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HONORS AND AWARDS

ShoesIt was the greatest tribute he could have been given.

He lived a honorable life; a loving husband, a doting father. He was the perfect son and brother, a hard-working employee and he did works of charity. Christopher Blandings only did what he had been put on this earth to do.

There were times that he wondered if it was all worth the trouble. Christopher was never one for accolades and acknowledgements; most of his meanderings were done in the strictest anonymity. It was just that the world seemed so out of step with the morals he was raised upon. People never seemed to understand or appreciate the way things were. Blandings was baffled.

His wife sympathized with her mate, but being almost a decade younger than he, she straddled the fence between the generations. But she believed in his good and kind heart. She loved his honesty and his loyalty. He surprised her on occasion with breakfast in bed or a tender back rub. And he had a fire burning deep within him that made Jessica lose control. There was nothing bland about Blandings.

She loved her man. She loved Christopher right up to the day he died. Sadness and grief were not emotions to which she prescribed. Jessica knew life was a celebration. And death was clearly an extension of that celebration. In his passing, she saw that her Christopher did not go unnoticed. As the funeral processed to the cemetery she became aware of something. The telephone wires were adorned with shoes. Their laces bound together, they were tossed aloft to wrap around the overhead lines. There were well over a hundred pairs hanging; she witnessed people removing their footwear and adding to the milieu.

Puzzled, she questioned the undertaker. His explanation brought a tear to her eye and a flicker in her already gracious heart.

“When a person passes, tradition had the mourners remove their shoes and by draping the secured pairs over the wires, pay homage to the person so loved. The more shoes that dangled, the more respected was the deceased.” he informed.

Again Jessica looked. And the tear were more abundant now. The entire route to his resting place was graced with shoes. Hundreds and hundreds of pairs pointed to his life as one well lived; having touched many hearts.

It was the greatest tribute he could have been given.

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GIVE A DAMN!

“…if Bonnie Blue could weather the storm of war to remain standing, then Scarlett and Rhett could find the ground upon which to rebuilt their foundation!”

Rhett Butler had left Tara. He was fed up with all that the South had become. Atlanta lays in ruin, and it seems the heart of Georgia had ceased to beat. But Rhett had come to the point where he just didn’t care any longer. He worried about getting through the rest of the day. Tomorrow had to care for itself for a while.

The smoke was affecting his breathing, and his cough had turned raspy and painful. Rhett Butler had gone a mile down the road before he even turned back toward the plantation. He did indeed love Scarlett O’Hara. He just didn’t know why the lady needed to be so headstrong and confident.

He walked on down the trail passing hulled out houses and shacks unfit for habitation. He saw the servants and house staff of one of the mansions standing outside of its smoldering shell, not knowing what to do, or more correctly, where to go. They didn’t want to suffer the fate of their escaped brethren in lieu of these circumstances.

Along the way he stopped in his tracks. Rhett had come to stand at the gate of the cemetery where he and Scarlett had buried their daughter, Bonnie Blue. The wall was crumbled and many of the headstones were flattened to the ground. But one stood above the rest. Bonnie’s marker was crooked, but still upright.

Rhett thought that this was a sign from beyond the grave; Bonnie Blue was speaking to him. He figured it said that if Bonnie Blue could weather the storm of war to remain standing, then Scarlett and Rhett could find the ground upon which to rebuilt their foundation and re-establish Tara.

Scarlett at upon the top step of her grand staircase when she heard the strong rapping on the door. She rushed down the steps to the bottom and then stopped to compose herself. She discerned the shadow at the door through the glass. Scarlett knew it was Rhett.

“Who is it?” She called coyly.

“You know damn well who it is! Scarlett, open the door!”

“Why should I open the door when you were ready to leave me on my own?” Scarlett demanded an answer. “Maybe I’ll feel differently tomorrow. Come back then!”

“But Scarlett, I love you! Why not let me in now?” Rhett reasoned.

“Because tomorrow… is another day! You say you love me, but right at the moment, I don’t give a damn!” she finalized.

“Damn, damn, damn!” she heard Rhett mutter as his footsteps faded down the cobblestone.

OLD BLACK MEN OF CERTAIN IMPORT

But mostly they would sit and watch the world go by.

Calvin Watkins had been around the circuit for a long time, playing the jazz clubs in Chicago, and Cleveland. He even made it back home to Buffalo to serve up his sweet trumpet sound at the Colored Musicians Club. He recalled the nights he had spent in the smoky dimness listening to the likes of Ellington and Basie, Ella and “Lady Day”. His big break came the night Art Blakey invited Calvin onto the platform to fill in for his horn player. Blakey picked him up for the tour, travelling down South on the “chitlen’ circuit”. Calvin had stories to tell, for sure.

But his biggest accomplishment came when he met up with William “Boney” Claxson, who along with Claxson’s cousin, Edwin James, formed the Calvin Watkins Trio. Three musicians steeped in the roots of jazz, tempered in the blues, and honored countrywide for their smooth and soulful sound. They didn’t just make music. In a way, they reinvented it!

Eventually, the sounds evolved in many ways. And the fifties started to toll the knell for musicians such as the trio. The small intimate clubs started to disappear, opting for larger venues. And people wanted to hear the “new music”. The rock and roll train was catching steam, and although having had its roots in old gospel, rhythm and blues, it steered away from its origin in many ways.

The trio had a good run. But they had seen better days. Calvin still frequented the clubs that remained, resettling in Buffalo and the CMC. “Boney” joined him years later when James had been killed in a drive-by shooting while exiting the corner store. Edwin’s luck had run out as he clutched his lottery tickets, slumped on the pavement in a pool of his blood. He was dead before any response had been affected.

Calvin and “Boney” would sit on the bench outside of the club and reminisce. They traded stories about the great musicians they had known, and the clubs and the discrimination that they faced both as black men and musicians. They’d play their version of “Name That Tune”, whistling melodies from the day. But mostly they would sit and watch the world go by. And Calvin and Claxson never let a day go by when they would not pay homage to Edwin James and the talented men and women of the Colored Musicians Club.

Their memories brushed the same years. “Brothers” who battled their age and their fears. Oh, what a time it was…

CLICK HERE FOR A HISTORY OF THE COLORED MUSICIANS CLUB

MARTIN’S VICTORY

Photo courtesy of gigisplayhouse.org

Martin Scales had been preparing for this day for months. Training with his father gave Martin a good feeling. His smile could have tipped anyone off.

He did a lot of things with his Dad. The were father and son; they were pals. It was the biggest thrill when they arrived in the morning for his first 5K race. Martin wasn’t sure if he would finish, but he was going to give his maximum effort.

Dean Scales was apprehensive at first,but Martin had all the determination of a warrior. It would serve him well.

Dean pinned the large number on Martin’s back. His son felt like an athlete and Dean couldn’t be anymore proud that Martin decided to attempt this race. The starter fired his pistol and the pack was off. Dean and Martin kept a steady pace, but the groups of runners left them in their wake quickly.

Martin gave a valiant effort and his father would not have blamed him if Martin wanted to stop. But looking over his shoulder he saw his son; the little engine that wasn’t going to be stopped.

Martin’s breathing was heavy and sweat poured off his forehead. His face was red, but his arms churned up and down, driving his pace. Dean slowed up to stay close to Martin, feigning shortness of breath.

“Want to call it quits, son?” dean huffed.

“NO!” Martin said as he hurried past his Dad.

Dean was so in awe of his son, and follow his lead. They continued along the route and Dean noticed the crowds of spectators was getting sparse and the sky was darkening quickly. He was committed to helping Martin see this through.

Two and a half hours had passed. There were no other runners in sight ahead of them. Martin stumbled and fell, skinning his knee. Tears streamed down his cheek as he rubbed his wound.

“Martin?” Dad pleaded.

The young man sniffed in the next tear and rose to his feet, flexing his knee. And he began again. One hundred yards to the finish line. Workers were removing the barriers and cleaning up the staging area. They stopped when they saw Martin.

The foreman put his barrier down and started slapping his hand together. More people followed. Surprisingly, there was a crowd of people still assembled at the finish line. Martin heard a familiar voice. His Mother called his name.

“C’mon Martin! A little more!”

Other people shout to him too. His face beamed. His knee didn’t hurt any longer. His father brought up the rear, watching as his son crossed the finish line arms aloft.

The crowd surrounded Martin. They shook his hand. His Mother embraced him. People continued to cheer.

And Dean stood amazed that his Down Syndrome son was able to finish his race. It was a complete victory long after the last runner had preceded Martin Scales over the final line. It was Martin’s victory. It tasted sweet, as victories should.