Back in September, I ran a letter from my homeboy Anthony Alonso here while he was still incarcerated in a federal penitentiary. Well, the former poet who appeared on a Nike NYC radio campaign in ‘94 is happily back home again! I took him to play ball in a free environment for the first time in 12 years, and he wrote me a wonderful piece about the experience below. These are the type of words that bring gravity to gratitude, and I hope that it helps some of you appreciate what we hold so dear–the ability to ball and share the joy of it . . .
Positively 14th St
Verbals: Anthony Alonso
The weather was beautiful, 50 degrees on a December day and there I was for the first time in well over 12 years cold lampin’ in N.Y.C., 14th St. to be exact. The sweetness of this springlike vibe thawed the ice that nearly paralyzed the core of my being.
A week prior to this blessing, I was in a federal prison walking in and out of daydreams, longing for the streets of N.Y.C. to stretch beneath my feet.
For some, 12 years would be equivalent to a life sentence. But for me, it was a cycle of seasons where I watched life and death revolve like hands on a clock, giving birth and laying waste to everything . . . but the memories.
Memories that kept me young – yet chained to a history of so many yesterdays.
The rhythm of my life was stuck on the road of the wheel. Running in place I found no closeness, no proximity, only the vaporous reflections, vanishing into nothing – leaving only the perfume of a wish.
There I was, a lifetime away from the cold absence of warmth, basking in the ambiance of life breathing around me as I stood with my younger brother James in front of the Y, waiting for my man my mellow Kool Bob Love.
The week I was released Bob and I had lunch at a fly joint in Spanish Harlem called La Fonda Boriqua. A bridge was built towards the future as we savored the bangtacular sabor of the mofongo con marisco. We laughed, reminisced and soaked up the cultural shades of Spanish Harlem and everything it had to offer.
Like a true brother Bob blessed me with a ball and two pairs of highly exclusive hi-frequency kicks. The happiness I felt was too much. They say a picture is worth a thousand word. So if you can, try to absorb the happiness that stretches like points of the horizon.
The two of us in White Park:
See if you can identify and articulate the depth of positive vibes being shared.
“Blood is thicker than the mud.”
Smile like Sly.
Before we departed Bob invited me to a scrimmage at the Y. For years I’ve conditioned myself for this moment. Using Bob as my motivation I visualized the game taking shape. Throughout the years I received the illest postcards from Kool Bob. And within each communication – a secret was revealed.
Then there I was – waiting with my younger brother for the biggest brother I could ever have Bobbito Garcia a.k.a. Juan Stockton.
My nervousness was eased by his smile as I peeped him walking down the block.
After introducing him to my bro we walked into the Y where I met a diverse range of people and ball players. Bob reassured me “you’ll do just fine.” The vibe was mad cool and crazy different from any jailhouse gym I’ve ever been in. As Bob made it clear – democracy was in full effect.
Shout out to my man Frito Lay who waffle spanked one of my jumpshots.
We played four games and came up with donut holes. This however didn’t deter the lesson from being learned. Losing is part of the game, part of life. Winning on the other hand is an attitude and this must never be lost.
The giving, the taking – the winning, the losing isn’t where it’s at. As an ex-con the title of “loser” is a definitive one only in the eyes of the short sighted. Actually there is no precision in that cut. Nevertheless, perception can be a tricky cat to catch. I however have the privilege to let it out the bag.
What happened after the game crystallized the fruits of the day. Packing our things we agreed on getting a bite to eat. Trooping around the corner we located a cool Peruvian spot. This is where the wisdom of the lesson was extended.
While we ate and conversated I passed the wisdom down to my younger brother who I noticed during the course of the game would get mad at himself for failing to execute.
Like griots transferring the light of history I paused the moment to communicate the heart of the situation.
“no matter what happens in life
breathe positive – stay positive
The paradigm shifts in the strangest of places and on that beautiful day on 14th St. it shifted as we shared the food of life that transcended the steamy spice of rice and beans con pollo sitting deliciously on our table.
a.k.a. Papi Shampoo