Goodbye 24

On a foggy Sunday morning in the hills of one of the most beautiful suburbs in LA three families
were taking their daughters to play in a basketball game. Along for the ride were an assistant
basketball coach and the pilot. For reasons we don’t yet know the plane crashed and everyone on
board died. An entire community devastated for what was supposed to be just another afternoon
ride like they have done time and time before.

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But this ride would be different.

This ride would be etched in the minds of millions and leave the world in shock and sorrow.
Kobe and Giana Bryant (An NBA legend and humanitarian, his daughter)
John, Keri and Alyssa Altobelli (A legendary junior college baseball coach with ties to the
University of Houston, his wife, and daughter)
Christina Mauser (A woman’s basketball coach)
Ara Zobayan (The pilot)
Sarah and Payton Chester (A mother and daughter)

Parents, daughters, coaches, and a pilot were all gone in a split second. Parents, children, and
loved ones waiting at the sports complex for the helicopter carrying those nine individuals to
arrive got news they never will forget. “We regret to inform you that your loved ones have
perished in a helicopter crash.” Denial sets in first. Then unbelievable pain as reality comes into
focus. Shock takes over as one replays the last moments in their head to make sure this was not a
dream.  Finally, acceptance creeps in as tears begin to fall and questions that will never have
answers begin to form.

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“Why them?”
”Why now?”
“Why so soon?”
“Why, why, and why?”

The “whys” come from the families, the friends, the colleagues, and the world. School officials
try explain to young minds not yet developed enough to understand the meaning of death.
Friends and colleagues try to comprehend what happened while families are just numb to it all.
Families from the same community are broken.
Sunday, January 26, 2020

The day was just an ordinary Sunday for me. I took pleasure in watching my son play on the
floor with his toys. I watched my wife prepare for an interview later that evening. The dogs were
running around, the sun was shining, and I was getting things lit on the grill as I prepared meat to
go on the pit. Playing in the background was a college basketball game when was Sunday was
interrupted. Big as day across my cell screen on TMZ’s twitter feed were the words, “Kobe
Bryant dies in a helicopter crash.”

But that can’t be, right? That can’t be real? He’s Kobe, the KOBE, Kobe doesn’t die, he goes on
to build movie studios or buy professional basketball teams. He watches his daughter take
women’s basketball to another level. I rubbed my eyes to refocus them and I take another look at
my phone.

“Kobe Bryant and Rick Fox die in a helicopter crash?” I say to myself.
Rick Fox?  Rick Fox and Kobe together? Wait! I look to see my wife, who is always up on
entertainment news, looking puzzled at the distraught look on my face, “What’s going on she
asks?” I show her my phone, she puts her hand over her mouth, grabs her own phone, and we
both shared the same flustered look.

“Oh my GOD, they’re saying all his daughters were on the plane!” We scroll social media feeds
looking for information, we turn on the news for confirmation. All the news is scattered with
differentiating details except one.
Kobe Bryant is dead at 41.

Is this real?

At some point, the realization sets in that Kobe Bryant, superstar player for the Los Angeles
Lakers, is, in fact, dead.

Rick Fox tweets he isn’t dead. More details emerge. It’s not Kobe’s entire family, which one can
be grateful for, but that is nothing to celebrate but rather something to which to be grateful.
However, one of Bryant princesses is gone, the one that loved basketball, Giana.

A girl and her dad

Giana, the middle child with the Mamba mentality, was the one to carry on the baller legacy. She
reintroduced her dad to basketball and gave him a new reason to love the game.  She was the one
he traveled with, trained, coached, and the one who was most like him. He wore #24 and as a
chip off the old block she dropped the #4 to just wear #2. She wanted to be just like him and he
wanted her to be better than him. We will never know her true potential. We will never see her
wear that #2 Husky jersey (Uconn was her favorite college team). We will never know her other
talents for young Giana would die alongside her father on the way to do something she loved and
what they shared.

Play in a basketball game.

The husband, The father, The man

The journalist in me knows I should tell you about all his basketball accomplishments. I should
talk about my favorite moment on the court when I knew he was my favorite player. I should
recall the championships, the awards, and other accolades but that was just a portion of the man
that a giant for more than basketball. The points, awards, and accomplishments seemed bigger
than life only to seem insignificant now.

I watched an interview he gave to high school kids when he was maybe twenty-one years old. He
told them how he defined success – working hard, finding a woman that you love, and having a
family that loves you back. One of the kids laughed and told him that made him soft.  Kobe
laughed back and told him, “I’d still whip your ass on the court.”
Those weren’t just words he said. That was his mantra. He married the love of his life, Vanessa,
and though some of their struggles were public knowledge they stayed the course and created
four beautiful daughters. His life with Vanessa and his daughters was everything to him. In fact,
it was one of the reasons he traveled by helicopter. He wanted to train like a beast but still
wanted to take and pick his daughters up from school. For ten years or more he’s been on
helicopters flying around LA like the Superman he was.

Kobe represents greatness to me. He was willing to walk away from everything after winning
three straight titles because he knew his legacy wasn’t complete unless he did it without Shaq.
He lost games and won games but didn’t stop until he was a champion again.
As men, we aren’t supposed to be emotional, especially not about a basketball player that we
only know from watching him on television. However, finding out Kobe died hurt me in a way
that has only hurt when I lost someone I loved.

I won’t apologize for being a fan, for appreciating greatness, for celebrating his Oscar win like it
was for all of us. Read the Instagram captions, read the articles, listen to the stories – He was an
amazing man. A man that lived his life without fear of failure, a man that was kind and courteous
to everyone he came across.

He wasn’t on a helicopter with an entourage or a security team. He wasn’t on his way to Vegas
or the Grammy’s. He was on a helicopter with coaches and parents who had a vast love for their
children on a Sunday morning going to support their kids at an AAU basketball game. Listen to
him talk about his daughter, listen to him talk about his players, listen to the way he spoke about
his daughter and listen to the love in all the answers.

 

His love for his children was great. In my heart, I believe his love for Vanessa was even greater
because she gave him that those girls he adored. I can’t begin to imagine how she feels now. You
lose a husband; a daughter and you have three other daughters at home that you have to explain
why daddy and their sister are not coming home. They don’t understand what’s going on or the
concept of death. You must be their rock of understanding, support, and love.  The world is
expecting you to be Jackie Kennedy, the gracious grieving window when all you want to do is
close your eyes, shut them out and hope what you are going through is just a very bad nightmare.

Vanessa doesn’t owe us anything. Instead, we owe her. We owe her thanks for all those nights
Kobe shared with us while missing out on quality family time. We owe a debt of gratitude for all
those times Kobe inspired our children instead of spending time with his own.
I’m thirty-six years old. Kobe was forty-one. This isn’t a case of me idolizing a man; this is the
case of me being proud of one. Kobe Bryant was one-of-a-kind.

A boy that had to learn how to be a man on camera;
A husband that had to learn how to love his wife in front of the world;
A once in a lifetime father that sometimes had to put his career before family;
A basketball great that made us believe we could do whatever it was we wanted to do in this
world.

At the tragic end of Kobe’s life, he was just beginning to start the next chapter of his life with his
philanthropic efforts. He was showing us that he was more than just basketball. He was revealing
his true character and grit proving that Kobe Bryant was bigger than basketball itself.
Long live the legend of Kobe Bryant.
Rest in peace Kobe, Giana, John, Keri, Alyssa, Christina, Sarah, Payton,

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Stop Underestimating How Important It Is to Like the Person You’re With

IMG_0001Love. Love is a word we love to use when describing relationships.

“When is the moment you realized you were in love with someone?”

“What do you love most about him or her?”

We are infatuated with romance and love stories, so much so that we forget liking someone is far more important than loving them. Love is emotional, passionate, an all encompassing feeling that can take over your entire life. Love can be based on how someone makes you feel sexually or spiritually. Love can come from someone being there for you when you were at your lowest and they saved you.

Love isn’t always forever. We aren’t robots, the same way you fall in love with someone, you can easily fall out of love with them. What’s just as important, if not more important, is liking the person you choose to give your heart to.

We all have bad habits, some of us leave hair in the sink, some of us leave clothes lying around. Others of us wake up with bad morning breath or bad attitudes. Either way the thing about liking a person is that you can deal with their “stuff.” We all have “stuff,” none of us are perfect but when you genuinely like someone, you can live with their stuff. You want to be around them even when that passion and intensity isn’t there.

For every romantic dinner and intense night of love making there’s five nights of “what are you we going to eat for dinner” and cramping. These are the nights where liking her makes you want to take care of her and go get food or cook because you know she doesn’t feel well. When she’s your friend it’s easy to do, when she’s your obligation you’ll still do it but it isn’t because you want to. It’s because you know you have to. And obligations have an expiration date.

Every man in the world gets annoyed at his woman. It can be her constantly being on the phone, it can be her leaving her clothes lying around the room and playing sick when you ask her to get them up. But liking her makes you laugh and smile at who she is. Liking her makes you forget about the mess and want to hold her, knowing that you can clean the house up over the weekend.

Love is that feeling that makes men tear down castles and write love songs that last a lifetime. But liking her is the feeling that makes you want to spend six hours in a car driving to New Orleans knowing that talking to her is better than anticipating her. One of the reasons we love the feeling of first meeting someone is that we get to anticipate them. The first kiss, the first shower, the first trip we take together. But you have to remember that there’s life after anticipation. The first time is sexy and fun, can it still be fun when it’s the 34th time?

Joe Budden was talking about his relationship with his son and he said something I’ll never forget. He said it’s just different when you love the mother of your child. It doesn’t mean that you love your child any less but the experience of each moment is just different. You’re sharing those moments in a way you can’t when you don’t love her, let alone like her.

Sorry I’ve been away for so long with the writing. I’m back.

One of the reasons writing will always have a place in our society is because it allows you to explain yourself. Unlike Twitter which gives you a character limit and you can easily be misquoted or Instagram which gives you one minute and someone can take a fifteen second soundbite and ruin your life, articles allow you to give your entire side.

I have a lot of thoughts on my grandparents generation. I do believe in a sense they were the best of us, they were brave and professional and they built homes, communities and families. But they also had their flaws, they spoiled their children and made a lot of them lazy which led to being bad parents. They cheated in a way in which they would have entire families across town.

They are just such a confusing yet interesting generation. I won’t  get too deep into it but I’m sure a lot of it has to do with being raised by parents that were heavy in Jim Crow and segregation. They saw their parents and grandparents struggle and not know how to read in a lot of cases so they wanted more. More often included sin.

The one thing they did that I did respect, is they always knew to take care of home first. There’s a part on Fences that goes unnoticed. He gives his check to his wife faithfully to pay the bills before he buys his liquor, hangs with his friends, cheats. He knew to take care of home before anything else and when he stopped taking care of home, his life fell apart.

Women were the same way. A woman may have had all the chores to do in the world or may have worked her ass off but she knew when her man walked through the door there would be dinner. She knew that no matter what he was taking care of home so she took care of him.

Our generation has lost that. We live in this constant state of taking care of everything and everyone but home. It’s a bunch of things, it’s technology, it’s circumstance, it’s social media. But they all lead to the same conclusion. We are a generation of selfish people.

In the 90’s a man or woman would work all day and when they got home from work they would call their friend and have a conversation about what went on. Maybe if they have an office phone, they’ll call during lunch. Now we’re in an era where people have 24/7 access to you. If you aren’t talking in a group chat, you’re on the phone, if you aren’t on the phone, you’re on Facebook. Everything feels urgent when the truth is, it isn’t. We carry our phones around like slaves. We neglect those closes to us in hopes a stranger likes a picture.

We don’t take care of home. Getting online and pretending to be in love means more than coming home and making sure someone ate. Going to hang out with friend’s matters more than coming home and surprising your significant other. Everything becomes an argument about who did what or who does more because the truth is our generation just doesn’t care about home.

So we end up with blended families and regret. We end up with people not appreciating what they had until it’s gone when the truth of the matter is, the same people you neglect your family for. The same strangers you crave attention from, once you lose the person that was there for you when the camera phone was off, none of that attention will feel as important.

Life has been and will always be about priorities. Every decision we make leads to the next decision. You can try and justify them but in your heart you know, we all know.

Our grandparents didn’t always do things the right way but they knew to take care of home first.

Finding Motivation Is Key

I haven’t been writing a lot in 2018 on a personal level because I decided to focus more on the business side of writing. Though that wasn’t the only reason. I also felt like I’d run out of things to say. So often as creatives and writers especially you get your motivation from real life, I look at like a battery. The more you charge it, the more powerful it becomes. For me 2018 was a year of growth and learning. Taking in moments as opposed to sharing them.

I’ve become a father and when I tell you it’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever felt, I’m not even sure that does it justice. Just holding him and looking at him and realizing that he’s a part of me is something that changes who you are as a man. Not just your priorities but I’ve never felt love like I feel love when I look at him.

I thought it would gross me out to change diapers or get spit up on but I find myself excited when he takes a poop because I know it means he isn’t constipated or gassy. When he spits up and looks at me and smiles, it’s because I know he got a good burp in or he ate too much and now he’s relieved. I’ll be driving to work and laugh at something he did and it brings joy to my life. Being a father is amazing and he can’t even play outside yet. I can just imagine what it’ll be like when he’s walking and running.

Having my son and living life has given me stories to write about, stories to focus on. Not just when it comes to my blog but when it comes to novels and scripts. Sitting back and watching, listening, ingesting the world around me.

I once saw this meme that said, “Be careful what you say around me, I’m a writer and anything you say or do may be used in a story.”

I have never related to anything so much in my life. 2018 pushed a button inside of me, a button which reminded me that life isn’t as short or long as we think it is. Life is just life. You live in the moment, you live in the day and before you know it, years have went by. What did you do with those years? What did you create? Who did you help? What did you inspire?

I’m sitting in my office writing this on a Saturday morning and before I know it it’ll be February and before I know it, it’ll be August. 2018 will be my last year viewing the world from the sidelines. I’m tired of playing it safe. I want to take risk and try new things. Write new genres and push myself professionally.

Being unhappy or unmotivated for the sake of it isn’t the move anymore. Make this last month of 2018 count.

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Fall Is Falling In Love Season

Can I be honest with you all for a minute?

I’m not afraid of talking about love or feelings or fears. I’m an adult, adult’s talk about these things. There are plenty of guys that want to be the coolest or hardest in the room, that’s not me. I’m not built like that, I cook and write and flirt and love the little things that make women women. That’s who I’ll always be and I thank God for that.

Living a life where I’m anything or anyone else would make no sense.

Every season is falling in love weather. You can’t control when you meet someone and everything starts to make sense. But something about the fall is just sexy to me. I have better days when the sun isn’t shining as hard and the nights are cooler. I tend to be on my phone less during the day because I actually enjoy working outside.

No matter how cool technology gets it will never compare to the feel of body heat next to you on a couch or porch when that first Fall breeze hit your face. When you have those moments of peace, conversation and attraction falling in love is the most natural vibe in the world.

We fall in like during sunshine and falling leaves. We fall in love when the sun goes down and it’s not quite cold enough for a sweater but just cool enough for her to sit under me because she has goosebumps. When the seasons change so do our outlooks. With beautiful weather comes beautiful memories and with beautiful memories comes sensations that make our lives matter.

I’m sure a lot of people that’ll read this love summer, short dresses, late nights after day parties and summer vacations. I’d never knock summer but Fall is when I feel most alive and how can you not fall in love when you feel alive.

It’s cool to be cynical and feel like love is an overrated word or romance is dead. If you feel that way I can’t blame you because you’ve dealt with stressful men or women in your life. But if you are that person, all I can say to you is to not let that taint the season coming up.

Picnics in the park where the bugs aren’t as bad and the sun isn’t as dreadful. Late night drives to Galveston where you can’t tell just how dark the water is or just how rocky the sand can be.

Stop letting the past haunt you and say yes to whatever guy asked you out last week. Say yes to whatever woman is throwing signs at you but she may not be your type. Say yes to making memories and maybe falling in love.

 

 

 

Demez F. White  winter

I’m Demez and I’m Having A Midlife Crisis

“It took me becoming “midlife” to realize what midlife crisis really meant. It isn’t losing your mind or chasing your youth; it’s getting to an age where your responsibilities outweigh your passions and you have to decide to give them up.” – Lennox’s Dad

A midlife crisis isn’t a bad thing. It isn’t some emotional or mental breakdown where you feel unstable or ashamed. It’s a crossroads moment that every man and woman deal with. It’s that moment where you decide to either settle into a comfortable living and forget about your dreams or you keep pushing and risking the future of your family. 35-40 is that age where you have to decide, do I keep working for a company I hate because I need that retirement or do I not take that promotion because the more hours I spend here, the less hours I can devote to my craft. It’s a real question and it’s a crisis in the middle of your life.

When I was younger I’d see the guy that was about to turn forty and he’d have a little grey coming in, his hair was going away and he’d go get that sports car or motorcycle. Everyone would whisper or joke with him, “Look at Bill, going through a midlife crisis.” I told the same jokes.

When you’re 18 or 21 and feel like you have everything planned out, it isn’t that you think 35 or 40 is old, it’s that you think it’ll be different for me when I get there. I’ll have my dream home and dream car and be a bestselling writer. I won’t settle or give up on my dreams. And then life happens, bills pile up which means you have to take a promotion you don’t want to make more money. That promotion comes with more hours at work. Maybe you have a child or get married and now you’re responsible for lives. Instead of investing that thousand dollars into your passion, you have to save it in case your child gets sick or your woman’s transmission goes out. And slowly you start to realize you haven’t done what you loved in days, then in becomes weeks, then you stop all together and start to focus on your “career.”

There’s this point where it hits you, it has to, I can only speak for myself obviously but very few people were dreaming about making 50k with good benefits when they were twenty two. Your dreams were probably so much bigger than that.

The real definition of a midlife crisis isn’t chasing youth or feeling old. It isn’t seeing grey in your beard or hair and dying it. A midlife crisis is being 35 or 40 and looking up and realizing you’ve been at that job you hate for 5 years and you convince yourself that you may as well work 5 more for the benefits. A midlife crisis is not finishing that book or not starting that food truck because you have to choose responsibility over passion. Imagine dreaming about becoming someone your entire life and now you realize that may never happen. That’s a crisis of life.

Why do you think so many people in our age bracket are walking alcoholics? Our generation makes fun of crackheads and the old guys that get a 40 after work but we’re worse. We literally invented days just to drink. Brunch and Mimosas, Taco Tuesday, Steak and Beer Thursday. The drinking, the fear of commitment, the starting a new relationship and abandoning your family, that’s because we’re going through midlife crisis’s and don’t know it. We look at that as something that happens when you’re 50, not 35 but how many people do you know that die at a 100? I can name you a bunch that die at 70.

All I’m saying is, don’t let obligation or responsibility stop you from pursuing your passions. If you have to take that new job that means you’ll be working 7 days a week, sacrifice your football games or social media time and chase your dreams. Do not let life rob you of what you love because that’s what “we’re supposed to do.” Keep pushing, keep putting out content, keep believing in yourself.

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We Had A Baby Last Night

“If I can’t eat, neither can you.” Those were the last slurry words she spoke to me before she fell asleep from the epidural she swore she would never get. That’s an entirely other story I’ll tell at a later date. We’d been at the hospital since 9:00am and the doctor told her not to eat anything. What should have been a routine check up turned into the doctor telling us to come straight to the maternity ward.

“You’re about to have a baby.” He said with excitement.

No bags were backed, we were in separate cars, both planning on heading to work. Now we were being told we were about to have a baby one week early when she wasn’t even dilated past three centimeters. After a couple hours of running around and making arrangements we were in the birthing room arguing about the pain medicine she swore she would never take.

“If I can’t eat, neither can you.”

I waited until she was good and knocked out before telling my mom I was going to get something to eat. The least I could do was wait until she couldn’t see me eating. Memorial Hermann in the Heights is a weird location. It’s close to a million restaurants but almost none of them are in walking distance.

Walking distance for New York maybe but not for Houston.

But right next door to this massive Hospital is a small Mexican restaurant. No flat screens or fancy tables. No granite counter tops or 12 dollar margaritas. Just cold Coronas in a big ice chest and tequilas I can’t name. Starving and needing to get back to the birth of my first son I ordered something quick and then something happened.

You know that thing that happens in the movies where the music gets dramatic and you know the story is about to take a dark turn. My mother’s name popped up on my caller ID. If you knew my mom you’d know one thing about her, she never asks me for anything. That means seeing her name meant I knew she wasn’t calling to ask me to bring her some food.

“Dr. Ahmed is here. There’s something the matter with the baby’s heartbeat, it’s dipping too low and they can’t wait for it to stabilize. They need to perform a C-section now! You need to get back here Demez.” Ten minutes ago we were laughing and anticipating my son coming at six in the morning. Now at 8:30pm they were telling me if they didn’t perform this emergency C-section he might not make it here. Throwing a twenty on the counter and running back to the hospital I stepped off the elevator and as soon as I walked into the room there were nurses and doctors everywhere prepping her.

The epidural was causing her to shake uncontrollably and the anesthesia was making her nauseas and sleepy. With her eyes barely open and squeezing my hand she asked me, “Do you remember your promise? If it’s between me and Lennox, choose him.” For months she’d been telling me this and for months I’d been telling her that nothing was going to happen. Now here we were with her having a bad reaction to the epidural she didn’t want to get and my son’s heartbeat dropping with every second.

“I remember what I promised you. I got you. I love you. Nothing is going to happen.”

My mom and sisters helped me put on my sterilization gear. I followed the doctors and nurses to the operating room. This is the part that literally shook me to my core. Up until this point I was sure everything was going to be alright but they put me in a waiting room that felt like purgatory.

I’m alone in this waiting room and there’s one bench and no one else can be in this room. The nurses tell me to wait and they’ll come back for me. I can see my family and her family on the other side of the door every time it opens begging me with their eyes for answers I don’t have. At this point I don’t have to be brave for anyone. Not for B, not for my family, not for her family. I’m alone and now I have nothing but my own fears. What if my son doesn’t make it onto this earth? What if his mother doesn’t? What if neither of them do? Closing my eyes and praying to God for what seemed like the first time in months all I asked is that they both make it out okay.

The operating room is cold and sterile and quiet. They walk me over to her and ask me to keep her calm, to make her laugh. I’m supposed to make her laugh when she’s terrified and shaking. Cool, let me do my Kevin Hart impression while his wife is delivering a baby. I tell her to remember our trips, to think about the first place we’ll take Lennox. I tell her to focus on me and to focus on what it will be like to hold him.

In the midst of me talking I hear the most beautiful sound I’ve ever heard in my life.

I hear Lennox Noire White crying. At 9:13pm on 6 August 2018 I hear my son crying for the first time. Cleaning him up, they place him in my arms since B is still being operated on. He’s 6 pounds 11 ounces and the most beautiful boy I’ve ever seen. A thick head of curly black hair, incredibly quiet for all he’s just put us thru and my world.

An hour later his mom is wheeled into the room on her bed and holds him for the first time.

That was my Monday.

That was the story of how I almost had a heart attack trying to say hello to my son.