• mbgarvey

Bookmarking a Memory

I received this photo from my dad with simply this comment: His obit may have read, "he always regretted not accepting Mary Beth Turner's invitation for dinner."

For those of you who don't recognize this athletic icon, it's Fred "Curly" Neal, from the Harlem Globetrotters. My dad, who orchestrated mystery trips for my sister and I throughout our childhood, took me to see the Globetrotters in Detroit's historic Olympia Stadium, circa 1975. The dinner invitation he referenced was from my 7 year old self, who enthusiastically and confidently invited Curly for a post-game meal as he briefly greeted fans leaving the locker room after the game. Sadly, he wasn't able to make it.

This picture brings me such happiness. Curly looks exactly as I remember him - towering, with his shiny bald head and mega-watt smile. And the night of Globetrotters's basketball, which left me awed and breathless with laughter, feels like it was yesterday. Legends like Showbiz Jackson, Medowlark Lemon and Curly, executed hoops skills that dazzled and raised clowning around to an art form. Their flashy showmanship and slapstick humor was infectious. Arguments with refs, "pantsing" opponents at the free throw line, and stopping mid-breakaway for a popcorn break were the norm. Of course, there was the classic water bucket skit which started with one dousing the other with a cup of water, then chasing the other into the crowd with a bucket of what appears to be water. The chase ends with a bucket of confetti splashed onto an unsuspecting fan when the intended target ducks at the last second. Different players were doing the same routine 30 years later when I took my own kids to see the Globetrotters. It never got old.

This photograph brought back a moment, and from this moment, my take away:

• Bring joy. Your joy A-game. Bring delight - and seek it - in big and small ways.

Even if it's just a bucket of confetti or a good cross-over dribble.

• Go on mystery trips. Have family rituals, make time for fun, and safeguard time

for the people you love and want to be with.

• Extend yourself. If you like someone, ask them to dinner. For lunch. For a walk. Embrace the inhibition of childhood, and pursue who you want to have as a friend unabashedly.

• Perhaps no less important, have a badass uniform and a good theme song. It couldn't hurt.

Thank you, dad. And thank you, Curly.


Neal played in more than 6,000 games over 22 years for the Harlem Globetrotters while making numerous television appearances, ranging from the "Ed Sullivan Show" to "Gilligan's Island" and "Scooby-Doo." He passed away this March after bringing years of joy and goodwill to legions of fans around the world.