I have three sons, ages 13, 11 and 9, and one thing that constantly brings me joy is when they sing songs that they know I love. Especially when they’re songs that are older than them. For example, my 11 year old will randomly break out with ”Paint It Black” by The Rolling Stones, and we will scream the lyrics together. He understands that his dad is a music snob, so he will probably only love the most important songs.
This is why my 9 year old knows the words to not only “Her Town Too” by James Taylor, but also “Psycho Killer” by Talking Heads. The 11 year old has an affinity for Yacht Rock, so he sings along with Jerry Rafferty and Rupert Holmes. I pray that they hold onto the level of snobbery that I have, to keep the good separated from the garbage.
However (there’s always a however, right?), being on the planet for half a century has shown me that time will eventually tell that everything we think is the greatest shit ever might just actually be shit.
I grew up in the 70s and 80s, and as I grew up my life revolved around 3 things: food, clothing and music (and girls, but more on that some other time). But for now, I have seen both sides of the matrix. The following is the first in a three-part series about things that were once fancied by tym, but now not so much.
Burgers – There was a time when hamburgers ruled my world. McDonalds, Burger King, Rally’s, I would take any or all of these at any time. Now, my body will literally curse me out (I hear his voice in my head – he’s British) if/when I even think about doing this to myself. Ironically, the only burger I can consume without some sort of violent gastric upheaval is White Castle. That’s saying a lot. Many people say that WC makes them sick, but I find them calming. And quite onion-ey.
Taco Bell – I used to, on many occasions, leave my house at 11:30pm, on like a Tuesday, go to Taco Bell, order a 10-pack of tacos, go home, consume said food with a bottle of soda, go to sleep and get up the next day for work. With no issue. If you try to offer me Taco Bell today, you will be met with the icy glare of an assassin, followed by an onslaught of foul language that Samuel L. Jackson might find offensive. ‘Nuff said.
Pizza* - Note the asterisk. I can say, without flinching that, aside from chicken wings, pizza is my favorite dish. There was a time when ANY pizza was my favorite dish. From toast or cracker pizza made with Ragu Pizza Quick sauce in my mom’s oven, to grade school pizza in the aluminum containers, to greasy heat-lamp pizza from the gas station, to Giordano’s deep-dish from Chicago, if you called it pizza, I’d eat it. Nowadays, I need (a) wood-fire cooked pizza, (b) handmade with actual pizza dough at my house, (c) authentic New York-style, foldable slices with slightly tough dough, (d) Dayton, Ohio thin-crust Mom’s Big Cheese from Cassano’s, or (e), the holy grail of pizza, the Godfather’s combo from Godfather’s Pizza.
*Note - My wife and children took me to Godfather’s one year for Father’s day, and it was the greatest thing ever. I took pictures, Duran Duran was playing on their jukebox… I was 17 again, only with a better girlfriend and maybe 75 more pounds. And 3 little people who look like me…
I’m sorry – what were we talking about? I was having a moment. #verklempt
Thank you for your time. I now have to drive to Dayton and get a pizza from Godfather’s. Is gas still under $2.00 per gallon?
According to the website grief.com, there are five steps of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Where these steps are usually reserved for people who have lost a loved one, I have recently found myself applying these steps to a less serious, yet still very upsetting situation: R. Kelly’s fall from grace.
Where this fall has gone on for decades, both Kelly’s most recent allegations and the Lifetime Television documentary Surviving R. Kelly have dropped the whole smelly thing right into the laps of Mr and Mrs John Q. Public, and we can’t turn away. It’s like a deadly car crash. It’s gross, it’s hideous, but we have to stare, so we don’t miss any horrifying details.
What you are about to read is an account of the young man's journey through these murky waters.
I was that guy for a long time: the R Kelly issue denier.
It was like “Hey, R Kelly married Aaliyah!” But I literally had no idea how old she was at the time, so I didn’t research the facts and blissfully plead ignorance, thereby absolving myself from commenting on the relationship.
I was like “Word? You hear the remix of Your Body’s Calling though?”
Fast forward to the sex tape. For whatever reason, I wound up seeing the video on line. This video that was OBVIOUSLY him, smashing some girl, then relieving himself on this girl, I saw it. My response?
“Yeah, I saw it. That wasn’t him. I mean it looked like him, but that dude in the video (1) was fat. Kells is in shape, and (2) R Kelly is bald. This dude has a nappy fro. Nah, that ain’t him. They need to leave that dude alone. Hey, you see Lil’ Kim in the Feelin’ On Yo Booty video?”
The King of Deflection.
Fast forward to the last couple of years, and the kidnapping/sex cult/brainwashing allegations. He hadn’t had any music out that I thought was worth praising, so I couldn’t deflect.
Riiiiiight. Where there’s a will…
“Man, I STILL bump the R album in the car. When A Woman’s Fed Up is my joint...”
Fast forward to January, 2019. I sat down with every intention of laughing my way through Surviving R. Kelly, or at least shaking my head in uppity judgement (have I mentioned I’m snooty?).
My emotional rollercoaster was like this for 3 days:
“I used to love that song…”
“Oh, that kinda sucks…”
“His family members did that? “
“Wait – what?”
“Whoa… That’s f----d up.”
“Wait – Y’all just overlooked him hooking up with a child…”
“You heard the rumors, but still felt like it was okay to send your child to hang with this dude? That’s your fault.”
I had to stop watching episode 6 halfway through, when the 33 (or so) year-old “superfan” who had been a victim came on the screen. I said “nope – you are too old for that,” and turned off the TV. I was pissed. I was pissed at the superfan (at first) more than anything.
"Her grown ass let another adult rope her in? I can excuse the underage girls, because they didn't know any better. They were fans of a music idol who took advantage. But a GROWN ASS WOMAN? She's stupid. Man, I hate people."
It took me 3 more days before I could finish the documentary. And when it was over, I wasn't mad at the superfan any more.
But I was fucking disgusted with Robert Kelly.
I couldn’t look the other way anymore. It was always there. I just didn’t want to admit it. Or accept it. I was pissed at what he (allegedly) did to these little black girls (and the superfan lady). I was pissed off about what he (allegedly) did to his family; his wife and children. Maybe it hit me hard because when I first jumped on the Kells train, I didn't have kids. Now, I have 3 children. I'm not saying I'm the greatest dad in the world (but I am), but he stopped paying child support because he was "done" with his family? He moved on to other women and stopped taking care of his FAMILY?
I haven't always been the best husband either (again, but I am), but there's just some shit you don't do.
While these things bothered me, the one thing that was the icing on the cake for me, the nail in the coffin, was the music.
I'm a writer, so words mean the world to me. One of my favorite podcasts is Questlove Supreme on Pandora. Every week, Questlove and his Team Supreme interview celebrities, mostly musicians and singers. I listen to this podcast religiously, because inevitably they will ask the guests how they came up with a song, or what the lyrics are referring to (I'm a music geek - sue me).
Having said that, when they started breaking down his lyrics in the documentary, and explaining what the songs were written for and/or about, I was furious. The truth single-handedly screwed up a good part of my memories associated with some of his songs. Like the fact that You Are Not Alone (not necessarily a favorite track, but it helps to explain this point) was (supposedly) written for an underage girl he got pregnant who had a miscarriage.
So now, I don't even want to know what hedonistic bullshit the rest of his songs were about. I had to purge him from my collection. Erasing things from my collection is like breaking up with someone. I am serious when it comes to my music, and it really bothered me to remove the work of a great artist. But he's also an awful human being.
So here we are. Rob is still doing whatever it is he is doing, my hard drive has a little more free space on it, and life goes on. This whole ordeal was saddening. I feel bad for his ex-wife. I feel bad for his children. I feel bad for all of his victims. I even feel bad for him. He is sick, and he is super far gone. Part of me hopes he gets help. Part of me hopes he goes to prison. Part of me believes that he will commit suicide, and that part of me hopes he doesn't.
And all of me is still mad about having to delete the R album.
ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages, welcome to my blog, “words from the young man 2.0.” The original blogger site “words from the young man” was abandoned once I got my website up. You can still access some of the old stuff (if you want to) at youngmanswords.blogspot.com.
But this is all new stuff here. So enjoy. And give feedback.
Wayne (aka the young man, aka tym)