I love those random moments when you remember someone from your past and it makes you laugh and smile. Today, while unloading the dishwasher or folding laundry or some other domestic chore I tackle with aplomb, I suddenly remembered my boy Pops. I know a few of you remember Pops, too, but for those who have no idea who Pops is, skip down to the jump and read more.
I spent the better part of the 90s working at a warehouse in Lenexa, KS, shipping hardware supplies to stores around the country (Later, when I switched to the night shift, I got to drive a forklift all night. I’m a man of many fascinating surprises, aren’t I?). It started as a summer job, then morphed into a full-time gig when finances and an utter lack of interest in classes forced me to take a year off from school.
When I started, I was one of about four or five college kids who came in for the summer. Some of the folks in the warehouse were very welcoming, but others viewed us as uppity, educated prima donnas and did little to hide their scorn for us. A couple of the guys in particular, though, took an early liking to me. One of those guys was Pops. I called him Pops because he resembled former Pittsburgh Pirate <a href=”http://www.baseballhalloffame.org/hofers_and_honorees/hofer_bios/stargell_willie.htm”>Willie “Pops” Stargel</a>l. Since I was an Orioles fan at the time, Pops called me Junior, for Cal Ripken, Jr. Over the years, more than a few people looked at us strangely when we peppered our conversations with “Pops” and “Junior” references. “So why is that skinny white kid calling that fat black guy Pops?”
Pops and I got along great. I still had a foot in the hip-hop world, and with the strong R&B influence I had from my mom, we could talk about current and old school black music. We talked a lot of sports, especially college sports. Pops was a big MU guy, so we had McDonald’s bets each time KU and MU played. As a summer hire, I didn’t have a work area of my own, but Pops quickly had me set up shop at his station. The morning after a bad KU loss, he would rush in and tape the story from the KC Star to our desk so it was the first thing I saw. I did the same when MU lost. We used clipboards to carry our work orders and mine was covered with pictures of KU players. He was quick to draw a mustache on <a href=”http://www.kusports.com/multimedia/photogalleries/basketball/02-03/ucla/6-01.jpg”>Jacque Vaughn’s</a> face or write “Wife Beater” on <a href=”http://www.ljworld.com/photos/2004/08/05/henleyrun.jpg”>June Henley’s</a> jersey. Oh, and we went round-and-round about <a href=”http://imagecache2.allposters.com/images/pic/PHO/AAGK122~Magic-Johnson-Michael-Jordan-Photofile-Posters.jpg”>Magic Johnson vs. Michael Jordan</a>. Pops’ favorite line when defending Magic (remember, back then it was still an argument) was to rattle off his line from the clinching game of the 1980 NBA Championship. “Jumped center, 42 points, 15 rebounds, 7 assists, took tickets before the game, and sold popcorn during time-outs…”
But perhaps my favorite Pops memory is an unlikely one, though. He lived down near Longview Lake, and one summer Lollapalooza was held there, with Soundgarden headlining. The day after the show, he was going on-and-on about all the freaks he saw and asked me why I wasn’t there. Then, pivoting his 300+ pounds as if he was playing the bass, he started singing the bassline for “<a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Outshined”>Outshined</a>.” Pretty impressive, I thought. But he went further. “I’m looking California….and feeling Minnesota!” Dude knew all the words to a Soundgarden song! “Yeah, you know you wanted to be out there, Junior!”
Anyway, that’s the kind of random stuff that pops into my head on occasion. Or, Pops into my head, I should say.