August 2nd, 2022
Day one. the revolution has begun.
Started out great, made a titanic connection, ironically, while buying ice at the Wal-Mart. I headed to Fonde Rec Center, downtown. Fonde center was where Hakeem spent his early Texas summers, as I recount in Goodbye Season Tickets, playing with greats like Moses Malone. On this date, I could think of no better place to start.
City of Houston, the Fonde link is broke. http://www.houstontx.gov/parks/fonderecreation.html
Showed up, but since I didn’t have a schedule, was unaware that there was a basketball camp. Nice man told me to come back after six, he could talk to me then. The revolution will not be deterred by children inside playing basketball in the air-conditioning in the hot Houston summer. I resolved to make the most of this anniversary. I texted my son, who is always up for a free lunch, but he was in a meeting. I headed to the house The Dream built.
I parked a block away from The Toyota Center. I gave a homeless guy a little cash and asked him for the inside scoop, which entrance the office workers and staff go through. As he told me, I was pulling stuff out of my Jeep, getting ready quickly, it was hot. I gave him a cold bottle of water from my cooler. He says, “Hey, man, how about those shoes there, my feet are killing me?” He interrupts my rap about how I’m trying to start a fair currency for poor people to ask me that. His timing was perfect, respect.
My wife had bought a new pair of Adidas, but I walk a lot, so I usually break in my new shoes gradually. I’d plan to spend all day in Fonde center, in the air-conditioning, so I had worn the new shoes and planned to switch to the broken-in shoes later if I had to walk. Now I’d be walking until 6 o’clock. “I’m size 12,” I say, hoping. He was about 5’6”. “That’s my size,” he says. I gave him the shoes. The revolution requires sacrifice.
Met some nice folks coming out of the Rockets Team store wearing #34 and of course, gave them books and my rap. Next dude I saw, a tall young guy, asked him who his favorite player was, he said KPJ. We chatted, he is a basketball trainer. Next, teenage girl with her mom, she said her favorite was KPJ so had to tell her all about Scoot.
I did run across one former James Harden confidant. As he took my book, I asked him did he know it was an anniversary? He said “No,” so I told him. He said, “They traded him because he was old,” out of respect, I was civil with a, “Get out of here,” or something. I take solace in the fact that if his listed stats are to be believed, then I’m a legit NBA 6’5”. As he was walking away, he told me, unsolicited, “I’m gonna read your book,” and made my day.
There wasn’t a lot of foot traffic, I was getting hungry, thinking about lunch. There were limos waiting, initially I thought it was for players, but I don’t think any players were around. First driver looked really bored, I asked did he like the Rockets he said yes, gave him a book. When I showed the second driver my flyer, he said, “That’s my name.” “Brandon?” “No, man, Hakeem.” Double-irony and synchronicity all mashed-up. We had a nice chat. The third driver was from Somalia, and knew all about Olajuwon, they’d visited the same mosque. He was the one that clued me in, it was just a nice place in the shade for limo drivers to park near the fancy hotels.
I hung around AT&T Sportsnet office for a few hours, hoping to get my story to some staff through the backdoor. I had seen two smokers return inside just as I arrived. Apparently, not that many people smoke anymore. Or perhaps, not that many people smoke outdoors when it’s 105 degrees. Nobody came out before my second shirt was completely drenched. Had a nice chat about Lady Gaga with a homeless lady named Michelle. I told her there was a shaded place on the Bell Street side of Toyota Center where there was cold air blowing, you could feel it ten feet-away. She told me she wasn’t allowed to sit on the sidewalk around the Toyota Center. This doesn’t seem right to me, as the city of Houston paid for that building. Tilman, you should investigate that or get the AC fixed, I’m pretty sure it’s supposed to blow hot-air out of the building.
I had to air-dry my Rockets shirts in the parking lot. Went back to Fonde at around 5:30. It was quite chaotic when I got there, didn’t see any angles to approach people and didn’t want to get run off. I took a short walk listened to Rocket Man on my headphones for inspiration, then headed back. As I approached, there were five men leaving the right age – my age or older. I talked to them, several of them knew or had played with Hakeem and one guy had been a teammate at U or H. It was a nice chat. I plan to go back talk some more. I headed inside, charged up, ready to meet some more people, and the entire gym was filled with badminton. The universe was sending me a message.
I took a meandering route home, it was daylight, so traffic was going to suck no matter which way I went. I can’t sit driving too long, so I was looking for a gas station to stop and stretch. I looked up, and I see “BK Salon,” next to a gas station. I went into the salon and asked the lady, “Is that like BK is from Texas?” She laughed, I guess, having heard that before. She said no, the salon had the name when she bought it, but she loved Beyoncé, so got to tell her all about what I was doing.
I was beat by the time I got home, and my feet hurt. It was a good day.