EXCLUSIVE! Home For The Holidays With Johnny Mathis

We checked in with the legend, previewed his upcoming duet with Freda Payne, and remembered Christmases gone by. Mathis also shared his thoughts about the prospect of recording a Christmas duet with Mariah Carey!

By Michael P Coleman

Most would agree that 2020 has been a year that we’ll not soon forget. As we continue sheltering in place as much as we can, wearing masks when we can’t, and limiting get-togethers to those in our households, the phrase “home for the holidays” takes on new meaning this year.

That said, can you imagine a Christmas season without Johnny Mathis?

It sounds like something that the Grinch himself would have cooked up!

With COVID restrictions shuttering performance venues and concert halls nationwide, this will be the first holiday season in decades that Mathis won’t be thrilling fans with his seasonal favorites. Of course, we’ll always have his music, but there is nothing like experiencing Johnny Mathis live at Christmastime.

I decided that if never before, we NEED a little Christmas right now! So I called Mathis, just to check in on him. Luckily, I caught him just before he headed out for his second favorite pastime.

“I’m fine and in good health,” the 85 year old Mathis assured me, “which is a great thing for someone like me who sings all of the time. And I still have my inclination for golf, which I ALWAYS look forward to! It’s been a great getaway from EVERYTHING! It’s quite wonderful.”

“So that’s what I’ve been doing, answering the phone when it rings, and wondering who I’m gonna play golf with today!”

For those who enjoy Mathis’s dulcet tones, be not dismayed. He was giddy as he talked about his upcoming single, “You Can’t Take That Away From Me,” and the opportunity to revisit his jazz roots. The duet with Freda Payne (“Band Of Gold,” “Where The Boys Are”) is scheduled to be released on Payne’s label on December 4 — so we’ll get to hear new Mathis music this yuletide season after all!

The legend’s boyish exuberance and charm haven’t faded with time or the COVID cares of the day. He sounded great during our chat — and he even serenaded me with an impromptu chorus of “Friends In Love,” his 1982 hit with his “girlfriend” Dionne Warwick.

Yeah, he really did. Hand to God. And I almost passed out.

I wish I could brag that I had been Mathis’s muse that morning. He gloriously broke into song as he reflected on his decades-long love for Warwick and his upcoming December 12 appearance with her. Mathis recorded a new version of “White Christmas” that is scheduled to air during Warwick’s online event, in celebration of her 80th birthday and the holidays.

“We see each other and talk to each other all of the time,” Mathis warmly said of Warwick. “We love each other absolutely beyond music. She’s a wonderful, wonderful person…”

Don’t you just love how Mathis repeated the word “wonderful” there, echoing one of his beloved hits?

“…and I’m so grateful to have her in my life. I live maybe 10 minutes away from Dionne.”

Another famous neighbor of Mathis’s is yet another crooner for whom Christmas is more than just a passing fancy: Mariah Carey, thanks to her ubiquitous chestnut “All I Want For Christmas Is You.” As Carey’s fans consider her “The Queen Of Christmas,” I asked the holiday’s undisputed King to share his thoughts about “the elusive chanteuse.”

“She has a great voice,” Mathis said of Carey. “She’s a great musician. She’s everything that anyone would ever want.”

“And she’s pretty,” Mathis wryly chuckled.

I wondered whether Mathis would consider recording a Christmas duet with the “pretty” Carey, perhaps one that she’d write expressly for the duo?

Mathis’s classic, first Christmas album, recorded just two years into his legendary 64 year — and counting! — career

“That’s the way things have happened for me,” Mathis reminisced. “Someone says ‘Hey, why don’t you try this?!’ We singers are always looking to share our little gifts that God gave us with each other. It’s usually just a matter of circumstances that keep us apart.”

“Hopefully, maybe Mariah and I will be singing together sometime. We live very close together, too. It could happen!”

You heard it here first! I’ve a message to Mimi and her Lambs: The King Of Christmas is waiting for a call. To echo one of Carey’s early hits, make it happen!

Like old pals who hadn’t spoken since the pandemic hit, Mathis and I casually chatted for awhile. I haven’t seen him since February, so it was good to hear that he’s doing well. Whenever we talk, he makes me feel like an old friend. Fans of his music, which dates back seven decades, know how he draws you in. There’s a reason that Mathis’s dozens of hits, from “Misty” to “The Twelfth Of Never” aren’t often covered by other artists. No one else could sing them as intimately as he does.

Me and The King Of Christmas, the incomparable Johnny Mathis, in Stockton, California after one of his legendary Christmas shows, December 12, 2019. Photo courtesy of Coleman Communications.

There’s also a reason why we all return to Mathis’s Christmas music each year. His sublime tone and delivery are warm, cozy reminders of days gone by. This year, more than any other in memory, a dose of Mathis’s holiday cheer is just what the doctor ordered.

As Mathis and I wrapped up what’s become our annual “fireside chat,” I asked him how he was spending the holidays this year, as he wouldn’t be able to do what he loves most: sing for his fans from stages the world over.

“I come from a large family, and so many of my brothers and sisters are gone now. There are three of us left,” Mathis wistfully said. “The holidays were always a big deal for us, being from such a large family. We always shared the holidays, and relished in the fact that we were together.”

“With them gone, I’m grateful to have so many wonderful friends that I’ve made over the years, though my music. So I’ll pick up the phone, and I’ll appreciate an opportunity to share the holiday season with them that way.”

“I do miss the wonderful audiences that I sing for. I love singing, and I love to surprise my audiences onstage,” Mathis said. “COVID has brought things like socializing and performing to a complete stop. Everyone is cloistered.”

Quickly, Mathis bounced back to the buoyant exuberance we’ve all come to love from him. With a twinkle in his eye that only St. Nick can rival, he chuckled:

“But I’ve still got my golf! Now let me get to that course, Mike! I’m outta here!”

But not before the man who’s been adored all over the world, since 1956, allowed this writer to have the ultimate holiday gift. Just four words to a living legend did it for me:

Happy Holidays, Johnny Mathis!

Reserve Your Spot At This Week’s Virtual Audience Chat on ACEs, Trauma and Resilience

By Michael P Coleman

“Resilience” is a trait upon which we’ve all had to lean this year. If you’re lucky, “trauma” won’t be as familiar, but for many, techniques for mitigating the effects of trauma have been saving graces.

If you’re tempted to say “amen” to any of that, you don’t want to miss ACEs, Trauma & Resilience: An Audience Chat. The virtual event will be held Thursday, November 12th from 6pm-7:30pm, and is made possible due to support from Sacramento County and Sutter Health.

The audience chat will feature several Sacramento area mental health clinicians and thought leaders, a phenomenal spoken word artist, and a young man you need to meet, Justin Martinez.

“I am honored to share my inspiring story on how and why I achieved against adversity,” Martinez said via email, as he prepares for Thursday’s event. “I want to show others that my vulnerability has become a superpower in my life.”

Photo courtesy of 1212 Photography

“The event is for anyone who has survived trauma and has chosen to forgive their pasts.”

Martinez couldn’t be more qualified to instruct people of all ages on surviving adversity, and thriving despite the curve balls that often come our way. I’m not a proponent of spoiler alerts, so I won’t share details of his story here. I will tell you that Charles Dickens wrote less harrowing stories than the one he has lived in his 30 years.

I’ve come to know Martinez over the last few months, and I have never walked away from an interaction with him without being inspired.

“My hope is to show others how resilient they truly are,” Martinez said. “If anyone feels that they are a victim of life’s hardships, this event is for you. Let us embrace and heal together this Thursday!”

ACEs, Trauma & Resilience: An Audience Chat is the first “pre launch” public event for Brother Be Well, a new initiative from Mental Health California.

Register here for this week’s audience chat if your schedule allows and you want — or need — to be inspired!

I Spent The Afternoon With Richard Donner: An Exclusive Interview With Superman: The Movie’s Director

By Michael P Coleman

If you’re experiencing déjà vu as you await the release of The Snyder Cut of Justice League, there’s a good reason for it. Movie fans, and specifically Superman fans, have been here before.

The theatrical release of the 2017 superhero film followed news of director Zach Snyder stepping down and Josh Whedon stepping in to finish the project. Movie fans experienced the same thing two generations ago, when director Richard Donner was unceremoniously replaced before he could complete the sequel to the wildly successful 1978 opus Superman: The Movie. Donner, along with a superb cast that included Marlon Brando and Gene Hackman, along with Margot Kidder and relative newcomer Christopher Reeve in the title role, had made us all believe a man could fly.

In doing so, Donner & company blew the mind of the 13-year-old version of this writer. It is not hyperbole to say that in making me believe that Superman could change the course of mighty rivers, Donner’s film changed the course of my life. I have never looked at a motion picture the same way since. Donner also directed hits like The Omen, Goonies, and the Lethal Weapon Series, but for this writer, Superman: The Movie is his masterpiece.

I’m far from alone in my love of the film. Forty years after Superman: The Movie’s debut, Fathom Events held anniversary screenings in select theaters nationwide. The film was screened at three separate events during Black Friday weekend in Sacramento two years ago. All three events sold out.

You can’t imagine the effort it took to calm my heart as I began an exclusive interview with Donner, now 90, by phone from his office in southern California. I’ve been waiting for decades to write just the headline to this piece. (Die hard fans of the film will get that reference!)

I started out telling Donner what should be obvious to you by now: Superman: The Movie is my all-time favorite film.

“You know what, Mike,” Donner warmly said. “You’ve got great taste!” The director’s quick reply was emblematic of our conversation: it was friendly and inviting, and a dream come true.

I asked Donner when he knew that he had made a film that was going to have a profound impact with millions around the world, and still revered decades later.

“I certainly didn’t know it when we were making it,” Donner said. “I was just trying to make the best movie I could make. I think it was during the first showing I attended — not the opening, but a regular screening in a theater, in New York. I watched the audience experience that movie and I was very moved, very excited.”

Donner’s on set mantra was “verisimilitude.” He told me that of his accomplishments with the movie, achieving that is the one of which he’s most proud, over 40 years later.

“Before I came on board, the script was kind of a parody of a parody,” Donner remembered. “It had been really well written by three or four really good writers, but they had been directed by a couple of Hungarians [producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind] who saw it as a comic book rather than a piece of history. Their script didn’t have any respect for what the character stood for, since I was a little kid.”

Tom Mankiewicz and I had known each other for years, and we’d always talked about working together, so I presented him with the problem,” Donner continued. “I asked him to bring a sense of reality, or verisimilitude, to the story. I wanted to be able to prove that a man could fly. Tom rewrote the entire script.”

“Years before, there had been a French film called Jules and Jim, a great film. Two guys fall in love with the same woman. That’s what Superman was: two guys in love with the same woman. It happened to be that the two guys were the same guy, but not in the woman’s eyes. I asked Tom ‘How do we make that into a love story?’ He just fell right into it.”

Mankiewicz is credited as the film’s “Creative Consultant.”

Audiences fell right into it, too. From the film’s opening frame, viewers realized they were in for something different, especially for a comic book film. The movie’s first spoken line, delivered with gravitas by Brando as Superman’s Kryptonian father, is “This is no fantasy, no careless product of wild imagination.”

Verisimilitude, indeed!

“That was certainly by design,” Donner replied, when I asked if I’d had spent over 40 years reading too much into his picture. “I was trying to let the audience know that they were not looking at a comic book, or what had been done with Superman over the ages. This was the true story of Superman.”

“In my eyes, when I was a kid, he was real. And he was in Tom’s eyes, too. We decided that’s the way we wanted the movie to be.”

With the film’s vision in place, Donner set about the daunting task of finding his celluloid Superman, an actor who could breathe life into him. It was no easy task, as Donner first had to leap, in a single bound, the hurdle that Warner Brothers had placed in his path: the studio wanted the director to cast a known actor in the title role.

“When I came onboard, Warners had been talking about great actors, like [Robert] Redford and [Paul] Newman, taking on the role,” Donner recalled. “They were great actors, but I had to convince an audience that a man was going to fly, and I thought it would have been kinda rough to do that with those people. It’s hard to think about those actors in leotards, flying over a city, without almost laughing! So I was searching for an unknown.”

“When Christopher Reeve came into my life, that was it for me,” Donner continued. “The minute we met him, he was the guy. There were no two ways about it.”

Reeve and Donner on set during the filming of Superman: The Movie

“The same was true with Margot [Kidder}. Again, we looked at a lot of names, and they were good actresses, but it was kinda hard to see them with Christopher and believe the fantasy that had become a reality with our new script.”

“Clark said that you’re just a figment of somebody’s imagination…like Peter Pan,” Lois says, pre-flight. “Peter Pan flew with children, Lois…in a fairy tale.”

“Margot was perfect for the role. I screen tested her with Christopher, but I didn’t have to. She was everything I was looking for.”

Donner, Kidder, and Reeve, prepping to film Superman and Lois Lane’s iconic flight over Metropolis.

Superman: The Movie became a phenomenon, breaking box office records worldwide and ultimately winning an Academy Award for Visual Effects. The shots were truly groundbreaking at the time, an era long before computers would make a director’s job a whole lot easier.

“Those are the scenes I’d like to reshoot: the optical work. The trickery,” Donner said. “We had no computers, and that was a great liability to us. We had to make those Goddamned shots look believable, to make the audience believe that everything onscreen was real. It took us a year of preproduction for our first flying shot to be accepted. One whole year!”

In addition to the screenwriters, cast, and crew, Donner credits the equally legendary John Williams for writing the inspiring score to Superman: The Movie. To this day, I listen to the movie’s main theme at least once a week. It gets me up many a morning, and has gotten me through many a workout at the gym…and many a trial in my life. I’ve always thought of the film’s brilliant score as a seminal part of experiencing that movie, either on the big screen, or at home with the volume turned way up!

“That music is so important,” Donner agreed, “and it’s so brilliantly done. That music is as important as the photographs of the actors in the actual film. It all boils down to all of the pieces: music, effects, dialogue, and everything that goes into a film. It’s so important. It’s extraordinary.”

While Donner wasn’t allowed to complete his work on the sequel to Superman: The Movie, over twenty-five years later a fan-led campaign would ultimately convince Warner Brothers to commission the director to reassemble the elements he’d shot for Superman II: The Donner Cut. Fans finally got to see his vision for the sequel in 2006.

As enjoyable as the theatrical version of Superman II was back in the day, The Donner Cut confirms that Donner’s take would have been superior to it. I can only hope that Zack Synder’s cut of Justice League, due in 2021, will be as good.

As Donner and I wrapped up our chat, I asked him how he’d like Hollywood — and the world — to think of him 100 years from now, as nostalgic movie fans are enjoying Superman: The Movie.

“As a good husband, who married a really great woman, and had a really great life,” Donner said. “It’s almost a fantasy, it’s so beautiful, but that’s what it’s about to me. This whole business, this industry, has been so good to me. I’m a happy guy.”

Thanks, Mr. Donner.

This feature is the first of a series on the architects of Superman: The Movie. Look for upcoming features on producer Ilya Salkind and actors Jeff East (“Young Clark Kent”) and Jack O’Halloran (Kryptonian villain “Non”).

Projection or Prayer? President Donald Trump, You’re Fired!

By Michael P Coleman

Hopefully, we’re just hours away from the headline of which I’ve been dreaming for almost four years:

President Donald Trump, You’re Fired

Those who are fans of Trump’s from his days on NBC’s The Apprentice will recall the reference. So very many young people might not. Just this morning, I spoke with a cashier at Target who’s voting in the first presidential election of her life today. She said she was a freshman in high school when Trump was sworn in as president.

I’ve never been this anxious during an election. I remember being on pins and needles during the hours before Barack Obama would go on to become our nation’s first African American president in 2008.

In the twelve years since, we’ve gone from black to orange. I never thought I’d say this, but I really hope a white man gets elected over a “person of color” this time around.

Sometimes, you have to laugh to keep from crying.

This afternoon, as we’re minutes away from the closing of the first polls on the east coast, I’m remembering successful political campaigns from decades gone by, spoken by some of the greatest leaders of my lifetime:

“Yes, we can!”

President Barack Obama

“I still believe in a place called Hope!”

President Bill Clinton

And maybe, just maybe, we’ll soon be able to add Biden’s battle call to that list. We’re in the middle of a battle for the soul of a nation. We can give Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris a chance to put our country back on the right course — while making history in the process, as Harris would be our nation’s first black and first female vice president.

As I wrote that last paragraph, I got a robocall from the Democratic National Committee, encouraging me to vote today and go to iwillvote.com. The recorded voice on the other end of the call was President Barack Obama’s. Hand to God.

I’m taking it as a sign. Biden’s in. Trump’s out. It’s got to go down that way. I’ll call it now.

I don’t know whether our democracy can take another four years of an egomaniacal, xenophobic, racist idiot in the Oval Office.

Hell, I’m not sure whether I can take it.

I’ve always heard that God doesn’t give us more than we can handle, so for only the second time in my life, I’m praying for a politician. The first time I prayed for one, the Obamas decided to take a stroll down the street just after the president’s inauguration.

Every black person in the world feared what might have happened that sunny afternoon. Our prayers got through, and the Obamas made it home.

Let’s hope and pray that Biden and Harris bring it home tonight.

The future President and Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden & Kamala Harris

It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown Is On TV Tonight. For Some Of Us.

By Michael P Coleman

Since 1966, It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown has been a part of Halloween traditions across the country.

There’s nothing like watching Charlie and the gang go for “Tricks or Treats” (“I got a rock!”), Lucy bob for apples (and beagles!), or Linus and Sally sitting out in that most sincere of pumpkin patches for the Great Pumpkin to arrive, gifts in hand (if The Great Pumpkin has hands…).

With the advent of online broadcast services and the battle for our streaming dollars, some of our childhood favorites have migrated from traditional networks. None of those changes hit me as hard as the recently announced Peanuts gang shift from ABC to Apple TV+.

That’s right. This year, our beloved Peanuts holiday specials will only be available to those who can afford to pony up a few extra dollars to enjoy this.

To quote another cherished holiday character…Bah! Humbug! Or even better…

I’m not directly affected by the switch, as I’ve been an Apple TV+ subscriber since early this year. Overall, I’m a fan of the service. However, I am not a fan of the removal of Great Pumpkin, along with the Peanuts’ annual Thanksgiving and Christmas specials, from broadcast television.

Apple routinely sells mobile phones that cost north of $1,000, so it may be difficult for them to understand that there are families who rely on free, broadcast television for their entertainment. Even families who can’t afford cable or satellite can pick up broadcast channels…wait for it…over the air.

Those families should be able to journey through the French countryside with Snoopy this Halloween as he finds his way back home, or watch him slug it out with a lawn chain in the Thanksgiving special. And no Christmas is complete without a viewing of that earnest Yuletide sprig morph into a glorious Christmas tree.

Apple TV+ is graciously offering It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown for free to non-subscribers for a limited time, but it still seems like a loss. I don’t like brazen cash grabs…and I hardly think Peanuts creator Charles Schulz would like this one, either.

Especially after the year we’ve had, the time wasn’t right to rip a cherished childhood memory from us, just to make a buck.

If you agree, sign the petition to bring Charlie Brown back to broadcast TV. At press time, over 200,000 have done just that!

Reviews — The Rarities and The Meaning Of Mariah Carey

Both the album and the memoir offer a few surprises, and a glimpse into one of the preeminent pop divas of all time.

By Michael P Coleman

Like most of Mariah Carey’s product, I sampled her latest album, the double disc The Rarities, trepidatiously. The project includes 15 tracks that were recorded for a variety of albums that the superstar has released over the last 30 years. For reasons we may never know, Carey had left the songs on the cutting room floor.

Producer David Foster once told me that when songs are left off of an album, there’s always a reason, and that most often there’s not much new or revelatory to be found in the figurative trash bin. Overall, that’s true of The Rarities. However, since Carey’s recorded catalog is so exceptional, the legend has released outtakes that are better executed than the tunes found on most new albums these days.

The first of The Rarities’ discs includes a few standouts, including “Can You Hear Me,” “Do You Think Of Me,” and “Everything Fades Away. They stand up to Carey classics from yore. The latter song features a step-out vocal and hook on the bridge that has haunted me for days.

Another stunner is Carey’s version of Irene Cara’s 1980 vocal triumph, “Out Here On My Own” from the Fame soundtrack. It’ll leave you scratching your head about why the cover is just now seeing the light of day, as she recorded it almost 20 years ago. Like Carey’s #1 cover of The Jackson 5’s “I’ll Be There,” it’s a reminder that the prolific singer / songwriter wraps her voice around songs that come her way as effortlessly as she does her own compositions.

The Rarities’ first disc has a few missteps, including Carey’s attempt at a jazz, “Lullaby Of Birdland” from 2004. It’’s aptly named: it’s a snoozer. Carey is a formidable pop / soul vocalist, and I give her at A for effort, but she’s no Ella Fitzgerald.

The version of “Loverboy” included in the collection, devoid of the classic Cameo sample, falls flat. And confoundedly, Carey’s collaboration with Lauryn Hill, “Save The Day,” falls short of that promise. In fact, Hill’s soulful voice is buried in the mix beneath Carey’s. Evidently, in true diva fashion, Carey was not to be outdone, especially on her own album.

The Rarities’ second disc is more fulfilling, comprised of a seemingly complete concert from 1996, when Carey’s multi octave range, and particularly her stunning whistle register, wasn’t time tarnished. She sounds, simply, incredible, cementing her status as her generation’s premiere female pop vocalist. The live survey of her smashes reminds fans (sorry…her Lambs) of her proficiency as a songwriter.

While Carey probably will never deliver a full-length jazz opus, she could own the gospel genre if she wanted to. Both the recorded “I Pray” from 2005 and the live version of “Anytime You Need A Friend” from the second disc raises the rafters and would have made Mahalia Jackson, The Clark Sisters, or CeCe Winans proud.

At the end of the “Someday” knockoff “Here We Go Around Again,” Carey gives us a glimpse into her creative process with the spoken snippet “The end of that was iffy.” That’s how I felt about her highly anticipated memoir, The Meaning Of Mariah Carey. I won’t spoil the ending, but it, like her jazz foray, left me wanting more.

Like The Rarities album, the memoir includes several juicy tidbits. Suffice it to say that Carey’s biological family is a cast of characters, and she’s had some really, really good therapists.

Carey shares several details of a truly tumultuous upbringing and first marriage, to her boss at Sony Music. In doing so, she’s crafted a survivor narrative that is effective in bringing her Lambs ever closer to her. She also weaves lyrics to several of her songs into her prose, revealing to even diehard fans that this sparrow’s secrets have been there for all to see, all along,

Like The Rarities album, The Meaning Of Mariah Carey has a few blemishes. Carey’s book would be stronger if someone had fact checked some of her recollections. For example, for a woman who proclaims such adoration for Aretha Franklin, Carey should have known that Franklin’s debut album wasn’t 1967’s I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You. The Queen of Soul had been recording and releasing albums for half a dozen years at that point, ironically for Columbia Records, where Carey began her career.

And I wish that the self-described “Elusive Chanteuse” had devoted a little more of the memoir’s real estate to discussing some of her projects that get very short shrift in the new book, like Unplugged or Merry Christmas, and a little less time talking about hair.

Yes, hair. Her own and Diana Ross’s. According to Carey’s book, she’s been chasing The Boss’s gloriously unruly mane for years.

Ah, well. Such is the life of a diva. Carey will probably never be Maya Angelou, either, so I’ll stop nitpicking the book and get back to what she does better than most.

As I listened to the second live disc of The Rarities, I found myself wishing I’d been reviewing her album closer to the holiday season, as I had to fend off a longing to hear Carey’s impossibly infectious “All I Want For Christmas Is You.” She delivered it as an encore during the concert, and I found myself warbling that Christmas chestnut, belting it out at the very top of a range that pales compared to Carey’s, during a sunny, warm October walk in California.

I tried. God knows I did. But Carey won me over, just as she has her millions of fans all over the world, over the last three decades.

Pick up a copy of The Rarities and The Meaning Of Mariah Carey, but in doing so, consider a word of caution: you just may be a bigger fan of Carey’s when you’re done with the book and album than you were when you start them. In fact, you may start considering yourself a Lamb.

I now do.

Don’t say you haven’t been warned.

Now, back to the music! “I don’t want a lot for Christmas / There is just one thing I need…”

In An Abundance Of Caution, Vote!

By Michael P Coleman

“Out of an abundance of caution” is, without a doubt, the catch phrase of the year!

At the dawn of 2020, the phrase would have sounded odd, and other words and phrases like “social distancing,” “coronavirus,” and even “viral pandemic” weren’t ones that often rolled off of our tongues. But as COVID-19 has swept the globe, we’ve all become uncomfortably yet inextricably acquainted with them.

But no phrase has captured my attention like “out of an abundance of caution.” I wish I’d had it in my lexicon when I was raising my kids. While my biological mother had used “If I were you” to strike fear in my heart when I was ready to deviate from the rules of the house, I can almost hear myself saying “Out of an abundance of caution, I would not call that boy” to one of my kids, while the phrase would have preceded admonitions about the other’s report card. Ah, the good ol’ days!

Today, in addition to using “out of an abundance of caution” to help guide our behavior as we learn to coexist with the current coronavirus — and I’ll take this moment to make a PSA: wear a mask! — the phrase is applicable to help guide us over the next few days and on our way to the polls.

After watching the third of this year’s televised presidential debates I realize that “out of an abundance of caution” is apropos when thinking about the current inhabitant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington DC. (The zip code’s 20500, just in case you want to send the Trumps a Christmas card.)

Better yet, make it a Dia de Los Muertos card and send it quickly, because Trump will hopefully be filling out a change of address card sometime around Christmas. Out of an abundance of caution, we should be voting during the current election, and specifically, voting Donald J. Trump out of office.

In the spirit of the transparency that we’re sorely lacking from our current president, I understand friends when they’ve said that they’re less than excited about this year’s ticket. During one of last week’s town halls, NBC’s Savannah Guthrie admonished Trump about his errant, largely fact-deprived tweeting. She reminded Trump that, as the leader of the free world, he needed to be a more mindful communicator, and that he wasn’t “somebody’s crazy uncle” tweeting stuff out.

The only problem with Guthrie’s hysterical sound bite is the fact that Trump actually is somebody’s crazy uncle.

“Yes, Donald IS my crazy uncle.”

I don’t know where to start with Donald. During the last debate, Trump insisted that the 500+ Mexican children who were wrenched from their parents’ arms at our country’s southern border, the ones who still haven’t been reunited with their families and were held in cages, were “well taken care of.” He’s spoken of those same children’s fathers as “drug dealers, criminals, and rapists.”

A few months ago, Trump gassed peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters so that he could stroll to the entrance of a church that he seldom if ever attends, just to have his picture taken…Bible in hand, of course.

To date, Trump has refused to denounce white supremacists, and advised his cronies, on national television, to “stand back and stand by.

And during the aforementioned debate, when pressed on his record on race, Trump made this asinine assertion:

“I am the least racist person,” Trump lied. “I can’t even see the audience because it’s so dark. But I don’t care who’s in the audience, I’m the least racist person in this room.”

He made that claim as he addressed the event’s moderator, a woman of color. Trump later likened himself to Abraham Lincoln, stating he had done more for the African American community than any president since Honest Abe.

The irony and probable racism of his televised tirade immediately struck me. Trump can’t even see us.

Now, don’t get me wrong: Joe Biden is no Barack Obama. Hell, I’m not even sure he’s a Bill Clinton. I chuckle when Biden uses the word “malarkey” or says “here’s the deal.” I smile when he accidentally screws up statistics. I take a breath and often fight back a tear when he talks about losing his son Beau a few years ago.

And when Uncle Joe looks into the camera, and gives us his word, “as a Biden,” that he’d be a president for all of us, independent of party, I believe him.

Most importantly, we know that Joe Biden sees us. Unlike his apponent, he’s uttered the words “Black Lives Matter.” Biden doesn’t just talk about valuing women and people of color: he hires them, one of them to the second highest office in the land, if we can get behind him.

Senator Kamala Harris

Biden has, over the course of several decades, displayed his aptitude for working with people who share different viewpoints. If you doubt that, remember his contentious battle with Harris during the primary season. I can’t recall a presidential candidate other than Biden who selected his chief rival as his running mate.

“I was that little girl, Joe.”

Obama didn’t even do that.

“No, Michael P, he did not. He did not…” – Hillary Clinton

If you want to know how much Donald J. Trump values women and melanin, just look at the person he named to ride side saddle with him. Could that ticket be any older or whiter?

That’s a rhetorical question.

Speaking of Senator Kamala Harris, and I’m speaking, here, I’m speaking (a close runner-up for this year’s best catch phrase!), this election isn’t about whether she is black enough. It’s also not about favoring a Green Party or other candidate who doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell of getting elected on November 3rd. If you really favor the Green Party, spend the next four years getting a candidate positioned to be viable in 2024.

This November, the presidential election should be about one thing and one thing only:

During the final debate, Trump said he’d love to go away for awhile, during his failed attempt to disparage Biden for adhering to the CDC’s guidance re: social distancing and the coronavirus. Let’s give Agent Orange even more than he asked for on November 3rd. Let’s vote Biden in, and send Trump packing, not just for a year or so, but for good.

I don’t think our democracy — our nation — can stand another four years of Trump. Biden, with his far steadier hand and far more caring heart, and with Harris by his side, will help heal us.

In other words…

Let’s vote for Joe Biden & Kamala Harris…out of an abundance of caution.

The San Francisco Symphony’s Currents Series Brings Us Closer Together

The 4 part video / podcast series features music from jazz, hip hop, Mexican, and Chinese cultures.

By Michael P Coleman

In the midst of a socially distant global pandemic, The San Francisco Symphony has miraculously managed to bring us a little closer together with Currents.

The superb, four episode digital series shares the music and tells the stories of a variety of Bay Area communities, while highlighting the influences of jazz, hip hop, Mexican, and Chinese cultures. The series is available via video or podcast.

In all honesty, I expected to be moved by Currents’ jazz and hip hop episodes. I did not expect to tear up during the Mexican and Chinese segments, as I did this morning. The series reminded me that music is the ultimate unifier.

“Once people have heard music from another culture, they tend to integrate it into what they’re doing,” says Michael Morgan, curator & host of Currents.

Morgan also is the Music Director at the Oakland Symphony and Artistic Director of the Oakland Youth Orchestra. He’s been connected with the San Francisco Symphony since 1994, when he first led Concerts For Kids performances.

“I am thrilled to be helping the San Francisco Symphony share all the wonderful things they do with a wider and more diverse audience,” Morgan says. “In this series, an array of Bay Area artists perform with members of the SF Symphony and we visit locations that played a role in the creation of these various styles of music, all of which together are part of the musical atmosphere of San Francisco. With the Symphony, we have musicians with almost every musical interest. We wanted to share our broad interests with our audience, old and new.”

The SF Symphony is sure the attract new fans with Currents. It’s hard to pick a favorite episode of the four, but I have to tell you about pianist Tammy L. Hall, who’s featured in the series’ Episode II — Bay Area Blue Notes.

“Jazz is honest, and all inclusive,” Hall says. “It’s radical. It’s about the truth. Jazz is black American music. And jazz is an honor for me to be able to express.”

Tammy Hall. Photo courtesy of Irene Young Photography.

“We’re living in a perilous and pernicious…I dare say, a vicious time, and there’s still room for beauty and truth to shine through,” Hall continues, as her eyes began to glisten with tears. “Music is my water, it’s my breath, it’s the blood that’s running through me.”

In that moment, I felt connected with Hall, via those eloquent words and the stirring piano performances that bookended them, and I shared similar moments with other local musical titans as I watched Currents. The series is a continuation of the exceptional programming we’ve come to expect from the San Francisco Symphony.

As we navigate this increasingly challenging time, Currents is more than worth a bit of your time.


Check out Currents here.

KP International Market In Rancho Cordova Has EVERYTHING — But Be Prepared To Dress The Part If You Want To Shop There

By Michael P Coleman

My eldest sent me a text last weekend and asked whether I’d been to KP International Market in Rancho Cordova. It was an odd question from her, as my kids know I can’t stand grocery shopping.

But after she insisted I had to check it out, only giving me the somewhat cryptic “They know how to do it, Dad,” I decided to check them out. I was looking for something to grill for dinner, anyway.

To paraphrase one of my favorite Saturday Night Live characters, KP International Market has everything!

Good food, good wine, great prices, musical midgets swinging from trapezes…

According to their website, KP International Market carries food items from over 40 different countries. I picked up some salmon that, combined with my husband’s homemade peach habanero glaze, was the centerpiece of the best dinner I’ve had in weeks.

Hubby’s the prep cook, but I’m on the grill!

But THAT wasn’t the real killer about my recent trip to the market, or what my daughter was talking about with the “They know how to do it” line.

To gain entry into KP International Market, shoppers are required to sanitize hands, don disposable gloves, and put on masks…all out in the parking lot, before they ever walk into the front door.

Hand to God. Janet was right: KP International Market knows how to do it!

They know how to keep their customers and staff safe in the middle of a viral pandemic, that is. The last time I was at Raley’s, I found myself in line behind a grungy guy with a cart full of groceries and no face covering over his chapped lips. I changed lanes.

All of the shoppers at KP International Market had the social distancing thing down to a science, too. I felt safer than I have in months at other area grocery stores.

That said, some of the market’s fare required a bit of a paradigm shift. In the west, or at least in the ‘hood, we’re just not used to our chickens still having heads of them.

I’ll grab a sandwich from Popeyes, thanks…

Hand to God.

I may not be buying my chicken at KP International Market, but I’ll certainly be picking up my salmon there…along with a lot of other groceries next time around!

KP International Market is located at 10971 Olson Drive in Rancho Cordova. They are open daily from 8am until 9pm. You can reach them at 916-853-8000.

COVID CONVOS — Face Mask Mama Is Serving It

By Michael P Coleman

If you can manage a social distanced shopping excursion, and you want to make sure you’re looking good during your next one, you may want to check out Face Mask Mama at Arden Fair in Sacramento.

Some of Face Mask Mama’s stuff, at Arden Fair in Sacramento.

Perched at a kiosk just off of the mall’s center court, near the entrance to the Apple Store, Face Mask Mama offers a wide variety of affordable, very stylish face coverings. They are adorned with everything from sequins to cartoon characters — to the BEST (and the worst) of today’s political messages!

You KNOW I did! This is some of the best!

If you have to promote The Comb Over King, yes, Face Mask Mama offers Trump’s masks, too. In fact, the team at Face Mask Mama shared that in Sacramento, tragically, Make America Great Again masks have been outselling Joe Biden masks two-to-one.

I asked who was buying the Trump masks.

“Us AND them,” the clerk shared, under condition of anonymity. “Black people, brown people…everybody. And the Trump masks are outselling the Biden ones! Today, Trump’s been our best-seller.”

I did my part to correct that: I bought 10 Biden masks from Face Mask Mama the other day, and gave most of them away to family and friends. I am doing my part to restore the soul of the nation!

Maybe I should send Donald a few of these. If he’d have worn one, maybe he wouldn’t have had to spend the weekend in the hospital with COVID-19.


And just in case you’re not ready to brave Arden Fair — or any mall — just yet, Face Mask Mama has a fantastic website. Order your next face masks today!

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