Guest This Week: James Robinson Jr. | Madhu Bazaz Wangu
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Guest This Week: James Robinson Jr.

Guest This Week: James Robinson Jr.

DAY 265, Tuesday September 22, 2020

On Online Mindful Writers Group Page I invite a new guest-of honor every week. This week’s guest is humorist James Robinson Jr. To read his daily posts click the button “Visit and Join” at the middle of the Home Page. Here is his bio:

James Robinson, Jr. is an award-wining author who has written 6 books in both the fiction and non-fiction genres. His first book, Fighting the Effects of Gravity: A Bittersweet Journey into Middle Life, was an Indie Award winner for nonfiction. His first foray into fiction, Book of Samuel, was a Readers’ Favorite Award Winner. His latest book—Jay Got Married—is a collection of 9 humorous, satirical essays which often speak to ironies and inconsistencies of life. Jay Got Married is not just the title of the book but the lead essay of the same title and an amusing look at love and marriage in the year 2020.  Mr. Robinson began to foster his writing career at age 45 when the Effects of Gravity kicked in and his children began to grow up affording him the time to write. It was also then that he began to hone his sardonic wit. Mr. Robinson resides in Pittsburgh, PA with his wife of 43 years. He is the father of three daughters ages 37, 38, and 40 and the proud owner of six grandchildren.


Call me a hater. But I’ve never been a fan of people with extraordinary natural talents. You know, those who are born with certain innate abilities which practically defy logic. 

Sure, there are those natural athletes with amazing talents. And yes, there are some who just have in-bred singing and acting skills. But now it’s getting ridiculous. Enough already. Maybe it’s the proliferation of shows like America’s Got Talent which bring these talents to light, which provide a venue where infants can drop out of the womb singing Climb Every Mountain.

Okay, I exaggerate.

But how can a family boast three brothers who play 4 instruments without the benefit of a lesson. That’s not fair. They didn’t take instructions on those drums and pianos and guitars. They didn’t sit down with a metronome and practice scales on the family upright while their mother listened for mistakes from the kitchen and friends were outside playing and having fun. That’s the way it works. Billy Joel’s mother forced him to practice. As John Housman said in his old Smith Barney commercial: “He earned it.”

I recently saw a nine-year-old girl on the America’s Got Talent stage with an animal act. She put her dogs through a series of jumps and turns and rolls—very intricate maneuvers—bowing and smiling to the audience throughout like she was some kind of an adult. Growing up, I couldn’t train any of our family dogs to give me their paw. I could barely ride a bike when I was nine. She should be riding her bike. Leave the trained animal acts to Gunther Gable Williams.

I have personal experience with a sickeningly gifted family. The two boys say they learned to play piano on YouTube. Who does that? They play drums in the church when called upon. Their mother lead the choir at the church for a while and played piano when needed. I watched her preparing a song before service and I recognized an F# chord. “What are you playing?” I asked. She shrugged. I knew she had never played the song before. She played the F# chord without realizing what it was.

How are you born a stranger to an F# chord—three black keys among 88—and play them on a piano along with other chords of its kind? Some will say her talent is God given—perhaps. Let’s forget divine intervention for the moment. I’ll say no one should be born with such innate skills, with such an ear for music.

It’s just not fair.

Then there are non-sighted geniuses like Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles who learned the piano without the benefit sight. I can see the keys; it doesn’t help me much. Pianos were made for sighted people so they can learn the C, D, E, F, G, A, B notes by rote. And how come Ray and Stevie can sing so well and write songs for the ages. It’s just a way to add insult to injury.

I tell you, it just ain’t right.

I know of athletes who are disgustingly gifted individuals. It’s bad enough that they excel in their own professions and carry money home in wheelbarrow. No, many can seamlessly move into other sports. It’s that hand-eye, speed, strength, dexterity, thing, those intrinsic skills that God neglected to give me.

I’m thinking he said, “Oops, we forgot James’ coordination. My bad. Look, he struck out 4 times in that little-league game. Oh, that’s okay. We gave him enough smart ass for 3 people.”

I was entrusted with the ability to make people laugh and to sell one book every couple of months. Come on, it’s taken me 20 years to be able to write this drivel. Did I hear you call me a slow learner?

Yeah, that’s what I thought.

And the gifts have even touched my own father, the first black to play varsity football at the University of Pittsburgh. I wrote of his exploits in my book, They Call Me Jimmy Joe (available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle). He has survived to the ripe old age 92 but in his heyday, he was one of those disgusting types who could knock in every shot on a pool table having not played in years.

His first ministry was a three-year stint in Wichita, KA in the early 60’s and we always returned home to Pittsburgh for a few weeks during the summer. The trip from Wichita to Pittsburgh was about 1000 miles so we made it a two-day trek. But blacks were not welcome in motels along the route in 1960. So, we spent the night in Terre Haute, Indiana at Noel Hord’s—my grandfather’s brother’s—home.

I say all this to say that Uncle Noel, as we called him, was lying in wait for Jimmy Joe. He had a ping-pong table waiting for the yearly battle. Call it home field advantage. My father embarrassed Noel on his own table every summer for three straight years. But my father the natural never bragged. They were both ministers after all.

But it still wasn’t right.

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