Mentoring The Chambers…

June 15th, 2014

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With the passing of C.S.’s dad who was a revered teacher at Hunter College I am reminded of the passing of the rabbi who saved my life.

Back then I was still wrapped up in running with the DeCeps. Everyone would meet up at CyberTron (Printing H.S.) and decide what the day would entail. Running through West 4th Street or resolving some beef at one of the city’s high schools. I wasn’t aimless, but I was prA’li just shameless. I met the rabbi and his family indirectly and quite by accident. I went into the Metropolitan Lumber and Hardware store on 10th Ave that was up the block from Printing H.S. (Graphic Communications H.S. for those not from NYC). They had a ‘Help Wanted’ sign posted in their window I had spotted and since this put me close to the fools at Printing, plus what I considered an endless amount of tools like boxcutters and hammers I was always down to work.

I wasn’t going to high school anymore. I couldn’t go. That shit was boring. Sitting in a classroom was boring as all hell. The world outside was moving at 100mph with no brakes and that is what I wanted to be a part of. In the waiting area, as I was filling out the application a white in a suit asked me if I was looking for a job. I told him I was and he gave me his card. His business was looking for a mailroom clerk and he wondered if I would be intererested. I told him I was. I just had to go to his office which was in the area. 1841 Broadway. Across the street from the New York Coliseum at Columbus Circle. The firm was called the Cutler Organization and I had met the owner DON CUTLER. They were a bunch of tool salesmen [ll].

The Cutler’s had a small family owned business where they sold brands of tools and work equipment to retailers throughout the Quad-State region(NY, NJ, CT, PA). I handled their mailroom tasks at the end of the day and some other small errands which took me around Manhattan almost daily. The Cutlers didn’t pay me a king’s ransom but they gave me the freedom to roam Manhattan all day long as long as I made sure I got the mail into the post office before 5pm everyday. Down the hall from the Cutler’s office were these architects who I occasionally picked up mail from. One afternoon I visited the architect’s office to pick up their mail and as I was chilling out in their waiting area the rabbi invited me inside of their workspace.

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I had never been in a real architect’s office before then. The office was located on the Broadway corner of the building and it overlooked the Circle and the southwest part of Central Park. There were drawings laying around on desks that resembled some of the technical drawings I had been taught to make at Brooklyn Tech. Yeah these drawing were way more complex but I understood them and the concepts they were expressing. I told the rabbi that I knew how to make these plans and he laughed, like “Oh really now?” I watched as some of the architects were using the AutoCAD system to make their plans and details. Computer assisted drafting was the new-new and that was what I had learned in school.

Later that year the Cutler’s decided to relocate their business closer to their home in Long Island so my job there was going to be ending. By this time I was an uber-serious 17yr old who wanted to make some real money as opposed to running around Manhattan in a group of thirty-fifty kids wreaking havoc and the what not. I found a job as a surveyor’s assistant in Kew Gardens with a firm called Montrose Surveying Corp. For the few months I worked with these men I learned a tremendous amount about land surveying and how ancient the NYC elevation benchmarks were. The info we used was based upon calculations done by the Dutch way back when. Sure it would be updated, but the Dutch set it off and their numbers remained in place.

My time at the surveyor’s didn’t last for more than several months. My problem was that I was still an insolent kid who thought he knew everything he needed to know. Mr.Montrose called me into his office and told me that although he liked me he was given bad reports of me from the field staff. I knew just who too, this racist fat fuck who was always making me hold the point when we visited vacant lots. I hated holding the point because that meant I was the dude always in the muck or the weeds or the broken, burnt out bullshit. The was NYC in the late 1980′s mind you. Not the fabulous shit you see nowadays. This dude also made me the gopher since I was the youngest in the crew. I may have told dude to go fux himself. Yeah, I prA’li did.

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I went for a couple of months without a job and I began to get ruthless again. More stolen cars and more stick-up capers were the result. I was descending down a path of selfishness and immorality when my mother told me it was time for me to leave. She was ultimately right about her decision too even though when you talk to her now she regrets that moment. I packed a large garbage bag of my shit and I put it in the trunk of a stolen car and I was gone. I didn’t come back to my parent’s home for exactly ten years but that is another drop. This drop is about my years in the wilderness and the man who protected me in order for me to return to my family in one peace (always intended).

I stayed in the car for almost two weeks. I showered at different friends houses and ThunderCracker, who was real cool with his mom told her about my situation. Mrs.Washington let me stay at her house for a couple of weeks. T.C. and I were up to no good though and I got arrested on some robbering shit. Mrs.Washington loved me dearly but she will tell you that I was the worst influence on my peers because I was the one with street and technical smarts. When I got out of jail I went to my grandmother’s house in Co-Op City. There was a full house up there with my great-grandmother, grandfather, aunts, uncles and a bushel of cousins but my grandmother made it all work with the force of her personality. I decided to look for a job again.

I put on one of my grandfather’s blazers. My grandfather smoked a pipe so everything he owned smelled aromatic. I put on his blazer and drove a stolen into the city with my mind focused on going one place. The architect’s office. When I arrived I was greeted by his wife, ANN. T.C. and I would later agree that the rabbi’s wife was one of the finest women around. I told her that I was looking for a job and asked her if they migh need someone to work for them as a messenger or a friday. Back in those days you called your gopher a friday. I don’t know why, you just did. ANN went inside the office and broke out the rabbi. He told me that they didn’t need a messenger, but they could use a draftsman apprentice.

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Dope. I told the rabbi I would be back to start on Monday. Since this was Wednesday I was ready to hit the streets and do some capers to celebrate. The rabbi cut me short. I didn’t start on Monday. I started TODAY. Gulp. The office seemed so much larger now. The rabbi introduced me to his son whom I had known from visiting previously as well as his other son who wasn’t in NY at the time but in Italy. There were two architects working for the rabbi. They loved to give me a hard time because they knew I had more charisma and swag then they did. There was an office within the office that an architect named MARVIN rented out. The rabbi gave me a drawing board for my desk. I remember how awesome it felt to have a swivel stool with a backrest. I was now an architect.

I was far from an architect. The rabbi taught me that the architect “knows a little about a lot”, while the engineer “knows a lot about a little”. This wasn’t to downgrade the engineers who worked with us and were very important but to help me understand that the architect’s responsibility was to the bigger picture. To make sure that all the trades and systems were seamlessly integrated with one another and to make the systems work for the end user. As complex as architecture is, the rabbi made it look simple and accessible. He wasn’t one of those artists that designs shit that no one uses or worse, never gets built. He designed buildings and spaces that hundreds of thousands of people used almost daily.

The rabbi gave me a great assignment early. He was contracted to do some minor remodeling at a former theater space turned discotheque called Palladium. Since he had done the conversion many years ago for the nightclub impresarios Steve Rubel and Ian Schrager they continued to call on him. The rabbi had me do the drafting for the plan and then bring the drawing down to the nightclub’s office for their review. The Palladium was an incredible expansive space when the lights were on. So was Studio 54, the Tunnel and Danceteria. I was so impressed when I learned that architects were responsible for creating these spaces. All I had done up to this point was hang out in nightclubs. The rabbi showed me the inside of these spaces like I had never seen them before. They were quite ornate and beautiful.

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I was still young however and still into doing things that 18yr olds do like hanging out all night and occasionally getting arrested. This would upset the rabbi sometimes. I can remember him yelling at me several days after I had returned to work from being arrested. It wasn’t demoralizing either, but more impassioned and sincere. He pleaded with me not to throw away all the things I had just for bullshit. The next day the rabbi asked me if I knew anyone that needed a job. Since he had given me my own computer and I was now drafting projects the rabbi was willing to put someone else on to do the running and printmaking duties. I called up ThunderCracker instantly. For once Mrs.Washington could see that I wasn’t dragging her son down with me but I was uplifting him. This was one of the greatest moments of my life.

The rabbi consoled me through ThunderCracker’s passing, he pushed me to go to college to learn more about the world. The rabbi even paid my tuition so that I didn’t have to apply for loans. Basically, the rabbi became my parent when I was estranged from my actual family all the while he was showing me the lessons of the importance of family. The rabbi had three sons. Two followed him in the architecture business and the the third is an architect of sorts when you consider the adaption and integration of computer systems in our everyday lives. You can also catch him in a movie – ‘Pee Wee’s Big Top Adventure’. What the rabbi gave everyone was the knowledge and motivation to be your own person and he also had the most Herculean work ethic I can remember. The rabbi never got sick. I’m not even sure he slept.

In the latter years the rabbi fought with cancer. Since he was a former boxer he had the resolve and the reserve to go the distance. He never once conceded a round. I call this man the rabbi because he was my spiritual master. He taught me that God exists and I didn’t need to look anywhere other than myself to find the spirit. You have to look beyond the Talmud and current interpretations of the rabbi to understand what this term means. These men are the teachers for our civilization, they are the leaders whose words match their deeds. If I can take one sentence from him to sum up everything he taught me it would be this. “All I have that is mine is my word and when that is no longer the truth I have nothing.” Today I am giving thanks to the rabbi because without his teaching I don’t know where I would be right now.

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BLACK PRESIDENT 1996 (Father’s Day ReMix)

June 15th, 2014

Somebody told me that we have a Black President,
just ‘cuz he didn’t want to go to ‘Nam
and ‘cuz he smoked weed,
and ‘cuz he cheated on his old lady,
and ‘cuz he says words like ‘cuz.

But the only Black man that I know,
never smoked a joint,
fought in the war against Black America,
and did two rounds with the VIET CONG,
he was a champion for the foundation of Black culture; FAMILY.

You won’t agree with everything he says,
but you know he will never lie to you.
That’s the only Black man that I know.

Dad.

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CLARENCE A. PENN III July 31, 1944 – June 7, 2005

A Birthday Card For T.C.

June 12th, 2014

I just got off the jack with SoundWave. He is chillin’ in V.A. Dude has made a remarkable life transition after being on ice for a decade. When we talk about shit he hypes me up just like when we were 16 yrs old. This brother could sell the tone to the phone and it’s nothing. S.W. could make you jump out a window on the tenth floor after he taught you the tuck and roll technique. I have to remind myself that I am talking with my boy and not the Black TONY ROBBINS.

We talked about T.C. because today was his born day. I will call his moms tomorrow and say hello. I can’t tell you how many times the three of us have been plotting some ill-fated street caper or some other heist that we pulled off by the skin of our teeth. There was no logical reason that we found ourselves doing this ridiculous teenage shit, especially when we weren’t teenagers anymore. But it’s the call of the wild, the call of the streets. You think that you can somehow beat the odds. That you can somehow take it to the endzone and then retire. But you can’t, no one can. The sooner you realize that the better off you are going to be. Some of us don’t get a chance for that epiphany. I do this shit for y’all.

Rest In Peace THUNDERCRACKER.

T.C. and I were lamping in my apartment, burning down White Owls back to back when my doorbell rang. I already knew who it was without asking. S.W. came upstairs all excited and out of breath.

“What the deal, yo?”, I asked him.

Yo, I got a Jetta and I got a new spot with mad exclusy shit”, he replied in a pant like he couldn’t catch any air. The apartment was mad hazy though.

“So what’s up? Who’s down to roll?”, S.W. asked us.

T.C. jumped up like, “Fuck it, I’m ready.”

I had to think about this for a minute. It was a Wednesday night and I had to go to work the following morning. T.C. worked with me at the architect’s office, but he was known for blowing off a random day. He and S.W. still lived in their parent’s cribs and they didn’t have the constant pressure of the first of the month that I had. We all supplemented our day jobs with miscellaneous dumb shit, but that dumb shit wasn’t going to be my career. It was just my hobby. That is how the cocky, arrogant kid in these pictures thought about doing crime. That was all about to change after this night.

“Fuck it, I’m d. Where are we going?”, I said to make the cipher complete.

“Sunnyside.”, S.W. replied.

“Where?!?”, I knew where was Sunnyside because of my dad’s job, but I thought that neighborhood was only about factory buildings and warehouses by day and late night Latin prostitutes. Turns out S.W. had found a little residential enclave in Sunnyside because he was beating out some Spanish shorty. The neighborhood was hell’a quiet and there were some nice rides posted up on the street. The truth is that we had made Forest Hills and Kew Gardens too hot with all our various nonsense. From stealing cars to doing stick ups there was nothing left for us in that area of Queens. Plus some of the other young fools that put in work were out there now so when they got caught up they would be taking the weight for our dirt.

S.W. told T.C. and me about all the whips he saw parked on the street. As was S.W.’s habit of leaning toward hyperbole, he made it sound like the folks in this neighborhood left their car doors open. I put on my hooded sweatshirt, grabbed my Eastpak bag with the pulley and the screwdrivers and we all left my apartment. S.W. drove the Jetta to Sunnyside. I sat up front and T.C. rocked the back executive status. The first joint we came up on was a brand new ’89 Montero. The joint was white two tone with the silver grey on the kick panels. Mitsubishi doors are like water if the car doesn’t have key guards. If you stared at the motherfucker for ten seconds the door locks would pop up. In any case, I pop the passenger door and I hop in the truck. I bang the pulley into the ignition, turn the screw into the cylinder four solid times, slide the weight back to me and out pops the cylinder. T.C. has the ‘key’ screwdriver. He jumps in the driver seat and turns the ignition. Contact motherfucker, we are gone in less than 60 seconds. The Montero was sick as fuck and it only had like 2k miles on it. We could probably flip this joint at the chop shops next to Shea Stadium.

A few blocks down we came across the motherlode. An Audi 5000 GT parked under a tree as if it were trying to hide from us. The tree however provided perfect cover for us to do our thing. Audi door locks are the same as Jettas and Golfs since they are all part of the same parent company. Porsche is part of the company too, but sadly I don’t have any stories about us bagging up a Porsche. Japanese cars require that you move the screwdriver inserted into the doorlock up and down to pop the lock. The German cars only work on a sideways angle. I still got the door open with no problem. Once I’m inside the car it’s a wrizzap unless there is a kill switch under the hood. This car had no switch so I popped the ignition and S.W. hopped in with the starter screwdriver while I jumped out and got into the Jetta’s driver seat. We had to get the fuck out of dodge just in case that Montero was called in and the jake were in route.

I told them to follow me since I was like the official navigator for the clique. We drove to the nearest parkway which was the Long Island Expressway and we headed to T.C.’s crib in Hollis. Once we got to Hollis we would figure out what to do with the cars. I admit to being a little jelly that these dudes had new cars. Since I didn’t really want to roll with the mission that evening I couldn’t lay claim to either of the cars. Those were the rules that we played by. The person with the mission plan got first dibs on the bounty. If there was money on the table then we split that equally (if you didn’t stash some first), but for shit like clothing or cars it was always the proprietary choice of the dude who set the plan in motion.


At T.C.’s crib we all got a chance to see what we had scored. The Mitsubishi Montero was a sophisticated SUV. The driver’s seat was set on some kind of gyroscopic shock plate and the seat bounced and swiveled on angles as the car turned. The interior front was a cool grey leather that matched the two tone exterior. The Audi was two years old but is was still crispy and plush. It had a 5-speed sport transmission and leather throughout the car. There is a reason why some cars cost more scrilla. It’s because they are just designed and engineered better. They include shit you didn’t even realize that you need, but once you have it you wonder how you ever lived without it. The Audi had a mobile phone in the center console. It was one of those joints that was the size of a telephone book. What did we care? We were big fucking pimping. The question came up what if we were to sell these two cars to the chop shop? We would probably only get about a thousand for both. I know that sounds fucked up but chop shops became really leery about using “contractors” outside of their network because there was a Fed sting a few years before that nearly shut down the whole Iron Triangle. Aww, who were we kidding? We were going to floss hard in these cars as usual.

S.W. had the Audi since he found the neighborhood and T.C. was going to keep the Montero so now it was time to find a ride for me. I was caught up in the moment and I wanted to have some shit that was on similiar status with these dudes. We parked the Montero down the block from T.C.’s house and left the Jetta across the street from his crib. When we piled into the Audi we used the same seating plan as when we first got in the Jetta. By sitting in the front seat next to the driver you assume navigation and deejay duties. The Audi had one of the sickest systems that we had ever heard. This my friends, was like car thieves heaven.

We drove through Jamaica Estates but there wasn’t anything glossy enough for my taste. I would have been cool with an Ac’, but not an Accord. I wanted some official shit. The truth was that I wanted an Audi too and I let my jealousy cloud what little remained of my better judgement. It was already late enough that I should have ‘deaded the mish’ and just gone home. But instead we continued our search outside of the boro of Queens. We crossed the Whitestone Bridge into the Bronx.

Back in the day there was a cool azz drive-in movie theatre right by the Whitestone Bridge, but it had been replaced after a few years by a multiplex. These mega-theatres were always easy spaces to pick up cars, but most of them only existed in Nassau County or WestChester. In any case, we cased the parking lot and didn’t really see any action. So I was beginning to get desperate. I thought about driving through the Pelham Parkway neighborhood, but since I wasn’t a true Bronx kid I knew that I didn’t know the landscape too well. However, there was one Bronx neighborhood that I did know like the back of my hand and they had just built a multiplex theatre and strip mall there – Co-Op City.

We drove up I-95 into the parking lot entrance for the brand new Bay Plaza. What had been a dumping ground was being converted into new retail spaces. The PathMark had relocated fom the PlayWorld building. There was a Red Lobster across the lot from a multi-screen movie theatre. Just as a quick aside, a meal at Red Lobster and the 9:30pm show of ‘The Last Dragon’ is something on par with a ghetto fabulous engagement date. As we crossed into the parking lot we passed in front of an unmarked Caprice Classic with two detecs peeping our whole steez. As we drove a little further I turned around to see that the jake began to follow us. I gave S.W. the heads up and told him to park the car. We could ditch it for a time and cross through the Burger King to the other side of the parking lot. S.W. wasn’t having any of that. This Audi was his baby and he was going to find a way out of this situation. S.W. drove around the back side of the theatre into an almost desolate parking area and as he went for the exit another unmarked police car and a squad car blocked his way. S.W. screeched to a halt and we all jumped out and began to run in every direction.

The police jumped out of their vehicles and drew their revolvers (pre-DIALLO, thank GOD) they yelled at us to stop and S.W. and T.C. did. For whatever insane reason I continued to run. I had the bag of tools in my backpack and I didn’t want to be responsible for the car so I tried to get away. I ran all the way to the end of the parking lot and as I was preparing to vault the chain link fence I realized what was on the other side. The Hutchinson fucking River was on the other side of the gate. My heart sank because I knew then that my dumb azz was caught. The police were chasing me on foot and in a car and when they got to me I was taught the ultimate lesson. Never make a police officer run.

In hindsight, I realize that I was lucky that the police that evening were all seasoned veterans and not rookies or racists. Instead of shooting me, which they would have had no problem in proving their justification, they just tackled me to the ground. While my face scraped the asphalt and I was cuffed another cop decked me in the head. That’s when I turned to look at one cop run up to me as if he were kicking off the football to start a college game and he kicked me in my stomach. After that I can tell you that I received the most medieval azz whupping of my life. I can’t tell you how long it lasted but I was being kicked, stomped and called a piece of shit until I began to spit up blood and phlegm. S.W. and I laughed about this because he said that while he and T.C. were more than a hundred feet away they could hear me getting thumped on.

My azz was fucked the fuck up. The cops picked me up and threw me in the back of one of the cruisers. Then they drove us all to the station house to be processed for our pics and prints. I limped into the precinct and when the desk officer asked what had happened to me the arresting officer said that I had fallen while trying to run. As I sat on a bench next to T.C. and S.W. they began to bust out laughing. My face was swollen and my left eye was closed. I had blood and mucus on my sweatshirt. I looked a fucking mess. I tried to get my mugshot from the Police Department’s archives, but they told me that my photo isn’t available any longer. I was going to use the picture for the Mugshot Hairstyle Modeling contest. I would have won.

Inside the station house cells I was placed alone while T.C. and S.W. were placed together. There is something unfortunately meditative about sitting in a jail cell. There’s also nothing else to do but meditate on what you did to put yourself there. I had made a lousy choice for my personal time, and now I was reaping the full results. I don’t care how many times you do some shit and get away with it. The one time that one-time pinches you should be all you need to never want to feel that feeling again. When the next morning arrived we were given cold coffee and an even colder Egg McMuffin. I was given the customary phone call.

I didn’t call my folks since I didn’t live with them anymore. I called my job and told them that I would be out for a few days. Thay knew without asking because T.C. and I had been working for them for a few years already and this wasn’t the first time that we were both away for a few days. You could never really call it back then, but you hoped for the best. A couple of days in a precinct house, add two more in the central booking facility. If you made bond with the court you could see light and smell air in four days. A short stay at the ‘hood Holiday Inn. Well, not quite.

I wasn’t going to make bond this time. My parents were so tired of my bullshit that they told me to get the fuck out when I was 17yrs old. To be truthful, I deserved that because I was like a cancer. I was out of order. I was out of pocket. I was out of my cotton-picking mind. My parents were professional, progressive people. Highly educated and highly motivated. My lifestyle was one-hundred eighty degrees from where their mindset pointed. Speaking of numbers, a Middle-class family makes $200k annually which is say $150k after taxes. The last network that broadcast the SuperBowl charged sponsors two and a half million for a 30 second slot. And that’s just one of the days in a year when people are trying to sell you shit. All of that to say there is a lot more money invested outside someone’s home to make kids feel and act a kind of way.

I have some dough stashed at the crib, but nobody has my keys. I am incognegro right now with my folks so I can’t borrow any chips from them. My maternal grandmother, who lived in Co-Op has to take care of too many people that I wouldn’t feel right bothering her for a loan either. Asking the people at my job would be embarrassing as all fuck and it might let me see that they didn’t really, really need my help after all. I was just going to have to ride this one out. I had fucked myself up with this lack of judgement so whatever the cost I was boss.

Inside the central booking facility we all got back together in a huge cell with 7 or 8 other detainees. This is the Bronx and kids don’t try to steal chains like in Manhattan or, of course, Brooklyn. In the Bronx kids hustle them jums, nah’mean?!? That is how kids in Uptown and the Bronx get money. I am not saying that there ain’t no stick up grimeys and shooters in the B.X., but it is all centered around the Crills. In Brooklyn, you can have niggas on some random ‘its Tuesday’ bullshit. That’s why seeing the Bloods and Crips in New York City always surprised me. New York City became programmed into being followers instead of leaders. HAIL, MEG!

Some dudes had a C-low set of dice (don’t ask me, but anything is possible after I saw the movie Belly). We played a few hands and won, then lost, then won again. In reality the money never really leaves you, but it was a good passtime as you awaited your name to be called by a bailiff. Once you leave the bullpen you are escorted though a narrow low-ceiling hallway into the main court chamber. The natural light is shocking to you because you have been under dimly charged flourescent tubes for four days. Dim bulbs for dim wits.

When the judge read aloud the charges to each of us he also rendered his bond decision along with the indictment. T.C. and S.W. both had a 10k bond and I was realeased on my own recognizance. R.O. Motherfucking R. T.C. was mad as fuck at me too. I told him that he should’a ran. He told me to go fuck myself (no GEORGE MICHAEL… this was 1989). I was going to get some action too as soon as I got home. My ladybug from Morgan State U. was in town and I knew she would stay at my crib for at least a night. I needed to get home quick too because I hadn’t shaved, showered or shitted in four days. I smelled like a hot roasted bum.

That was the last time that I had to do a short stay. They are the worst. I mean, yeah shit can get worse than a short stay, but why would you want to do it? The reason that I did it is was for the money and the thrills. The outsider outlaw motif permeates my community and it affects men who should be well into responsible adulthood. I was still very selfish and this wasn’t the last dumb shit thing that I did in my life. Lucky for me that AAUM has had some patience with my development. I still owe this city, my community, my family and myself to pick up the baton that I carelessly dropped and carry it to the next station.

Champagne Aspirations, Malt Liquor Reality…

June 12th, 2014

champ1

I’m secretly dying a million deaths inside my mind right now. I desperately wanted the Air Jordan retro Championship pack and the release date is this weekend but all my BRed (you see it) is tied up in my wedding planning. Boo hoo. I can’t get down with the hype.

The Champagne and Cigar 6s looks to be one of the most legendary releases for the Jordan Brand in quite some time. Both pairs are premium leather with all kinds of details throughout the shoes. I’m most hyped for the gold aglets (lace tips) and the championship ring as a lacelock.

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champ3

champ4

If there is a sneaker god up in the sky I hope he watches my YouTubes and fux with the kid hardbody

AIR MAXED OUT!

June 11th, 2014

finishline

I’m getting with the winners as in the Finish Line Winner’s Circle Rewards Program.

The Nike Max Flyknit is FIYAHVERKXXX!