Jim “Shoota” Magruder
You know the funny thing Shoota, I never got the chance to tell you about this blog. But per usual Rif came through with the vital knowledge, relaying the ‘informaish’ and preventing me from regretting my own poor marketing skills. The voicemail you left for me that Thursday night was priceless. Made me laugh out loud at your wit and my ‘suchness’. After you told me not to call you for “at least a few hours”, because you’d be “busy bloggin it, postin comments”, I of course immediately called you back.
I missed you, but as was often the case, tried to picture which aspect of domestic life was consuming you at that particular moment. Maybe Abbey was hungry, and thus a ‘lil heated’. Maybe you were busy trying to embed “ballgames points” into her frame of reference and anxious vocabulary. Either way that ended up being the last time I called you.
This has, for me, become a severe point of confliction. Honestly, I knew you’d call me back. Obviously. But it was also the voice mail. Throughout that weekend, during which I went to Boston to see my family, I repeatedly listened to it, as opposed to skipping it before my new messages. What had begun initially as an outright laughing fit had transitioned into a familiar chuckle with each listen.
In the week subsequent to your accident I must have heard and laughed at that message five or six times. Never occurred to me to get immediately back to you, because I knew what your life was like, and knew that you always made time in it for me, so it really wasn’t a big deal. The part of me that regrets not calling is that we in New York would at least have known about your accident and forecast. Would have had time to try and comprehend this ridiculous scenario; try to act accordingly.
But I didn’t call and we didn’t get the word until you were already gone. There’s a part of me that is destroyed by that. But, I think, there’s a bigger part of me that cherishes the fact that I was given the opportunity, one last time, to celebrate your life in a singular way. With our lives on different tracks in different places I had already accepted the fact that mementos would be a common fashion through which to play out each other’s endeavors. This time was no different. And now, in hindsight, I realize that for one whole week, when 99% of the people in your life were bracing themselves for the imminent, I was ignorantly, goofily, blissfully chillin. With another unique memento from you, I was content and chillin.
I have taken measures to ensure that that message, your last message to me, will never be misplaced, never go too long without a listen and a gag. I finally had Rif, Cotter and Ty give it a whirl right before we got on the plane out of New Orleans. Thought it would be a fitting way to leave your land.
Now I know that Louisiana was your land, your home. But you know that NY became your ‘spizz’. I know it was tough when you first got here, living uptown on your own, a sophomore in college feeding off New York pizza and the super stations. But there was that one “glorious” day when you saw a kid with an LSU shirt, got talking to him bout the Tigers, and the homeland. You asked him if there was anyone good to know at Fordham, and he immediately told you there was a kid from Boston that he was certain as steel would be a good fit for you.
That first fall day that you showed up with Glazer at my room was a Tuesday. And Tuesdays in 14M were “Jack Bauer night”. So it became a Tuesday faded-24 “steez”. The crew was always the same: Nate and Koshy, with Chrissy meandering in and out of the room, and us. Cotter and Rif would show up too, but ‘cared’ about 24 and enjoyed conversatin’ through it. Nate and I would have none of that. Season 2 of 24 demanded silence, and you didn’t seem to mind.
So it went, through the new year of 2003. Tuesdays were Jim-from-Louisiana day. Then things started getting more serious. Our inaugural intramural basketball team–Adog, Ace $$, Keith, Roger, Toine and Dre, myself–was floundering. With expectations of ‘rollin’ over fools’ en route to the glory of Fordham’s famed wall of sports, it was an understatement to assert that we were underachieving. We pretty much stunk. Then you offered your services.
I know you were a star off-guard in high school; loved the perimeter and the jays. But on this squad of slender, quick guards, your 6-1, hulky-frame was exactly what we needed in the middle. So you abandoned your game. Abandoned it so Ace “mini AI” could slash; so Roger “dub dub” could dish; so Adrian “jump-shot camp” Arias could eye up that nylon like a sharpshooter; so I could chill in the corner, waitin’ for that dish and trizzle.
And guess what? We started winning. We started finally having fun. Started hoppin’ on and off that godforsaken Ram Van with a shit eatin’ swagger instead of a collective punch in the gut. We would come to the Bronx from “that actors campus” with a mission, execute that mission, and be the hell out. That first season ended admirably, as I’d say we were right around a .500 team.
What I know for certain is that season two would be the one to remember. We beat ‘Yao’ (a 6-5 Chinese kid that could’ve dropped double digits for the D1 Fordham team). We beat my arch nemesis so I didn’t have to fight him. We just kept winning. And then we’d bring the party back to Lincoln Center, where the squad would ravage Koshy’s plentiful yet typically guarded stash of hamburger patties and quesadillas.
The only game we lost that season was the last one. And since it was right before spring break we obviously ‘cared’. You were off to Franklinton, me to Paree. We had the number one seed and a first round bye locked up for the playoffs. I’m pretty sure Adog played all by his lonesome that last game. Wasn’t too fair, but you know it was all good because he was most likely content with his ‘word stat line son’.
When we got back from spring break and realized that my nemesis’ squad had won its quarterfinal game and was going to be playing us for the right to go to the championship I was giddy. I had done him so dirty in that regular season game (and obviously ‘repped verbally’ throughout it all) that I was ready to laugh him back to wherever it was that he got that ridiculous earring. I must have played the worst game of my life that day. Couldn’t buy a shot. With Ace struggling to find his game as well, we were down by a mortifying 24-13 or something at halftime. What you did in the second half of that game I’ve always told myself I would never forget. Well now you need not worry kind sir.
You hadn’t seen the light outside of the paint in two seasons and somehow you knew that with our season hanging in the balance, the three-point line was beckoning. You hoisted up treys like they were coconuts. If that basketball had been a coconut then each one of those five three pointers you hit would have knocked each one of those opposing teammates right onto their behinds. But instead of literarily taking them out you did that through the grace and accuracy of your jump shot, methodically and deliberately firing calculated shots at the egos and confidence of that entire team, one by one.
When it was all said and done what had started as a dismal, season and character- threatening disaster had turned into the greatest game I’d ever been party to. And I had sucked. But I laughed. Because of you I was able to fulfill that which I needed at that moment: to be able to laugh in the face of that asshole and thank him for alllllllllll the memories. I obviously did that. He retorted by reaffirming how poorly I played. And through the jubilation I managed to shift into a quick snicker of concurrence, and returned, “Ya but not my boy!!!”
So there it is Shoota. The game I will never forget. We ended up losing the championship game by three points. But then again my nemesis had apparently mobilized the entire Rose Hill basketball community considering the squad that trotted out for the championship against us looked like they had either just come from the open Knicks tryout or had just finished filming an “And One Mix Tape”. But as usual, we refused to let the odds stand in our way. As usual we did battle. That particular game we battled and we lost.
I’ve been watching Gladiator and the Jason Bourne movies on consistent loops whenever I’m at my place. Guess I just got used to one of those ‘flicks’ always on in your room senior year. Gladiator is one of my favorite movies of all time, while the Bourne series is surely one of the most entertaining, so I loved the fact that I could always count on one being the featured ‘presentaish’ in 17D2.
But, as senior year progressed, I slowly came to realize that these two characters strongly embodied both the goodness of your being, and the essence of your struggles. Maximus had to fight in the name of his family. Bourne had to fight to discover his true identity. Once you and Meghan were married, and Abbey was on the way, your fight began. You knew you were in search of your true identity; that in New York, at Fordham, the path would lead to that ultimate recognition.
But with Meg and Abbey a world away you also had that carnal desire to be with your loved ones. Thus created an intersection of two glorious entities: your own pursuit of self-understanding, and your family. However combined, these two most cherished aspects of your life created hardship. But you fought. And you succeeded. In respect to Bourne, you fought to locate and walk the path of self, and you found the end of that path on May 26th, 2005. And like Maximus, you fought for your family, even if Meg was only there via telephone, and Abbey in spirit.
It may have been trying, difficult, even downright angering at times, but there is no doubt that in one year you accomplished more than I have in my entire lifetime. You made it work, Shoota. I’m just glad we were a part of it.
J’imagine que tu comprends tous maintenant, donc je vais prendre l’opportunite a dire quelques mots en francais, le langue que j’adore et le langue que tu a aime bien. Je suis trop content que tu etais able de voir Paris, de voyager en Europe. Croyez-moi, c’est approprie que tu a vu la terre ou il y aura encore plus des gens qui va pleurer quand ils entendent de ton dernier histoire. Je vais saisir a ton memoire comme rien jamais, en deux langues, pour toi, et pour ta famille. Donc t’inquiete pas.
So Shoota, from Boston to Brook-non, gee-Paree to sunny Cal-ly; from McMahon to Hillcrest and beyond, I bid you adieu. Don’t worry though. I will see you again. But not yet. Not yet…
Yekshemesh mon frere.