EDITOR’S NOTE: Former Tucson High School and University of Arizona basketball standout Ernie McCray is a legendary figure to Tucsonans and Wildcat fans. McCray, who holds the Wildcats’ scoring record with 46 points on Feb. 6, 1960, against Cal State-Los Angeles, is the first African-American basketball player to graduate from Arizona. McCray, who now resides in San Diego, earned degrees in physical education and elementary education at Arizona. He is a longtime educator, actor and activist in community affairs in the San Diego-area. He wrote a blog for TucsonCitizen.com before the site ceased current-events operations recently. He agreed to continue offering his opinion and insight with AllSportsTucson.com about Arizona Wildcats athletics. McCray also writes blogs for SanDiegoFreePress.org.
BY ERNIE McCRAY
Special to AllSportsTucson.com
I like my birthdays mellow and this year’s was just that, a little time with my querida and some of my family at her house and before they arrived I stretched out in my easy chair and listened to Lila Downs sing corridos in ways only she can. Oh, that voice of hers was born in some special place.
Lila warmed my insides and made me want to dance, so I got my 76 year old body up and put some Maceo on. The Maceo James Brown used to call out to when he yelled to the beat, “Macio! Hit me! Take me to the bridge!” when he wanted to take the jam to a different groove, making everybody want to move. And Maceo had me getting down like I was the hippest coolest stepper in town. My mood, at this point, was easy and sweet, and that directed how I moved my feet, as I enjoyed my special day.
In between, my little Soul Train routine, my mind wandered here and there, about places I’ve been, things I’ve seen, countries I’d like to see. Cuba occupied most of those thoughts and that historic island isn’t that faraway. Nothing like creating pleasant sensations in one’s mind while one is awake I always say. So I let myself daydream away. But I’ll get to Cuba some day, probably not too long from now.
After about 45 minutes or so of soulful play I sat back down and breathed in the air of my latest age and at this stage of the evening Maria comes walking through in, in a certain light, a see through traditional Mexican dress and I thought in my indigenous dialect: “Lawdy she sho do look fine to me!” I felt like singing,”Happy Birthday to Me!”
She poured me a nice smooth tasting whisky and as I sipped delicately she said something about the day being Good Friday and I thought, having worked many a year for pay, that every Friday is a Good Friday. That’s a concept that’s more American than motherhood and apple pie. TGIF goes way back into the 20th Century as a rallying cry for celebrating the end of a week of trabajo. But I paused, thinking about the real meaning of Good Friday, a day in which so many friends and relatives of mine lament a horrible act, a crucifixion of their Lord, in Biblical times, and I thought of my dearly departed Nancy who’s birthday was to be on Easter. For those who like to ponder such, what does it all mean?
I smiled to myself with thoughts of that amazing woman as I, simultaneously, looked at the woman who holds my heart now. I gazed, in those moments, at the wonderful portrait of me that she painted and hung on the wall of her den. In pastels she captured me so remarkably well.
Talking about everything being tight. Alright. Out of sight. These were moments you wish would last forever.
And it only got better. Soon Carlos, my youngest son, dropped by. Then, shortly afterwards, came Laurel, his boo. My son-in-law,Terry, and my daughter Tawny, his wife, and their son, Lyric, arrived a little later.
Man, was he a sight, looking as though he had been in a Heavyweight Championship Fight, having run headfirst into his bathtub, giving his mom and dad a fright. But he wasn’t too banged up to be a precious delight, standing up on his ten month old feet, at full height, steady and upright, then occasionally taking off clumsily in any and all directions with all his might, with apparently no recollection of the just-a-few-days-ago incident where he human-torpedoed a bathing container, like a rapidly sinking kite that was flown at a much too windy site, causing him, perhaps, to see, in his plight, a flashing light at the moment he was made to look like Rudolph the Black-Nosed Reindeer with Black Eyes the color of a desert night.
I loved my time with everyone of my loved ones but that Lyric just makes my days, as he did my birthday, shiny and bright. No one makes my face break into a smile more than that little tyke, that wee bite of sweet life, the latest in my long line of progenies.
We all had some nice laughs with the dude. You have to watch him, though. He’s pretty crafty. He and I were showing each other our tongues and talking to each other in tongues since that’s the only language he can speak right now and he was playing with my beard ever so gently and he stroked my cheek and chin and after all that suckering me in he hauled off and gangster slapped me. He’s in “Be nice, don’t hit” training and is learning rather nicely but I’m going to be ready to do the Ali rope-a-dope the next time we get up close and personal with each other. Love him dearly.
It was so nice having my folks around, drinking responsibly and dining on that sweetheart of mine’s delicious shrimp tacos and rice and beans with a tasty guacamole dip and spicy salsa and tangy chips.
It doesn’t get any better than this. What a mellow birthday, my 76th.
Simple pleasures are ageless.