Friday, July 22, 2011


The news reached me midday, July 7, 2011: John Mackey died today. For many current fans of the now Indianapolis Colts Football team, the name John Mackey conjures little more than stories passed down from seniors who lived and witnessed a legend in the making. I’m proud to add my name to that list.
Once upon a time, a football team known as the Baltimore Colts served as one of the dominant forces in the National Football League. Despite franchise issues that plagued the team in the early fifties, fate smiled on Baltimore. Talent waited in the wings. One was named Johnny Unitas. Another was years removed from college and pro football, but a recognized talent in his home town of Roosevelt, Long Island. One among several siblings and the son of a prominent minister, John discovered early the pursuit of his dreams faced road blocks. His father was committed to the building of a congregation with his sons following in his footsteps. John Mackey faced the first crossroad of his life. He took the advice of his coaches and accepted a scholarship to Syracuse University.
It would be at Syracuse that our paths would converge. John was beginning his junior year as an established star on the elite Division One contender. I was a mere freshman, forced to wear a humiliating cap that comes with tradition. A freshman colleague, gifted with his own athletic scholarship (wrestling) and signature cap entered my room with the news: Ron, come quick. We gotta get to the Savoy. They’re there!
“John, John and Ernie. Damn, man, don’t you know where you are?”
In fact, I wasn’t sure where I was at the moment. My primary concern centered on the number of sweaters in my inventory before the upstate glaciers made themselves prominent. Nevertheless, I followed my new found friend to the Savoy. John, John and Ernie were maintaining their seats of honor as they held court. In keeping with protocol, I and my freshman colleague waited our turn as the crowd increased. Unable to contain himself longer, the introduction flowed without warning: Ron, this is John Mackey and this is John Brown. Over here, is Ernie Davis. Having reduced me to the lowest level of adolescent embarrassment, I watch my friend gloat in self congratulatory praise of name recall. He obviously expected his actions to earn points in the Syracuse hall of fame.
“Well, well, what do we have here?” quizzed one of the Johns. Which one I do not know. I was preoccupied with the mass of humanity that sat before me. The size of each man dwarfed my presence.
“Looks like two frosh to me,” answered Ernie. “Don’t lose those hats. We like to see you coming.”
Rub it in, why don’t ya.
After a brief inquisition: hometown, age, dormitory address, upper class friends, the question came from John Mackey. “Either of you two play ball?”
“I’m here on a wrestling boat.”
“What’s your name again?”
“Lew Roberts. Remember, John, we met this afternoon.”
“Right – the wrestler from Amityville. What about you, Ron?”
Not bad on name recall.
“A little in high school – not much to talk about.”  Water seeks its own level and I was about to drown.
Mackey’s facial characteristics seemed to inflate with color while his associates appeared to recede into the background. “Let me tell you something, frosh. There are over twelve thousand students here at Syracuse and less than fifty soul brothers and sisters. We need to be seen and heard. A little in high school is a lot to me. Don’t sell yourself short. Come on down to practice; let coach see you.  I’ll walk you through.” Options – none.
The following afternoon, I faced a catharsis. Sitting on the bench in nondescript whites, equipped with body armor, sans number, I became witness to Division One football. True to Mackey’s promise, I was not restricted and allowed to partake in the practice. Important business was the first order of the day. The varsity team would scrimmage against the freshman arrivals. Fortunately, my status as walk-on did not merit that recognition. It did, however, offer the opportunity to observe. And observe I did when a 230 pound freshman fullback by the name of Jim (Bo) Nance broke through the line of scrimmage on his way to significant yardage. That is until he met the one man left in his way. The collision was a blur from my vantage point, but the clear image of an orange helmet flying through the air was no illusion. The freshman prospect was assisted to his feet as John Mackey returned to the bench.
“Where you going, frosh? Coach hasn’t seen you yet.”
“Thanks, John, for the invitation, but not this time. No hard feelings, but I think the man upstairs would like me to see my next birthday.”
“Hey, Ron … no hard feelings. Thanks for coming out. See you again, soon. Remember – less than fifty.”
I expected more resistance, another pep talk – something. Lacking the capacity to read minds, I accepted my continuance into obscurity as a gift. But life is never that simple. A message was sent, a message not to be revealed immediately, but a message that would define both our characters. John Mackey and I would meet and address the Soul brother/sister issues on many a subsequent occasion. The sparse number of our community demanded a family attitude. Perhaps, that was the birth of advocacy for John.
Our careers took divergent paths. Hall of Fame statistics awaited Mackey as did credit for the establishment of the NFL Players Association. He took particular pride in the 1971 Super Bowl victory over the Dallas Cowboys. Vietnam awaited me along with a variety of business ventures, a not too ordinary life. We both met our wives of today at that upstate campus and time has played its tricks on all of us. I never classified our friendship as close, but I did think of family when the name John Mackey was spoken in my home. And finally, I understand the message, John’s message: What happens on the field is not important. The important thing is to show up, weigh the options and take action.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


                When opportunity knocks, what does one do? For some, that question haunts every decision when they reflect on lost opportunities. For others, there is no question – grab the brass ring and run, consequences be damned. And then there are the more than few who never see nor hear opportunity’s presence. On a recent evening, my wife and I were attending an awards/recognition dinner as paid guest at a randomly selected table. A well established ethic in the writing community is the lack of formality when it comes to this kind of affair or others for that matter. Three gentlemen joined us at the table, sans black tie and introduced themselves. Two of the three were escorts for an honored guest, Dan Levin.
            After adequately displaying my ignorance of Mr. Levin’s personal triumphs, I was politely updated throughout the proceedings as to the history of the random company that chose our table:
            Dan Levin, born in Russia in 1914, served in the U.S. Marine Corps in World War ll as a sergeant/combat correspondent, then worked as a State Department reporter at the United Nations. Later he was a newspaper reporter, an editor, and a businessman. He decided on a career change at what then must have seemed late in life and, at fifty, earned a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of Chicago. Thereafter, he became a teacher first at Wayne State University, then briefly at Kent State University, and finally at the C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University. He has been a Fullbright Scholar and visiting lecturer in South Korea and also at the University of Odessa during the last days of the Soviet Union. Although he became Professor Emeritus in the English Department at C.W. Post nearly thirty years ago, he has continued to teach creative writing and comparative literature there. (Introduction by Edmund Miller, Waiting for B-Train, Poems by Dan Levin, 2010).
            The biography continues as does Mr. Levin to this day, but the most gripping of his experiences to this student of history is his survival of the battle of Iwo Jima in the Pacific campaign. It took the better part of an hour before we realized we had something in common beyond writing. Though removed by three decades, we both served in combat. And so, a new story begins.
            The idea was that of Richard Walsh, a guest of Mr. Levin and protégée. The conversation generated its own energy as we recognized the wealth of stories, told and untold, that cried for an audience of the knowledgeable. What better venue than veterans’ homes and hospitals? Richard went to work, and in short order Dan Levin and Ron Scott were scheduled to read and elaborate on their respective experiences from World War ll and Vietnam at the Stony Brook Veterans Home. With the exception of nurses and administrators, the entire audience had front row seats. They, to a man, occupied wheelchairs. This was unchartered waters for both Dan and me, so our motto was to shoot from the hip, interact with the audience. And interact they did. Despite meds and anti-depressant ingredients to their diets, our audience became alive as Dan read poems written on the eve of the Iwo Jima assault from the deck of an aircraft carrier. He also did not fail to present the up close and personal reality of combat when the typewriter was exchanged for flame thrower.
            On my behalf, I felt the amalgamation of two generations from opposite cultures. Not withstanding the color of our skins, we were both victims of incredulous periods of history that mirrored our paths. Like Dan, in Vietnam the need for typewriter was replaced with the utility of an M16. Unlike Dan, my tour was calendar based. Stay alive for twelve months and you go home. 55,000 did not fulfill the contract. My mission became one of restoring color to the souls of those who fought and may be forgotten before its too late. Dan Levin glanced at me and smiled. Instantly, I knew this was the beginning of a new friendship. Needless to say, we look forward to our next stage before veterans and the public. All are welcomed. I will keep you posted.

Thursday, March 10, 2011


When I find material too thin (rare), or too busy (normal media day), I often turn to poetry. Just what you'd expect from a Vietnam veteran, Right? Well, loyal pilgrims, I promised surprises. And before Def Jam Poets move me off the planet, I thought I'd treat you to a little quality time:


Black, no cream, no sugar
Night just beginning
Long way to go
To daybreak.

Night creatures awaken
Real or imagined
Common mission
Extract peace of mind.

Keep it simple
Souls of present and past
What are you doing here?
Come to visit?

Agenda decided
Discomfort disclosed
Bitter sweet memories
Enter on cue.

Cinnamon Hazelnut tonight’s flavor
Offered to welcomed & unwelcomed
Untold stories seeking daylight
Their place in history.

Custom blend for the party
Dancers of the night
Lost in the mist
Souls in need of voice.

Voice that cries within
Release me
I am you
Your eyes alone.

Characters come alive
Argue, love, hate
Imitate passion, lack of
In spite of my command.

Vision released, uncontained
Enigma astonishes
Life’s journey claims
Victim and survivor.

Sleep will not win tonight
Victory is in the pen
Ink that dries
In the mind of humanity.

Untold stories rejoice
Night just beginning
Java left to brew
Black, no cream, no sugar.

It’s been said: Multitasking is a woman’s work;
Man lacks the tools.
His cranium is absent the proper compartments.
Who said that?

It’s been said: A woman’s threshold for pain exceeds man’s;
Birthing the undisputed example.
Man’s role limited to procreation and transportation.
Who said that?

Let us not forget: Who stands behind every successful man;
Which says it all, I suspect.
As any self respecting wise man will attest.
A closed mouth serves him best.

Freddie loved all seasons, on the ready to assist neighbors,
Sharing parenthood without retribution.
Community report cards made a reputation,
Not lost on Freddie and family upbringings.
Locked doors in Bed-Sty were the exception;
Shared aspirations filled the streets.

The borough of churches arises every Sunday,
To sooth sinners and the disenfranchised,
Who compose the other family, a gangland sanctuary.
A day of rest for Freddie and friends,
Stompers vs. Corsairs a recurring meet, location discreet,
Displacement activity for king of the street.

Blood flows freely for the unlucky when the glow appears,
Steel under streetlight, the homemade zip-gun;
Casualties are black on black, as the whites run.
To inhabit suburbia before the next wave of immigrants,
Dreamers all from injustice imposed,
Hysteria, case closed.

                     ANGELA’S GIFT

Angela was my first call of the night.
Welcome to WLIW. May I take your pledge?
Her voice soft and wrapped in subtle coarseness
Spoke of mystery and caution.

I want the highest level, tickets and dinner for two,
It’s for my mother, you see.
Mary Ann’s biggest fan.
Said she, surreptitiously.

Mary Ann, the evening attraction,
Icon of kitchen notoriety;
Image of mothers world wide
Who create recipes with pride.

Extraction of ID a challenge,
As voice recedes to a whisper.
Repetition of the perfunctory no easy task;
Bronx address established, lucidity masked.

Playing field altered;
Red flags come into view.
Veteran of inner city, I see Satan’s work:

Drugs that stupefy,
Drugs that remove childhood,
Drugs that take no prisoners.
Drugs that ….

Angela, are you there?
I can barely hear you.

Reluctant to disconnect,
Protocol replaced by urgency.
My felicitous theatrics conceal not panic;
I am undressed by Satan’s scourge.

Sorry, I changed my mind. You are kind.
Mary Ann would be fun; her books Momma read,
Please, tell no one,
Momma is dead.

Angela, are you there?

Saturday, February 19, 2011


Black History Month is upon us, short on days but long on history. In commemoration of our abbreviated history, I offer the following memoir: The Shared Journey.

            The pilgrimage was the idea of Uncle Theodore.  He alone engineered the plan that would include my father and the three youngsters, me and two cousins.  The enthusiasm for this trip was not equally shared by the designated passengers, but it came as no surprise.  From the moment Uncle Theodore purchased the 1950 Buick, he spoke of nothing but the trip home with the youngsters.  For me, as well as my cousins, the only home we knew was Brooklyn.
            The eyes of a child miss nothing. I could see the polite resistance my father offered, buying time from my uncle’s persuasive arguments on the responsibility of the Negro father to familiarize his children with their roots. My uncle cut a very imposing figure. Ebony in color, he stood six feet in height in a frame chiseled out of muscle acquired from years of hard work as a brick mason. As was common during that time, Uncle Theodore was typically chauvinistic with an unflinching ego; his wife artfully supported this delusion to her great advantage. My father, Harold Scott, although taller than my uncle, took on a very different posture. His complexion was characterized as “white”, “high yeller”, or “red bone”, depending from what part of the country you came. His dialogue was soft but convincing. To see the two men in the same room was to see two extremes of the color spectrum, which was representative of the family tree. However, in a debate, it was only a matter of time. My father was no match for Uncle Theodore’s uncompromising obsession.
            It was the summer of 1951 when we began that long motor trip south. Uncle Theodore was in control. He choreographed everything from travelling clothes to the routes of travel. Our destination:  the neighboring towns of Danville and Chatham, Virginia. Estimated time to arrival in Danville was 11 hours, give or take. Rest stops were not included in the itinerary except for gasoline and biological needs. This point of fact justified the large box of sandwiches and fried chicken that occupied a prominent position inside the Buick.
The trip began without incident. Laughter rebounded within the vehicle as my cousins and I exchanged jokes and sampled packed lunches in the back seat. Up front, Uncle Theodore started the trip as driver with my father as shotgun conversation. The first few hours of travel were filled with the novelty of watching our urban existence disintegrate into flowing countryside, an experience that slowed a growing discomfort with our confined quarters. Then the announcement –“Gas Stop.”  Thank God that Buick required gas! As the four doors opened, the race began for the restrooms and the soda machine. My father and Uncle Theodore assumed a reserved position alongside the auto, in conversation with the attendant, while placing private bets as to who would be first with a cold coke - the only soda in the Coke inscribed cooler.  Upon re-entering the Buick, there were two noticeable changes. My father was now the driver (a position he would hold for the remainder of the trip), and Uncle Theodore’s behavior transformed into a more concerned partner.
            Within minutes it appeared - The Mason/Dixon Line. I had heard of this namesake from eavesdropping on adult conversation. I had also absorbed the intensity with which it was used. The intensity became real when measured with Uncle Theodore’s concern. His only remark was “here it is”, stated in an uncharacteristic soft tone unbecoming the man. In my subsequent years, I learned that this visible demarcation was attributed to two indigenous surveyors of the region. My father drove on without comment. It was then I knew my uncle had travelled this road many times before. The road map was just a prop. At just the right moment, he would instruct my dad to make a turn off the highway onto what appeared to be a dusty road; and then, another deviation which eventually led us back to a main thoroughfare. All passengers instinctively knew that our navigator was steering a secure route. But why?
            The youngsters were now fitted with a new sense of anxiety. This was certainly unlike my few trips to the Catskills! It seemed as if that Buick would never need gas again in spite of our collective need to relieve ourselves. Finally, the Buick’s needs had to be met. With the needle solidly on empty, my father steered the car into the next gas station. The attendant was seated in a chair outside, adjacent to the office, motionless. He appeared to be enjoying the heat. Not even a menacing horsefly hovering about his arms could alter his blind stare. Uncle Theodore approached him and asked his permission to fuel the car. I thought that strange of my uncle, but my biological needs were more demanding at the moment. I moved straight for the restroom. A firm grip fell upon my shoulder.
“Wait a minute, son. Wait for Theodore.”
My uncle made a casual turn from the attendant and gave an affirmative nod. Oh how I relished my uncle’s persuasiveness!  My father then led the youngsters to the restroom. He passed the door labeled “Restroom”. There was another door - not labeled or closed. That was ours.
            As I returned to the car, I could see Uncle Theodore pumping gas into the Buick. The attendant had yet to move from his initial position in that chair. The stillness of that service attendant was matched only by the chiseled grin worn by my uncle. Having satisfied the Buick, Uncle Theodore returned to the attendant to pay him. At that moment I noticed the first sign of movement in that chair. The chair’s occupant flinched a grin. Then came the words, “Niggra, you’re a good boy. You know how to pump gas.” I felt an emotion that I could not control swell from the very depths of my being; not from the words just spoken, but from the anguish displayed on what was the sculptured face of my uncle. Here was a man, black by birth, skilled mason by trade, infused with the pride of self accomplishment, humiliated by words that pierce a soul. In a child’s eye.
            My father quickly moved to grasp control of the situation by accelerating Buick and passengers at a pace that I will never forget. His were the only words spoken for several miles. He cautioned the youngsters to remember this experience, not as the deed of one man, but as a culture of ignorance. There are more from whence he came, and we can be assured of encountering more of the same during our lifetimes. Then he expertly refocused Uncle Theodore, et al, by reminding us that our destination is near. However, in spite of dad’s commendable effort, the damage was done. The emotion of seeing our captain visibly shaken by such a lesser man fostered a sense of doubt as to my own self confidence. But why?
Then it appeared - Welcome to Danville. The reincarnation of my uncle’s former self was immediate. In a gust of emotion, he motioned to my father. “Stop the car, Harold. We are going to take some pictures!”  The camera rotated among all passengers to insure that each would be on record for this momentous occasion. The excitement was contagious if for no other reason than the anticipated closure of a long trip. From this point, the Buick negotiated a series of dusty roads into remote countryside until a solitary gas station came into view, almost as an obstruction to our destination. With the Buick functioning on a healthy tank, Uncle Theodore exclaimed, “We’ll fill up here!” The looks were unanimous - what’s he doing now?
            My uncle exited the Buick in quick step. Made for the “high test” pump and started filling the car without hesitation. The attendant slowly disengaged himself from his office and broke into a sprint heading straight for my uncle. In a flash, the attendant was upon Theodore - but in place of violence, laughter! The two men embraced each other in what could be considered a dance.
“Chauncy, it’s been a long time, I thought I might fool you!”
“Teddy, you could never fool me. I would think you’d know that by now.”
Youngsters and Harold, I want you to meet family, Chauncy.”
            Chauncy was the proprietor of this gas station that stood in the middle of nowhere. His features were unique to my family experience: Native American, broad shoulders atop a lean body, long black hair woven with steel gray strands, and a face that bore tracks of history. This stop added an additional hour to our trip as he insisted on catching up on old times. When you are family, there are no strangers. Regardless of the delay, I started to feel at home. As dad and uncle motioned to resume the final leg of our trip, Chauncy said, “I’ll see you at ‘the house’ ”, knowing instinctively our destination.
            “The house” was the home of Uncle George, the patriarch of the White family, and testament to a family dynasty that included 350 acres of farmed tobacco and an assortment of livestock. The vastness of this real estate exceeded my comprehension. I would come to learn that large farm holdings, even of people of color, were not uncommon in Virginia. However, as a result of his shrewd negotiating skills with the American Tobacco Company, Uncle George became one of the most powerful men in the region, notwithstanding the color of his skin.
            “The house” became a place of constant activity. Every relative and neighbor in the county made their way to “the house” before our departure. We were given special treatment at every visit; but more importantly, the youngsters became witness to a social experience that was beyond our years. Our family is more than black and white.  Our family is more than Brooklyn.  Our family is a rainbow of color.
            I can still remember the sadness on that day of departure from a family that was mine. It was a day prolonged by the collective goodbyes of family that I never knew existed. The Buick was resupplied in a manner that barely left room for passengers. In my heart I feared the loss of that euphoria. But why?
            The trip back “home” to New York was less boisterous than our original journey. I think now that maybe we were sharing the same loss. Will we see each other again?

            The next trip south was in the summer of 1963. I was preparing to enter my junior year of college, more than ten years removed from that ride in the Buick. On this excursion, my father was the instigator and the passengers were all strangers. Uncle Theodore had passed away, the victim of a one and only heart attack.  And my cousin supporters were unable to attend. My father and I were on a school bus bound for Washington D.C.  The heat was unbearable and the ride was bumpy - but there was something familiar. A sense of comradely permeated the bus. I remember song, laughter, and a sense of purpose, punctuated by prayer appropriately led by a traveler of the cloth. We were strangers no more.
            We entered Washington D.C. in a mass of humanity. With each arriving bus, the mass became larger and the crowd moved in one unified direction. My father and I moved accordingly with the mass, as if there was no other choice, not really sure of our destination. Public address speakers were sporadically placed along the avenue as series of what seemed to be endless speeches cascaded into our ears. Suddenly, an eerie calm overtook the streets. The speakers were quiet and the crowd stop moving. The words came softly.

            “… I have a dream... I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up
            and live out the true meaning of its creed.  ‘We hold these truths to
            be self evident; that all men are created equal.’ ... I have a dream
            that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will
            not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their
            character ...”

            As the words continued to flow, the mass became one. We inhaled when He inhaled. We paused when He paused. I was no longer an observer. I was an integral part of this humanity. The euphoria had returned. My eyes were filled with emotion as I realized that all of us had shared the same journey. Uncle Theodore’s dream now took on a new substance. In 1951, a black family travelled south fueled with a determination of family unification and an awareness of risk. My self doubt, however, can be attributed to nothing more than the inherited awareness of the double standard - a fact of black life in the great United States that remains to be dismissed. The dream is our dream, and that summer of 1963 convinced me that this family will always meet again. But Why is not the question. It is the mission.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


What better invitation to my inaugeral post? Welcome.

I think it fitting to preview readers to what you can expect from this discourse as we go forward, and "we" is important. I look forward to response because we live in a comunity called a democracy. Feel free to agree and disagree. As a Brooklyn native, I will bring nostalgia to the table, good and bad, with a bit of color. As a Vietnam veteran of color, I expect my shared experiences will enhance the tapestry of history.