Monthly Archives: July 2008


“You guys know what, and you’re not going to believe this. I read in the New York Times online paper that for fifty years White folks in a small town in Ohio wouldn’t let the Black folks in the Black community in the county have running water. Man, this was in the North in the twenty-first century. Can you believe that shit?” I was just a little agitated.

“Hell yeah, I believe it. I been telling you dummies that racism ain’t dead. Jim Crow, he still alive and kicking, and not just down here in the South.” Alvin was cutting Roscoe Jenkins’s hair. He owns one of the funeral homes in town.

Jabo refused to believe it. “Man, you readin one them blog things and you believe it.”

“It wasn’t a blog,” I said. “It was a news story by a reporter named Claire Suddath about a Black community that the Water Authority, County, and City refused to provide running water for fifty years, fifty years, man.”

“If you want to know if segregation is still prevalent,” Roscoe liked to use fifty cent words, “there’re two places to see it, in church on Sunday and in the cemeteries. I don’t handle the funeral of White folks, and I bury youall in the cemetery on (he named the street).”

Ever the optimist, Leroy, shook his head. “Things’re gettin better. You guys just don’t want to admit it. Youall ‘member when we couldn’t live in this part of town? Now we can live anyplace in the city.”

“Leroy,” I put him straight, “we live in this part of the city because the city tore down our neighborhoods to build the coliseum. Hell, they had to put us someplace.”

“What did those folks do for water?” asked Roscoe.

“They couldn’t sink any wells because the coal mines had polluted the ground water. So, they caught rain water to wash clothes and stuff.

“You sure it was in Ohio?” asked Jabo.

“Yes,” I replied. “The Water Authority provided running water to White folks who moved next door to a Black dude who had been denied running water. The Water Authority claimed no one from the Black neighborhood had ever requested water from the city. More precisely, they said it was for lack of demand that the Black community hadn’t been provided with running water.”

“Like I always say,” said Jabo, “we can’t win for losing.”

I continued my report, so to speak. “Black folks sued and won ten million dollars. Just like down here in the South, the authorities in the town blamed outsiders for their troubles, claiming there was no discrimination.”

“Old Jim Crow ain’t dead but we done put a big hurt on him, baby.” Alvin announced.

A statement with which we all agreed with a loud “Amen, brother.”



Filed under race


Alvin rattled the newspaper, and we, Jabo, Leroy, and I, knew he was about to express his displeasure at something.

“The government keeps tellin us poor fools that the economy is bad, real bad, and that things gonna get worse before they get better. Somebody in the government is lying,” he announced.

I took the bait. “What makes you think the government lying, Alvin.”

“You wanta know what makes me think that, well, I’ll tell you. If the economy is so bad, how is it the NBA teams can pay players, some of them guys sure ain’t worth the money they get, anyway, how can they pay them millions of dollars, huh, answer me that.” Alvin leaned back in the barber chair in his usual self-satisfied fashion.

“I know where you comin from Alvin,” said Leroy. “I betcha those guys don’t have no trouble paying for gas for those big cars they drive.”

Jabo, not be outdone, added his ten cents worth. “You know what I don’t like? I don’t like it when a guy asks for a million dollars more than the team offers and say he needs it to take care of his family. I mean, come on, he can’t take care of his family on the five million he already getting.”

“Well,” I said, trying to bring some sense to the conversation, “they can afford to pay the players a lotta money because they get money from television and fans who attend the games. You guys got remember, the players are making a living playing ball. It’s their job.”

“Man, it’s not just ballplayers who don’t seem to have no problem with the economy,” said Alvin. “Look at the money Obama is raisin supposedly from us little people. What I’m sayin is the money is out there cause somebody is still gettin rich. It just ain’t us poor people.”

“You got that right,” said Leroy. “Why just the other day, I paid a dollar and 98 cents a pound for tomatoes. And I don’t know if they the bad kind the government has been warnin us bout.”

“Yeah, those of us on pension can’t afford the high prices, man. Everythin goin up, you know what I’m sayin.” Jabo reminded us.

“Jabo, your pension, all of our pensions, come from the government.” I reminded them.

Alvin sat up in the barber chair. “Then the government oughta give us raises cause we show can’t live on what we gettin if gas go up to five dollars.”

“You don’t trust the government, but you want the government to give you more money. You jive turkeys are crazy with the heat and think you living right.” This time I got in the last word.


Filed under politics, senior citizens


I was reading the sports pages of our local newspaper. Alvin was cutting Ray’s hair. He is the coach of the high school football team in our neighborhood.

“Hey, Ray,” I called, “I see in the paper that the football and basketball coaches at the university are getting pay raises. Man, they have become millionaires overnight.”

“You know, I wanted to be a baseball coach,” said Leroy.

Ray spoke with his head down because Alvin was pressing it forward to cut the back. “Yeah, but at whose expense. The economy is in bad shape, and the university is cutting programs and faculty and raising tuition. Man, that is no way to run a business.”

Alvin paused. “What I want to know is how can they afford to pay coaches so much money and not pay the professors. I’ll tell you how. We, the folks who go see the games, pay for it. Folks losing jobs and gas is as high as a flood on the Mississippi, yet we still find money to go to the football and basketball games.”

“Ray,” teased Jabo, “you oughta get you one of them jobs at a big time college.”

“Hey, old man,” Ray shot back, “I’m doing better than you did at my age. And I’m probably paying your pension.”

Leroy dipped his oar into the conversation. “Man, I wouldn’t pay them guys no million dollars, I don’t care how many games they win.”

“I don’t like to see them making all that money,” replied Alvin, “but, they put folks in the stands. Professors don’t put nobody in the stands. They don’t bring in the kinda money the coaches do. Money breeds money, know what I mean.”

“Professors bring in grants,” I said.

“But not as much money as the coaches,” replied Ray.

“Well,” said Jabo, “I think they oughta pay them young men for playin ball cause they the ones bringin in the money.”

“You got that right,” said Leroy.

“I think we ought to form a citizens’ committee to protest the raises the coaches are getting while the university is cutting programs and faculty and raising tuition,” I suggested.

“What’s wrong with you,” responded Alvin, “what is wrong with you. You must be crazy with the heat and think you livin right. In this part of the country, you know football is king, and basketball ain’t far behind. It ain’t gonna happen.”

“I tell you this much,” offered Ray, “with gas at four dollars a gallon, you can expect to pay more money to get into the games.”

“Amen, brother. You know what you talkin bout.” This time Leroy got in the last word.

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Filed under politics


Alvin was sitting in a chair against the wall with his head back, eyes closed, and feet in a pan of hot water, I was sitting in the barber chair when Leroy entered the shop.

“Why’s the closed sign showing,” he asked.

Behind him, Jabo looked at Alvin. “Why you closed, today, Alvin?” When Alvin didn’t answer, he directed the next question to me, “What’s wrong with him.”

“He show don’t look good.” Leroy commented.

“The fool walked to work this morning,” I explained.

“What, Alvin are you nuts?” Jabo shouted at Alvin.

Alvin opened his eyes briefly. “To hell with you Jabo, to hell with all of you.”

“He was trying to save gas,” I further explained. “At four dollars a gallon, that old caddy of his just about breaks him each week. Was a time he could fill up and ride for a month. Not no more, huh Alvin.”

“But the walk from his house to the shop is a half mile,” Leroy reminded us, “man, you aint young no more. We could do it back in the day, but we old, and our body don’t always want to do what our mind say do.”

“Look, you jive turkeys, my feet hurt, and they have always hurt. They hurt from me standing on them all day cuttin the hair of more jive turkeys like you.”

We knew he was just making an excuse instead of admitting he shouldn’t have walked that far.

“Man,” asked Jabo, “whatever possessed you to walk?”

“Cause foot power don’t cost nothin. We were walkin ‘fore we were drivin.” Alvin continued to try to justify his rash action.

“Well, when gas go to five dollars a gallon, I just might start walkin,” said Leroy.

“You got that right,” Jabo agreed.

Shortman came from the back and sat next to Alvin. “Uncle Alvin, why don’t you ride the bus like me?”

“Yeah, Alvin, you can ride the bus free. All you have to do is get a senior citizen’s pass.” This bit of information from Leroy infuriated Alvin.

“Boy, you know I don’t take no handouts. I aint never been on welfare and I aint bout to go on welfare just cause my feet hurt.”

I had argued with him several times and tried to explain that free stuff for senior citizens like us was not welfare. I didn’t change his mind. So, I tried something different–I agreed that he should walk.

“Alvin,” I said, “walkin is a good idea. It’s good exercise, and parking that rattle trap of yours helps the environment.”

“All of you just shut up. My feet hurt, and when my feet hurt, I don’t want to hear the crap you jive turkeys puttin down.” Alvin got in the last word on the matter.


Filed under senior citizens