I forget exactly how old I was. Maybe 9. Maybe 10. It was summer. A Sunday. Dad and I were preparing to spend the day at the hoop courts behind Reizenstein—him running full on the main court with the rest of the oldheads, and me doing Mikans and playing 33 on side hoops with whichever kids wanted to get clapped. We each had a thermos. Dad filled his with ice water. I thought water was lame and filled mine with the iced tea Mom made the night before.
“Lukewarm ice tea in the 90-degree heat?” Dad warned. “You sure about that? You’re gonna get sick.”
“I’ll be fine.”
By the time we got back home that night, I was sicker than I’d ever been. Sweats, nausea, explosive diarrhea—I felt like hot death. Mom gave me some water, some medicine and a mop bucket, and I went to bed. Before I passed out, I could hear my parents talking downstairs.
Mom: “Why’d you let him do that?”
Dad: “He’s hard-headed.”
Anyway, I ain’t watch that shit last night. Not because I’m so righteous or whatever. I fell asleep after putting my kids to bed at 7:30 and woke up at 11:30. I’m just old. Too old now to put iced tea in a thermos on a hot day. Older than my Dad was when he warned me not to. And, when people say shit like “America is better than this,” old enough—and alive in America long enough—to know it ain’t.