By Ernie McCray
I like facebook. For me it’s been a nice way to get snippets, sometimes daily, of what’s going on in the lives of both new and old friends: students of mine from over time, some of my children and grandchildren, ex-colleagues, fellow actors and writers and activists – interesting people all.
Occasionally one of them will suggest a game for me to play and I usually don’t take part in such online activities because it’s too easy to spend too much time on social media without the temptation of getting involved in diversionary attractions of any kind.
But lately a number of my friends have been revealing a number of random things about themselves that no one knows or bits of information only a few people are in on and if you profess a “like” for or make a comment on what they have exposed they assign you a number and you’re to make a list of unknown facts about yourself equal to that number. I was given the number 8 by one of my favorite students of all times, Shannon, who disclosed that her name is really Shanna in keeping with the idea of the game.
Thinking about the great times she and I and a few others from Fletcher Elementary had in the 80’s I thought I’d give the task a shot, making a rule for myself, on the spot, that I would share the first eight things about me hardly anyone knows that came to mind.
For whatever reason, maybe the fact that I was listening to music in the moment I began, I thought about the time I once sang with a quartet, the “4 G’s,” who appeared on a show headlined by Chuck Berry and we ended up on Tucson TV and walked around for days like we were all the rave.
What a pleasant memory.
With music on my mind, I remembered an evening I spent with Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong, particularly when he said to me, in that famous raspy voice of his, as he reached in his coat pocket for some happy weed, “Want some of this, young man?” and I truly saw “trees of green, red roses too” and I thought to myself “What a wonderful world” and soon we were singing and scatting “How High the Moon” and I was so enjoying hanging out with such a grand man that I thought I would swoon. That memory, going back to when I was about 20 years old will never go out of tune.
Then I recalled a moment in my basketball days when I was running down the court, clearing from one side to the other, having messed up the play, and Oscar, the “Big O,” Robertson, just as I crossed a little behind the free throw line, hit me with a snazzy no-look pass and I was up in the air scoring the most amazingly easy shot I’ve ever made anywhere, just another great pass in a legend’s history.
Race pretty much was obliged to surface in my brain and I reflected on the many occasions I’ve been told “We don’t serve Negroes” while I wondered “Who in the hell wants to eat a Negro?” Leg of Bubba would be a tough cut of meat.
I had forgotten that I was, at the time, in 1971, at age 33, the youngest principal ever in San Diego City Schools, ten years removed from the time I would become the principal at my friend Shannon/Shanna’s school.
Here’s a question my friends should, without knowing, easily answer: Who was the first black basketball player to graduate from the U of A?
Now, I own a record at Arizona that many know about, the 46 points I scored against a team in a rout but I’m sure nobody remembers or knows besides me that I once held the Tucson YMCA Pancake Eating record which I wouldn’t wish upon anyone. I looked like I was twenty months pregnant and I sweat Pillsbury flour for a week.
My eighth and final disclosure is: I got my first job at the age of five. Why? It seemed that every time I asked my mother for some money I had to listen to how “money doesn’t grow on trees,” and “there’s no such thing as a free lunch” so I had to enter that large world of employees.
I helped Osea, a beautiful old black man, shine shoes on a street corner. I can still hear him: “Shine the shoes, son, not the socks. Now, you want this job, don’t you?”
Sure did and I’ve been working ever since.
And some of the most fun I’ve had working is putting this little piece of what is unknown about me together. But that’s enough games for me for a while.