Game Time. Class Time. Time Invested.

I had a shitty academic week, so I took it out on the hoop court on Friday night.

And then I wrote about it.

(I showered first.)

….

It’s the tempo of basketball:

the freestyle-the jazz-the avante garde method of thinking-acting-and-reacting.

That’s what I love about the game.

Wanna be a baller, shot caller... (Photo by Spencer Whitney).
Wanna be a baller, shot caller… (Photo by Spencer Whitney).

I’m 5’5 and to be honest- that doesn’t really work to my advantage on the hoop court. But I’m quick, I have good vision, and above all: I think really well on my toes. I adapt.

In the classroom- during discussions- I’m usually in the middle of the discussion- throwing out my insight. Another example of thinking on my toes. But when it comes to reading a 20-page affidavit in one sitting, writing an 800 word article in ninety minutes, or sifting through the shit-loads of emails we get sent daily… it takes a totally different method of thinking:

Thinking on your heels- (if you will).

It takes time. And seeing growth from time invested is a wonderful thing.

Through my experience thus far in the classrooms of Cal Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism, I’ve grown.

Multitudes.

Clarification: I’ve grown = I’ve made mistakes… but those mistakes have been my lessons. My ability to spell, write, and take notes have hit a j-curve. My comprehension of English has grown to the point that I’m now understanding Spanish better, un poco. My eye for details in the world has increased my ability to dress…

(I got a compliment on my fashion from a cute girl the other day- go figure?)

…  And this is only the first month.

Yeah, there’s nothing like growth through time invested.

I bought a basketball a little less than 3 months ago- I play quite regularly.

I mean, I suck. But I’m getting better.

I like to hoop by myself with my headphones on- early in the morning, it gets the blood flowing. I also hoop with my homies- I hoop with random homies…

Last weekend, I hooped with my ten year-old niece… she made more consecutive shots than I did.

(She was in the key, I was shooting from 3) … (That’s an attempt to cover my own ass).

She shoots. She scores.
She shoots. She scores. (Photo by Spencer Whitney).

When my niece made a couple of shots- I saw her face light-up. And that’s why I like to hoop… There are few greater joys in life than seeing that damn ball drop into the net: swishhhhhhhhh….

He shoots. He ...hits backboard. (Photo by Spencer Whitney).
He shoots. He …hits backboard. (Photo by Spencer Whitney).

It’s an instant confidence builder. It’s a manifestation of one’s desperate attempt to calculate the trajectory of a leather-wrapped inflated object, through air, and into a metal cylinder… A cylinder that is only twice its size in circumference.

It’s all that intelligent shit… and it’s also Jim Jones’, slightly less intellectually-stimulating-statement of: “Baaaaaaaaallllllllllin,” which is a reference to financial success- and is shown through a hand gesture which originates from the follow through of a made jump shot.

Yeah: made shots- writing- my niece- the hoop court- the classroom…financial success.

Gotta make my shots.

"On the playground is where I spent most of my days. Chillin' out, maxin', relaxin' all cool. And shootin' some B-ball outside of the school ..." (Photo by Spencer Whitney).
“On the playground is where I spent most of my days. Chillin’ out, maxin’, relaxin’ all cool. And shootin’ some B-ball outside of the school …” (Photo by Spencer Whitney).

Alright… that was a good post game press conference, I’ll leave ya’ll on this note.

Check out this video of this 5’4 homie getting stooooopid on the hoop court:

And on the topic of evolution/ hoops/ and making media: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-OZI0-LhuQ&feature=related

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Once (a poem by my my father)

Letters from Pops...
Letters from Pops…

(A poem from my incarcerated father about me coming to visit him.)

….

Once

Once I saw a young man’s face

He came to see me in this place.

He had many questions in his heart

So we began at the start.

Why did I walk away?

Why did I not stay to watch him grow and play?

Life is funny I’ve come to see.

My son came to prison to visit me.

When he left it broke my heart

I knew it would right from the start.

Some things are better left alone, I know that now that he is gone.

I know I’ll probably never see him again.

I hope in my soul, I’ve made some amends.

Though we’ll never be the best of friends

I’ll love you my son, til the very end.

 

By Pendarvis L. Harshaw

For Pendarvis L.A. Harshaw

My Co-Worker’s Stance on Survival in Society.

A Black man, with a red hoody on, wearing a beanie, rode past my little Asian coworker on bike and snatched her phone out of her hand.

This isn’t about the $400 dollar phone. This isn’t about my “little Asian” coworker. This is about Black men.

 

Mosaic.
Black Man Mosaic.

I fit the description of the Black man who snatched her phone…

She might have said he had dreads- so the style of the hair differs. And on that day I was wearing burgundy, not red; but close enough. I’m not heavy set- I’m skinny. But mannnnnn, if she filed a police report I’d be a suspect… I could just imagine myself walking out of the office, mounting my bike (which I ride everyday), and  riding through the same area where the incident occurred … I’d be a suspect.

This wasn’t an isolated incident… There had been a rash of robberies.

 

Heavyset or skinny. Dreads locs or fresh cuts. We all look the same to cops.

I left out of the office, rode my bike to the high school where I held an after school program, and asked my students a number of questions…

“Have you ever been robbed?” … “Have you ever robbed/ thought of robbing people?” …  “Do you ever get looked at as a thief or criminal?” …  “Do they ever fear Black men?”

The conversation that came out these questions showed that we suffer from the thought of Black men being malicious, criminals, animals…  these were the opinions of Black male and female high schoolers… And myself.

On many accords I felt the same.

I’ve been in their position. As a Black man, I’ve been in fear and I’ve been feared. How do we correct this mindset within high schoolers? For my little Asian  co-worker? Or, for that matter, white America?

… Especially if it is something that is pervasive within our own people/ community.

My co-worker is a loving-fighter. A poet born in the Philippines. A Pisces. And an experienced educator in Oakland, Ca. She took the incident in stride. I recall how she retold the account to me, “For real, bro!?!” she yelled at the man as he took the phone and continued down the block. “I even called him ‘BRO’!… ” She said to me with exclamation. She maintained her stance of love.

She didn’t let one person’s actions change her perspective on all people. 

That was the answer.

But is it possible to maintain your outlook on life, after seeing what life presents? Fully?

Seriously… Don’t you have to change to the environment as a means of survival?

… Or can you change the environment enough so as to ensure survival?

…. Just a train of thought ….

Prison Only Exists in The Mind: Meeting My Father For The First Time.

Image

I looked at the reflection of my 24-year old face in the hand mirror. I was in a barbershop in downtown Oakland analyzing my fresh cut, as I told the gentlemen in the room of my upcoming journey.

It had been about 18 years since I had seen my ole man.

He and my mother had been separated for over 19 years.

A recent arrest left him incarcerated in Alabama, facing up to 20 years.

I hopped out of the barber’s chair and it was confirmed: my hair was indeed thinning at the corners. Another one of God’s clever jokes: give the bighead kid a receding hairline.

That was the final line. I had to have my question answered: Is my biological father where I got my bighead? Is he as short as I am? Is he charming and good looking, like myself?

I bounced out that barber’s chair and setout on a journey.

A 4-hour flight from San Francisco to Chicago, a 12-hour road trip with a friend, from Chicago to Alabama, just to speak to my father for 90 minutes in an Alabaman prison.

We crossed the Blue River, the Red river, and the White River as we drove through America’s heartland. Our trek lead us through the flatlands of Indiana and the Mountainous terrain of Tennessee.

The drive from Chicago to Alabama on Good Friday was a breeze.

There’s truth to the Billie Holiday song, “Stars Fell on Alabama”, the southern night sky proved it. It had been 18 years since I had seen my ole man, and the billions of stars overhead became meek in comparison to the zillions of thoughts running through my mind as I sat in a hotel parking lot in Birmingham the night before the meeting with him.

My mother and father separated when I was three. I visited Alabama as kid, but from the time I was six until the time I was about 23, I had spoken to him only a handful of times; and not seen him since that last visit to the South. Most recently, I had gotten in contact with him through his brother, my uncle Erick, who I met via facebook in 2011. My father and I exchanged phone calls and letters; the last of which resulted in the words: “please don’t write back” written boldly on a piece of paper addressed from him to me.

Image

… this is what I was thinking as I looked at the stars…

The following morning I continued to think about all of this as I waited to meet up with my uncle in a Winn-Dixie parking lot. I drove behind him as we made our way to the State Facility just outside of Montgomery, AL on the Saturday prior to Easter.

I wanted to take pictures, but the guards at the jail informed me that nothing but my ID and car keys were allowed inside the jail; and that I would have to change my shirt: my white-T was too similar to the ones the prisoners wore.

Upon entering the small meeting room, I shook my fathers hand. There was no glass to separate us like on the movies. I sat adjacent to him. He wore glasses when we initially shook hands, and took them off as we delved into our meeting. It was history lessons, light humor, and talks of spiritual growth; it felt like a nonprofit board meeting. It was a stiff room. We we’re two Black men from the hood- and Cancers at that, which means no emotions shall be shown, no matter the circumstance.

“I don’t think I can cry- my tear ducts don’t work.” He literally said that as he described the conditions inside the prison. He said he had seen a man get stabbed just last week. He was solemn, calm, and very centered as he spoke about the incident.

He had been incarcerated for a number of months; it was his second time being in prison. He hadn’t yet been sentenced, but given his charge, he could be facing up to 20 years behind bars.

He was forced to face the window, in plain sight of the officer overseeing our conversation as we sat in that small blandly colored room. We talked about life: His life. My life. The meaning of life.

He showed me his only tattoo, a prison tat on his chest which read “Isaiah 10:13”. We recapped his childhood and his turbulent teens. We discussed the breakup between he and my mom, and how is addiction to crack cocaine pushed her further away. We talked about regrets and what could have been. We mentioned the future, and what will be if we choose to work towards it. We laughed about the origins and the ironies of our shared first name “Pendarvis”. We conversed for an hour and a half. But it seemed more like half an hour. The meeting concluded, and I was escorted out the prison.

The image of him remains with me. His rigid mannerisms- stiff moving, like he just worked out. His height, he is 4 inches taller than I. His hair, he had waves and salt-and-pepper sprinkles of grey… I have waves too- but I’d much rather have grey hairs than this receding hairline.

His skin tone was brown with a hint of red; kind of like the Alabama clay in the morning sun. He had high cheek bones- like my sister. He had an aura of centeredness, calmness, and spoke with eloquence. That reminded me of myself.

I left out of the jail and took one photo of the outside of the facility. The correctional officers barked at me for doing it, and asked me to leave the primacies.

Image

I left abruptly. I had regrets about questions I didn’t ask and words I didn’t say. I wanted to continue the conversation with my father, but I didn’t want to spend another minute in jail.

… Aside from my reflections of his image, six simple words stuck with me: “Prison only exists in the mind.”

He nonchalantly stated this profound sentiment, and subsequently admitted that he has now become a poet.

“Prison only exists in the mind.” A sentiment I had heard before, but it resonated much more, coming from someone on this side of the fence.

He expressed that he would’ve loved to have been with my sister and I during our upbringing; but I could tell the deepest regret was losing the love of his life, my mother.

Four days later I was back at my mother’s house in California, a letter from that jail cell in Alabama was waiting for me. He wrote me the day I left. In the letter he thanked me for traveling to see him, congratulated me on my accomplishments, and asked that I never come to see him in prison again- he stated that being seen in a prison is not the only memory he’d like for me to have of him.

He told me that prison only exists in the mind. Although those profound words came from a man physically sitting behind bars, I don’t believe it.

If nothing else, this experience has shown me that prison is not just a place where you do time or something confining you within your mind. No… Prison also exists in the heart. And the deepest darkest prison a man can be confined to: The regret of a love lost.

Blog.

How ingenious is that? this blog- is called “blog.” and not only that … but the first line of this blog- is about the title! go figure…

now that I’ve got that out of the way….

The motivation behind this train of thought: my new computer.

I’ve worked all Summer to get a machine that I could use to produce my blogs, my photos, my essays … photo-essays! my radio shows, my dreams, my videos,  my movies, my cartoons, my tweets, my facebook statuses, did I mention my dreams?

And now I finally got it!

Well, it’s not exactly the computer of my dreams- but it gets the job done.

Here’s a picture!

Wait, no! wrong one!

( I’m still figuring this fan-dangled-thingy-McBobby out.)

Here is my computer

time to get active.

Coming soon:

– More updated on “OG Told Me” ( photo essay) : http://ogtoldme.tumblr.com/

-More updates to “Penn’s Station podcast”: http://ogpenn.podomatic.com/

– Book coming early 2012.

– check the website: http://ogpenn.com/ 

and remember that Xanax is the coolest palindrome. ever.

Peace.

Pen Point: All Over The Map. ( P. 2)

There is no place like Home.

It’s Monday April 25th, 2011… And I’m suffering from a cold case of jet lag.

Last Monday, I wrote a blog about my adventures on the East Coast- and then I didn’t touch another computer for a week straight.

….now it’s Monday, again… last week was a blur- thank goodness for twitter and camera phones…

Monday night as I rode into Washington:

tweets:

“That DC skyline is awesome”.

… I spent Tuesday running around Washington DC…

tweets:

“Electrical house fire on 6th and H in NE DC. All residents were safely evacuated.”

“… Say a prayer for the elder lady and her grandson …”

“Real men don’t cry … They get chocked up.”

6th & Hst in North East Washington DC. House on fire, all occupants were safe.

(… And then I searched for my long lost notebooks…)

“From the time I was 12-22 I filled 31 journals w/ words, they’re all in Geoffery’s room in Drew Hall … I’m on a mission to get my shit.”

“My notebooks have been signed, sealed, and are now being delivered back to Oakland.”

“…Sitting in Drew Hall … Reminiscing.”

“Over the weekend, I bumped n2 a young homie who told me, “thank you for seeing the big picture.” (in reference 2my approach to being a RA)”

“… I learned more from the younger homies, than they learned from me …”

“Weed smokers are late for everything … except for 4-20 .”

“Seek knowledge. Crack jokes. Eat pizza. #college.”

…Washington DC Wednesday, April 20th….

capoeira on Howard's campus
J. Cox. in the Dojo.

tweets:

“Do yall remember what happened last 4-20? … I do. Four words: Gulf coast oil spill.”

“Modulating”

“Spread love.”

“having fun”

…New York for the weekend…

Pics

Uncle Smokey and his newest grand baby
Central Park
Harlem, USA.
I spy: "Get God"

Tweets:

“New Jersey turnpike… Word to Assata Shakur.”

” *Kicks in the door, waives the 4-4*.”

“….sitting in a park in midtown Manhattan …. Feeding the birds. Word to the spooky lady on Home Alone 2.”

“At a park in Bed-Stuy, chopping game about life with my bru Justin… I’ve known bru since I was 5…life is good.”

“Lost in new york… Again.”

“…At a diner somewhere on the lower east side…dolo. Drinking coffee.”

“Being in love with one person > being loved by a lot of people.”

” This is the time of day that you’re supposed to be thinking about life…”

“As I stare into my swirling 3rd round of coffee, my critical thoughts about life are interrupted by a certain Rihanna song stuck in my head.”

 “Every time I come to NY, I get lost… Yet somehow, I never lose.”

… One last night in Washington DC…

tweets ( only 1): “I just saw a real streaker. #6wordstory .”

Washington, DC. U st. CVS Parking Lot. Late night... backdrops are provided for those who want flick it up with the posse... ( I took this pic over the shoulder)

…As I made my way to the airport on Sunday afternoon I fired off a number of tweets, but these two stuck with me…

tweets: “… The greatest stories are “love” stories…hands down. But without the “coming of age” story, you can’t have the love story.”

“( I reference “Love and Basketball” and ” The Lion King” as examples of that last tweet.)”

… In Conclusion …

about friends: They say, don’t burn bridges… I say: don’t even let them grow cobwebs…

about love: Seek knowledge, love will eventually come.

about life: leave me alone to my vices and my crafts, and I can never be mad.

Ashley Christina Reid. RIP.

Peace.

Listen 2 Your Heart

Listen to Your Heart
Listen To Your Heart via http://fc00.deviantart.net/fs43/f/2009/063/3/9/Listen_to_your_heart_by_screamst.jpg

               When life begins, you are but a fetus in the womb. The doctor holds a stethoscope up to your  mother’s belly, and the sound of your heartbeat is the first significant sign of life.

And from that point on, you should listen to your own heartbeat… but we don’t.

Instead, we listen to the overwhelming influential thoughts of our cognitive brain. Damn that influential brain! And how you could you blame humans for listening to our brains- for starters look at the location. It’s conveniently lodged between a human being’s ears…ears which are receptors to every audible influence outside of the dog whistle!

The worst part of listening to your brain as opposed to your heart is
the myth about how much brain humans actually use. There are results on the internet saying humans use 10% and there are some saying humans use 90%…whatever the case- if you listen to your heart- then your heart works 100%.  

And when the heart doesn’t work 100%…or rather enter into a cardiac arrest, there is little hope for the continuance of life outside of a tiny given time frame…while on the other hand, a human being can be
in a vegetative state for years- brain-dead to the world, but so as
long as that heart is pumping: there is hope!

So the body without a heart is hopeless…

Morbid? Yeah, kind of unsettling to bring thoughts of mortality into a
piece about true love, but it makes sense…the 1st thing that
signifies our lives- is what should lead our lives. And as a point of
clarification- when I speak of “listening to your heart”, I’m not speaking
of the after effects of an adrenaline rush when your pulse is pumping like pistons…. and I’m not  talking about that one time you got some bad weed and you got really high and you could hear your heart
beat…na, I’m speaking of pursuing only things that bring you true
fulfillment in this world: listening to your heart.

Look, I’ll bring it home… You ever wondered why people ware a wedding ring on the left ring finger?
yeah, so did I- and then I found this video…

…And that sealed the deal: You can listen to what you want to- I’m going to listen to my heart…

Peace and Love,

Pendarvis Harshaw