My Skin is My Sin – The Mental, Emotional, and Physical Exhaustion of This Particular Black Male in America

True story. Short post (not really). I was driving to Taco Bell one evening to order and pick up dinner. I am somewhat of a defensive driver. I barely graze the upper ceiling of speed limits. I am cautious of my surroundings. I respect the rules of the road. I have never been issued a traffic ticket. So, this particular evening was nothing out of the ordinary. I was in the middle turning lane when I realized a dark SUV had suddenly appeared behind me. As I completed my left turn – the light was changing from yellow to red – the SUV sped through the light and closed in tightly to my rear end. It startled me. At first I thought it was just another impatient idiot on the road, and then the police lights flashed brightly in my rear view mirror. Damn. I had absolutely no clue why I was being stopped. Taco Bell is literally 5 minutes from my home. I wasn’t speeding. I had used my turn signal. My plates were legit. I pulled into the Taco Bell parking lot. Suddenly, another SUV appeared out of the darkness.

Now, I have been stopped by police before, so I am not foreign to traffic stops. However, this moment felt different, I had never had 2 police SUVs swoop in with such velocity and basically box me in where I had parked. Lord. Did I fit the description of someone that ignited their aggressive pursuit? Generally, I have a personal protocol that I follow when being stopped by law enforcement. License and registration are already out so I don’t have to reach for anything in the car or on my person. I shut the car off and place the keys on the dashboard. I keep both hands on the steering wheel in clear sight. And I never enter into any excessive banter with the police. They ask a question and I answer. This night I was so shook, I am not even sure if I followed all my own rules. Of course, the police offered the usual line of questioning: Do you know why we stopped you? My reply was an honest no. They performed their due diligence and checked my license and registration. Everything was square. And then the officer offered the reason why I was stopped: He couldn’t read my license plate.

This incident happened months ago, and I have since procured new plates, so I am comfortable showing my old plates above. Take a look. A little worn, but clearly visible – 4FFZ24. I did not argue. I was instructed to buy new plates. I nodded in agreement and we parted ways. I carried on with the original plan and secured my take-out from Taco Bell. On my way back home, I stopped at a well-lit gas station to inspect my license plate. I took a picture, showed it to the gas station attendant, and asked him to repeat the plate numbers/letters back to me. He performed the exercise – surely thinking why am I doing this. I told him I was just stopped by the police because it was allegedly unreadable. He just shook his head in disbelief. I was irritated. I was rattled. But I was alive. Nevertheless, no matter how clean-cut I believe I am, no matter how by-the-book I carry myself; in the back of my mind is that nagging fear – what if I encounter that wrong one? What if on some indiscriminate day, my melanin is justification enough to trigger someone’s racial unconscious bias, leaving in the wake of my death a carousel of anger, anguish, ambivalence, and apathy? Wash. Rinse. Repeat. Yet, the stain of black blood on the fabric of America cannot be purged so simply. Trayvon Martin. Philando Castile. Eric Garner. George Floyd. Ahmaud Arbery. Botham Jean.

Once while pulling out of a parking space, an older white woman started screaming that I almost and was trying to hit her with my car. I rolled down my window to see what the commotion was and she started screaming and screaming. I tried to reason with her – that I wasn’t even in the proximity of hitting her. A guy walking by glanced at me and offered a “what is wrong with this lady” look at me. And then she started screaming for help from someone that was out of view. The last thing I needed was someone to appear out of the shadows with guns blazing. I peeled off and got the hell out of there. I have more examples if you have the time. But I digress, don’t mind me. I just needed to write. I’m exhausted. I’m sad. I’m angry. I’m on edge. I can’t begin to put my feelings into words, but I had to try to put my feelings into words. Don’t mind me, I just needed to write.

The Gentleman’s Kitchen – Coronavirus Chronicles: Glorious Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes w/ Homemade Tartar Sauce

As previously documented in my latest Daddy Diary post – The Coronavirus Chronicles: 10 True Confessions of a Parent Working From Home – fulfilling one’s job responsibilities remotely has been quite the challenge. Nevertheless, there have been some surprising, positive consequences as a result from working from home. Under normal circumstances, I would arrive home from work in the evening after the children’s dinner time. However, in the current world of SARS-CoV-2, my work hours have shifted, thus allowing me to enjoy dinner with the family. Also, it affords me the opportunity to cook more meals. It is a great opportunity for the kids to see Dad putting in work and serving up some delicious eats. It’s at the point now that I am receiving special requests, so I guess the hush puppies (Ava) and sweet corn bread (Miles) were a hit. Accompanied by some classic rhythm and blues music (Stevie Wonder Superwoman anyone?) gently playing in the background, the interactive vibe combines two activities that I enjoy – good music and cooking. And bonus: I was able to dust off my Canon Rebel T3i and take some great pictures (a few with my Samsung Galaxy S9 as well). The normal work grind was simply not conducive to that feel-good flow.

With newfound freedom to burn in the kitchen, I thought it would be fun to explore some new material here on the site. Because, of all the listed skills that a gentleman should possess, cooking a proper meal should definitely be included on list. My introduction to the kitchen began in college when this brother had to fend for himself. Along with my close friend and roommate, we cooked up some good meals with the means that we possessed. As my cooking evolved, I began to rely on three key components that would result as a delicious dish: time, temperature, and technique. Time is two-fold. Unless a gentleman is a skilled chef competing on Iron Chef; rushing through preparing a meal may not yield the best work. Moreover, a gentleman should grant studious attention to cooking time for his designated items. There can be fine lines that separate perfectly cooked, undercooked, and overcooked. And those three outcomes can hinge on the correct temperature being selected during cooking. Technique is self-explanatory. I enjoy watching videos online; absorbing cooking methods and adding my own variations. For certain, I am not professionally trained in culinary arts, but I am skilled enough to cook an above average meal.

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The Standard #53

Despite modern, progressive viewpoints regarding the construct of masculinity here in America; society at large is sometimes guilty of perpetuating and reinforcing stereotypes that it seemingly discourages. It is an interesting bit of hypocrisy. I found it particularly amusing when popular men’s magazines – looking at you GQ – had the temerity to lecture men about the perceived current disrepair of manhood while completely ignoring their culpability and literary sins regarding the topic. It wasn’t long ago that men’s fashion didn’t fawn over the wildly popular show Mad Men and its resident alpha male Don Draper. Mad Men – toxic masculinity personified but stylishly portrayed with critical acclaim. From the appearance of the latest GQ offerings, I surmise that it isn’t trendy anymore. Oh, how soon they forget. Now, I won’t pretend there aren’t bad actors out there that don’t represent the best of the male population. They are great in number. Yet those men have become the archetype for all things toxic, negative, and dysfunctional about men as a whole. Lost in the shuffle of a culture war (waged across social media, television, publications, etc.) revolving around gender roles and expectations; we are ignorant of a sect of regular gentlemen that is perhaps more indicative of manhood than what is portrayed in the mainstream – invisible to the general public.

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The Professional – The Coronavirus Chronicles: 5 Ways to Keep a Team Motivated & Engaged While Working From Home

To be absolutely certain, SARS-CoV-2 has altered and disrupted contemporary life as we know it. Our daily routines have been cast into disarray; so we steel ourselves daily with the resolve and steadfastness to answer different challenges we all face. As I stated in my previous post, working remotely from home is not as glamorous as it may appear to the public. Trust, those of us that can work remotely are blessed. However, there are some challenges that cannot be ignored. Locked down utilizing whatever space is available to conduct work efficiently and effectively can be challenging. For example, my role and responsibilities require a consistent carousel of interaction with suppliers, hospital personnel, sales representatives, executive leadership, and fellow colleagues. These tasks are not an issue within the comforting confines of a cubicle or meeting room. Now, at home – not so much. Without a doubt, the concept of work-life balance has been disrupted. Coupled with the elimination of in-person team collaboration and the specter of furlough or termination; the combined stress can deplete what little remains of a worker’s drive and enthusiasm. As leaders, how can we keep a team motivated and engaged when the energy just isn’t there given the current environment? I am not an expert, but I offer 5 tips below that might be helpful.

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