First, I'm writing this on the anniversary of the day that a "lone gunman" assassinated Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., just a few miles from where I am sitting. It makes me really mad that a so-called civilized people could become so complacent to swallow this as the absolute truth.
We can have invisible sources of communication that bounce off satellites millions of miles away in a matter of seconds. We can make movies with our phones. And we can use sonar-stuffed robotic submarines to search the bottom of the ocean. But we can't solve one of the most gruesome murders of the 20th century. (Or cure male-pattern baldness, by the way.) I'm not one to relive the past much, because it's done and gone, but is it asking too much for someone who was involved in King's murder to come forth and give up the real story before he or she dies? Same with John F. Kennedy. Are we really never going to know? I find this very frustrating, but then I can barely manage to go to the grocery store some days.
Second, this is all so sad about Larry Finch passing away. What a sweet man. If any of you were at the first Memphis Grizzlies Martin Luther King Day Game at the Pyramid some years back and remember when they brought Coach Finch out for the screaming fans, you know what kind of impact he had.
He did something really, really nice for me once. I was in junior high school in Parkway Village, enduring the kind of psychological torture that comes with that entire scenario, and Finch came to our school as a student teacher. It was when he was at then-Memphis State and at the height of his college basketball career. I can't remember if he taught any academic subjects, but he was our student-teacher gym coach, mercifully replacing, if only temporarily, the coach who had long since lost the ability to run a gym class without serious injury. Humiliating the students was the norm. I could never figure out if he was evil, stupid, or both. Anyway, Coach Finch was always cool as he could be and really nice and at the end of the year he signed my yearbook: "To a really great basketball player!"
Now, let me tell you without holding anything back that I was NOT a great basketball player by the farthest, most hallucinogenic-induced stretch of anyone's imagination. I probably didn't even know how to hold a basketball. I was about 50 pounds overweight and hadn't seen sunlight in years and spent the majority of my free time locked in my room at home listening to Cat Stevens and praying that the school would have to be quarantined or shut down for some reason so that I would never have to see it again, much less "dress out" and play "shirts and skins" sports of any kind. And I think Coach Finch knew what he was doing. I think he knew that one small gesture like that had the potential to brighten up a misfit kid's day and make things just a little easier to tolerate. I think he also understood the other coach and was, in his own subtle way, showing that he was nothing like the jerk. I think he was trying to show us that things didn't have to be so excruciating in a junior high school gym setting and that it could be fun. And I think he watched out for those of us who weren't so athletic and made sure to give us an extra pat on the back.
I always loved him for it. I really wish that yearbook had not burned up in my 1978 Chevrolet Caprice Classic in the Danver's parking lot on Union Avenue some years later. I was inside and someone came in screaming for everyone to move their cars before one out there exploded, and when I ran to move mine out of the way to avoid the blast, I realized it was mine that was engulfed in flames. And the yearbook Larry Finch signed was in the trunk. Oh, well.
Third, and I know this is way too little and way, way too late, but every time I've driven past the site of Union Avenue United Methodist Church in the past few days, I have felt like I was going to throw up. It'll probably be completely gone by the time this issue comes out and work may have already started on building the new CVS store in its place, and it's all a little sickening. No, I'm not trying to blame the church owners who sold it or make them feel bad. I know reality is reality. And I know Memphis Heritage and lots of others tried to save the building from demolition and their efforts should be much appreciated by the community. But it's sad to know that the building, which could have made a great concert hall or homeless agency headquarters, is indeed disappearing to make way for something really ugly (I assume the new CVS will look like the rest of the corporate chain, but I hope I'm wrong) and then life will go on. Poor old church. I sure hope nobody shops at that store.