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Of A First Yesterday “Jan” 17 Sans Muhammad Ali Since FDR Talked Of Events ON Another “Yesterday”

January 18, 2017

YESTERDAY, a scant three days from the transition of power, Michelle Obama, nee Michelle Robinson the only black “first lady” in United States history turned 53, Betty White an indomitable talent no matter her name or skin color, bless her, crossed into her 95th year on earth, speaking of which for the first time since FDR talked of another “yesterday,” the earth spun on a January 17th, without Muhammad Ali on it.

I may or may not “publish” posts in which I “rage,” (perhaps I have done too many, perhaps too few (think the “REM” song, “Losing My Religion” which  “90210’s” “Brenda” once played incessantly, and was “played” by Republican (her right) Shannen Doherty, whom I wish better and ultimately good health.

Alas health, all it entails, the complications of history, regarding Russia, a second numbered war,  Barack Obama’s legacy, today are to be left to those far more qualified, on either side, than me.

In a picture below, Muhammad Ali, 4 years into his brave battle with Parkinson’s Disease has his eyes closed. Symbolically, I close mine and recall and perhaps extrapolate what I saw in his eyes and perhaps what his saw when viewing, hearing and however briefly conversing with me, on the four times I remember (there were other meetings) meeting him.

The second of the four, pictured below was when Ali signed pictures at an airport hotel. I waited on line and just before my turn, stood behind him and started speaking out loud in appreciation of a man, who meant so much to me. (I need not say why).

Somewhere a video reveals he looked up from signing, as I was talking, a look in his eyes saying this guy is crazy, but sincere! I ‘ll take it.

Later that year, Ali sitting with one of his beautiful daughters, posed for another picture which not only included the great man, who stood against an unjust war, entertained so often, and wanting no publicity donated the still significant sum of 50 thousand dollars, to help save a home that happened to house mostly, if not all people born into the Jewish faith, but also in addition to myself, the above referenced daughter (another day I will post that picture and sorry for not knowing her name) and the as yet unnamed ” Marching Girl,” the coat I famously and against my parent’s wishes bought her courtesy of Mike Scioscia’s home run, still a week away.

I think Ali approved, surely as I told Earvin “Magic” Johnson a month or so later (when you have someone, opposing election results such as the one then elevating George H.W. Bush, do not sting as much—think “Bogie”, Ingrid and Dooley Wilson drinking the good stuff in “Casablanca”) I could not have “done it” without them.

The first and last meetings (I hope there will be an eternal one, but not too soon and more important not without me really trying, if not accomplishing while here) are without pictures. (hopefully I can find and preserve audio from the first, the only one in which, as was promoted with Gretta Garbo, in which “ALI SPEAKS,”  how important that I do so, how shameful that so much has been lost due to bad luck but also laziness/depression).

It is May 25, 1977 (Ali says 1975). I wait at Sam Goody’s in Manhattan and in one of two years and I know and learned, perhaps the hard way what my mother often quoted that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” (a Rod Serling “Twilight Zone” con Donna Douglas is a good reminder) I look “beautiful,” as a man, perhaps better to say great. I am in a white suit, never all that athletic, but tall, reasonably thin and with hair.

Ali, of course, makes me or most others look less, he is in a light gray suit, seated, signing copies of the record album from his movie “The Greatest.” Oh how many times I played George Benson singing “The Greatest Love Of All,” that contentious summer, how often I reflect on a charming, warm Whitney Houston calling me Andy the same 4 times and her also stirring version of the same song.

I had a big radio/tape recorder, not quite a “boombox” in power. I put in on the table in front of Ali, sitting next to a beautiful woman and began. “I said “Hey Champ say a few words into here.” Some of my pain tied to all the bad that has transpired since, goes away, thinking he actually said into my recorder, “My name is Muhammad Ali, I am the greatest fighter of all -time (as great as he was, Ali knew that honor by consensus anyway, goes to Ray Robinson). “You tell all those kids in Yonkers”, I add. Then I almost implored him to retire.

A security guard (for the record, and it should not matter, a black man) interrupts, he is not rude but firm, saying to me wanting me to move the line,  “you want to have a love affair with him?” Trust me this was light, humorous, “guess you had to be there” stuff among the three of us, as Ali said to the guard “You’re not scared, “I’m gonna go upside your head.” I add “this guy does not realize what you (Ali) mean. (to people such as me).

A man on the surface even more likely to have to “give up his lunch” than most, unknowingly causes the lighthearted, beautiful “back and forth” among us (Brad Nessler would have incorrectly said “between”) conversation to cease.

Whether and I doubt it, Ali knew or cared, the album was worth more sans “to the recipient” he emphatically called for the man (actually, and if we can’t laugh at the fact Ali said “Hey BOY come back up here” in what trust me, was a moment so rich in both humor and pathos, then we really have problems the other way as well.

Now think of the overtones of Ali, as stated here regarding he and any other human being, a less than perfect individual, who perhaps “did” too much to two boxers, regarding Ali’s actual name, saying to this dazed, but truly excited kid, saying in his great voice, the one essentially silenced for 32 years, (my #, my disgrace, 32 Winchester, Sandy, Jim Brown, Earvin “Magic,” “O.J.,”  Elston Howard and ’63 MVP’s-others) “WHAT”S THE NAME?!!!” In an excited, high voice the kid, so happy the album is to be personalized, so grateful this man he admired so much was the eraser to his pencil’s mistake, responds emphatically, with authority, with that all important ingredient, called confidence— “DONALD, TO DONALD!!”

Less important, but funny and telling: I say “Hi Veronica,” (thinking it is Veronica Porsche, Ali’s third wife) to the beautiful woman seated next to Ali. The champ hearing me, says “Who’s Veronica” and realizing continues “this is Charmane” (spelling?, I do recall she being a radio personality named Foster). “She’s pretty, all my ladies are pretty.” Ali loved women, they loved him and his fourth wife Lonnie looked after him as no other. (Albeit, in far different circumstances, is not it coincidental, the name of one, who helped both Ali and yours truly, after misfortune?!)

I think Ali’s eyes saw potential in me, mine saw greatness and beauty in him, but fear of his continued boxing scared me, ever so sadly with good reason. My potential remained just that. Each of us running an obstacle course, Ali having completed his with so much grace and dignity. I need to do the same.

The last time Ali was alone coming out of a restaurant, I, so often walking this earth alone, was entering same. He could not really talk, but uttered some words indicating recognition. He did not have to as I could see in his eyes, that it not only was recognition, but a positive one.

There is nothing wrong with crying (Jim Valvano talked of laughing, crying and thinking each day), but today my eyes are dry, but often they are not, as they cry tears of joy/sorrow/regret, but also of life, as I think in life, one as great, giving and helpful as Muhammad Ali, was helped just a bit by me.

Have to find and preserve that tape and live!!


With Muhammad Ali, at an airport hotel in 1988.

Click below to view “The Beatles” perform “Yesterday.”

The Beatles HD – Yesterday Live in Germany (Remastered)

One more, a beautiful compilation video by “Elena Beatles 4Ever” of a famed, priceless photo shoot of The Beatles with Ali, then known as Cassius Clay. Click.

♫ The Beatles with boxer Cassius Clay (now Muhammad Ali),




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