I’d like to tell you a fun story about one of my favorite black movies, Cool Runnings. If you don’t know, Cool Runnings (released in 1993) is the “based on a true story” movie about the Jamaican bobsled team’s journey and ultimately their debut appearance at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. It’s a comedy, it’s triumphant, it’s heartfelt, it’s victorious and for the sake of this story, it’s hugely inspirational. Because it’s a Disney production, it runs on television all of the time and you have probably seen it at least once. It stars Leon in the lead role of Derice Bannock along with John Candy, Malik Yoba, Doug E. Doug and Rawle D. Lewis.
No matter how many times I’ve seen it, I always want them to win in their third run down the track, and when I see the bobsled flip, I always breathe a sigh of relief when they all stand up and get out of the bobsled and walk it to the finish line. It always gets me. What also gets me is the friendship that forms between the characters. The four-man team bonds over their desire to both make a splash at the Olympics but also be seen for who they are. Derice goes through a bit of an identity crisis trying to fit in, but ultimately he, and his team embrace their uniqueness and become a sensation while in Calgary. This includes a famous bar scene where Yul Brenner (Yoba), has to pull Junior Bevil (Lewis) into a bathroom to give him a pep talk about standing up for himself when a member of the Swiss bobsled team speaks to him condescendingly.
Yul pulls him into a bathroom and makes him stare into the mirror. He asks Junior what he sees and then gives him a series of sentences to say to pump him and up and make him realize who he is as a man and as a Jamaica. He makes Junior say to the man in the mirror: “I see pride, I see power, I see a bad ass mutha who don’t take no crap off of nobody!” He repeats it a few times then heads back into the bar and starts a brawl that also helps to bond the team. Good times all around. That statement has apparently seeped its way into my consciousness. And I think I’m all the better for it. Why do I say this?
Shortly after Very Smart Brothas was acquired by Univision to become a vertical of The Root, there was a big welcome dinner for Damon and I in New York City where most of the staff of The Root came up and we joined the squad for dinner and drinks. Dinner and drinks is my shit, so that was lightwork. What I wasn’t prepared for was somebody there pulling out a bag of edibles of the gummy variety and handing me a few. No names will be used here to protect the innocent.
The dinner was, I believe, around 5 or 6ish, and Damon and I had coordinated an after-gathering of sorts for 7 p.m. It was a VSB meetup at the bar of the same restaurant where we had dinner with The Root team. Well, because I’m responsible and was around friends and family, I popped one of the gummies and went about my business. Except, I’m a novice, so because I didn’t feel anything I thought something was wrong so I made the rookie mistake of popping that second one about 15 minutes later. What happened next was a smorgasbord of wishing I could have that last decision back, especially when mixed with the several bourbons I’d been drinking. I couldn’t stay awake to save my life. I know for a fact that I went to sleep for at least 10 minutes at the table.
Mind you, my night isn’t even close to being half over. We have a slew of folks coming to the bar to celebrate VSB and hang with Damon and I on a night that legitimately didn’t even end until like 3 a.m. So I’m struggling at the table, both tipsy and high and doing my best to not be that guy at the welcome dinner at my new job.
So I got myself together. I stood up, smiled at folks (many of whom were also under the influence at this point; shouts out to our pusher for the evening who ALSO took themselves out of the game by overdoing it as well), and found the bathroom. I went straight to the sink and started splashing water in my face to try to shock myself back into normalcy. And then I did the only thing that I could think of that made sense because I was staring at a mirror and because I needed a pep talk. I repeated over and over again:
“I see pride! I see power! I see a bad ass mutha who don’t take no crap off of nobody!”
I amped myself up the more I said it, much the chagrin of the few folks who walked into the bathroom and saw me doing this and were probably confused. Also, I was taking up a lot of space with my performance, which involved movement and a lot of hand motions. Somebody did, in fact, stop and stare at me, but I was in my zone and enacting a scene from one of my favorite movies because I literally couldn’t think of anything else I was supposed to do under those circumstances.
It worked, too. My night was a success. I came down off my high, ordered—no lie—30 shots of Jameson and 30 shots of vodka and gave them out to everybody there to celebrate and some folks who had no idea why they were getting free drinks. And because I managed to still be drunk though no longer “high,” I didn’t even look at the receipt, which already included gratuity and tipped 20 percent on top of that bill. That server was ECSTATIC and handed me like five more shots and gave me a hug.
It was a good night in New York City and was one of the few times I was able to enact a scene from one of my favorite movies even if I had to improvise this one for it to make sense. But it all blends perfectly, let the liquor tell it. Cool Runnings incepted my mind enough to cause me to recite lines in an inebriated state at a restaurant in New York City. If that doesn’t prove that black movies are essential to the soul, I don’t know what does.
Peace be the journey.