July has been developing into a good month for me. It’s the month I got married, and that still makes me smile. It’s a lot of things, all joyous and wonderful. But, before any of them could happen something I rarely talk about had to happen first. So, I’m going to peel back the curtain a little and let you in on a tough moment in my life.

July 2, 2016, eight years ago today, was the worst day of my life. I was living outdoors, homeless, without a job and not many prospects. I’d recently finished a tour of all the fun jails in northern Illinois. Nothing serious, just a cop who wanted to fuck with homeless people, so he did. If you’re planning a vacation I can say Cook County Jail’s guards are humane and the food is tolerable. DuPage’s jail is run by jack booted thugs and the food is an insult to the word food. You can guess which one is the for profit prison system.

I should note, most homeless people are harmless simply because they don’t want to call attention to themselves. I, on the other hand, was (am) large, capable of extreme violence and, at that point, had no fucks to give. You get the idea. I was no longer the fun dude you’d invite for drinks.

I’d also written a comic book called Legends Parallel. The story behind that is long and annoying but, suffice it to say, the guy who’d originally hired me had baskets full of bullshit and no money and the man who salvaged the project saved my life.

You see, on July 2, 2016, at my lowest point, Brian Pitts, who was soon to be the owner of Hadithi Sambamba Comix, and his father Danny reached out a hand and, instead of shoving me to the curb, handed me the keys to an apartment. It was a shithole, but it was indoors, had an address, and meant I could get mail and have an ID. It meant I had a life again. I did not waste this opportunity.

Still, I’d been feral for a while and spent July 3rd wandering and exploring my new neighborhood, South Chicago being slightly different than Logan Square where I’d been surviving. By the end of the day I was sitting in a stranger’s front yard, eating fried chicken, drinking their beer, and trying to explain how my lily white ass ended up on their block. The chicken was delicious and that’s how I ended up becoming friends with Aiesha and her family. You have no idea who that is, so let’s move on.

On July 4th was when everything changed for once and for all. Around noon Danny knocked on my new door and told me, “The family cookout starts in half an hour. Be there.”

As I sat down on a lawn chair munching on burgers, brats, and Bar-B-Q spaghetti (a delicacy my GERD now denies me), it gradually dawned on my slow ass that I now had a family. Something I’d given up hope of ever having. As time went on and I was introduced to more Pitts family members, the more it became clear that if Brian and Danny wanted to adopt this goofy white guy, then they would too. I was invited into homes, broke bread with many people, slept on floors, and laughed as grandchildren grew into wonderful adults.

When I met Kim it became apparent they knew she was a keeper before I did. No matter. They were right. Barely three months after we met Kim left her cushy suburban life and moved in with me. Soon enough, she joined me in breaking bread with new family, learning to love grandchildren we’d never have, and integrating these new life experiences into our own. And, this is key for both of us, these are our experiences and no one could take them away from us.

In the summer of 2017 we got invited to a Pitts’ family cook out in honor of Danny’s birthday. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was the first black cook out Kim had ever attended.

My white readers are all saying, “So what? You toss some burgers on a grill and hope uncle Harold doesn’t get too racist.” But, it’s more than that. A black cook out is a sacred place, where people can set aside their ‘white faces’ and just be themselves.

All in all, things were going smoothly. Kim was enjoying the food and the company, I was laughing with Brian and his cousins, there may have been an off color joke dropped in there somewhere, and everyone was having fun. Then we retired to the garage for the lighting of the cake, and the singing of Happy Birthday. I share this not to  embarrass  my wife, but to give a head’s up to anyone who is given the opportunity to attend a cook out, black people have a different Happy Birthday Anthem. It’s by Stevie Wonder, if you haven’t heard it please click the link to enjoy. Anyway, my poor wife was staring slack jawed as people sang and clapped and danced in celebration of a great man’s birthday.

She knows it by heart now.

And I’m glad. We lost Danny on September 12, 2019. He was an amazing man who loved family, even me, more than anything else. Our last conversation, hours before he passed, was all about his granddaughter and her ballet recital. He even sent me a video. To this day, if I’m feeling blue, I play that video and imagine him smiling.

The pics below are my new family. In the top there’s Brian. me, and my buddy Steve whom I’ve known since 1982. Our lives have wandered in and out and are now firmly in. My wife loves both those mugs almost as much as me. The next pic is me and our new nephew Danat’e. He and Kim have birthdays close together so cake has been shared and will be shared again. The bottom pic is our second kiss as husband and wife.

Some people go to Build a Bear workshops. I built a family. With the help of some incredible people who refused to let me fail. If you haven’t already, go get yourself some of them.

We’ll hop back on the McSciFi train next time. Thanks for reading along

Bill McSciFi
Bill McSciFi
Bill McSciFi