Crawl – Rated R (Spoiler-Free Review)

I saw the new Crawl, which spends about 90 minutes detailing a town bracing for and dealing with the aftermath of a hurricane that reaches landfall, just after I’d spent about the same amount of time watching CNN’s coverage of Hurricane Barry approaching southern Louisiana.

Having torn myself away from the television to make a Saturday matinee, I transitioned from dumbfounded at that coincidence, to shock, to outright popcorn terror as Crawl sauntered along.

What’s “popcorn terror,” you ask? That’s my term for the kind of edge-of-your-seat, fun kind of fright that the best of movies can bring, when you know that no matter what, a film’s protagonist is going to make it out alive and that everything, in the end, is going to be ok.

Or do you?

Think of Alien. I could never have called Ripley making it out of there. Jurassic Park? I thought John Hammond was going to bite it…or more accurately, get bitten.

Walking into Crawl, I knew only that people were going to be terrorized by a rampaging alligator. I soon realized I didn’t know the half.

Crawl isn’t just the Jaws knock-off I thought it would be. I’m slightly claustrophobic, and that condition made watching long segments of the movie quite uncomfortable. The film includes plenty of the requisite jumps and jolts that you want and expect out of a movie like this, and its fair share of horrific…um, feedings. The carnage in one of those scenes actually prompted a chuckle along with my “wow”…and I’ll never look at snacks at the corner gas station the same way again.

As it turns out, Crawl owes almost as much to the Alien franchise as it does to Jaws, and it even has a little Titanic thrown in for good measure.

“I’ll never let go, Jack! I’ll never let go!” Sistah, you’d better let go and find a way the hell outta there!

My only real complaint about Crawl was the heavy-handed introduction of several characters’ backstories. Once I saw the lizard and witnessed what he could and would do, I couldn’t have given a rat’s ass about Mommy’s and Daddy’s divorce.

Show me the beast! And Crawl does that, many times over. And he’s an impressive monster, a celluloid cocktail of CGI, practical effects, and live action alligator footage.

Returning home from the theatre, I returned to CNN, hoping for an update on the devastation on Barry. I learned that Barry was pretty much a bust, having been downgraded to a tropic storm.

Not so with Crawl. It the movie were a hurricane, I’d call it a Jurassic Park-worthy Category 4. Not the scariest thing I’ve ever seen onscreen, by a long shot, but more than enough to keep me from talking a dip in the swimming pool after the sun goes down tonight…let alone a swim at Discovery Park in Sacramento.

Nope.

Crawl is playing…feeding…everywhere.

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Michael Bublé Has (Still) Got What It Takes: A Concert Review

For world-class crooner Michael Bublé, it’s a new dawn, a new day…and if last night’s concert at the Golden 1 Center is any indication, he’s feeling mighty good.

So were his fans.

Bublé stopped by Sacramento last night during his current world tour, and opened with “Feeling Good.” It was a great introductory message, as the singer’s been through the wringer in recent years. He took six years off from the road, in part, to care for one of his three children.

That son’s on the mend, now, and so is Bublé, having released the best album of his career late last fall, entitled simply ❤️, and hitting the road to let his devoted audience know how much he loves and appreciates them.

Bublé’ is not the world’s greatest singer…but then, neither was Dean, Harry Connick Jr., or even Sinatra, in my estimation. But what he shares with those legends is more swagger than a white man should have, a great ear for and understanding of what he can do behind the mike and on stage, and near perfect, almost inhuman pitch.

That enviable combination, along with his almost unmatched ability to connect with that fan way up in the cheap seats, makes for a concert experience that is not to be missed.

Like the greatest live performers I’ve been blessed to see — Diana Ross, Prince, Garth Brooks, and Kenny Chesney — Michael Bublé gave it all to his adoring fans last night: “My Funny Valentine,” “I Only Have Eyes For You,” “You’re Nobody ’Til Somebody Loves You, and “When I Fall In Love” among the romantic classics that would have won over even the most ardent of skeptics.

He reduced this writer to tears twice, and I’m man enough to admit it, thank you very much! First, with his guttural original “Forever Now” about the joys and pains of watching your kids grow up, he left me sniffling and to conceal my emotions as I wistfully recalled all of the milestones of my two girl’s childhoods, both of which seem to have gone by in a blur.

The second set of tears came while I laughed uncontrollably at Bublé’s pointed, almost adult-oriented cracks about “Old Sac.” Like the best of entertainers, the singer knows how to use a joke or two to allow him to catch his breath between tunes, while keeping his audience connected.

Bublé wrapped the concert up with a rousing “Cry Me A River,” but Sacramento wouldn’t let him go. His encores were “Where Or When” and a drop-dead gorgeous version of “Always On My Mind,” which he delivered, teary-eyed himself, after telling the audience how much he appreciated their love and support.

That personality. That charm. That boyish smile. It has been, perhaps, decades since I’ve experienced a love-in between artist and fan like the one I sat in on last night in Sacramento. A very wise person told me once, long ago, that I fall in love with someone new every day.

He was absolutely correct about that, and last night in Sacramento, Bublé turned my head over and over again.

To paraphrase another chestnut from the Great American Songbook, the incomparable Michael Bublé has absolutely got what it takes.

Toy Story 4: Far From Home, or Cash Grab? A Spoiler-Free Review

My favorite moments in the adorable new Toy Story 4 were the countless times when the children in the audience — and I shared the theatre with scores of them that Sunday afternoon — broke out into infectious laughter. I couldn’t tell you what was going on during those times onscreen, and I’m not sure it matters. This latest franchise strikes all of the right notes with the little ones.

That’s not to say that this…ahem, bigger one…didn’t enjoy this latest in the franchise. I did. But by the time Toy Story, or any movie series, actually, gets to “4,” it’s hard to “wow” me. Toy Story 4 is no exception.

The movie’s premise? I’d say “Can the lost be found?” All of us, if we reach far enough back, can recall losing a favorite toy, even if it’s the keys to the convertible or a preferred coffee mug. Toy Story 4 is packed with lost toys, from old friend Bo Peep, to one of the film’s hysterical new characters, Forky. Even our stalwart pal Woody finds himself lost, looking back in the rear view mirror at a day when he was the favorite toy in the box.

Just as all of its predecessors in the franchise have done, Toy Story 4 does an excellent job of introducing new characters. I mentioned Forky, a messed-up, mirthful mix of a spork, a pipe cleaner, a popsicle stick, and a well-placed dab of Play Doh.

I want one!

Also, comedians Key & Peele voice a pair of plucky plush playthings who won’t soon be forgotten. They’re the center of several “what if” segments that prompted laughs from children of all ages. And you’ve got to meet Duke Caboom, this movie’s version of that Evil Knievel action figure that I wore out when I was a kid.

Toy Story 4’s only problem? We’ve seen it all before.

When the original debuted almost a quarter of a century ago, computer-generated animation was in its infancy, and we were wow’d by the movie’s multiple eye-popping moments. No so this time around.

No Toy Story film wouldn’t be complete without a yanked heartstring or two. Stash a spare hankie in your pocket before seeing this one. For a franchise with such poignant prior chapters, Toy Story 4 had its work cut out for it. The result is very good…but not great.

Even the movie’s soundtrack is showing its age. It features the favorite from the original, “You’ve Got A Friend In Me” by the peerless Randy Newman. It also features a couple of great, new Newman tunes, including “I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away.” As rousing as that tune is, Newman’s voice is sounding even more haggard than usual, which is to be expected after almost 25 years. But when you hear it just after “You’ve Got A Friend In Me,” the wrinkles, as it were, show.

As much as I hate to admit it, it may be time to close the lid on Pixar’s ol’ cinematic toy chest. But before we do, get a ticket in the back row and watch Toy Story 4, and take in the laughs from the kids in the audience, like I did that Sunday afternoon. That experience will help you get back in touch with another lost kid, who’s probably also, like me, spent more than his fair share of time looking for misplaced car keys.

Toy Story 4 is in theaters everywhere.

SPOILER-FREE REVIEW — Spider-Man: Far From Home

Spider-Man: Far From Home sees our friendly neighborhood web-slinger ditching his hero gig for a vacation with his high school friends. It was an unconventional start of a fairly unconventional superhero flick…and I loved it.

In his fifth turn as Spider-Man on the big screen, British human doll Tom Holland may be a little long in the tooth to play a sixteen year old high school student, but he has more than enough presence to fill up the screen, creating a Spider-Man we all care about. You’ll want him to get the girl, adorably played by the beautiful Zendaya.

She and the rest of Holland’s supporting cast are great, especially Samuel L Jackson as Nick Fury and the effervescent Jake Gyllenhaal in a different, captivating turn as Mysterio. Gyllenhaal is a perfect addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In fact, his performance is one of the strongest I’ve seen in a superhero movie. I wish I knew how to quit him.

Along with the action — and what a third act! — Spider-Man: Far From Home delivers several laughs, including a take on that romantic Spidey/MJ swing through the skyscrapers that you have to see. It also includes a few moments that caused me to sit up in my chair, the biggest of them being about a third of the way through the movie. And…

oh…my…God! There is a moment in the film that Spider-Man fans have been waiting for for-e-ver! The last time I heard an audience cheer like that in the middle of a movie, Jennifer Hudson was earning her Oscar in Dreamgirls.

If you’re a fan of Spider-Man, see Far From Home before someone spoils that and other magic moments for you. I just read an article that did just that, in a piece that hadn’t warned of spoilers.

The hack! That’s why you’re happy to have your boy MPC on duty!

Now go see this new Spider-Man movie!

Should African Americans Celebrate Independence Day? Not Without A Grain Of Salt

Yesterday, I learned that in 1852, Frederick Douglass delivered a speech in which he asked “What to the slave is the Fourth Of July?” It is a searing indictment of the hypocrisy of the United States celebrating Independence Day while many of our citizens owned human beings.

I’d realized the depth of that hypocrisy decades later, with no knowledge of that speech, in Miss Alberta Neal’s second grade class at Woodson Elementary School in Inkster, Michigan. It was one of those early moments in my life when I knew that, academically, I was at the deep end of the gene pool.

We’d just learned about Crispus Attucks, largely credited as the first American solider to be killed in the American Revolution, in 1770. After I learned of the Civil War, fought over the slave system that had divided our nation by its start in 1861, my brain kicked into second gear.

My mouth followed suit.

“Miss Neal,” I blurted out as I thrust my right hand above my head. “Crispus (I truly believed he and I would have been on a first-name basis) couldn’t have fought in the American Revolution in 1770. Those dates must be wrong.”

“No, Michael, the dates are correct,” Miss Neal patiently replied. It undoubtedly took a lot of patience to deal with the 7-year-old MPC. Hell, my spouses — and children — would probably argue that it takes a lot of patience now. “Why do you think the dates are wrong?”

“Because that would mean Crispus would have been a slave,” I confidently replied.

Second grade. Check me out.

“Well, he probably would have been had he lived in the south,” Miss Neal countered. “There weren’t many African slaves in the north. And Crispus Attucks had freed himself from slavery before the American Revolution began. He had been born into slavery.”

“Wait a minute,” I replied with a stammer. “That would mean that George Washington and all of the other white people we’re talking about owned slaves.” I was incredulous. I didn’t know what “incredulous” meant yet, but I was INCREDULOUS!

“He did,” Miss Neal soberly said. “Many of them did.”

That was the day, taking in that second grade lesson, that I stopped really getting into Independence Day.

Don’t get me wrong: I will have a hot link today (we called them “red hots” in Detroit), I love a good fireworks show, and I will enjoy a July 4th pool party. Over the years, especially when my kids were young, I even sported a few star-spangled t-shirts and stuff.

But we should ditch the amber waves of grain in favor of a grain of salt. I won’t tie 4th of July activities to a celebration of independence. I never have, because my people were not free then.

And I’d argue, in a world where a bill was just passed in California that allows people to wear their natural hair to work without fear or threat of repercussion, we still aren’t free.

In a world where brown babies are separated from their parents at the border, we still aren’t free.

In a world where we have a racist with a horrible comb-over in the Oval Office, we still aren’t free.

So, in the spirit of calling our ancestor’s names, I thank Mr Crispus Attucks (today, I give him his props) and Miss Alberta Neal for pointing out the work that still had to be done, for a little colored boy in 1972.

In 2019, that former little colored boy continues the work. But he won’t be doing it while decked out in red, white, or blue. And he will be doing it with his nappy-ass bald fade that can’t get me fired. At least not here in California.

The calendar tells us that it is the fourth day of July. But my spirit tells me it is not a celebration of independence.

I’ll start the day listening to Whitney Houston’s stunning version of The Star Spangled Banner. But I’ll end it, tonight, with Donny Hathaway’s Someday We’ll All Be Free.

All.

Happy July 4th.

It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye…To My 2000 Mustang Convertible

I’ve been having trouble saying goodbye to my 2000 black Mustang convertible. Don’t judge.

Well, ok…judge. I have been. I am the car’s original owner, having taken it home in November of 1999. Other than service people in and out of their garages, only four people have been behind the wheel of that car, including myself.

I’d wanted that car — dreamed of owning it, actually — since I was 16 years old. Even before that, I was always drawn to Mustangs, even the boxy ones from my childhood in the late 70s and early 80s. It was years before I learned that I’d taken my first-ever car ride, home from the hospital just days after I was born, in a 1965 1/2 Mustang convertible — with the top down, no less, much to Mom’s chagrin!

I almost bought one of my own in the mid-1990s, and my inability to do so led, in part, to my divorce from my wife. But that’s another story for another day.

I bought my 2000 Mustang in the middle of said divorce, trading the reliable four door Nissan Altima that had become our family’s second car, primarily because it was a symbol of that marriage going south. If not for that wife, I would have never bought that car. So when the wife hit the road, that Nissan had to go, too.

I almost bought a red Mustang that cold November day, but ultimately decided that, at 34, a red convertible would have been a little too “mid life crisis” for me. I almost bought a hard top, to save a little cash as with the pending divorce I had no idea what my spousal or child support payments might look like. Luckily, I listened to my older brother, who reminded me that I’d wanted a convertible for decades and would have never been happy with a hard top. Even today, when I pull up next to a hard top Mustang at a traffic light, I’m happy I, for once, listened to my big brother.

The first song I played on my then state-of-the-art, in-dash CD player was, fittingly for someone going through a divorce, Diana Ross’ “It’s My Turn.” I put the top down for the first time on an unseasonably warm day that following January day. The soundtrack for that first ride? George Michael’s “Outside.”

Over the last almost 20 years, I’ve enjoyed more cruises with my kids in that car than I can possibly count. I even enjoyed the ones when they were obstinate teenagers (they take after their dad), frantically trying to protect their hairstyles as my then-long dreadlocks whipped in the wind.

That car faithfully took me to many appointments at Friend of the Court, as I battled for custody of my girls. It also carried me to and from work during the most professionally challenging time of my career, bolstering my spirits during my hourlong commute home with classic soul ringing out from its then state-of-the-art Bose sound system. By the time James Brown and I rolled into my driveway, we were both feeling good.

Some people actually give their cars a name. I know right? Stupid. And besides, what name would be worthy of that glorious car? Herbie? It’s taken. Kitt? Also taken. And Superman didn’t drive a car, so I was already mixing super-metaphors by putting a set of Batmobile mats on the floor of that car, early on. So my Mustang didn’t need a name. It was simply my car. And we had a ball together.

To this day, a quick drive to the gas station or Target with the top down can cheer me up. I took the most recent one of those just now, to Home Depot, for absolutely no reason at all, before sitting down to write this.

So why am I saying goodbye? You know when its time. After over 218,000 miles, little things have started to go crazy with the car and drive me crazy in the process, most recently the power windows. That’s right: I said 218,000 miles. My meticulous oil changes and tune ups paid off. Other than routine maintenance, that car hasn’t given me a minute of mechanical trouble.

But I rented a new Mustang convertible last year during a business trip to LA, and I had to admit that the entire cruising experience has vastly improved during the almost two decades since I bought my 2000.

So, you guessed it’s: I recently gave in and bought another Mustang convertible. Why would I buy the same car after almost two decades? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The new one’s completely decked out. The touch screen in the dashboard alone lets me know that its a new day.

And the new car’s silver. My hair was black when I bought the black one, and since I’ve begun to go gray, I figured why not allow my car to do the same?

Over the last few weeks, I struggled with why I was having so much trouble letting the 2000 Mustang go, finding myself driving it more than I was the new one. Then, during a recent visit back home to Detroit, I figured it out. I didn’t want to let go of the car because I was afraid of losing all of the wonderful memories I have of driving it.

With that revelation, and the understanding that the memories will always be mine, I posted an ad on Craigslist for the car last week. Almost immediately, I received a response from an interested buyer. Then another. Then another. And tomorrow, one of almost 30 potential buyers will drive off with that wonderful car.

You’d best believe I put them all through their paces, before I found the right one: a divorced guy who says he’s going to put the top down, crank some music on the new Bluetooth-enabled media player I had installed in it a couple of years ago, and have a complete ball riding around town with his two daughters — hand to God — just as I have been for almost two decades.

I love the new Mustang, but there’s nothing like your first. That was one badass car.

“New” Whitney Houston Single Is 30 Years In The Making! The Track’s Original Producer, Narada Michael Walden, Talks About Recording The Vocal

Whitney Houston fans got a surprise late last week when her estate released a cover of Steve Winwood’s & Chaka Khan’s “Higher Love,” featuring a new production bed by Norwegian DJ and producer Kygo.

That surprise was 30 years in the making.

The new single’s original, transcendent vocal was recorded with legendary producer and longtime Houston collaborator Narada Michael Walden in 1989, as the pair was working on songs for what was to be Houston’s third album, I’m Your Baby Tonight. Walden had worked with Houston since her debut album’s “How Will I Know” and had produced several hits for the singer by that time, including “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me),” “So Emotional,” “Where Do Broken Hearts Go,” and “One Moment In Time.”

During our EXCLUSIVE conversation just after the new single’s release, Walden said he couldn’t be happier about Houston’s fans finally getting to experience the thrill he enjoyed when they recorded the song.

“I always knew in my heart and mind that one day ‘Higher Love’ would resurface, because she sang it so great,” Walden enthused. “Whitney and I were very close. We’d discuss music all of the time, we both loved ‘Higher Love,’ and we had a fun time discussing what we could do with it. So I decided to surprise her by cutting the track at my studio in San Rafael, with a full choir.”

“When I played it for Whitney, she got so thrilled and excited,” Walden continued. “She just sang like crazy! And the ending was super long. It just kept going and going and going, ‘cause she had so much spirit about it.”

“When she heard the choir come in, she went to a whole new gear, man! That’s when it really exploded! We were all elated in the studio. I’ll never forget it!”

If you’re a fan of Houston’s, you won’t forget the experience of hearing her version of “Higher Love” either. She never sounded better, Kygo’s new production bed is absolute fire, and the song carries an inspirational message that we could all use today.

Curiously, Walden’s and Houston’s original production of “Higher Love” was never released stateside, showing up only as a bonus track on the Japanese version of I’m Your Baby Tonight. I wondered whether the artistic success of the song led the pair to cover another Khan classic, “I’m Every Woman” a couple of years later.

“Chaka is Whitney’s inspiration, so there’s a thread there. But that was a Whitney call,” Walden shared. “She called me on the phone and asked if I would cut it with her for the movie she was working on, The Bodyguard. I jumped on it and God blessed us.”

Walden told me he was commissioned to record his own update of “Higher Love” late last year. While his unreleased 2018 production rocks, the groundbreaking producer had nothing but praise for Kygo and the new single.

“I give Kygo a lot of props, a lot of love,” Walden said. “He did a nice sample thing on it, which is very unusual, and that’s really his trademark. He stepped up and did a wonderful job.”

In addition to singing Kygo’s praises, Walden wanted to thank recording industry mogul and Houston mentor Clive Davis for his open mind with regard to preserving Houston’s legacy.

“At one time, Clive was thinking we shouldn’t do anything on Whitney right now,” Walden recalled, “but when he heard this, when he heard this heat, he said ‘I changed my mind, man!’”

And there’s more great news for Houston fans: there’s been discussion of a full album being released, featuring more vintage Houston vocals with new tracks for today’s music fans.

“Clive said if ‘Higher Love’ is successful, I should start thinking about an album,” Walden shared, “so that’s what I’m doing right now. I would suggest we take some of the songs that we’ve done that didn’t get the single exposure, songs like ‘I Belong To You,’ take those lead vocals, which are stellar, and make them current again. Whitney’s vocals have fire and heat on them, and we could blow them up!”

My answer to that? BRING ME A HIGHER LOVE!

Happy Father’s Day…Whatever That Means, & What I Know For Sure

This weekend, 75% of Americans are celebrating their fathers on Father’s Day. I’m a father by way of biology, adoption, the foster care system, and community, so this is a busy day for me! However, the holiday has also always been a complicated one, as I spent the first two decades of my life both loving and fearing my father, Charles Franklin — often at the same time.

My relationship with Dad changed significantly as I stumbled into fatherhood, figuring things out as I went along, and realizing that my dad had done the same thing. Like me, Dad had gotten married and became a first-time father in his early 20s. The extension cords and switches cut from trees that he brandished were no different than the leather belts and bare palms I applied to my eldest daughter’s behind very early on. Her last whipping (or “spanking” for the white folks in the room) was when she was just two or three years old, over her penchant for sticking metal bobby pins into electrical outlets.

Luckily — for both me and my first-born, Janet — it wasn’t alcohol that fueled the corporal punishment I inflicted on her. It was immaturity, inexperience, and fear. I was too afraid of not knowing what I was doing to take the time to figure out a better method than the one that had been used when I was a kid, by someone who had been spanked as a kid.

Luckily — for me alone this time — Janet doesn’t have any memories of my whipping her, although she will tell anyone who’ll listen that she was a teenager before she was brave enough to plug anything into an outlet without adult supervision. I’ve never laid a hand on her younger sister, Kristina. However, they would both probably tell you that I had no problem disciplining them as they were growing up!

My father has been gone for over sixteen years now, after we managed to coexist and, to an extent, love and appreciate each other. I miss him every day. But a couple of events over the last couple of years have intensified my longing for him, which is always exacerbated on Father’s Day.

About a year and a half ago, Kristina stumbled into parenthood in the passionate, proverbial heat of a moment, just as her mother and I had done decades before. The twins were to have been born in April of last year, but just before Christmas she called me in the midst of a painful, premature delivery of a boy and a girl. One of the children would live for just hours, while the other survived a couple of days. At just 19 weeks, the babies just couldn’t hang on to lives that I had just been able to wrap my brain around. I was to be a grandfather, but that was only to be for the shortest of times.

Kristina named my grandson after me, and my granddaughter after her mom. As young and inexperienced as we both were when we became parents, we must have done something right.

As I often did while parenting my kids, I borrowed from everything my Dad and done well, did the opposite of everything he did wrong, and did what I could to help Kristina recover. Last Father’s Day, just six months after that trauma, Janet (who lives 15 minutes from me) affirmed that I hadn’t totally screwed her up — as she does every day. Tina lives on the other side of the country, and she’s more like me than I care to admit, so it’s harder for her to tell me what she feels for me. But I know.

This year, with the pain of those births and deaths a year farther behind all of us, I looked forward to a more normal Father’s Day, whatever that means, before getting a hysterical call from my 80 year old mother just a few days ago: my 58 year old brother, Charles Franklin Jr., had just been hospitalized with complications caused by congestive heart failure.

This Father’s Day morning, my brother remains hospitalized and his doctors have managed to jump-start his heart, but that organ has been given a two year expiration date. Chuck (as only family calls him) is leaning away from his doctors’ recommended surgical implantation of a heart pump. Chuck says he’s “tired,” after facing a myriad of health problems for several decades. His wife, my mother, and our entire family are shaken.

But in the midst of this storm, and at the risk of sounding too much like Oprah, I know a few things for sure:

First, I know God can bring peace in the midst of the storm. (Thanks, Shirley Caesar.)

I know that Chuck’s doctors are only making their best, albeit educated, guesses with regards to his health. At one point, my father had been given six months to live, and he survived for over a decade on that diagnosis.

I know that the decision about treatment is Chuck’s to make. I know the decision I would make — I’m holding on to life for as long as I can, for my kids if for no other reason. Hell, they can install whatever needs to be installed. They can make me into the Black Bionic Man if they have to, but leave me here.

And finally, I know I’m not ready to say goodbye to my brother. And especially not at this time of year, when Father’s Day wounds are raw.

I never told Chuck this, but he was a father-figure to me when my own father and I just couldn’t or didn’t want to figure things out. He certainly has been the patriarch of our family since Dad’s death. We joke with each other about which of us is Mufasa to the other’s Scar. We joke, but I know the truth.

Say a prayer for me and my family as I close this laptop, pick up the phone, try to channel my Dad, and love and support my brother this Father’s Day Weekend, before enjoying the time and company of my kids.

And if your father is still here, love on him, hug on him, and let him know that YOU know he did the best that he could…and that you love him because of and in spite of it.

Connect with freelance writer Michael P Coleman at michaelpcoleman.com, or follow him on Twitter: @ColemanMichaelP

LGBTQ Youth In Sacramento Don’t Want Uniformed Police Officers At Pride This Year…And I Don’t Either, After Almost Getting Shot In My Garage By A Cop

There’s a bit of a kerfuffle in Sacramento this year around our annual Pride parade and festival, to be held this weekend. First, let me try to get you up to speed on this developing story:

LGBTQ youth — primarily transgender youth, and many of them of color — have led a charge to have Sac police officers who march or ride in the parade, or staff the department’s booth at the festival, to leave their uniforms at home. As you may know, the Sacramento police department has a…storied relationship with POC, especially African Americans, in town.

The Sacramento LGBT Center, the organization that’s organizing Pride, initially listened to our youth’s concerns. After months of planning, and a series of community forums to discuss issues related to Pride, uniformed police officers who are working to secure the event were still to be in uniform outside of the festival grounds, but police uniforms were not to be allowed inside the event’s gates.

Some Sac police officers, including one out gay, white one, expressed hurt feelings, stating that they should be allowed to be “out and proud” police officers. Several white, primarily middle-aged cis LGBTQ men (and some darker ones) have supported those cops.

Yesterday morning, the LGBT Center’s board reversed the decision, overriding the Center’s Executive Director. This morning, it’s being reported that the Center’s entire staff is calling for the immediate resignation of the board president and any board members in support of uniformed police officers at Pride.

I was wrong to call it a kerfuffle. It’s a cluster fuck.

Happy Pride.

In everyone’s defense, emotions are high around these issues, especially during this time of year. For some, Pride season is the time to wave, and even twirl, that flag. For others, it’s a coming out of sorts. Just last year at Pride, after almost two decades of letting people make incorrect assumptions, I came out as bisexual to a largely unwelcoming LGBTQ community that tries to ignore or erase us — but that’s a story for another column.

As a father of four via biology, adoption, and foster care, not including dozens of others by community, I will be the first to confess that I don’t always get young people. It takes a lot of effort and energy to really get inside of their developing brains and try to understand what they’re not always telling you in your language of choice. I posit that if I were a childless, middle aged cisgender LGBTQ white man who thinks his dogs are his children, I might have an even harder time understanding young humans.

But whether we get them or not, it’s our responsibility as adults to protect them, and that’s our responsibility even when they need to be protected from a police officer.

Anyone, whether they be black, white, or green, who lived through an unarmed Stefon Clark getting executed by Sacramento police officers in his grandmother’s backyard, should be able to understand and empathize with LGBTQ kids of color being triggered by a police uniform. And they should be willing to put their desire to be “out and proud” in a police uniform at Pride behind them, in favor of the child in front of them who’s crying out for help.

I don’t have to recall my experience learning of Stefon Clark. Unfortunately, I have my own story with the Sacramento police department that I may carry with me for the rest of my life.

One night a couple of years ago, my husband left our SUV in our driveway as we headed to bed. That was atypical, as we usually park it in the garage. What was typical for my husband is leaving the car’s doors unlocked. Sometimes, I think he still thinks he lives on the rural Michigan farm he grew up on.

In the middle of the night, some unknown, curious passer-by decided to rifle through the car, found our garage door opener, and decided to pop the door, setting off both our home security system and our dogs. The latter woke me up before the alarm did — we have a shepherd mix and a pit mix that could win anyone’s “loudest dog” contest.

I hopped up, turned the alarm off, and lazily lumbered down the hall and into the great room, where I saw flashlights shining through the frosted glass windows that frame our home’s front door. Shaken, I sleepily staggered through the kitchen to silence the dogs, and decided to open the door to the attached, darkened garage.

That drowsy, instinctive decision wasn’t the best one I ever made.

“Stop! Show your hands,” a uniformed Sacramento police officer yelled, brandishing his gun in the shadows of my garage.

Now, you have to understand that, contrary to what you may have read or heard about Detroit (where I grew up), I’d only had a loaded gun pointed at me one other time. That marksman was my own father, and he was drunk, and pissed at me. Perhaps because of my history of arguing with my dad, that interaction didn’t shake me until an hour or so later, after I realized I could have been gunned down in the living room of the house in which I grew up, Marvin Gaye-style by my own father.

This time around, I was rattled to my core. A police officer, whom I’d learned as a child was a source of protection in troubled times, was drawing a gun on me — in my own home.

“Whoa! Wait,” I shouted, reflexively extending my left hand. Thank God I wasn’t holding a cellphone or a bag of Skittles, as I might not have lived to tell this story.

Thank God I also had a white husband.

My melonin-starved hubby had heard the commotion, and walked out of the same door into the same darkened garage. When the Sacramento police officer saw him, he lowered his weapon.

Clearly, a shirtless, barefoot, sleepy African American man was a threat in the middle of the night, but a shitless, barefoot, sleepy white man was not.

A couple of years ago. In Sacramento.

I’ve never been a trans anything, but I understand being targeted and threatened by police, and being triggered by the uniforms they wear. For several weeks after that night at my home, I was triggered walking into my own garage.

We should recall that Pride itself was born out of an uprising against police brutality 50 years ago this year. Yes, times have changed, as back then there were few out police officers who might have wanted to attend Pride.

But the spirits of Stefon Clark, Trayvon Martin and countless others remind me that times sadly have not changed all that much. Well, maybe they have for rainbow flag-waving cis white men, many of whom still long to be boys and fetishize police officers, but they haven’t for people, young or old, who look like me.

I’m disappointed by the LGBT Center’s board’s decision to reverse their stance with the Sacramento police department. “Out and proud” police officers at Pride could do so in a polo or t-shirt that identifies themselves and displays their professional affiliation.

I just attended Davis Pride a few weeks ago. Yes, it’s a smaller event, but it went without a hitch for hundreds of people, without one uniformed, armed police officer present. Similarly, there were thousands of people at last weekend’s Filipino Fiesta in South Sac, again with no armed police officers and no incidents.

And even if I hadn’t supported the Center’s initial decision to ban uniforms, since I didn’t attend a single Pride planning meeting or community forum, and I haven’t volunteered to work at the center or join their board, I would do one thing, and it’s the one thing that I’d recommend to every white cis gender person who complained about the rights of the police officers being trampled upon:

Shut the fuck up.

I take that back. I’d do another thing: I’d let the LGBT Center staff do the job they’ve been hired to do.

I “co-sign” the letter calling for the resignation of the board president and key board members.

And allow me to say it again:

Happy Pride.

Go to michaelpcoleman.com to connect with freelance writer Michael P Coleman, or follow him on Twitter: @ColemanMichaelP.

Brightburn Film Review: You’ll Believe A Man Can Fly…And Murder A Lot Of People

Far from a routine horror flick, director David Yarovesky’s Brightburn completely and brilliantly subverts the superhero genre. But you should leave the very young ones with a sitter.

You know the story: an infant from another world crash lands in Kansas, is found by a kindly, childless couple, is found to have superhuman abilities, and is brought up to become earth’s greatest protector: Superman!

This time around, it’s not Smallville that’s the crash site, but the equally bucolic village of Brightburn, and the kid is named Brandon Breyer, not Clark Kent.

But what if Brandon wasn’t so great of a protector? In fact, what if he had a world domination side as sinister as good ol’ Lex Luthor’s, with superpowers to back him up?

My office looks like a Superman comic book exploded in it, and I’ve a Superman insignia tattooed on my left shoulder, so you can understand why my jaw so quickly dropped when I discovered Brightburn’s riveting trailer last week, just before the movie’s worldwide debut.

Days later, my jaw dropped again right along with one of Brightburn’s character’s — when that character’s jaw was savagely separated from the rest of his face at the hands of…

Superman?

I think not!

Made on a modest $6 million budget, Brightburn delivers jumps and thrills almost from the outset, and once the powerful locomotive leaves the station, you’ll be on the edge of your seat until the film’s final frame. Yarovesky takes time-worn scenes from Superman lore, like lifting cars, saving planes, and bullets bouncing off of chests and completely turns them on their alien ears.

I only wished Brightburn had been longer, coming in at just about an hour and a half, as I would have enjoyed a little more time to get inside of the brain of Brandon, disturbingly played to perfection by Jackson A. Dunn. You’ll fall in love with Elizabeth Banks, who plays Superboy’s mom, very early. You’ll want her to win, to be able to reach her beloved Brandon before it’s…

Too late (Luthor)! Too late!

Brightburn’s entire cast delivered riveting performances, which is critical in a film where blood and gore almost earn their own spots in the film’s closing credits.

And speaking of Brightburn’s finale, some have speculated that the movie sets up a franchise of its own. I don’t think it does, as I’m old enough to recall a time when a stand-alone film could end with a cliff-hanger of sorts. “Tomorrow is another day” was the final line spoken in 1939’s Hollywood classic Gone With The Wind (no, I’m not old enough to have seen it at the show), and we never got to see Scarlett O’Hara’s “tomorrow” on the big screen, and learn whether she ever made it back to Rhett Butler’s arms.

I didn’t matter. Great writing isn’t always wrapped up with a bow…or chock full of teases of a second, third, or 23rd gauntlet-snapping installment.

Sometimes, audiences are left to wonder.

Brightburn is playing in theaters everywhere.