MY HOOPS WITH HARRY
Not exactly “My Dinner with Andre.” Aim for the arcane, deal with the mundane. What did you expect? It’s just basketball.
It could’ve been more. One of those settings for two gentlemen of the world pausing to unravel the mysteries of life and the human condition.
I mean, Harry and I are smart guys. Both of us attended college. Able to mostly, um, partly, finish a tough crossword puzzle.
Both of us have spent our lives in the arts, examining the world through the prisms of music, radio, producing, writing, mud wrestling. (No, seriously, one of my accounts when I handled club advertising for the LA Weekly in the mid-’80s was The Tropicana, in Hollyweird. That was a scene much more interesting than you would ever expect, and the owner, an unapologetic bushy-haired Mexican ex-hippie, was one of my smartest, most advertising-savvy, and solvent clients. No last-minute changes or unreasonable demands for his ads, always had his check ready, never went to prison for drugs or murder. All of which made him stand out back then from most of his fellow club owners, my clients.)
No slaves chained to a 9-to-5 desk, Harry and I have both travelled the world, reported on riots, dined with geniuses, swum the blue Mediterranean, married twice and lived on not just one, but both coasts of the good old USA. Yessir, we’ve been around, Harry and me.
But, I’ve got to be honest with you. Though I always enjoy those deep, substantive, philosophical discussions, and I’m sure Harry would be a great one for just that, this wasn’t that. I mean, we were shooting hoops. Tossing the rock, rockin’ the cylinder. That’s all it was.
Harry is for sure an interesting, thoughtful guy, concerned with many of the issues I am and I’d bet we’re on the same side of most of them. But this wasn’t dinner, or drinks, or even coffee by the beach. It was hoops. And the only place in basketball for talking of the non-trash variety is after you’ve finished and you’re tired and sore and sweating like pigs.
Not a pretty visual, but one-on-one basketball will give you your exercise. No one to pass to. No standing around, for even a moment. Run and gun, baby. Momentum. Psychology. Dig down deep. And when you’re done trying to best your worthy opponent, unless you have to run off for something, there is sometimes that opportunity to catch your breath and chat a little.
But not that day. My schedule was open for a while but Harry’s much more in demand than I am, and he was in town for business. He keeps his home here, in Ocean Park, but now spends most of his time in New Orleans. We last hit the local courts together maybe 20 years ago. Neighbors for decades, we met through basketball, through Magic Johnson by way of Hawaii and Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. (I’ll just leave it at that.)
I had no intention to write about our games, but then it seemed like a good opportunity to cover some areas dear to my heart. (And because I couldn’t pass up the alliterative subhed, “My Hoops with Harry.”) So this is no tell-all. But I will tell you two things.
We shot around until enough guys split that we had a basket to ourselves. But then two young men came over and started shooting, as we played. Well, even though the unwritten courtesy says you don’t interrupt somebody’s game, they also deserved to be able to play, so, we just played around them. Literally. We ran around and between these two guys who went about their business casually shooting and chatting as though we weren’t there. When I finally remarked, with a chuckle, “I have never played a game like this!” Harry chimed in with, “Me neither!”
Harry was the first one to note, late in the game, that he thought they both were “challenged.” In so many ways, I realize anew that while Music is Life (as the old radio station poster in my office declares boldly, and accurately), Basketball Explains Life and How to Live It. (I made that up, but it’s true.)
The other thing I will tell you, and this isn’t that easy: Harry beat me. Badly. And he’s four years older and maybe four inches shorter. But he also has a ridiculously good long shot. He shoots a bit like some player from the ’50s, almost a set shot, from the chest or over his head, sort of two-handed. But who cares, if it goes in, right? And almost all of them did. He also has a very quick release so, hard to defend. My Hoops with Harry.
A subscriber of many years, I gave up Rolling Stone decades ago when they started putting movie stars on the cover and the editorial content and quality shifted. They still have some good music coverage, but it ain’t what it used to be, and the thought of opening my latest RS and seeing Justin Bieber is too much to take.
But I highly recommend you rush right out to grab the issue featuring David Bowie. The cover story was written by long-time RS editor Mikal Gilmore, who did his usual stellar job, giving you Bowie’s personal history but in terms of explaining his artistry and life and death through it.
Here’s what’s not usual. Gilmore was writing about Bowie’s march to death’s door from cancer, while he himself was battling it and undergoing the debilitation of chemotherapy. Put yourself in that place, emotionally. Personal and artistic courage on his part, beyond great journalism and writing. Gilmore and his wife have posted weekly updates on Facebook about his battle, for his thousands of friends and followers, and it’s been inspiring for us all.
QUOTE(S) OF THE WEEK: “There will always be great basketball players who bounce that little round ball, but my proudest moments are affecting people’s lives, effecting change, being a role model in the community.” – Magic Johnson
“I’m not a role model. Just because I dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids.” – Charles Barkley
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 30 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at email@example.com