Dwight Hobbes

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Keith stays the night

Keith hadn’t expected an invitation to stay the night. But Mari would hear of nothing else. So, here he sat, lounging in a robe and trunks borrowed from his father-in-law-to-be and nursing a beer, toking on a joint, watching his woman climb up out of the water and stand, shaking her hair, toweling off. As she started to rub the swell of her hips, his gaze went from admiring to a look of embarrassment. He was not quite comfortable staring at her body in front of her parents. Averting his eyes didn’t help because they fell on Mari, who looked every bit as stunning in a string bikini as her daughter did. Keith decided to talk to Hank: “So, how you like them Mets?”

“Yankee fan myself.”

“Okay, nobody’s perfect. When they gon’ get a decent shortstop?”

“Well, there won’t be any second coming of Derek Jeter. But, they got a kid coming up at Triple-A. White boy, switch hits, good with the glove, runs well. We’ll see.”

Lesli came over and flounced right down on his lap, taking the joint. “Hey, handsome.”

“Hey, yourself.”

Mari was laughing on the telephone. “You have to meet him. He’s such a gentleman. And quite easy on the eyes.”

“Mother, who are you bragging about my fiancé to?”

“Your aunt.”

“Louise?!”

“Do you have any other aunts?”

“Oh, Keith, you have to meet her.”

Keith looked to Hank who immediately put his head in his hands. He would find out later, in Hank’s den, with the other two running their mouths in the living room while something played on Lifetime, “Keith, get out of town while the gettin’s good. You think my wife is a piece of work. Her sister’s crazy as a rat. You got past Mari. Don’t press your luck all in one visit.”

“Got it. Tomorrow mornin’, catch the first thing smokin’.”

“If you value your sanity you will.” With which Hank finished his cup of coffee, his last spoonful of chocolate mousse, said, “’Night” and was gone. “’Night.”

He heard from the living room, “Come on, woman, let’s go to bed.”

“You don’t have to ask me twice.”

After a minute, Lesli came in. Wearing a Cheshire cat smile, her favorite, raggedy jeans-cutoffs and the string bikini top. “Wanna see my old bedroom?” She somehow managed to say that and look reasonably innocent yet lecherous at the same time. “Can’t wait.” The room had one poster left from before she went away to college at California State. A photo her dad had taken of Blair Underwood and Carl Franklin standing around, apparently shooting the breeze, after one of Hank’s lectures. The rest basically was blank. Nicely appointed, but blank. Your typical guest room. “So,” she said brightly, bouncing on the bed. “Whaddya think?”

“It’s a nice room.”

“No, stupid. How do you think today went?”

“Well,” he went over and laid down on the bed, kicking his sneakers off, “meeting your mother sure explains a lot about you.”

Her mouth fell open. “And what the hell is that supposed to mean?”

“Ain’t neither one of you got the first lick of sense. But, y’ damn sure got personality. Continue Reading →

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Tired of long-term plans to close the achievement gap?

SkyLearn promises ‘significant improvements’
 
By Dwight Hobbes

Contributing Writer

 

Minnesota’s educational disparity isn’t just a gap, it’s a chasm. Unless you’re stupid enough to believe all those children of color are that dumb, common sense dictates it is a deliberate, system-wide act of institutionalized racism, pure and simple, one that attacks Black communities in the one area that historically has strengthened us — social progress achieved by sticking your head in a book and applying what you learn to prevail, even in the face of discrimination. Do something serious and concrete about the educational disparity and you remove a grim disadvantage that keeps our kids behind the proverbial eight-ball as would-be students shunted to society’s sidelines to become statistics for the prison system and welfare rolls. In this light, consider Sky Learn, Inc. a resource with which to reckon in the interest of, beyond salvaging these youngsters, enabling them to empower our communities. “With 40 hours of on-line instruction, students have experienced the mastery of reading and math,” asserts president/CEO Jesse Overton in a statement at Skylearn.net, “and are able to participate at grade level with a 85 percent mastery of the basic skills.”

Quite an extraordinary claim at a time when extraordinary measures are exactly what’s called for to counteract the chronic discrimination that has educationally crippled generations. Continue Reading →

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Hank and Keith reach an understanding

By the time dinner was done with, everybody was feeling pretty nice. Which is when Mari decided to turn dinner into pool party. “Keith, darling? You didn’t happen to pack a pair of swimming trunks?”

“So happens I did not.”

“Henry?”

“I got it.” Mari and Lesli strolled out to the front lawn, chatting like school girls. Hank handed Keith an apron, strapped on one himself. They commenced to clean up and chew the rag. “Have t’ watch you.”

“Watch me?”

“Yeah. You have and hold the singular distinction of being the first man to catch our daughter’s eye since myself who her mother didn’t cut off at the knees.” He looked Keith up and down with clear favor. “You charm snakes, too?” They both got a laugh out of that. “So,” Hank continued, lowering his voice, “this Helen St. James. She all she’s cracked up to be?”

“I don’t know what-all she’s cracked up to be, Hank.” Keith finished his drink, started a fresh one. Continue Reading →

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Zsame serenades parents at Wenso Ashby’s CD release

The evening doesn’t get off to a promising start at Else Warehouse for pianist/producer/composer Wenso Ashby’s The Rebirth: Mind, Body & Soul release event and listening party. Not having seen Ashby in ages, I eagerly reach to shake his hand. He grabs mine and literally drags me back to the door — no hello, how’ve you been, nothing  — like he’s taking out the trash, sends me back downstairs to wait. No word how long, just go wait. When I am permitted entrance, at the bar a haughty hostess ignores me. Continue Reading →

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The diners hold forth

Hank snatched up a cloth and began wiping the glass table down. “Would you start putting those burgers on the platter while they’re still edible?”

“Sure thing.”

“So, what’s my daughter got against Helen St. James? I saw the woman on a TV interview. Seems like a nice lady. Kind of on the sassy side, but still nice.”

“Oh, Helen’s fine. To tell the truth, Lesli doesn’t know her real well. Hasn’t taken the time. She… Well, she doesn’t like the fact that I like her. I mean, as a friend and all, but, well, Helen’s a special kind of gal.”

“Ah,” Hank said and tossed the cloth under the grill. “The green-eyed devil raising his head.”

“Yeah, you could say.”

“I wouldn’t let that throw you, son. Her mother was the same way. She’ll get over it.”

Keith winced. “You sure?”

Hank chuckled. “Just hang in there. Continue Reading →

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Keith survives round one

With Lesli’s mother Mari eyeballing him, Keith somehow summoned the nerve to stare right back. She pressed, “Aren’t you going to tell me how much you love her?” She took a tiny sip of her bourbon. “How much she means to you?”
Keith knew no matter what he said he’d be wrong. Figured what the hell, might as well go with the truth. “No. I’m not going to say any of that.”
She crossed her shapely legs, settled back on her hips. Reminding him again how closely she resembled her daughter. Her daughter resembled her. Vice versa, whatever. Mari pushed: “Why not?”
“Because, Ms. Hall, I can’t begin to say how much I love Lesli. Or explain what she means to me. Continue Reading →

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Undersea world comes to life on Chanhassen stage

Actor Andre Shoals has audience ‘in the palm of his hand’
 
By Dwight Hobbes

Contributing Writer

 

Disney has a long track record of entertaining kids and hasn’t done a bad job of holding adults’ attention either, especially with its stage versions of the corporation’s animated hit films. The Lion King, for instance, which launched its two-month world premiere here at the Orpheum Theater, went on to win a Tony Award for Best Musical. With tours now running literally all over the globe, the show became pretty much a license to mint money. There’s also been Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and, of course, The Little Mermaid, which presently is running at Chanhassen Dinner Theaters (CDT). Granted not everyone is up on everything done by the house that Mickey Mouse built. So, for the benefit of those who don’t know the story, it’s an old Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale about Ariel, a young lady living beneath the waves in the province of her dad, King Triton. Who, with good reason, has forbidden his subjects, her included, to have contact with the world above. Continue Reading →

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Keith gets grilled by Hurricane Mari

Keith was in the backyard with Leslie getting acquainted with her father when they heard, “God damn it!” come from the kitchen. “Son of a —!” Lesli went in to see what was wrong. Hank said to Keith, conspiratorially, “Vocabulary like that, you’d never know she’s an English professor, would y’?”

“No comment.”

“Smart man.”

“What do you do, sir?”

“Okay, I can tell you’re doing your best to be polite and put a good foot forward. That’s also smart. But, no ‘Mr.’ and no ‘sir’ please.”

“Just Hank.”

“Now, y’ got it.” He walked up on the patio, waving Keith along. “Come on, treat yourself to a taste. Time you get done meetin’ my wife, you’ll need it.”

He crossed to the rolling bar, took two glasses, put them on the umbrellaed table along with an ice bucket. Reached for a bottle of Dewars. “Pick your poison. See anything you like?”

“Yes s—.” He caught himself. “Uh, yeah. Some of that jug of Jack Daniel’s’ll do just fine.” A jug it was. Bigger than the others by far, a half-gallon of Tennessee sippin’ whiskey. Otherwise known as bourbon. Hank seemed to make a mental note. Dropping rocks in their glasses, pouring, he picked back up, “Me, I quit teachin’ college. At the same place. That’s where we met — hear tell you and my little girl met under some interestin’ circumstance.”

Keith kind of squirmed. With another warm, easy smile, Hank continued: “Stony Brook University. Not that I didn’t like it — did you know Louis Peterson once taught there?”

“Uh…no.”

“Wrote Take A Giant Step. Damned good play. First Black dramatist on Broadway.” He interrupted himself to hand Keith his drink and hoist his own glass. “To yours and Lesli’s happiness.”

“Thank you, sir.” And caught himself again. Hank winked. They sipped. “Anyway. I used to teach directing. To students who, most of them, figured they already knew all there was to learn. Between you and me, all but the best of ’em, I wondered how they managed to walk from one end of a stage to the other without falling off.”

Keith laughed. “After enough of that,” Hank continued, “I chaired the department a few years, then said, ’Nah.’ Had written a book that did well enough. Continue Reading →

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WANTED: Northside restaurant offering ‘real food’

Appetite For Change breaks barriers between inner-city families and healthy foods
 

By Dwight Hobbes
Contributing Writer

 

We certainly hear enough bad about North Minneapolis. How about some good once in a while? Not that there aren’t plenty positive things going on in that part of town, they just don’t make the news like some others. Consider fairly recent initiative Appetite For Change (AFC). The idea here is to help youngsters help themselves and, while they’re at it, contribute to the community’s wellbeing by involving them in providing an essential resource: food. Continue Reading →

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Keith meets Hank and Mari

Everybody laughed. The session went swimmingly. The only thing Helen had to say when they were done was, “We should’ve recorded that.” Then she snatched Keith by the collar. “Boy, come here. I wanna talk t’ you.”

They went back out to the lobby and Helen said, “Okay, whatever it is I’m paying you, you get a raise.”

“Works for me.” He pressed his luck. “Y’know what’s a good idea?”

“No, what?”

“You and the brat singing some Sam and Dave. I could pull out some of my best Steve Cropper riffs.”

Helen nodded. “Yeah, that is a good idea. Damned good. I knew I had the right man for this job. Okay, I’m outta here.” She turned and walked off, Keith watching her wear the hell out of those sweat pants every step of the way. Continue Reading →

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