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Judge R. Eugene Pincham

I woke up this morning to the sound of driving rain. Gray days and dreary weather forces us to slow down just a bit, just enough for us to listen to ourselves...our footsteps, our heartbeats, and all the other people who inhabit the planet with us. At the very least in NYC you have to be on guard to protect against having an eye gouged out by another's umbrella while walking down the street.

Today my wife was mad at me, not an uncommon event in my life as a married man. I won't say she didn't have good reason to be. Funny thing, is that she decided to ride the train with me to work (but why travel with me if you don't want to be around me?) and I felt her chill most of the way in. She left the house without her umbrella. I offered mine, but she passed preferring to get soaked. She walked ahead of me and I watched her, slightly saddened that we hadn't made it through the night before without going to bed angry. Something my mother told me never to do.

On the train I listened to jazz on my iPod and read the Piano Lesson by August Wilson. Outside, the rain peppered my window with a steady spray of water. The waters of the Bronx River were beginning to rise and spread out onto the parkland bordering it. Ideas and imagery flooded my mind as these kinds of days are the ones when I'm most reflective, introspective, romantic and creative.

My mother sent me a text message telling me our neighbor, Judge Pincham, passed away in his sleep at 4:30 this morning from lung cancer. A weight pressed into my chest, depriving me of air for a moment. He was 82 and his wife has been gone from this world since 2005. Judge Pincham was The Man. Handsome, suave, always dressed nice and a judge for cryin' out loud. He had the biggest house on my block and I always walked past it in awe. I didn't even know his real name until I was practically in college.

The Honorable R. Eugene Pincham was born poor in Alabama and rose to the heights and perils of being an outspoken litigator and eventual public servant. A position that can be especially perilous when you're Black. More times than not my neighbor was in the media being quoted and castigated for some outrageous (and often funny) statement he technically shouldn't have made given his station in life.

Judge Pincham had me over in his office a few years back. The walls were lined with nearly every Chicago politician that's ever been a politician and there was a trophy case packed with baseball paraphranalia and trophies. He told me about a time when he worked as a waiter at Lundy's in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn and met and served Jackie Robinson his dinner, and what it meant to be a Black man at that time. Many times when I think of home I think of that story he told. Now it means that much more to me.

Rest in peace, Your Honor.

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