Ace Butler and His Long, Tricked Out Lincoln (A Short Story)


 

 

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  Ace Butler and His Long, Tricked Out Lincoln

 

        By Elam McKnight

 

We had always called him Ace, since we were little and when he used to jump so high, into the air of the gym during a basketball game, it seemed his long, dark fingers would touch the steel beams that supported the gym’s roof. Ace was not his God given name, it was actually Fredrick, but the old men in town tagged him with Ace when he was little, back when he would run errands for them down at the pool hall where they played cards and snooker.

He’d usually be propped up against his car that sat on Freemont, three streets over from the school, and sometimes he’d holler “Hey young boy, go get me a pack of Kools!”

We’d march on down to the little market on main with our instruction and ask Mr. Jenkins, an ancient man with a balding scalp and horn rimmed glasses, for a pack of Kools.

He would say “ boys you know I can’t sell you no cigarettes.”

And we’d answer “they are for Ace.”

And he’d give them right over and reach for his green, cloth, ledger book and mark Ace down. We’d return with them and Ace would say something like “cool young brothers, solid.”

 

Once, one of the older black boys in the group said “Christopher ain’t no brother, he white.”

 

And Ace shook his head and said “Naw bruh, he cool.”

 

That made me smile.

 

To me and Black Dan there was no cooler cat we had ever known, short of Dr. J and Prince (but they were on T.V.), than Ace Butler, period. He had one of those bubble Afros and he still wore stacks, when he was not wearing his high top Chucks to play ball. The car he would be propped against was a super long, mint green, 1978 Lincoln Continental he had supposedly gotten for playing ball up in Illinois, back when he scored 20 points on the Indiana Hoosiers.

Ace was smooth with a voice like Don Cornelius, but louder. You could be coming down the street, even late at night, in the cut between the yards, and its bass frequency would register all around. It carried outside. Go inside a house nearby and it would disappear, come back out and it was still there, like a steady breeze. If Ace was out, propped up on his car, there was a good chance you would hear his voice.

He’d say “Hey young boy” and give you a little wave with his two long fingers of his right hand and thumb extended out, like he was flashing a baseball sign. He’d be at our little league games and all the folks would gather around him. He’d cheer for us little kids, tell us “get some dirt and rub it on your hands. Choke up on the bat young boy!” His bass heavy voice, with its bottom end, resonating through the chain link of the backstop. And even if you struck out he’d say something like “That’s OK young’un. You get em next time!”

Ace had played in the big time, been to school for two years up in the middle of Illinois. But then he came home and never went back. We had all been sure he would go pro and be playing against or with Dr. J or Magic Johnson one day. We thought he might even ‘D up’ Larry Bird, who I was supposed to like, because he was a white boy. It made my uncles yell at me when I said “Dr. J is the best.”

When we played pretend ball there was always a fight over who said “I’m Ace Butler” first.

 Ace would hold court most afternoons next to his car or on the courts. We would pass by his lonely car in the mornings and we’d hear, from the word on the street, Ace was usually sitting against the mint green Lincoln by about one in the afternoon. When we got out of school we’d always pass by and see him and a group huddled around jiving. You always heard him before you saw him, right before you rounded a corner, his voice in the trees, echoing off the houses and buildings. And his laugh took over his whole body then it seemed to take in the street and all its surroundings.

And on the courts, behind the big Baptist church, was Ace’s prominent domain. Before Ace some of the older white men from the church would run off the black kids in the afternoon but after Ace made our little town a name no one said a word, especially if Ace was there. He was a draw. People would come from as far as Memphis to try their luck and always leave with their tail between their legs. They would play 3 on 3 and Ace used two older guys who had made it to state years before, but they were strictly role players because no one, and I mean no one could hold Ace.

The losing three and their folks might get mad, talk a little bit and I guess nowadays it might be sort of dangerous with the way folks tote guns, but back then the worst thing might be a little threat here and there. The rule, with the older players, was once you lost you laid your money on the court, by the free throw line, and left the same way you came into the court. I never saw Ace lay a dime on that line, not once.

Then one day, on our way to the courts, Ace wasn’t there. His car was in its same spot and there were even some folks gathered about, but no Ace. Someone said they thought he was sick. Then, the next day, no Ace. Then the next the same, no Ace. This went on for weeks. The talk started around that Ace had gone to try out for the NBA. Some folks said he was wanted by the sheriff and skipped town or the whole of Northwest Tennessee, but none of us believed that. And the days passed until we stopped hoping to even know.

 The Lincoln sat there on the side of the street the whole time, like a dog waiting on its owner to return. The city made Ace’s folks move it off the street that spring and the grass grew up around the perimeter of it and two of the tires went flat, sitting hard on their rims. Black Dan and I started taking a different path across town so we did not see it.

But missing most was his voice. The streets seemed silent. The crew that used to congregate still did but it was never the same and at night the lonely street was the worst. The street lights from the city utility poles seemed dimmer and you could hear their lonesome hum where before there was laughter and a booming voice.

Summer passed and when fall gloomed towards winter the perennial bush’s dried brown foliage seemed like would never come back to green. And when we ignored the nightly buzz of the utility lights and the crush of winter leaves beneath our feet there was this silence, and it was no good.

The spring did return and later, summer and the days without school. Black Dan and I had worked up a job mowing some yards with a borrowed push mower with my father furnishing the gas. We just had to push that blamed thing all over town. One June morning, passing by Ace’s house we heard something. Both of us, with our habit of not wanting to even look over there to the house if we had to pass that way, looked straight ahead and walked as though we had not.  But I knew what I had heard.

 “Hey young boy” in a soft, almost whisper and Black Dan turned and looked at me, searched my face. Then I peered past the overgrown Lincoln and saw a shadow of a figure sitting on the porch swing.

 Then it spoke again “Hey young boy.”

The bright light of the sun was rising over the houses and we walked closer to the porch to let our eyes adjust to the shade. As the light dimmed and I could focus I saw him, it was Ace sure enough. ‘Ace was back!’ I thought but he looked really different. Gone was the bubble Afro and it was replaced with a close crop. His voice did not have the strength it usually had. And gone was what seemed like half his body weight. But I was overjoyed to see Ace again, back on his block.

 “Hey young boys. Go get me some Kools” and we obliged. Ace was back!

We motored down the street as fast as we could, leaving the mower in Ace’s yard. When we asked for the Kools at the counter Mr. Jenkins looked back at us through his horned rimmed glasses, it had been over a year.

“Boys you know better than that.”

“But they are for Ace.”

“Ace?” he said.

“Yes”

“Where he been?”

“Don’t know but he sent us.”

He grabbed a pack and handed them over.

“You boy’s tell Ace to come see me when he can” he said as he made his markings in his ledger.

We nodded and ran down the street, back to where Ace sat on his mother’s porch. He peeled the cellophane from the hard pack of squares.

 “Where you been Ace?” we asked, almost in unison.

 He tamped the box into his hand, three hard pops.

 “Been around.”

 “We haven’t seen you.”

 He stuck one of the Kools between his lips.

 “Maybe I didn’t want to be seen?”

 “What for?” I asked.

 “Youngboy” he pulled the smoke into his lungs as he lit it with a match he struck off the coarse stone of the porch “you ain’t gotta know everything.”

 He said it firmly, but not mean.

 “We missed you Ace” Black Dan said weakly.

 Ace pulled at the Kool again then turned and spit over the ledge of the porch from his seat on the swing.

 “I missed you too. ” he said and stared down into the worn green paint of the porch.

“Now let me be.”

 We sauntered away, down the street, pushing the cling clanging mower. I was not sure how to feel and neither was Black Dan. He did not say so but we both knew and we did not talk about it for a long time as we finished our last two yards in the heat of the summer sun.

 Later we stowed the mower in the alley behind my father’s store and walked to our hiding spot, an empty train car on the tracks behind  the baseball fields. We sat with our feet dangling over the ledge of the box car, not saying a word. In our silence we sat until Black Dan sprung up and said
“I know what we can do!”

That night we gathered up the things we needed after Black Dan told me his plan. I crept out of my house and fetched an air tank from the shed. I had to be really quiet or my father would skin me bad. I felt like Huck Finn or Tom Sawyer sneaking out to wade the Mississippi or go play pirate along its banks. But we were not doing something quite so daring.

I met Black Dan at the corner where he waited with a bucket filled with the supplies we needed. Black Dan’s uncle was the best car detailer in the town. We quietly made our way to Ace’s neighbor’s house. They had a hose and we had told them we wanted to use it late that night to surprise Ace. The owner, a man new to the town, frowned at first and then we coughed up $10 and he said “alright as long as you don’t make too much noise. I work first shift at the factory and need my sleep.”

We eased the hose over to Ace’s car and as silently as we could we doused it with water and washed the year’s worth of dust off of it. There was not much light from the utility pole but just enough to see what we were doing. We wiped and soaped up the car two times, slowly rinsing it until all the dust was gone and it started to shine with the reflection of the water on its mint green skin.

We had four large towels and we hand dried it and then used them to buff the clear coat wax that Black Dan’s uncle swore by. We shined everything and even scrubbed the wheels with brillo pads and then waxed them too, after I aired the two flat ones up. We were both surprised they still held air. Then, to make the plan complete, we slowly opened the door to the driver side, slid the gear into neutral and both of us pushed it out into the street and turned it back into its old home, right in front of the house.

We stood back and admired our work. It shined like never before, bathed in the yellow light from the buzzing street lamp. Both of us agreed he would love it and we parted ways, sneaking back to our houses. I thought I was caught for sure going back into my bedroom window when I thought I heard by father’s footsteps in the hall. I lay really still on my bed and then the house became silent again except for the hum of the air conditioner in the front room.

The next morning we met up at the corner of Ace’s block. And there the car sat, even shinier than the night before with the morning sun reflecting off the clear coats of wax we had put on the night before. We brought a towel a piece and started buffing it again to make sure it was even more sparkling. As we wiped the slick surface of the car we heard Ace’s voice from the porch.

 “What ya’ll doing?”

 We both froze and looked to the porch. Ace was standing there on the top stoop. He ambled down to the sidewalk and slowly paced out to the street to where we stood.

My mouth did not want to work at first as I watched him take in the car,as if he was counting it by inches. He walked to the rear and looked it over. Then he looked down to the both of us.

 

“You did this?

We nodded and then I managed “we both just wanted to do something nice for you Ace.”

 He stared away from us, as though his eyes were focused on some distant vista that only he could see.

 “That was real nice young boys. Real nice” but he did not smile.

 “We thought you might want to ride around in it sometime Ace.”

 It was then that his eyes got foggy and water pooled up in them.

 “Well young boys… I don’t have much need for it anymore. But thank ya.”

 He looked off again.

 “I’ll be seeing you later” and without saying anything else he turned towards the house.

 We stood there for a little bit, not knowing what to do and then turned ourselves. And as he walked away, about halfway down the street, Ace’s booming voice returned once more.

 “That was real solid!”

 We turned to look for him but he was gone back inside. We both smiled.

Two weeks later Ace was dead. No one ever said what was wrong other than he was just gone. They loaded his car up on a wrecker a week after they buried him and we never saw it again. We stopped going down that street for a long time until one day it didn’t matter anymore.

 

 

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Eddie Murphy, paging Eddie Murphy: SNL NEEDS YOU!


I have not blogged in a while. Quite frankly I have tried to stay clear of the political fray other than the “now and again” comment on a friends post. And my inspiration for returning to my blog is not about politics as much as it is about a comedic happening that we cannot allow to pass from this earth without being expressed. This is a once in a lifetime chance and if it is pursued it will be, like Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams, quoting from the fictitious book in the film written by James Earl Jone’s character:

“There comes a time when all the cosmic tumblers have clicked into place and the universe opens itself up a few seconds to show you what’s possible.”

 

There is something screaming out there in the world. Right now it is just a whisper. But if enough people really wanted it to happen it could.

Eddie Murphy must return to SNL and play Anthony Scaramucci.

Not sure if everyone is up to date on the happenings surrounding the new White House Communications Director, in his short but blusterous tenure, but apparently he has a pretty colorful mouth on him. I honestly don’t want to publish the things he has allegedly said. I will direct you to this article RIGHT HERE  and RIGHT HERE where he is quoted as saying some pretty rough things.

**Warning it is not for children. Heck, after I read it I was not sure if it was for me.

So, you have this very vocal Italian American who has, as one of my friends, who is also an Italian American, put it “Thank you, Anthony “Mooch” Scaramucci, for reinforcing every horrible stereotype of Italian Americans.”

Many people now know Eddie Murphy as the voice behind some pretty famous cartoon and pixar characters. It is to the point that many people, especially the younger generations, who don’t really, for the most part know the true range of Mr. Murphy.

First thing many people might say “Eddie Murphy is a black guy.” Obviously, which leads me to exhibit A:

“So he can play an older Jewish man” you might say which leads me to exhibit B:

Warning: NSFW… There is cursing here.

eddie-murphy-italians

Oh forget it just google: Eddie Murphy does Italians. Trust me, he has it down!

There needs to be an online movement. Scratch that, there has to be an online movement to make this happen. Maybe Mr. Murphy is retired from the SNL for good. Maybe he does not do these type routines anymore. Even more the reason we need to make this happen. We will laugh so hard our faces will hurt the next day. This has the potential to be one of the funniest things ever to occur on national television.

And, lord knows, we could use some laughter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Steve Perry (Journey) returns to the stage


There is not that much good news in the music world these days. At least from a true performance standpoint with so many bands playing to click tracks and outright lipsyncing to a half filled stadium or a bunch of people jumping about in throngs and surrounding one guy with a turntable. Where did our live performers go? I know they are still out there but none are packing stadiums.
Then out of no where, out of left field, maybe even further back where the really big hitters drop homers into the street, walked Steve Perry. Who expected this?
And can he still deliver? Oh yes indeed! And he picked a very cool band, EELs, to come back out with. At least with the EELS you know they are going to be doing actual music and not a virtual performance propped up by backing tracks and dancers to distract you from the lack of music. The video evidences this. The man can still wail!
Here is what it makes me wonder: is this a sign that live music still has a place or was this the swan song everyone has been waiting for?

Rest in Peace Philip Seymour Hoffman and Everyone else Calm Down!


I was as shocked as any normal fan to hear of the tragic loss of this great actor. It is always so sad to hear someone who has gone off the rails and falls back into their disease. And it is much sadder to learn they also have children who will grow up without a father. But it seemed innocuous enough when I made a mere comment, about an article on Esquire magazine that the piece they did, just a few hours after it was announced Hoffman had died, missed the mark to me. Oh I should have known better.

http://www.esquire.com/blogs/culture/hoffman-junod

Read comment section of the article.

I will not labor anyone’s mind by going into this but let’s just say that my comment was not met with pleasure. I simply thought, out of respect for the man’s family, the writer could have waited on talking about the dirty details and how troubled the actor was and instead just let him be dead in peace, at least for the first 24 hours postmortem. Apparently I am a “bleeding heart who is pretentious”, “Ignorant” for not understanding the article’s intent, which I did, and “weird” for stating that there were children out there who are missing their father and probably very sad. I know there are trolls on the Interwebs but I suspect the “top commenters” on Esquire are a paid hit squad used to immediately attack anyone who comments are unfavorable about an article. Either that or they are just a cult of boring trolls who feed off one another for lack of something better to do. Nevertheless I removed my comment. 

Then I noticed reoccurring themes in other places. I cannot remember when a star’s death was so immediately divisive, I mean this is still so fresh that just now, at 4:00 p.m. CST, a full day has passed since his body was found. All over FB and Twitter people were vacillating between remorse, out and out disdain for the manner in which he died, and any other angle. I think I was finally pushed to write this after my comment “what a waste of an Awesome Human” was responded to with “He wasn’t too awesome he put a needle in his arm.” Which leads me to this. Addiction is not a “shaming” sport and those who engage in such do not understand the nature of it. I believe that it is no different if Hoffman had died of diabetes and people were all over the web commenting “yeah he should have stayed away from the jelly doughnuts” or “that is what he gets for drinking Coca-Cola.” Addiction is a disease and not a failing of character.

So all you folks out there…stand down on this one unless you are ready to feel some heat.

Rest in Peace Philip Seymour Hoffman and Fare the Well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Doctor said What? : Tampa Doctor Accused of vile mistreatment of Down syndrome


So I am flickering through FB when a post strikes my eye. It is on a friend’s wall and it reads just like this:

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I am an immediate skeptic, the usual half of what you hear and none of what you hear type, and started my usual Google Sleuthing. All the results I got at the time were apparent re-postings of the same post above, all over varying FB pages. There were a ton though.

Then I noticed the Google searches were coming back with a bit more validity. Then I found this blog post.

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And then this in the comment section:

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This person is apparently very real and I immediately found her FB page with this post:

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This appears to be true. I will await the Snopes.com report to come back but I am going to say that “my gut”, even without Nate Silver precision, tells me it is going to come back ACCURATE.

SO

If it is accurate what is to be done to the physician named above?

I can imagine parents and relatives of disabled children everywhere thinking it not a bad idea for him to be run out of town on a rail, or worse. I can imagine fates worse than death for someone who could be this cruel. Could he lose his medical license? I doubt it but he should.

Here is the point we miss so many times in out civilized, wired or even better, wireless society: we can mete out the punishment ourselves, and no I do not mean violent action, harassment, or anything even remotely illegal. If Anonymous has taught us anything it has taught us that power is within our grasp. Information is power and when properly focused, aimed, and fired it can land devastating blows, though figurative, often times just as painful psychically.

If this man said these words about this child, I am not saying he did, but if he did, then there needs to be a pulling away from his clinic and services the likes of which it is so fast that the next galaxy over can hear the sucking sound. And when he has lost his business, because the people have refused to stop coming, and he has to work at another place the people find out who runs that business and refuse their services and call all their administrators and make posts all over the internet and utilize their freedom of speech to say that this man is unacceptable. Then he will feel the pain he deserves.

He should be made to do a penance. What penance? I am not sure. I am probably not the one qualified to make it up but if I were it would include voracious public apologies, public service, and proof that he is willing to learn a new way of doing and do so, immediately. This man is a doctor so I am not sure what part of the equation he did not get in medical school or just simply did not learn in his travails being a human being but the time is now for him to change.

What if he chooses to refuse? He sounds arrogant enough that this might be a possibility. I mean why on earth would someone make such a comment if they did not feel an abundance of arrogance coursing through their veins? Even if someone thought in this manner I can only see some terrible dysfunction in ego being the source of them having such a FILTER Malfunction. 

If he refuses to make this right, to submit himself to the scrutiny, and make himself a better sentient being? Let the dogs have him.

But what we fail to realize, as a people, is that we hold all these scenarios in our collective hands. When a wrong is done we as a people can affect great change. Merely railing on FB or the Interwebz is just a beginning. We can move mountains if we all get on the same accord.

Power to the People

Don’t forget.

A Flag by any other name is still a flag of a traitor


 

 

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I am pretty sick of the drama surrounding this traitor flag. As a southerner we have many people who argue heritage but really fail to look at the implications of the south’s actions in the 1860’s. The rebellion of the south is treason, plain and simple, and to imagine it as anything else is silly. It is one of the most important parts of America’s history so it should not, by any means, be made light of or forgotten. We should study it and continue to learn lessons from it. We also need to be desperately honest with ourselves. I also think that so many of the rebel flag waivers would really not feel so embolden if they realized that their ancestors, especially mine,  were poor dirt farmers manipulated by the “gentry/aristocratic” minority into the most deadly conflict in America history to protect a way of life that only the rich were benefiting from. The south lost so many great men because of the war and it is no way to gauge what our future would have been like had not so many great, brave people died to save a way of life foreign to almost everyone.

Remember when James Agee told a reader to “F&^% Off?”…Yeah me neither


So
Some of you might have heard about Linda Tirado. She was the woman who wrote a moving piece about her personal experiences being poor in America. It first appeared on Gawker and because it was so poignant it became viral. I will not bore you with the details because, frankly, I am not well researched on her specific case or her background, but needless to say her words resonated throughout the “interwebs.”
You can read her story here.
Then a “journalist” from the Houston Press questioned the validity of this woman’s story and inferred, from how I understood her words, she was misrepresenting herself. To be fair the writer for the Houston Press, Angelica Leicht, was not the only writer who questioned the truth of Linda Tirado’s story. But this writer is the only one who decided to tell me to “F&^% Off.”
And that is really the substance of this blog.

Yes, an actual news reporter, or writer, or whatever title you chose to attach chose to lash out at a mere Tweet I made five days ago. And I did not even question her story. See Below:
Angelica Leicht EFF OFF 2

And really this is where I fall off the boat. This is the very reason our “news” these days is manufactured, mostly, by individuals who have no business publishing words for human consumption. Journalism is truly a lost art and so few actually practice it with any sense of professionalism.
Exhibit B:

Angelica Leicht EFF OFF 3

I also don’t remember a writer, from the era when journalism was considered a professional occupation, lashing out at one of their readers with ad hominem language. I am not going to question the writer’s product: her base examination of the validity of Linda Tirado’s story. They do a pretty good job of it here.
What I am going to point out is this: there is no wonder that the world is filled with misinformed people. We are being misinformed by people who have no business writing about heady subjects. These matters need to be left to professionals who know what writing is supposed to be and who are not simply hacking their way towards sensationalism. This writer seems more suited for TMZ type fodder, not real news. Examples of subjects she might approach could be: Adult Toys or the best bar to get smashed at in Houston,TX. She has already made her mark on these pressing social issues.

It is generally best for someone to stick with what they know and not get too far off the beaten path. This is the case with this writer. I do not care one whit if Linda Tirado was lying or not. Apparently she was not, from the backlash of articles I have read in the last few days defending her and presenting the timeline from Gawker which shows, clearly, she had to be pushed into publishing her original piece. It was that good.

Where I get confused and stymied is that a “journalist” would take the time to hurl an expletive at someone across the Twitter-verse who simply wondered, in a Tweet, if the writer had a twitter account. If I write something for the world to read I am going to stand by it and if someone disagrees with me so be it. They are my words, or at least the pattern of words I chose to string together. Have some confidence in what you put out there to the world or don’t write it at all. And for sure don’t hit publish or better yet, don’t tread in deep waters without your floatation device.

Much like Shakespeare’s Queen Gertrude “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”