me a great memory. Over a year later , my first music review for the Maury High School newspaper in Norfolk would be Robert Cray’s followup to ” Strong Persuader” called ” Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark” . Twenty seven years after seeing Robert Cray in New Orleans, I would see him perform at the Peace Center in Greenville. When I moved to Mandeville,  one of the first songs I bought was the new single by Phil Collins and Philip Bailey called ” Easy Lover. The song had a great bass guitar line and guitar parts. The drumming was very good. I enjoyed the vocals of Phil Collins and Philip Bailey. Naively, I dedicated this song to someone at a junior high dance, I later found out what the lyrics meant. I thought she would enjoy the song because it was danceable and this sounds cliche-it had a great beat or rhythm.  This was a teachable  moment for me.  After that, before dedicating a song, I would listen to the lyrics so I would not make the same mistake.  Someone would not get the wrong idea, become annoyed or upset and have their boyfriend talk to me.  Back to Phil Collins and Philip Bailey, I was familiar with Earth, Wind and Fire and Genesis. I had heard ” Let’s Groove” by Earth, Wind  and Fire and ” That’s All” by Genesis on the radio. I wanted to know more about the band called Genesis. This is hard to believe for people who are teenagers now. There was no internet or music app where you could learn about bands, you had to read books or magazines to find more information about older and newer bands.  I bought a book about Genesis and was shocked to learn that Peter Gabriel was a member of this band.  Genesis had a guitarist named Steve Hackett who played on their earlier albums. Steve Hackett would be my first concert experience when he would play at the Saenger Theater with GTR in the summer of 1986.  At the time GTR’s big song was ” When The Heart Rules The Mind”. My brothers attended the concert with me. The opening acts were Steve Hackett playing acoustic material from his solo albums and his former band Genesis and Steve Howe who was a member of GTR playing acoustic material from his solo albums  and from his other band called Yes.  To be honest,  I enjoyed Steve Hackett’s acoustic material played on a guitar with nylon strings, had a mixture of Flamenco and Classical like Segovia, relaxing and engaging. Years later, I wrote him a letter and told hm how  much I enjoyed his music and that his music inspired my poems.  He wrote me and told me that he was glad that he inspired my poetry. Also, I have autographed copies of  his later albums-” From The Tunnel’s Mouth ” and ” Wolflight” . A good example of his acoustic playing are his albums ” Bay Of Kings”, “Momentum” and ” Metamorpheus”.  While on the subject of Genesis, I was introduced to Peter Gabriel who was the original singer of Genesis by purchasing his albums at Sound Shop at the Hammond Mall and at a local record and tape store called Sound Trak in Mandeville. The two albums I purchased and enjoyed were Peter Gabriel 3 or the melting face cover and Peter Gabrel 4 or known as ” Security”. My favorite songs on 3 were ” Games Without Frontiers”, ” Not One Of Us” and ” Biko”. ” Games Without Frontiers” introduced me to the vocals of Kate Bush.  I enjoyed the  lyrics about children playing silly games. I could identify with the lyrics of ” Not One Of Us” -not feeling you were part of the group which made me feel better. Someone knew how I felt. The song ” Biko” made me aware of the death of anti -apartheid activist Steve Biko in 1977. The song inspired me to learn about the anti-apartheid movement which was the South African version of the civil rights movement in America. I was familiar with some of the songs on 4 or “Security”, I remember hearing ” Shock The Monkey” when I lived in California. The opening track of the album” Rhythm Of The Heat” had this percussive beat that reminded me of Senegal, though the drummers were from Ghana.  The other track I enjoyed was  “Wallflower” which was either about a political prisoner or a patient at a mental hospital. It may have been before or after purchasing the album that I heard instrumental tracks from this album and the previous album  while watching  the film “Birdy” , Peter Gabriel composed and performed the music soundtrack for the film. ” Birdy” was based on  a book by William Wharton. After  seeing the film, I read the book by William Wharton. He has been an influence on my writing and is one of my favorite authors. In Norfolk, I would read a book called ” Dad”  by William Wharton that I enjoyed and I could identify with the characters. The book is about three generations in a family-the grandfather, father and grandson. Each chapter is told from a different perspective. It might be the grandfaher talking in one chapter. The next chapter might have the father who is the son of the grandfather talking.  The chapter after that would have the grandson talking. Though they were different ages, they were going through the same issues, dealing with the world around them.  At the time when I was living in Norfolk, my grandfather was living with us so I could identify with the characters.  Years later, while working at the Beaufort county library, I found a hardcover first edition of the book in the free book section. I picked the book up and took it home where I enjoy rereading the book.In 1986,  I was listening to a Classical station from the University of New Orleans.  The station would play avant garde composers like John Adams or Philip Glass. I enjoyed the minimalistic and complex compositions by Philip Glass. In the summer of 1986, I read that Philip Glass would be giving a lecture and presentation at Loyola University. I asked my Mom to drive me there so I could attend the event. Philip Glass gave a lecture where he discussed his compostions and played excerpts from his operatic works. After the lecture , there was a question and answer session, I asked him what album would he recommend as an introduction to his compositions. He recommended ” Glassworks”.  Also, I asked for his autograph . He graciously obliged and gave me his autograph which I still have. Lastly, a record shop I would frequent in the French Quarter was Record Ron’s which was owned by a big intimidating yet friendly man named Ron. He had gray hair in a ponytail and a beard. I made many purchases at his store. This was my introduction to obscure bands like Jade Warrior and Nektar. The reason why I bought these albums is that they were cheap and I liked Jade Warrior’s album covers.  Record Ron had a great promotion or incentive for customers. If you saved your bags from Record Ron’s- a minimum of ten bags would get you a free album. So I saved my bags until there were ten. Then , I received a free album. Also, I had him sign the bag which had an illustration of him. I still have the bag. The heat of New Orleans inspires a rhythm of  creativity of art and music.. I was fortunate to hear the different sounds of music and appreciate art from Jackson Square.

” Success is how you you deal with failure and  a willingness to rise above everything” -this quote was said by me in an interview with  a magazine in Okinawa who graciously printed several of my poems. I would also add it is important to surround yourself with people who encourage and enjoy your  work. Every so often, if you are doing something wrong or need constructive feedback, they can give an honest opinion and you can learn from your mistakes. In the past thirty years, I have had music reviews published in my high school newspaper and that high school newspaper won an award for being the best newspaper in the Chesapeake, Norfolk and Virginia Beach area.  When I graduated high school and moved to Okinawa, I had poems published in a weekly magazine and won an award for being the best associate with a disabillity for the Army and Air Force Exchange for the Pacific region which included Guam, Japan, South Korea and the Phillippines. I worked in music retail.  The Army and Air Force exchange is like a retail store for military personnel and their families.  When I moved from Okinawa, to Beaufort, South Carolina-I had poems published in an anthology. The anthology had a very positive review in the local newspaper. It is now out of print but a copy is in a college library.  Inspired by my elementary school librarian, I started volunteering at a church library in Beaufort. This led to a job at the Beaufort county library where I worked for six years until I moved to Greenville, South Carolina and worked in the Greenville county library until 2007. By the way, I have several collections of poetry in the Beaufort and Greenville county libraries. In 2005. an entertainment magazine of the Greenville News published an article of songs that I  would like to hear on my playlist. What is remarkable is that this was an unsolicited submission. My playlist included songs by Sonny Sharrock,Eddie& The Hot Rods,  Van Der Graaf Generator,Smokey Robinson& The Miracles,The Saints, The Mockers, The Lazy Cowgirls , Jenny Burton, Cactus, The Flamin’ Groovies , Thin Lizzy and Robert Gordon. Some of the groups may have been unknown to the readers of the newspaper. Also, I was the first of the four sons to buy a home and the only one to not graduate from college. I bought my first home in Beaufort , SC in 1997. Six years later through a miracle of God, it sold for almost double the value, I attended church regularly after that. When I moved to Greenville, I bought a second home where my personal belongings are safe. I make sure to lock the doors.  When I attended St. Matthew United Methodist Church, the music director of the worship band asked to me write a lyric  for a worship song. It took me about  thirteen minutes to write the lyric. Later, he recorded the song at worship and at a studio with his father who is a member of the Country music hall of fame. Years later, I wrote a review about a band from Australia . The singer of the band  read the review and liked what I wrote. I sent the singer a message and told him I wrote lyrics. Two hours later after sending him the message, he sent me a finished song with my lyrics that I enjoy and treasure. Now I would like to go back to Norfolk because this is where the turnaround began.  When I arrived in Norfolk, Virginia -I was determined to improve my grades and become a better person. I wrote a list of rules for myself and followed them-one of my rules was to be mentally and physically healthy. I began working out at a nearby gym and playing basketball. I learned an important life lesson.  Whenever I would try to put the ball into the basketball  net, I would always go to the furthest spot from the net. Then, I would attempt to put the ball into the basketball net and always miss. One day, a man gave me some great advice, move closer to the net and you will be more likely to put the ball into the net. I took his advice and was more successful in putting the ball into the basketball net.  The same advice could be used for setting goals.  Sometimes, we set a goal that is hard to achieve and we fail so we give up. It’s like expecting a toddler to run a marathon when the toddler is learning to crawl.  Be happy that the toddler can crawl and has encouragement to walk.  When you have a goal, start small, before you are going to be published, you will have to learn to write. It might take days,  months or years. Find people who share a similar interest in music or writing and are genuinely interested in being a friend. Read various authors and listen to different kinds of music,  I was lucky to have a subscription to Twilight Zone magazine and be introduced to authors of great stories. Stories that stirred the imagination, kept you entertained, made you think, made you laugh and made you weep. I had so many teachers at Maury High School who encouraged me and gave me constructive positive feedback. Some have passed away and some are my friends today. I was lucky to go to record stores in Norfolk like Skinnie’s and Offbeat who introduced me to different music.  I met people who enjoyed my poetry. I had poems published in the literary magazine of Maury Hgh School and I was an assistant editor of the Maury High School literary magazine called The Cache. Today, I have friends from different countries and walks of life who have inspired me with their creativity and willingness to listen, people from as far away as Australia. India, The Netherlands, England,  Canada, Colombia and various parts of the United States.  An example is a singer and band in Burbank that took the time to talk to me and enjoy my sense of humor. Without expecting it , they gave me a handwritten set list of songs that were played so I can  remember the songs and have a great memory.  Another example is communicating with a songwriter  I admire and respect, taking a chance and giving him my address. Without expecting it, I received  signed  posters from the songwriter thanking me for my support. Success is how you deal with failure and a willingness to have patience and perseverance to find a  way to achieve realistic goals. Encouragement and hope is all around me and you. It begins with me. It begins with you.

” I’m fine because I have my house keys, I can go back to class.” After saying, that , I had my second seizure and then my third seizure in the ambulance . The first seizure happened in an English literature class at Mandeville High School in September, 1987. The three seizures happened in one day. This was the lowest and worst part of the bad years between 1985-1988. In the summer of 1986, I had started crying for no reason and becoming withdrawn. Occasionally, I would faint or lose consciousness. My grades were declining in junior high due to poor study habits and a teacher noticed I was daydreaming and had to be told ” to get to work”. Maybe, I was just being a teenager and rebelling or acting out. Looking back, these behaviors might have been early symptoms of a neurological disorder or  Epilepsy. I thought I was depressed so I asked my parents if I could see a psychologist. Perhaps he or she could listen to my problems and help me get back to being healthy and improving my mental behavior.  I started seeing a psychologist who  had a practice near our subdivision . We were having a great patient and doctor relationship. It was great to be able to trust  someone with your deepest thoughts  and have someone who would help you understand what was happening. The reason why I stopped going to  the psychologist was because of an incident that happened there. During a session, he asked me to bring my junior high yearbook. I assumed he was going to point out the many autographs  I had acquired and tell me how much people liked me and I was not alone . The opposite happened. I gave him the yearbook and he looked at the autographs and told me that what they wrote about being my friend was not true. Now, I get his point,  some people will write things to be polite and there is no deeper meaning. Most people my age would  have become angry or upset. I sat there, stunned. That was the last time I wanted to see and talk to a psychologist. After that, being alone and figuring things out for yourself seemed like a healthy alternative and  a better way of living. I hope the psychologist has improved his beside manner with his patients. The other bad thing that happened was that I wrecked our family’s new car. The summer of 1986 was when I was making the transition from junior high to high school. I thought it would be a good idea to take driver’s education so I could learn how to drive and get an early start getting adjusted to high school. My driver’s education teacher was the head coach of the basketball team that I would  manage.  I made friends with my classmates who were already attending high school and my classmates enjoyed talking with me. The driver’s education teacher rode along with me and we travelled on I–12 and some various roads around St. Tammany parish,  I was very nervous and anxious while driving, his hair might have turned gray or white while driving with me. While I was attending driver’s education, my parents had just purchased a brand new blue Honda Accord, they had not made the first payment. I was not doing well in class. My Dad was out of town and returning the next day. Mom thought it would be a great idea if I practiced driving in the new blue Honda Accord around the subdivision, using a stick shift. We were driving down the roads where there were no houses or  cars. There was a slight mist.  Mom was impressed with my driving. I handled the stick shift well. I was using the correct signals and was a very calm and relaxed driver.  All that changed when we turned into a cul-du-sac or dead end. I had never driven on a cul-du-sac before. I panicked and froze. I stepped on the gas pedal instead of the brake and slammed into a tree. My Mom and I were fine but the car  was wrecked and needed repairs. Complicating things, I did not have a permit so when the police arrived to make a report. My Mom had to tell them that she was driving. Also, the next day my Dad would be returning home to find out his brand new car had been wrecked, not a pleasant situation.   The day arrived and my Dad returned.  That day, I was a coward, turned out the lights and locked my bedroom door. I was expecting my Dad to be angry and upset, I would have felt that  way, his reaction surprised me. I remember him opening the door of the house and calling out my Mom’s name.  She started to cry. He asked her, ” What happened?” She replied, ” We wrecked the car!” There was a long pause and silence, I think he left the room to collect his thoughts and take a deep breath. His next question, ” Was someone hurt?” She replied, “No”.  There was a long silence and then he said,” Glad no one was hurt. We can repair the car” . Since then, I have never driven a car,  I do not feel comfortable driving. I am aware of my limitations. This is why I walk  everywhere and choose to live in a place where I can walk to eat, shop and go to appointments within walking distance. The last thing that happened that made this the bad years was my Dad  was going to be transferred to Norfolk, Virginia and we were supposed to move with him. Unfortunately, the real estate market took a downturn. It was the summer of 1987.  I was ready to start over. I would have to wait for ten months before heading to Norfolk, Virginia. On the first day of school, people were surprised to see me , some would ask, ” You’re still here?.  The same month that I had my first music reviews published in the high school newspaper, I had my first Grand  Mal  epileptic  seizure  during an English literature class at Mandeville High School . After I had collapsed and lost consciousness, instead of calling an ambulance and rushing me to a hospital, whoever was  there asked one of the coaches to take me to the office where I could sleep it off. When I awoke at the office, I felt my house keys , walked out and told the secretary that I felt fine. I collapsed and had another seizure. The secretary promptly called  the ambulance. I had my third seizure while in the ambulance. The rest of my school year in Louisiana was a long and miserable one.  The bad years ended in April, 1988 when I moved to Norfolk, Virginia.

Kick the ball into the net and hit the ball off the tee, my life in sports started in northern Virginia. I was a proud member of the Kings who were an indoor soccer team of the Dale City Recreational Center. Our uniforms were black with white lettering. Later, I played outdoor soccer with the neighborhood outdoor soccer teams called the Cobras and the Aztecs. My brief taste of glory happened on the last game with the Aztecs. An opposing player was moving down the field with the ball. I used my legs to steal the ball and head toward the goal. I kicked. The goalie missed and the ball rolled into the net. I was so excited and so were my teammates. They thought I had  scored a goal.  This was not the case, the ball touched a teammate’s leg so my teammate made the actual goal.  On the bright side, I was credited with an assist.  I enjoyed playing T-ball with the neighborhood team called the Pirates. Our uniforms were purple and white. We were named after the Pittsburgh Pirates who won the World Series. T-ball is different from baseball. Instead of a pitcher throwing a curveball or fastball to you, you had to hit a ball that was placed securely on top of the tee which was a standing pole. It sounds easy but when you are young, it is very easy to miss hitting the ball. According to a clipping from the local paper from years ago,  I hit a triple and single, meaning players  on my team scored runs or points due to someone on the opposing team not being able to catch the ball that I hit into left, center or right field. My career in soccer and T- ball lasted from 1978-1980.  I was active in physical education in elementary, junior high , and high school. My next involvement in team sports happened at Mandeville Junior High. One of the players on the junior high football team asked me if I wanted to be a manager.  Naively, I thought I would be like a baseball manager, have an office and be able to tell the players what to do. Also, I thought this would make me more popular and attractive to female classmates.  I was in for a surprise, I was in charge of equipment and was responsible for making sure that the football team had everything they needed like  footballs, towels, and water to win the game. I relearned something about sports, players did not just play on game day, there were intensive practices before the games. The coaches made sure that the players memorized and knew each play so that they would be prepared when they would play a game against an opposing team. The coaches made sure that I performed my job correctly, making sure I had all the equipment ready on and off the field. They let me know when they were not happy if I did something wrong, they treated me as if I were a player. Our junior high football team did well that year. Before the last game. the head coach called me into his office and told me to suit up or wear a uniform. Against Boyet Junior High, I wore the white helmet with blue shirt and white pants, 20 was my uniform number . I did not play but was happy being next to coaches and team players who appreciated my hard work.  I had so much fun being the football manager, I became the baseball manager. When I attended Mandeville High School, I became the manager of the freshman football team. Our team did much better than the varsity team which did not do that well. We were undefeated but then we lost to Hammond High School. I remember a big varsity football team player came up to me and gave me a hard time about our team losing. I looked at him and said, “Well, at least , we win games.”  He gave me the finger and I walked away. We both laughed. Back then, I was fearless.  The coach of the freshman football team was also the coach of the junior varsity basketball team. He called me ” Fast Andy” because I was quick, dependable and reliable. He told the head varsity basketball coach about me. I became the basketball manager. That year, our school grew in size and was promoted to a bigger and better conference. Unfortunately for Mandeville High School, it meant the other teams were bigger and better. The final scores had Mandeville High School on the losing side.  As a result, the head  varsity basketball coach would lose his temper and become angry at anyone who might be near him during and after a game. Whenever he would take off his jacket, someone was in trouble. Don’t  take it personally, it’s just the moment and not really about you.  When I left for Norfolk, Virginia  due to  our house finally selling after months on the market, he wrote in my yearbook that I was the best helper he had. I wasn’t  so bad. Also, he gave me a Mandeville High School keychain which I still have. At my next school I focused more on academics and literary efforts,  this ended my life in sports.

It happened so  fast, the horse and the cart crashing through the backseat window of the Malibu station wagon.  The station wagon was bought in Lake Ridge and shipped by  a freight ship across the Atlantic Ocean to Dakar.  It was colored beige and had a seat  facing the back window.  Luckily, I was in the front seat and Mom was driving.  We had left a talk by Michel Renaudeau  sponsored by the United States Embassy.  Michel Renaudeau was a photographer whose photos were in many books about  countries. His photography in books about Senegal, The Gambia, Cape Verde, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau , Mali  and Mauritania are on my bookshelf and are treasured souvenirs of my time there. Renaudeau holds the distinction of being the first person I asked for an autograph.  He was surprised, pleased and wrote his name on a card I still have.  Back to the horse cart and Malibu station wagon,  the horse had lost its footing and crashed into the back window of the Malibu station wagon.  A crowd had gathered and police were called. We were nervous and not sure what was going to happen. After talking to the police, it was decided the best way to handle this situation was to drive to the United States Embassy with the driver of the horse cart  sitting behind us in the Malibu station wagon.  It was a weekend so there was usually not someone there.  We waited at the front door with the horse cart driver.  After a few minutes. someone we knew came and helped us. He talked to the horse cart driver and told him in French that he was lucky we did not want to press charges. The horse cart  driver had to find his way home. I hope someone picked him up. After that incident, we were very careful around horse carts.  That was not the only incident that included the Malibu station wagon. When we moved from California to Louisiana. we had no definite idea of what house would be our home.  We carried some valuable possessions in the Malibu station wagon. For me, it was my coin collection and new red shoes that my parents bought me. For my parents and my family, it was jewelry from West Africa and our medical records .  Arriving in Louisiana, we stayed at a motel in Covington that was next to a fast food restaurant.  This was the summer of 1984. Mandeville was known for its seafood festival and my family thought it would be a great idea to see and  taste the food of Louisiana. I remember seeing a local hard rock band called  Strait Face play a cover of ” Sister Christian”.   After walking through the festival, we decided to eat a restaurant called Bechac’s located  across from Lake Pontchartrain. We enjoyed a wonderful meal of Crawfish Etoufee. My parents paid and we walked outside. It was almost nightfall. Unfortunately, someone forgot to lock the doors. What was inside of the station wagon was stolen and could not be replaced-the jewelry from West Africa and our medical records. At the time, I was more upset about losing my coin collection and red shoes.  The West African jewelry and other items could have been found in pawn shops in Washington or St. Tammany Parish.  If I handled the case, this is where I would have looked. After  that, whenever we stepped out of the Malibu station wagon, we always  locked the doors and never left important possessions in there. Malibu station wagon had some great memories. My Mom took my brothers and me from California to South Carolina so we could attend our grandparents fiftieth anniversary and meet up with our Dad. On this cross country trip, we saw Coalinga which had just had a major earthquake and we spent the night in Barstow located in the Mojave. The next day , we travelled through northern Arizona and saw the Grand Canyon. I was surprised to see trees in Arizona, I always assumed it was desert and cactus. The climate is different in northern Arizona.  While staying near the Grand Canyon, we saw Navajos performing tribal dances. We stopped and toured where a meteor left a huge crater in Arizona. In New Mexico, we stopped in Gallup and saw inebriated or  drunk Navajos walking the streets. In Albuquerque, we visited the downtown area where they sold Navajo jewelry. We were denied service at a well-known restaurant chain in Tucumcari, long before they were sued by customers for discrimination. I do not remember much of Texas, Amarillo seemed nice. The best part about Oklahoma City was the Cowboy hall of fame.  Other highlights include visiting Mud Island in Memphis, Tennessee. Mud Island was and still is a place that has outdoor concerts, museums and recreational activities for families. I enjoyed walking around Mud Island. The day we were there, Luther Vandross was playing a concert., We visited the Country music hall of fame in Nashville. On the way back , we took a different route and saw the many dams of Paducah, Kentucky, Dinosaur national park in Colorado, Mormon tabernacle in Utah and we stayed at not one of the best motels in Reno, Nevada.  My parents sold the Malibu station wagon to our postman. Hopefully, he kept the doors locked and was very careful around horse carts.