SIMILAR AND YET SO DIFFERENT
In the grand scheme of time, Mike DeStefano and I merely passed through each other’s lives. Still, this man had a profound effect on my life, my life’s purpose, and everything I want to be. I’m not just saying that because that’s what happens when somebody dies– we make the dead guy seem grander than they were. No way. This guy was grand. A whisper from him was so loud. And he whispered that I was somebody and that I can do anything. He believed in me. And coming from a guy who was sharing his story honestly and making a living at it, that meant more than anything. And I never told him.
Regret. Regret. Regret.
Hoping that a major part of purgatory and/or dying and/or afterlife is blog reading, I’m saying it here. Everything I’m so grateful to have learned from Mike DeStefano:
Laurenne did a couple of posts about her relationship with (this link has her journal entry along with videos of his act) comic Mike DeStefano. Though she didn’t KNOW know him, it was more like she had a ‘brush with greatness’, and his recent death had a seismic impact upon her. I have had several ‘brushes’, most of them related to boxing and local celebrities in the various places I have spent time trying to establish myself as a boxer. Usually, these moments go without validation because it isn’t like these are people are in my address book on my phone and would not be caught dead as a reader of my blog. Even when I found myself temporarily pulled into someone who was ‘known’ if not well-known orbit I would feel a lot like a meteor that becomes an asteroid in the Van Allen belt. Not ‘in’ enough to be ‘in’ anything and still not far enough ‘out’, floating in-between the spaces among places between cliques.
Her story had me think about who I would hold in the same kind of light that she has for Mike and it isn’t even close. When I think about it, I feel how fortunate that I was to know ‘my guy’, not only through our shared activity but through two of his younger brothers, who I went to junior high with.
ONE DAY AT A BUS STOP IN THE METRO
I remember before I left for Virginia last year seeing Thomas Hearns driving in his Mercedes as I waited at a bus stop in Southfield. I wonder (now, not then, because I was like, ‘who would care at the time?’) what the other folks thought when ‘The Hitman’ rolled down his window and we briefly caught up before he took off. I say that because people have their ‘I know Aretha’ or ‘My Momma went to school with Diana’ stories that they interject into semi-lucid conversations over malt liquor and cheap wine. For me it was cool that I did not have to act crazy to get his attention and that HE called out to me. That it was his recognition of me that made the moment special. We trained together in a matter of fact manner, first as me as one of the younger pack of hopefuls and much later in his career as he wound down his career. I remember telling him one day as we finished training that he was my hero STILL, even now though I was in my late twenties and a grown a—man. One of the other boxers in the gym snickered and I looked through him and I said, “Hey, glove up. I got at least three rounds left for you”, and his smile washed away.
No matter what happened he knows how much he meant to me. I did spare him the personal consequence I think that I had from his loss to Ray Leonard in ‘The Showdown’, their incredible first fight back in September of 1981. He knew how much that the loss sat in the stomach of Detroiters and did not need to hear my ‘waa-waa’ story. But it is from that the comic ‘Love and Rockets’ and song ‘So Alive’ by ‘Love and Rockets’ have both become a part of my id, because during the mid- ‘80s and my adolescence I just KNEW that I could still do some things but there were other things that might exceed my grasp. And I was, am, quite okay with that.
FEEL I’M ON A CROSS AGAIN LATELY…
Within any particular group or culture there are vastly different experiences that does not invalidate anyone’s perspective. But within that culture finding room for acceptance is often more difficult than it is outside of said group or culture. For instance, when dealing with the friendly and broad minded officers of the inner ring suburbs in the Metro area, I would remark that the officers of these municipalities never thought to ask me if I listened to Nirvana or not and that when it came to asking themselves if I was a ‘wanna be’ or not, that what I was, a black man, mattered more to them when it came to their ticket quota!
Being called an ‘oreo’ or an ‘Uncle Tom’ by another black person is just about the worst thing that they can say to someone who doesn’t follow the orthodoxy of what is authentically black. For me, once someone hints that they think I suffer from an identity crisis of pigmentation, it gets difficult for me alter my opinion of them. I can’t account for other people and how they came to their cultural interests, whether or not it came because of their early exposure to samples of what else is available culturally than what is immediately at hand, or, if it was a conscious decision that emerged from any number of factors, namely, self-loathing and the kind of intellectual incongruence that the likes of Michele Bachman and Sarah Palin (oh, and Bill ‘the tide goes in and the tide goes out, never a miscommunication’ O’Reilly) characterizes. It made little sense to claim things from the art of ancient Egypt to Little Richard if you weren’t supposed to appreciate DaVinci and the Beatles.
‘Love and Rockets’ for me encapsulates the feeling that no matter what, that whatever reward that comes from companionship is not meant for me. Yeah, I know right, because I know that ‘I’m not alone in being alone’. But I am comfortable with my aloneness…