Titans Blow 16-Point Lead, But Hold Off Texans For Incredible Win

Photo by the author.

By Terrance Turner

Today, the Tennessee Titans made the playoffs with a loss by Miami. They slugged it out with the Houston Texans today in an edge-of-your-seat match that went right down to the wire. Today’s match started off slow, with a field goal apiece by both teams. But at the start of the second quarter, the offense lit up. Titans running back Derrick Henry took off, breaking tackles — including one by defensive end J.J. Watt — to streak down the field for the touchdow. Henry scored the game’s first touchdown, putting the Titans ahead 10-3.

After another field goal by the Texans, Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill found receiver A.J. Brown for the touchdown. That extended the Titans’ lead, making it 17-6. A touchdown on the Texans’ drive was overturned; receiver Brandin Cooks stepped just outside the lines as he caught the ball. The Texans settled for a field goal, which Fairbairn kicked through. It was 17-9 at halftime.

As the second half began, the Titans put together a drive that included a 29-yard catch-and-run by Brown (?) and a crucial catch by tight end Anthony Firkser. The Firkser catch took the team into the end zone. Then Tannehill handed the ball to Henry, who jogged untouched into the end zone for the touchdown. That made it 24-9.

But the Texans put together a winning drive of their own. Watson found Cooks for the TD. But kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn missed the extra point. That made it a nine-point game. Tennessee padded the lead again on their next drive. The key, again, was Henry, who broke three tackles and slammed into another Texans defender as he ran. Then, as a fifth Texans defender tried to tackle him, Henry spun and landed on the ground, near the five-yard line. Tannehill kept the ball and dashed into the end zone to make it 31-15.

Watson found Cooks for another TD. But the two-point conversion failed, making it 31-21. The Texans caught a break, however, on the Titans’ next drive. Henry fumbled the ball. The Texans recovered and rapidly made it to the goal line. David Johnson ran in for the touchdown. That made it a three-point game: 31-28.

A.J. Brown made a crucial catch for the first down. Texans’ Charles Omenihu hit Tannehill in the face just after he threw the ball. Omenihu was flagged for roughing the passer, which added 15 yards to the end of the play. Automatic first down. The Texans later scored. Pharoah Brown caught the touchdown, to give the Texans the lead. They led for the first time — 35-31 — after scoring 20 unanswered points.

With time ticking away, the Titans mounted a drive. A rushing touchdown by Henry was wiped out by a holding call from the refs — which even the announcers disagreed with. But no challenge flag was thrown. The clock ran down even further, hitting the two-minute warning.

As the clock ran under 2:00, Tannehill made a run for it, getting all the way to the half-yard line. The Texans defense kept him from crossing the goal line. Tannehill eventually scored. But the refs again took the touchdown away, alleging illegal formation by the Titans. But with just 1:42 left, Tannehill tried again. This time, it worked: running diagonally towards the sideline, Tannehill finally scored. That gave the Titans a tenuous 38-35 lead.

The Texans were flagged on the extra-point try (for illegal formation) and then again on their punt return (for holding). The latter penalty cost the Texans 10 yards. Then — in an eerie example of history repeating itself — Titans cornerback Malcolm Butler got another joint catch. In a play similar to that of the Titans-Colts game, Butler caught the ball at the same time as Cooks. The refs upheld the original call of a completed catch by Cooks. That gave the Texans a chance.

After a heart-stopping last-chance drive, the Texans were forced to kick a field goal. Ka’imi Fairbairn nailed a 51-yard field goal to tie the game!

With the game tied at 38, the Titans had 18 seconds to put together a drive. Just when he needed to, Tannehill reared back and hurled a 54-yard pass, which was caught by A.J. Brown. That incredible catch put the Titans in field-goal range; Henry ran a few more yards to put the Titans closer. With four seconds left, the Titans attempted a field goal. Their kicker Stephen Gostkowski was out; a rookie was taking his place.

Somehow, the rookie made good. Samuel Sloman’s 37-yard field goal was a showstopper: the ball veered to the right, bounced off the upright and somehow went through. The result shocked everyone, but Henry’s reaction was one for the books:

The Titans win, 41-38. With this win (their 11th), they have won the AFC South for the first time since 2008. Not only have they made the playoffs, they have won their division. As usual, their strong running game was a key to their success. (The Titans are now the only franchise to have TWO running backs both achieve over 2,000 yards in a season.) And as usual, the motor for their high-powered offense was Derrick Henry.

Henry has won the rushing title for the second straight year. Henry’s 2,027 yards are the fifth-most ever in one season, per NBC Sports. He is only the eighth player in NFL history to have 2,000 rushing yards in a single season. And according to Yahoo! Sports writer Frank Schwab, he’s the first to achieve that since Adrian Peterson in 2012. Henry, according to Fifth Quarter Stats, has now rushed for 200+ yards and multiple touchdowns for the 3rd time this season. He is the 1st player in NFL history to accomplish this feat.

But it was the climactic, heart-stopping field goal by Titans kicker Samuel Sloman that sealed the game. Players on both teams reacted with shock and awe. But for the Titans, that surprise quickly gave way to jubilation — and celebration.

Image
Titans celebrate their unforgettable win today. Photo from Twitter (@Titans).

Joe Biden Elected President of the United States

By Terrance Turner

Nov. 7, 2020 (updated Nov. 15)

Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. has been elected President of the United States.

The former Vice President was formally named as the winner this morning, after an agonizing four-day vote counting effort. Biden won the election after winning Pennsylvania — a result that was called by the Associated Press and NBC News at around 10:30 am. Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes gave Biden a total of 273, just above the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency.

The victory in Pennsylvania came after a slow but surprising surge by Biden. Donald Trump had led the state by nearly 15 percentage points days ago. But Biden steadily chipped away at that lead. Over the past few days, a steady stream of mail-in votes pushed him forward. Within the past 24 hours, Biden pulled ahead, leading with 49.6% of the vote to Trump’s 49.1%.

“I am honored and humbled by the trust the American people have placed in me and in Vice President-elect Harris,” Biden said in a statement. “With the campaign over, it’s time to put the anger and the harsh rhetoric behind us and come together as a nation. It’s time for America to unite. And to heal. We are the United States of America. And there’s nothing we can’t do, if we do it together.”

Biden’s victory makes him the oldest man to be elected president. It makes his running mate Kamala Harris the first woman to become vice president. She is also the first Black person and first Indian to become vice president. Harris reacted to her historic achievement via tweet: “This election is about so much more than @JoeBiden or me. It’s about the soul of America and our willingness to fight for it,” she wrote.

In an intriguing note, CNN reporter Jeff Zeleny revealed that it was on this day — 48 years ago today — that Joe Biden won election to the Senate for the first time. Today, he becomes 46th President of the United States. This victory also comes after a long, long, long saga that involved laborious vote-counting. For a closer look at the process, check out the brief recap below.

Inside the Process

Nov. 4, 2020 (approx. 12:00 pm): After 16 agonizing hours of poll-watching and TV-viewing and number-crunching, we STILL don’t know. CNN’s John King has been telling us to “be patient” since last night. And we still don’t know who’s president. This election hinges on Arizona, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Nevada. If Joe Biden maintains his narrow lead in those four states, he becomes the next President of the United States.

But it’s still razor-thin. Those four states are still too close to call.

UPDATE (Nov. 4, 2020, 4:00 pm): Joe Biden has won the states of Michigan and Wisconsin. CNN reported the news this afternoon. Those two states are among the three in the “blue wall” that Biden was seeking to rebuild. His opponent, Donald Trump, won the presidency in 2016 largely due to his narrow victories in those three states. Biden sought to regain those states in his path to victory.

UPDATE (Nov. 5, 2020, 12:35 pm): The presidential race has narrowed.

Overnight, Joe Biden’s lead in the state of Arizona has narrowed. Biden maintains his lead in the states of Arizona and Nevada; if he wins those states, he wins the presidency. Significantly, however, Trump’s lead has also narrowed in some states. One of them, crucially, is Pennsylvania.

The president enjoyed a sizable lead of nearly 600,000 votes yesterday, leading 56.7% to 41.9% at midnight Wednesday. By 3:00 pm that day, however, the lead was nearly cut in half: Trump had 53.1% to Biden’s 45.6%. By 11:00 pm Wednesday, the lead shrunk significantly again: Trump led 50.8% to 47.9%. Now, on Thursday afternoon, President Trump’s lead has shrunken yet again, from 600,000 to 114,000 votes. (Trump has 3,231,147 votes at this point; Biden has 3,117,136.)

Trump now has 50.2% of the vote in Pennsylvania; Biden has 48.5%. Between midnight Wednesday and noon Thursday, the president’s lead shrunk from nearly fifteen percentage points down to 1.8. Pennsylvania is crucial. If Biden wins Pennsylvania, he wins the presidency. Trump must win Pennsylvania to win the election. As CNN’s John King put it: “Biden can win without it; the president cannot.”

According to CNN, 92% of the vote in Pennsylvania has been counted. There is now a legal battle over election ballots that were sent by or before Election Day, but arrived after the date. The Trump campaign filed a lawsuit over these ballots. Roughly 550,000 ballots in Pennsylvania have yet to be counted. Penn Secy. of State Kathy Boockvar said she expects that most of the ballots will be counted by the end of the day. “Why is it taking so long?” CNN anchor Jake Tapper asked. Boockvar answered that people “are working as quickly as they can. But as you know, these things take time.” She explained that staff are working on “reconciliation” of the votes.

UPDATE (6:50 pm): The race in Georgia has tightened dramatically. At midnight on Wednesday, Trump led by nearly ten percentage points (54.1% vs. 44.7%). By 9 am, however, the lead narrowed (50.5% vs. 48.5%). A day later, the margin once again tightened: by Thursday at 9 am, Trump had merely 49.6% to Biden’s 49.2%. Then the president’s lead again dwindled — this time to nearly nothing. With 99% of the votes in Georgia counted, Trump has 49.4% to Biden’s 49.3%. The president is only ahead by 3,486 votes.

According to CNN, the reason for these surprising shifts is that the mail-in ballots were counted last. Some states counted in different orders; Ohio, for example, counted mail-in ballots first. Pennsylvania, by contrast, counted Election Day votes first, then counted the votes cast by mail (similar to Georgia). This is how it works. This is NOT fraud (as the president has suggested).

Meanwhile, the race in Pennsylvania continues to evolve. Trump leads there by only 64,000 votes; he has 49.8% of the vote, to Biden’s 48.9%. However, the opposite is occurring in Arizona. Biden had enjoyed a comfortable lead of up to four percentage points. But the link has gradually shrunk over the past two days. Currently, Biden leads 50.5% to 48.5%.

UPDATE (Nov. 7): Everything has changed.

What had been a close race in Georgia became a virtual dead heat — Biden with 49.4% of the vote, Trump with 49.4%. But Biden has the edge, with just over 1,600 votes (as of this writing). On Wednesday at midnight, Trump led by nearly ten percent of the vote (54.1% to Biden’s 44.7%). But by 9 am, the lead had narrowed (50.5% to 48.5%). That lead continued to shrink the next morning. By 9 am Thursday, Biden trailed by less than half a percentage point. The race was 49.6% to 49.2%. By 6 pm, it was 49.4 to 49.3. Slowly but surely, the lead shifted to Biden.

The “Keystone State” Hands Biden Victory; Jubilance Ensues

Biden’s narrow win in Georgia surprised many observers. But it was Pennsylvania that would hand him the presidency.

It was a fitting win, given that Biden was actually born in Pennsylvania. Biden, 77, was born in Scranton, PA, in 1942. He was the first of five children, according to AZ Central. The family didn’t move to Delaware until 1953. But that is where Biden has made his home. Now, he has a new home: the White House.

Reaction to the victory has been resounding and widespread. Celebrations have broke out across the country. According to ABC 13 Houston, “Just after The Associated Press and other news organizations declared that former Vice President Joe Biden beat President Donald Trump, fireworks erupted in Atlanta. In Maine, a band playing at a farmers’ market broke into the ‘Battle Hymn of the Republic’.”

“Neighbors ran out of their homes in Manhattan and assembled into an unplanned street party, whooping, dancing and high-fiving strangers. In Louisville, Kentucky, Biden supporters gathered on their lawns to toast with champagne. In Harlem, they danced in the streets, banged cowbells and honked their car horns.” Thousands gathered to celebrate in Washington, D.C., the nation’s capital. Massive crowds gathered on the other side of the country, in San Francisco. People were literally dancing in the streets.

CNN commentator Nia-Malika Henderson pointed out that there was a sense of relief and happiness in the air. But she also noted the historic nature of the win — and its significance to her, as a Black woman. “I’m not that old [she’s 46], but I grew up at a time when I couldn’t even find black dolls, find books with, you know, reflections of black kids growing up,” she said. Now, a black (and brown) woman is Vice-President-Elect of the United States.

“I’m so excited to see a black woman in the White House, a brown woman in the White house, an Indian American woman in the White House,” said singer Lizzo, who campaigned for Biden in Michigan. “I am so ready to see if America can hold itself accountable.”

That night, both Biden and Harris gave addresses that matched the moment. Harris, dressed in suffragette white, addressed the crowd first. She opened by citing the legendary John Lewis: “Democracy is not a state; it is an act,” Harris began. “America’s democracy is not guaranteed. It is only as strong as our willingness to fight for it.” She thanked those who waited in lines to vote. “And when our very democracy was on the ballot in this election, with the very soul of America at stake,” she said, “you ushered in a new day for America.”

Harris lauded Biden as “a healer and uniter, a tested and steady hand”. She described him as “a guy with a big heart, who loves with abandon”. She noted that she first got to know him as the father of her friend (and Biden’s late son) Beau Biden. Harris and Beau Biden simultaneously served as attorneys general for their respective states (California and Delaware, respectively).

Harris thanked her husband and family, remembering her mother (who immigrated to the United States at just 19) in a poignant moment. And she commended women of all stripes and colors, with a special shoutout to one group: “Black women, who are so often overlooked, but have so often proven to be the backbone of our democracy.” Harris noted that many young girls (especially Black and brown ones) were watching. And she gave them hope for the future: “But while I might be the first woman in this position, I will not be the last.”

“I will strive to be a vice president like Joe was to Barack Obama: loyal, honest and prepared,” Harris went on. She vowed her running mate would be “a Commander-in-Chief who respects our troops, and a President for all Americans.” With that, she introduced the President-Elect of the United States: Joe Biden.

Biden jogged onto the stage, situated in front of a drive-through rally on the Christina River in northern Delaware. He began by recognizing familiar faces in the crowd, as well as his family. He devoted a portion of the speech to his wife, Dr. Jill Biden. But Biden also thanked election officials and poll workers who risked their lives in the midst of the pandemic.

At the outset of his speech, Biden struck a familiar, unifying tone: “I pledge to be a president who seeks not to divide, but unify — who doesn’t see red states and blue states, only sees the United States.” Biden stressed the need to unite as Americans: “We may be opponents, but we’re not enemies. We’re Americans.”

“I’m proud of the campaign we ran,” he said. He took pride in the coalition that helped him win: “Democrats, Republicans, independents, progressives, moderates, conservatives, young, old, urban, suburban, rural, gay, straight, transgender, White, Latino, Asian, Native American.” But he reserved special thanks to the Black voters who helped seal his victory: “Especially in those moments where this campaign was at its lowest, the African American community stood up again for me. You’ve always had my back, and I’ll have yours.”

In a move that would’ve been impossible for his predecessor, Biden reached out to those who didn’t vote for him. “To those who voted for Donald Trump: I understand the disappointment tonight. I’ve lost a couple of times myself. But now, let’s give each other a chance,” he said. He added: “It’s time to put away the harsh rhetoric, lower the temperature, see each other again, listen to each other again, and to make progress.” Speaking of progress, Biden announced a policy directive aimed at helping Americans cope with the coronavirus: Biden closed by saying he would announce on Monday a group of scientists and experts as transition advisers who would help combat COVID-19.

In a moving moment that reflected his Catholic faith, Biden said: “The Bible tells us that to everything there is a season — a time to build, a time to reap, a time to sow. And a time to heal. This is the time to heal in America.”

Biden concluded: “I’ve always believed we can define America in one word: possibilities. That in America, everyone should be given the opportunity to go as far as their dreams and God-given ability will take them […] With full hearts and steady hands, with faith in America and in each other, with a love of country — and a thirst for justice — let us be the nation that we know we can be.

A nation united.

A nation strengthened.

A nation healed.”

UPDATE (Nov. 13, 2020): It’s official.

Politico is now reporting that every state has been called in the 2020 presidential race.

President-Elect Joe Biden has won the state of Arizona, Politico says. Biden has also won the state of Georgia. With these two victories, Biden has flipped two historically Republican red states. The last Democratic president to win Georgia was Bill Clinton in 1992. The last Democrat to win Arizona was also Clinton, in 1996.

Biden’s win in Arizona was razor-close. Politico reports that the final count in Arizona gave Biden 49.4% of the vote to President Trump’s 49.1%. (That’s roughly 1,670,000 votes to Trump’s 1,659,000.) 99% of the vote in Arizona is in, making the final tally unlikely to change substantially. In Georgia, the results are similarly close. Biden wins with 49.5% of the vote; Trump has 49.2%. That equates to roughly 2,472,000 votes for Biden and about 2,458,000 for Trump.

The New York Times confirmed the news today, adding that President Trump won North Carolina. (Georgia and North Carolina were the last states to be called.) However, Trump’s win in North Carolina gives him merely 232 votes in the Electoral College. Biden has 306. Ironically, that’s the same total Trump had in 2016. Tellingly, Biden flipped five states that Trump won four years ago: Georgia, Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Mr. Trump did not flip any state that Hillary Clinton won in 2016.

UPDATE (Nov. 30): Biden’s wins in Arizona and Wisconsin were confirmed by election officials today, confirming a victory that is readily apparent to virtually everyone (except, perhaps, the current president). That adds to a historic vote total that Biden achieved last week, on Nov. 24:

Biden’s vote total now exceeds his opponent’s by a historic margin of more than 6 million votes. Joseph Biden has 80 million votes — the most ever by a presidential candidate. He won.

UPDATE (Dec. 14, 2020): It’s official. Joe Biden reached the required 270 Electoral College votes today. This seals his victory in the 2020 presidential election. He WILL be the next President of the United States when he takes the oath of office in January 2021.

Houston Restaurant Weeks Extended Through Sept. 30

Photo courtesy of Houston Business Journals.

By Terrance Turner

Sept. 1, 2020 (Updated Oct. 30; revised Nov. 15)

News broke yesterday that Houston Restaurant Weeks has been extended through the end of the month. It typically runs from Aug. 1 through Sept. 7, but this year it has been extended through Sept. 30. The annual fundraiser allows people to order from local restaurants and donate to a worthy cause.

The late Cleverley Stone, shown here holding a box for the Houston Food Bank. (Photo from Twitter.)

Houston Restaurant Weeks (HRW) was founded by Cleverley Stone, who hosted a food radio talk show on Houston’s CBS 650 AM (KIKK-AM). According to the HRW website, “The Cleverley Food Talk Radio Show” became the longest-running on CBS 650, running for over 13 years. Stone also worked as a food service contributor to Fox 26 Morning News, beginning in 2008. Stone founded HRW in 2003 as a fundraiser for the Houston Food Bank, which is the largest food bank in the United States (per its website).

Stone died at 68 in May from uterine cancer. Her final wish was that HRW continue in perpetuity in her name, per the Houston Chronicle. Her daughter Katie Stone now chairs the event, and she remembers that her mother felt compassion for those suffering from hunger. “Her life’s mission was to end hunger and to feed families in Houston,” Stone told the Houston Business Journal. “She was really driven by stories she would hear in Houston about people not having enough to eat.” That drive helped make Houston Restaurant Weeks the largest annual fundraiser of its kind.

This year, the event will look different, due to COVID-19. But it is arguably more vital than ever. “This year’s Houston Restaurant Weeks is probably the most important year that we’ve ever seen,” Stone told ABC 13. The HRW fundraiser has raised over $16 million for the Houston Food Bank, which distributes food to those in need. This takes on new significance in the wake of Hurricane Laura, which hit Louisiana hard last week. According to KPRC, the Houston Food Bank has sent trucks of water, cleaning supplies, and ready-to-eat food to a Second Harvest Food Bank in Vinton, Louisiana.

A map of the 18 SE Texas counties the HFD serves. (Photo courtesy of houstonfoodbank.org.)

The Houston Food Bank serves 18 counties in southeast Texas, including Harris, Liberty, Chambers, Brazoria, Fort Bend, and Austin. (It also provides food for localized food banks in Montgomery and Galveston counties; those banks, in turn, provide food for their residents.) Founded in 1982, the Houston Food Bank distributes fresh produce, meat and nonperishables and prepares nutritious hot meals for kids. According to houstonfoodbank.org, the charity distributed 104 million meals in 2019. It does so via a network of 1,500 community partners, including schools, shelters, soup kitchens, and food pantries.

One of those pantries is in the mostly black Trinity Gardens neighborhood. Chef Jonny Rhodes, who grew up in Trinity Gardens, called the area a “food desert” in a Houston Chronicle article in Oct. 2019. The article also defined nearby neighborhood Kashmere Gardens as a “food desert” — a low-income area where residents struggle to find healthy, affordable food. In 2010, the USDA reported that 18 million Americans live in food deserts — places more than a mile from a supermarket in urban/suburban areas and more than 10 miles in rural areas.

One food pantry helping to bridge that gap is in Trinity Gardens First Baptist Church, which shares its name with the surrounding neighborhood. On one Saturday morning per month, food is delivered and distributed. The pantry is headed by Sis. Barbara Brown, who has worked with the Houston Food Bank (HFD) since 2010. She says the Houston Food Bank is essential for the pantry’s operation.

“The Food Bank is 100% of where we get our food,” Brown says via phone. She adds that the pantry is not easy to maintain. “I have to take classes; I have to do online meetings,” she says. “We come in; we have to get inspections.” With the start of the pandemic, trainings and meetings have moved offline. And now, workers and volunteers must deliver food to people’s cars in order to minimize contact.

Mrs. Brown also mentions that she has to have paperwork in multiple languages — and serve people from multiple locales. “We get people from Pasadena and La Porte,” she says, “and we cannot turn people away.” She estimates that the pantry serves around 125 people each month (not counting the pantry’s volunteers, who are often allowed to take home leftover food items.)

Those that come will be given mostly non-perishable food — canned corn and green beans, walnuts, cereal, boxed spaghetti. But the Houston Food Bank truck also delivers some perishables: gallons of milk, bags of ham, even some eggs. And last month, Brown says, fresh vegetables were added to the mix: “We gave out eggs and meat, onions and bell peppers.”

Pantries like these benefit directly from the HFD — and indirectly from the HRW fundraiser. Typically, restaurants would donate $3–$7 from each meal sold to the Food Bank. But with so many restaurants struggling due to COVID-19, this year they will donate $1 per meal. Each dollar can provide three meals for those in need.

For the first time, diners can order using pickup, takeout, or delivery options. Some restaurants allow walk-in orders. According to the website, brunches and lunches each cost $20. Dinners cost either $35 or $45 (for a four-course meal). The featured restaurants are located in Harris, Galveston, and Montgomery counties. (Please call or visit the website of each chosen restaurant to verify dates and times for meal service. Be sure to mention that you would like the HRW special menu.) For more information about HRW’s participating restaurants, please visit https://houstonrestaurantweeks.com. To donate or volunteer with the Houston Food Bank, visit https://www.houstonfoodbank.org.

UPDATE (Sept. 16-19): With just two weeks left until the end of HRW, I decided to do a quick overview of notable brunch and lunch spots in the area. Given the comparatively low cost of these menus (just $20), I’m presenting those options first. (Dinner is another story — literally; I’ll cover the $35-$45 dinner spots in another post.) Only some of the over 100 HRW participants offer brunch, but I did manage to find some participating restaurants in various areas.

If you’re in the downtown area, you could start with Hearsay Market Square (218 Travis St.). Hearsay serves brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 11 am until 3 pm. Menu options for the first course include deviled eggs with candied jalapeno and bacon. The second course offers choices like fried chicken & waffles and bacon-wrapped jumbo shrimp with grits.

In Midtown, Nuksy’s Table (1926 W. Dallas St.) only serves brunch on Sundays from 10 am to 2 pm, per its website. On the bright side, Nuksy’s also serves up plantain beignets with each meal. (They’re deep-fried, with caramel rum sauce — or chocolate bourbon sauce — and berries.) The entrees include crab cake eggs benedict (lumped crabmeat, poached egg, and hollandaise sauce, with sautéed spinach and kettle chips). The breakfast platter has bacon, pork sausage, eggs, and hash browns. Nuksy’s “Shrimp and Orange Corn Grits” include seasoned Gulf shrimp “with Cajun gumbo gravy, served over orange corn grits”. Nuksy’s beverages include mimosas in classic, strawberry, mango,
and raspberry flavors.

When I first visited Nuksy’s on Sept. 20, demand had picked up so much that the place was fully booked! Nevertheless, the owner took me on a tour. One room can seat 10 people (at two socially distanced tables). Another room seats four (but usually just two). It’s typically booked for dates. “I don’t know if you know this,” the owner told me, “but in Houston, Tuesday is date night.” (Really?)

Each room has a “dot” for music control. You can ask Alexa to play whatever song you like — whether it’s Kirk Franklin or Fantasia — and hear it (if available). I tried out the device when I revisited Nuksy’s Table a week later, on Sept. 27. My room was furnished elegantly, with a plush white couch against one wall and fluffy rugs on the hardwood floors. In the center of the room, a dinner table was topped by eye-catching golden centerpieces.

The breakfast platter at Nuksy’s Table. (All Nuksy’s photos taken by the author.)

After finishing my mimosa (which was a great start to brunch), I ordered Nuksy’s breakfast platter, which came with eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns, and a surprise: a pair of strawberries on the side. The food was uniformly good (and better than it looks in the photo). I visited Nuksy’s on Sept. 27; I had visited Napoli’s a week earlier.

In Montrose, Napoli’s Wine Cafe (4601 Washington Ave) offers a varied three-course brunch menu. For the first course, there’s an array of options, including fried calamari, a “meat board” with imported and domestic meats, and a “formaggi board” consisting of both domestic and imported cheeses. Also available was a “brochette board”, in which the diner chooses three options from the following:

  • Fresh Mozzarella, Tomato & Basil
  • Cheese, Bacon, Arugula & Tomato
  • Smoked Salmon, Cheese & Capers
  • Almond Hummus & Fresh Tomato
  • Fire-Roasted Eggplant & Walnuts
  • Ricotta, Almond & Dates
Sassy Italian Ricotta Pancakes at Napoli’s Wine Cafe. (Photo from YouTube.)

But that’s just the first course. Napoli’s offers lobster bisque, soup and salad for the second. But the third course is where things get really interesting. Options include “Sassy Italian Ricotta Pancakes”, topped with maple syrup, banana slices, strawberries, walnuts, a dollop of whole milk ricotta cheese, and whipped cream. The “Brioche French Toast” comprises freshly baked brioche topped with vanilla custard, banana slices, strawberries and walnuts. Alternatively, there’s “Napoli’s Breakfast”: “two poached eggs served over sautéed spinach, potatoes, onions and mushrooms, topped with hollandaise sauce served on a toasted biologiques loaf bread.”

I visited Napoli’s amidst pouring rain, which failed to deter patrons from dining outdoors. While I watched the Giants vs. Bears game inside, I sampled the brochette platter. From a bevy of options, I chose: a) fresh mozzarella, tomato and basil, b) cheese and bacon with arugula and tomato, and c) smoked salmon, cheese, and capers. Each delicacy was served on a slice of toasted bread. The array of salty, savory textures provided a perfect foil for my second course: a house salad.

After I wolfed down the tomatoes and leafy greens, I feasted on the third course. Those Italian ricotta pancakes were just as decadent as you would imagine: at least four broad, fluffy pancakes under sliced strawberries and bananas, topped by rich ricotta and whipped cream. I was also served a small container of syrup, which I only used sparingly. Too much would ruin what is already a glorious dish.

In the Galleria area, 51Fifteen Cuisine and Cocktails (5175 Westheimer Road) delivers an array of brunch selections. The first course serves up items like garbanzo soup and chopped wedge salad; the second course delivers braised short ribs benedict (two poached eggs on English muffin, hollandaise sauce, braised short ribs, asparagus, sliced tomatoes). Also included in the 2nd course is a 6-oz. New York strip steak and eggs combo.

Bon appetit!

 

In Bombshell Interview, Mariah Carey Reveals Inspiration Behind Two Classic Songs

Baseball player Derek Jeter with singer Mariah Carey at rapper Puff Daddy's birthday gala at Cipriani Rest, in New York in 1998. (Credit Image: © John Barrett/Globe Photos)

By Terrance Turner

Sept. 3, 2020

“It wasn’t raining yet
But it was definitely a little misty on a warm November night
And my heart was pounding
My inner voice resounding
Begging me to turn away
But I just had to see your face
To feel alive…

My apprehension blew away/I only wanted you…
To taste my sadness as you kissed me in the dark.
Every time I feel the need
I envision you caressing me
And go back in time
To relive the splendor of you and I
On the rooftop that rainy night.”

“The Roof” (1997), feat. Mobb Deep

With this vivid, evocative prose, singer Mariah Carey recalls a memorable night on the roof, in the rain. She wrote the lyrics to “The Roof” — a dreamy, romantic love song with a hard hip-hop edge — for her 1997 album Butterfly. The album represented a liberation of sorts for Carey; it was released the same year she split from Tommy Mottola, former CEO of Sony Music. (Sony is the parent company of Columbia Records, to which Mariah was signed until 1998.)

In a jaw-dropping interview with Vulture this week, Carey reveals that she wrote the song about Yankees baseball legend Derek Jeter.

According to Vulture, Jeter and Carey “met at a dinner party and started text-flirting, secretly, while she was at the end of her marriage to Mottola”. Jeter and Carey shared “a clandestine kiss” on the roof of his apartment building, writes Vulture reporter Allison P. Davis. “There was Moet. She wore a buttery leather Chanel skirt. She remembers her boots and the rain and her hair curling in stunning detail.”

“Of course I do!” Carey told Davis. “I could never forget that moment.” Carey went on to say that “it was a great moment, and it happened in a divine way because it helped me get past living there, in Sing Sing, under those rules and regulations.”

Carey is referring to the $20 million compound that she shared with Mottola. She called it “Sing Sing” — a reference to the famous maximum-security prison in upstate New York. “It was fully staffed with armed guards, security cameras were installed in most rooms, and Tommy was in control,” she writes in her memoir.

Mariah and Mottola married in 1993, when he was 43 and she was 23. But the marriage soon went south; Carey reportedly felt trapped in it. “He’s controlling,” a friend of Carey’s told People around the time of the breakup. That matches what Carey herself has said over the years. “It was very controlled,” Carey told Cosmopolitan in 2019. “There was no freedom for me as a human being. It was almost like being a prisoner.”

Carey and Mottola at the CFDA Awards in 1995. Photo from MariahJournal.com

She elaborates further in excerpts quoted in her book, The Meaning of Mariah Carey: “Every move I made, everywhere I went, I was monitored—minute by minute, day after day, year after year,” she writes. “I was living my dream, but couldn’t leave my house.”

The situation epitomized Mottola’s control over Carey, which soon became evident to those in the media. A 1996 profile of Mottola in Vanity Fair by writer Robert Sam Anson says: “Mariah’s career was soaring, and Tommy was guiding it every step of the way. He approved her material, oversaw her arrangements, checked her promotion, and, to no one’s surprise, made sure her attorney was Allen Grubman, who, in addition to handling a goodly chunk of Sony’s legal chores, now represented a third of its talent roster and the bulk of its key executives. ‘Allen Grubman is my best friend in the world,’ Tommy says in response to questions about conflicts. ‘End of subject. Over and out’.”

“Mariah, friends say, is a very young 26-year-old. They also portray her as increasingly antsy about her husband’s wardening (‘Always being up my ass,’ a former staff member quotes Mariah as saying), which includes the employment of two bodyguards, whose duties extend to accompanying her to the bathroom door, and the placing on Sony’s payroll of a constant shepherdess, the wife of Epic Pres. Dave Glew.”

Anson continues: “For all of Tommy’s precautions, though, there have been slips: a Concorde flight during which Mariah poured out her problems to Diana Ross; an unwelcome friendship with an old high school boyfriend (‘Tear his eyes out,’ an aide recalls Tommy saying after he saw his wife being ogled, but Tommy says, ‘No, I never said anything like that’) and the most public incident, a noisy quarrel in a Beverly Hills hotel lobby after [the 1996] Grammy Awards.” (Carey had been nominated for a handful of awards, but went home without a single trophy.)

The Vulture profile mentions security cameras in the compound that watched her every move. In the book, she details that surveillance. The Daily Beast notes that Carey describes having to sneak downstairs “for a snack, or to sit at the table and write down some lyrics. But every time, right as I would start to settle into the calm of the quiet dark and begin to find my breath—Beep! Beep! The intercom would go off. I’d jump up, and the words ‘Whatcha doin’?’ would crackle through the speaker.”

Davis also notes that, when they started discussing Mottola during a Zoom call, Carey began to cry. Those tears were a long time coming. In 2008, Carey told Parade magazine: “On my new album [E = MC2], the song “Side Effects” says, ‘Kept my tears inside, ’cause I knew if I started I’d keep crying for the rest of my life.’ It’s really true. At that point in my life, I didn’t cry because I had to be so emotionally cut off to deal with it.”

Sure enough, the lyrics reveal a fraught emotional state that continues to haunt Carey: “Wakin’ up scared some nights still thinkin’ ’bout them violent times/Still a little protective of the people that I let inside/Still a little defensive, thinkin’ folk be tryna run my life/Still a little depressed inside, but I fake a smile/And deal with the side effects.”

Mottola issued a diplomatic statement as Carey’s book neared publication. In it, he wished his ex-wife and her family “the very best”. In his 2013 memoir, Mottola apologized for “any discomfort or pain” he had caused Carey: “If it seemed like I was controlling, I apologize. Was I obsessive? Yes. But that was also part of the reason for her success.” Carey, too, acknowledged to Parade: “I do believe that I learned a lot from him and that he really did believe in my talent and I am very grateful for that.”

By 1996, however, it was clear that the marriage was crumbling. “In the beginning,” Carey writes, “I was walking on eggshells. Then it became a bed of nails, and then a minefield. I never knew when or what would make him blow, and the anxiety was relentless.”

She details a chilling moment towards the end of the marriage: “Tommy walked over and picked up the butter knife from the place setting in front of me. He pressed the flat side of it against my right cheek. Every muscle in my face clenched. My entire body locked in place; my lungs stiffened. Tommy held the knife there. His boys watched and didn’t say a word. After what seemed like forever, he slowly dragged the thin, cool strip of metal down my burning face.” 

Into this nightmarish situation stepped Derek Jeter.

The two met at the aforementioned dinner party, and sparks began to fly — inspiring one of Carey’s most memorable singles. “It was a little misty on a warm November night”, she writes on “The Roof”. The accompanying album, Butterfly, was released in Sept. 1997. That would place her clandestine meeting with Jeter ostensibly at Nov. 1996 — just after his star-making rookie season with the Yankees.

Jeter spent his entire 20-year career with the New York Yankees. He is the Yankees’ all-time leader in hits, singles, stolen bases, and games played, according to New Jersey newspaper The Record. He won five World Series championships with the Yankees, including one during his rookie season in Oct. 1996 and three consecutive championships from 1998-2000. (The Yankees won again in 2009.)

When he wasn’t playing shortstop and hitting home runs, Jeter was quietly seeing Carey. In December 1997, he showed up on the set of a video that Mariah was shooting — a clue that a romance was already brewing. And “The Roof” wasn’t the only Mariah Carey song inspired by Derek Jeter. In the Vulture profile, Carey revealed that she also wrote “My All” with Jeter in mind. The lyrics outline intense but conflicting feelings:  “I am thinking of you / In my sleepless solitude tonight / If it’s wrong to love you / Then my heart just won’t let me be right / ‘Cause I’ve drowned in you / And I won’t pull through / Without you by my side.”

The song was written after a trip the two took to Puerto Rico — which may explain the Spanish guitar and Latin percussion. In an interview with Fred Bronson, Carey explained: “I had gone to Puerto Rico and was influenced by Latin music at that moment. When I came back, the melody was in my head. It was at a melancholy point in my life and the song reflects the yearning that was going on inside of me.” Released in April 1998, “My All” became Mariah’s 13th #1 single.

By then, the romance was public — and in full swing. According to ESPN, Mariah joined Jeter in Florida for his team’s spring training in March 1998. The Yankees began the season 1-4. Tongues began wagging in the sports world, and some blamed Mariah for Jeter’s hitting slump. But the Yankees won 25 of their next 28 games, according to Yankees Magazine. Jeter would eventually earn his first All-Star honor and his second World Series ring. By June, however, he and Carey had fizzled out. Constant media attention was cited as a reason for the breakup.

Still, Carey spoke warmly of Jeter for years afterward. “I think he’s a great guy,” she told Larry King in 2002. “And I really, really love his family. They taught me something special,” she said. “I never saw an interracial family that had stuck together and stuck it out that way. I learned a nice lesson from them.”

Like Mariah Carey, Derek Jeter is biracial. Both grew up encountering racism. Jeter has spoken about being pulled over while driving down the street and being accused of stealing things from stores. Carey’s mother Patricia was disowned by her family for marrying Mariah’s father, Alfred Roy Carey. Carey writes in her book about being invited to a friend’s house in the Hamptons only to be called the N-word. (Comedian Sandra Bernhard reopened those wounds after Butterfly‘s single “Honey” was released, saying during her standup that Carey ‘was acting real ‘niggerish’ up there at the Royalton Hotel suite with Puff Daddy and all the greasy, chain-wearing Black men.’)

Carey speaks explicitly about growing up biracial in the Vulture interview and in her new book, The Meaning of Mariah Carey. The memoir, published by Andy Cohen Books, was released Sept. 29. In the meantime, enjoy one of the songs inspired by Jeter — with a remix featuring rap group Mobb Deep. “The Roof” is embedded below.

Patrick Mahomes Signs Largest Sports Contract in History

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Patrick Mahomes beams in this file photo released today. (Photo via Twitter @Chiefs)

By Terrance Turner

It should come as no surprise that the Kansas City Chiefs have signed quarterback Patrick Mahomes to a contract extension. But the details of the arrangement are nothing short of astonishing. Per numerous sources (including NFL reporter Ian Rapoport), Mahomes’ 10-year extension is worth $503 million — making it the largest contract in the history of sports.

According to Rapoport, this is the first time an NFL player has been the highest-paid in the world of sports. His NFL Network colleague Tom Pelissero added that Mahomes’ deal comes with a $10 million signing bonus and a “roster bonus” that grows to $49.4 million by 2027. Pelissero added that Mahomes could earn up to $103 million by next March.

The Chiefs added 10 years to what was already a two-year contract for Mahomes, ensuring that he will remain a Chief through at least 2031. Accordingly, Mahomes tweeted “Here to stay”, alongside a highlight video with captions by Mahomes. “Chiefs Kingdom, you’ve been with me since the beginning,” he wrote. “You helped us overcome adversity to become Super Bowl champs. And we’re staying together…for a long time. We’re building a dynasty.”

Mahomes, 24, has racked up 76 touchdowns and only 18 interceptions in three seasons as a Chief. After being named 2018 NFL MVP, he overcame a frightening midseason injury (a dislocated kneecap) and not only survived the 2019 season but helped power the Chiefs to a 12-4 record. Then he and the Chiefs battled other AFC standouts in the postseason. They overcame three straight double-digit deficits in the playoffs. After stunning the Texans in a come-from-behind win, they rallied to beat the Titans in the AFC Championship. (It was the first AFC Championship Game since 2010 not to include Tom Brady.)

You may recall that in February, the Chiefs won the Super Bowl in rather memorable fashion. Down 20-10 with only six minutes left, Mahomes rallied and led the team to score 21 unanswered points — including two touchdowns by running back Damien Williams. Mahomes, who is biracial, is only the third black quarterback ever to win a Super Bowl. His performance earned him the honor of being named Super Bowl MVP.

“This is a significant moment for our franchise and for the Chiefs Kingdom,” Chiefs Chairman and CEO Clark Hunt said. “Since he joined the Chiefs just a few years ago, Patrick has developed into one of the most prolific athletes in all of sports. With his dynamic play and infectious personality, he is one of the most recognized and beloved figures to put on the Chiefs uniform. He’s an extraordinary leader and a credit to the Kansas City community, and I’m delighted that he will be a member of the Chiefs for many years to come.”

One of Mahomes’ teammates put it more bluntly. Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu voiced approval of the deal. “The young man deserve it all,” Mathieu wrote on Twitter. “One of the best I’ve been around. One of the greats.” Mathieu previously played for the Houston Texans, whose quarterback Deshaun Watson may be in line for a payday of his own. Texans superstar defensive end J.J. Watt tagged Watson in a playful tweet today:

UPDATE: Mahomes is apparently making some money moves as the start of the season approaches. Today, news broke that Mahones is now a part owner of the Kansas City Royals. The baseball team is located in the very city for which he won the Super Bowl. That fact wasn’t lost on the quarterback. “I’m honored to become a part owner of the Kansas City Royals,” said Patrick Mahomes. “I love this city and the people of this great town. This opportunity allows me to deepen my roots in this community, which is something I’m excited to do.”

After signing the largest-ever sports contract in history, Mahomes has made history again. This new deal makes Patrick Mahomes the youngest sports owner ever. NFL Insider Ian Rapoport reported the record-breaking development earlier this morning:

UPDATE: After the Chiefs went 2-0 in their first two games, Patrick Mahomes was named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2020. After praising Mahomes’ athleticism and vision, author Derek Jeter lauded Mahomes’ commitment to his teammates and coaches. “There is a lot more promise in Patrick Mahomes’ future than just on-field accolades,” Jeter wrote. “He already has started to build a legacy as one of the most impactful athletes of his generation, and I, for one, am excited to see what is next.”

At Candlelight Vigil, Houstonians Remember George Floyd — And Say His Name

Hundreds attend memorial candlelight vigil for George Floyd | FOX ...
Photo from Fox26Houston.

By Terrance Turner

Last night, a candlelight vigil was held for George Floyd at Jack Yates High School. Floyd graduated from Jack Yates in 1993; the vigil was held on the football field where he once played. Barely a stone’s throw away are the Cuney Homes, a public housing project in which Floyd grew up. Hosted by the Jack Yates Alumni Association, the vigil began at 7:30 pm. It brought together Floyd’s family, friends, and legal counsel. Several elected officials also made speeches at the event. 

Houston City Council member Dr. Carolyn Evans Shabazz remembered Floyd fondly: “He never met a stranger or turned away someone in need, even when he didn’t have it to give.” She read a proclamation declaring today, June 9th, George Perry Floyd Day. (Shabazz herself graduated from Jack Yates, and she represents the Third Ward area as part of District D.)

HISD Superintendent Grenita Latham also spoke briefly. “To watch a black man be brutally murdered was brutal,” she said. When she looked at the video of Floyd’s death, “I saw my brother. I saw my cousins. I saw my students,” Latham said. (Fitting, since Floyd was an HISD alum.) “To the family of George Floyd: I offer my condolences, my prayers, to know that we are with you. We’re going to honor George; we’re going to honor the family. But we’re going to honor every child that we serve by ensuring that our staff members, starting with the board all the way down, are trained on how to work with children — especially children of color — and how to meet their needs. Once again, to the Jack Yates Alumni Association: thank you for this opportunity. God bless all of you. God bless our community, and God bless our school district. Thank you.”

Floyd’s teammates at Yates also made an appearance. One of them was Floyd’s friend Von Dickerson, who remembered his friend vividly.  “Thanks, everybody, for coming out and supporting my boy. My plight with Floyd was a little different than everybody else’s, because we hung together every day. Every, every day. From him eating at my mother’s house to eating hot meals to me going at his mother’s house — they didn’t have much to eat. Skipping school, being teenagers at Yates. Then the class of ‘90 led us through the hallways until we became grown men, to control the hallway. Man…” he paused for a minute, growing emotional. 

“On this same football field right here, we started as freshmens. Then we got moved up to varsity with Gerald and the rest of the crew. Godfrey, Wallace… then we went to the freshman basketball, where we went 36-1. And then we went up to varsity basketball — which we were able to play a game right here at Hofheinz Pavilion, with the class of ’90. And from there, we were three-year lettermen in football and basketball. In a lot of things we did, we bucked the system. Here at Yates, you couldn’t sit on your helmets; we started that. I know the class of ’85 would kill us. We didn’t wear jerseys in practice, ‘cause we knew we were ‘the man’. We even got suspended one game, for changing a play. Coach McGowan and all the coaches took us in the office and he said: ‘What the blah blah blah were y’all thinking?’ And our exact words to Coach McGowan was that, ‘Man, we’re seniors. If we gon’ lose, we gon’ lose on our own terms’.”

 Dickerson voiced his support for the protesters. “But do it peacefully. He wasn’t a violent dude,” Dickerson said. “And pray for his family. They need it. They going through a lot right now. Everybody lost, confounded, trying to find a way. But again, once they bury my dude tomorrow, we need solidarity amongst all these lines: Class of 93, 87, 88, 89, 85, the eighties, down to the ’60s and ’70s. We still need you guys’ support, because, again, the battle has just begun. If we stop supporting, one of us could be the next George Floyd. And we don’t need to do no more vigils. We don’t need to light no more candles.”

The Floyd family attorney, Ben Crump, introduced George Floyd’s brothers with thunderous remarks. He compelled those assembled to raise their fists in a display of black solidarity. “Put your fists in the sky! Get ‘em up! Raise ‘em high!” he yelled repeatedly, stirring up the crowd. “Put your fist in the sky! Get ‘em up! Raise ‘em high! Because George Floyd’s life mattered. Black Lives Matter.” He then introduced Floyd’s brothers, Philonise and Rodney Floyd. 

“How y’all doing out there?” Philonise Floyd asked as he addressed the crowd. “I just want to thank you for coming out here and supporting my brother.” He remembered watching George play freshman and varsity high school football on the high school field. (Floyd played both basketball and football at Yates. As a tight end, Floyd’s acrobatic end-zone catches helped lead his team to the 1992 5A state championship game, where they lost to number-one Temple.) Philonise Floyd expressed gratitude to the crowd and asked them to continue fighting for reform.

“I really love y’all for giving my brother this much support. Y’all could have been anywhere in the world, but y’all here with us right now. This is a blessing. And this is bigger than George right now. We’re fixing to stop everybody from being afraid of the police. We have good police, but we have bad police. You can’t sort them out, so we got to figure it out right now.” 

“So right now I want everybody to start voting — going to council meetings and everything — to get everything together, little by little. We get one step closer to everything we need in life. Hey, we can’t just support, say we’re going to support the president,” Philonise Floyd said. “It’s not just about the president; it’s about what we have here. Because the president is the person over the military right now, we need [help] down here, and everything else expands from there. But I love y’all, like I just said; my brother is here with me, and…” He paused, trying to collect himself, as the audience began to applaud.

He led the crowd in a chant. 

“Say his name!” he ordered the crowd.

“George Floyd!” the crowd yelled.

“What do we want?” 

“JUSTICE.”

Floyd’s brother Rodney Floyd took the stage next. He spoke of how Floyd meant different things to different people. “I’m very happy y’all are honoring my brother,” he said. “Yates know him as Floyd George cause he had two first names, so they put ‘Floyd George’ in the paper all the time. But it’s originally George Floyd. Y’all know my brother as an athlete; some know him as Perry,” he said. “But y’all know him as a football star. We knew him as the big bro. Stand-up man. A  good, major influence in the community. Rapper. Good athlete. Good friend. Good brother, great man.” 

Rodney Floyd urged the 3rd Ward community to be more politically active. “We got to work on it. And a lot of us have these conversations to ourselves and friends, and honestly, to piggyback on what my brother said: you got to get out there, voting in the community. Get our face in the community. That’s everybody as a whole,” he said. “We’ve got to vote the local legislators in, find out, do our homework and background on them and what they’re offering us, and demand what we need,” he explained, “and let them know if they’re right for us. ‘Cause definitely we need to get the locals in, and the locals are the councilmen and councilwomen in our area. And  we definitely need to do that. That way we can get a governor — and whoever else, in that order — on our side,” he said. “We can change the policing and all that included, and then we got to educate ourselves…”

By 8:44 pm, candles were being passed out and lit; those who didn’t have candles instead turned on the flashlights on their phones. A moment of silence was observed until 8:46 pm. The time symbolizes the eight minutes and 46 seconds that now-former officer Derek Chauvin had his knee on Floyd’s neck.

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The vigil closed with prayer and a special announcement: a scholarship fund in Floyd’s name has been established. The scholarship, which includes a $5,000 donation from Comcast, has been established for Yates High School seniors who hope to study mass communications in college. For more information on the scholarship, as well as how to donate, visit JackYatesAlumni.com.

A Meditation on Happiness, And A Passionate Reunion, on “Insecure”

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Lawrence (Jay Ellis) and Issa (Issa Rae) at an art exhibition on tonight’s “Insecure”.
(Photo via Twitter.)

By Terrance Turner

June 1, 2020

This recap contains spoilers.

On “Lowkey Happy”, last night’s episode of Insecure, Lawrence (Jay Ellis) meets up with his ex Issa (Issa Rae) for drinks. He nervously waits for her to show up, anxiously popping a breath mint. Issa arrives and quickly takes a nasty fall onto the club floor. Once she recovers, she joins him at the bar, and Lawrence orders what he thinks is her favorite drink — prosecco with a splash of whiskey.

“That’s actually not my drink anymore,” Issa corrects him. Now it’s prosecco with a splash of vodka. “Let the record show, I’ve changed,” she tells Lawrence. (She has.) Lawrence apologizes for missing the block party that Issa organized and tells Issa he was in San Francisco for job interviews. “I just don’t wanna be afraid to move on,” he tells her.

“I heard about you and Condola,” Issa says, referencing his recent breakup. “I’m sorry.”

“We don’t gotta talk about that,” Lawrence interjects. He quickly changes the subject. “You know, I ran into Molly at the airport,” Lawrence says. “It was awkward.”

“That’s probably because we’re not friends anymore,” Issa says flatly.

At first, Lawrence laughs, taking the comment as a joke. It slowly dawns on him that Issa isn’t kidding. “For real?” he asks.

“Yeah,” Issa confirms. “We don’t speak.”

“Wow. I can’t imagine you and Molly not [being friends],” Lawrence says, as Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts” begins playing. More people start to crowd into the bar and dance.

“What happened?” Lawrence asks.

“We don’t have to get into it,” Issa says tersely. “But you had something you wanted to talk to me about? What is it?”

The answer doesn’t come — they’re interrupted by a man ordering drinks in the increasingly crowded bar. They instead decide to meet at another place. Their Uber driver mistakes them for a couple, asking if they’re married.

“I tried,” Lawrence says. “I bought a ring.” Issa is caught off guard by this revelation, which she didn’t know about. Nor does she know what Lawrence needs to talk to her about. She tries to get answers at the Latin restaurant they go to next. But Lawrence stonewalls.

While they wait for a table, Lawrence sets a no-holds-barred agenda for the night: no walking on eggshells. No tiptoeing around sore subjects. “No eggshells,” he orders. “We know each other too well for that.” Issa accepts and presses Lawrence to say what he wanted to tell her. But his hesitance, and the arrival of the waiter, delay the big reveal.

They are further delayed by Lawrence’s difficulty deciding what to order. Issa grows impatient and takes charge, ordering the meal for them. Issa adds a whiskey neat for Lawrence (she knows his preferred drink). Issa effortlessly rattles off the order with what Lawrence calls “impressive” skill.

“Impress me with what you want to tell me,” Issa quips.

“I’ve been thinking about us,” Lawrence confesses, “and what would’ve happened if we stayed together. Sometimes I wonder, like, do I give up too easily on things?”

“It might be obvious,” Issa says, “but I do wish you hadn’t given up on us.”

They talk candidly about Lawrence’s slide into depression and unemployment towards the end of their five-year relationship. And Lawrence gets some clarity on Issa’s infidelity: her Season One affair with Daniel (Y’lan Noel) torpedoed the relationship for good. “Why Daniel?” he asks pointedly. “Or could it have been anyone?”

“No, not anyone,” Issa answers. She explains: “He just popped up and gave me attention, during a time when you weren’t. And it’s not an excuse, but… it just felt good to feel wanted, I guess.”

“Things were that bad between us?” Lawrence asks. (Obviously, yes.)

“Sometimes I used to drive around after work just to avoid coming home,” Issa reveals. “But I still wanted to be with you, not him. I just had a moment of weakness.” She later adds: “For an entire year, nothing I did could snap you out of what you were going through. You didn’t want to talk; you didn’t want to go out; you didn’t want to have sex. You didn’t want me, Lawrence.”

“It’s not that I didn’t want you,” Lawrence replies. “Just watching you get up and go to work was this daily reminder that I [had] nowhere to go. Nothing to do. And I thought about moving back home, but I know that would have just made me feel worse.” It’s a raw, honest, adult conversation that answers lingering questions.

The rest of the night unfolds like a date — witty banter and warm ribbing, unforced chemistry and easy conversation. The two visit the Art Walk in downtown L.A., and Issa reveals that she’s working on creating happiness for herself. “I’ve been waiting around, waiting for other stuff to make me happy,” she explains, “and I think that s–t is a choice.” She turns to Lawrence. “What about you? Are you happy?”

“Yeah, I think I’m getting there,” Lawrence answers. “I would say I’m pretty happy right now.”

Lawrence gets a call from Condola, who’s been calling/texting him all night. But he ignores it. “We’ve been talking, but I don’t know,” he tells Issa. “I’m not really sure what’s gonna happen between us.” That future becomes even more uncertain once Issa learns that Lawrence lives nearby.

Lawrence decides to show Issa his new apartment. Inside, she realizes that he still has their old couch. Issa asks if she can use the bathroom before she returns to the Lyft still waiting outside. While she’s gone, Lawrence goes outside and discreetly calls Condola back. “Sorry I didn’t get back to you,” he tells her. “I can still try to make it tonight. I’ll keep you posted.” But when Issa emerges from the bathroom, she realizes instantly what’s up.

“She wants to talk,” Lawrence explains. Issa takes the hint and starts to leave. But she stops at the door.

“What if I wanted to stay?” she asks. “I’m not ready for the night to end yet.”

“Tonight made me happy,” Lawrence admits.

You make me happy,” Issa confesses.

“So…stay.”

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Where do Issa and Lawrence go from here? (Photo via Twitter.)

This episode comes after what’s been a brutal week, especially for black people. Protests of George Floyd’s death at the hands of Derek Chauvin continue to rock the country. In L.A., where the show is set and filmed, a weekend of protests turned violent. California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in the city and county of Los Angeles just before midnight Saturday, amid looting and freeway closures.

Nearly 1,200 protesters were arrested in Los Angeles County on Sunday. Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore told KTLA-TV that 700 people were arrested in the city of L.A. on Sunday. Los Angeles’ 6 pm curfew will last until 6 am Tuesday. According to the Los Angeles Times, “More than 400 people were arrested in Santa Monica on suspicion of crimes that included looting, burglary, assault with a deadly weapon, assault on a police officer and curfew violations.”

Insecure actor Kendrick Sampson, who plays Nathan on the show, was hit by seven rubber bullets yesterday while protesting in L.A.

Cast member Natasha Rothwell, who wrote the episode and plays Kelli on the series, acknowledged the unrest across the country. She wrote on Twitter:

For this black man — angered by the killing of George Floyd, weary of both police violence and its news coverage — last night’s episode was like manna.

Cinematographer Ava Berkofsky, who directed, presents magical visuals — the cloud exhibit, that stunning blue/red light display — that immerse us in the scene. Natasha Rothwell’s masterful screenplay presents bracingly real reminders of why the couple failed: Issa’s infidelity, Lawrence’s stagnation. But her layered script also reminds us why these two worked in the first place: a shared sense of humor, natural conversation, lots of laughs. Jay Ellis and Issa Rae’s beautifully naturalistic performances make everything feel achingly real. In a season of good episodes, this may be Insecure‘s all-time best.

June 3, 2020

I do not make the above statement lightly. For months, I have felt that the Season Two finale, “Hella Perspective”, was a high-water mark that the show couldn’t possibly top. After weeks of distance (and a bitter fight outside a restaurant in the previous episode), Issa and Lawrence finally had the bracing, vulnerable, heart-tugging conversation that they’d needed to have all season. It was raw. It was real. It was glorious.

But “Lowkey Happy”, I think, is even better. From the screenplay to the cinematography, even down to Rae and Ellis’ terrific performances, this episode stood head and shoulders above many of its predecessors. And it came at a time when its dreamy, romantic vibes were desperately needed.

Throughout last weekend, I tried to unplug, to disconnect from the headlines that I’d lived in and written about throughout the week. But I still found myself drained and demoralized. Insecure brought me back to life. To see these two characters who obviously belong together (DON’T @ ME) FINALLY reconnect was great. But to see black people freely walking and talking, enjoying each other’s company, slowly falling in love all over again — in the age of coronavirus and virulent racism — was sensational.

One of the actors apparently thought so, too. Ellis told Vulture: “I read this script the night before the table read, and it felt like closure. It felt like love. It felt like friendship. It felt like soul mates. It felt like our show is so universal. There were just so many things about it that were absolutely amazing. I remember turning to Natasha and telling her, ‘I think you just wrote the most beautiful episode of this show ever’.”

He’s not wrong.

Texas Reports 1000 New COVID-19 Cases for Eighth Straight Day

My graphic of the COVID-19 cases in Texas, which have topped 1000 daily for eight straight days. Graph created by Terrance Turner (with Google Slides)

By Terrance Turner

May 15, 2020

Today, the state of Texas reported 1,347 new cases of COVID-19. The Texas Tribune confirmed the news, adding that that Texas reported 56 new deaths. Yesterday, Texas reported 1,448 new cases of COVID-19. The state also reported 58 deaths from COVID-19 on Thursday — the largest one-day increase since this pandemic began. Houston Chronicle reporter Jeremy Wallace delivered news of the grim milestone late yesterday afternoon:

The Texas Tribune confirmed: “Texas reported 1,448 more cases of the new coronavirus Thursday, an increase of about 3% over the previous day [May 13], bringing the total number of known cases to 43,851. The state has also reported 58 additional deaths, bringing the statewide total to 1,216 — an increase of about 5% from Wednesday. Both of these are largest daily increases the state has reported. But they also come as testing has increased across the state.”

It does appear that testing has increased. According to state data released by the COVID Tracking Project, the state is averaging 17,000 tests a day. (The COVID Tracking Project, launched by The Atlantic, publishes and collects the most complete testing data available for U.S states and territories. It compiles data on testing and hospitalizations.) Testing on Thursday (May 14) produced 35,853 new tests for Texans, according to the Project.

KERA News quoted Abbott on April 27: “Getting up to 25,000 tests is something that should occur early on in the May timetable that we’re looking at,” the governor said. But since Texas began slowly reopening on May 1, the state has only met that threshold three tines Before the nearly 36,000 yesterday, there were roughly 49,000 tests on Wednesday, May 13 and 28,873 on May 2.

And cases continue to rise: Texas has reported 1,000 cases of COVID-19 each day for eight straight days. The Hill brought attention to the streak in a May 13 article. “According to data from the Texas Department of State Health Services, 1,179 new cases were reported on Tuesday,” wrote staff writer Marty Johnson. “Since Gov. Greg Abbott (R) allowed some businesses to resume operations on May 1, Texas has only been below 1,000 new cases per day twice — on May 4 and May 7.”

ABC 13 reporter Nick Natario qualified these findings, writing on Twitter: “This is correct, but the state is also performing more tests. 110,000 more in May than the final two weeks of April. Hospitalization numbers have flattened.” He added that there are 130 fewer Texans in the hospital for COVID-19 than there were in April. However, according to Lauren Ancel Meyers, a biology professor at UT-Austin, it can take 10 days for hospitalization numbers to catch up with infection numbers. She says tracking data indicate that movement to places like grocery stores has increased in recent weeks.

Those numbers will likely increase next week. Monday marks the start of “Phase II” in Texas. Restaurants and retail stores will be open at 50% capacity, and gyms will reopen at 25%.

Roughnecks Remain Unbeaten After Wild Finish

By Terrance Turner

March 9, 2020 (updated Nov. 15)

Despite three turnovers and a wildly controversial fourth quarter, the Houston Roughnecks survived Game 5 on Saturday afternoon to remain undefeated. The Roughnecks beat the Seattle Dragons 32-23 at TDECU Stadium yesterday. They remain the only unbeaten team in the XFL.

After a near-scoreless first quarter, the Seattle Dragons’ offense took off. After a fumble by the Roughnecks, Dragons quarterback B.J. Daniels led a 7-play, 18-yard, three-minute scoring drive. On 4th and goal at the one-yard line, Daniels ran in and scored the touchdown. The two-point conversion, however, was unsuccessful: a gaggle of Houston defenders prevented the Dragons from scoring.

Following an 18-yard kickoff return by cornerback Charles James II, the Roughnecks began their drive. The first quarter ended just as Houston running back Andre Williams achieved 1st down with a nine-yard carry. After the second quarter began, the drive stalled. A field goal by kicker Sergio Castillo was no good. After a near-fumble on first and 10, the Dragons recovered. Dragons running back Trey Williams scored the touchdown with a 17-yard scamper. This time, the two-point conversion was good: Daniels threw a successful pass to wide receiver Austin Proehl.

That made the score 14-0 — the largest deficit the Houston Roughnecks have ever faced. But they quickly cut the lead down. On 3rd and 1, Roughnecks quarterback P.J. Walker connected with wide receiver Nick Holley for a stunning 50-yard touchdown.

The Roughnecks decided to go for a three-point conversion but couldn’t make the play, so the score remained 14-6. After the Dragons went three and out, receiver Sam Mobley had a 16-yard return, which was negated by a holding penalty. But Mobley rebounded with a 42-yard catch.

Following the two-minute warning, a 14-yard play by wide receiver Blake Jackson took the Roughnecks to the one-yard line. A false start penalty moved them five yards back. Running back James Butler scored a one-yard TD run, jumping into the stands to celebrate. But the celebration was short-lived: the on-field ruling of a touchdown was reversed when referees said Butler was short of the goal line. Worse yet, Seattle Dragons player Godwin Igwebuike was injured on the play. He laid on the ground for several minutes but eventually was able to walk off the field.

On the very next play, Butler scored again:

This time, the touchdown was upheld. Walker connected with Holley for the successful two-point conversion. The Houston Roughnecks’ eight-play, 90-yard drive evened the score. The game was tied 14-14 at halftime.

The Dragons got the ball back to start the second half. On 3rd and 5, B.J. Daniels fell to the ground for a four-yard loss. Roughnecks linebacker Edmond Robinson was credited with the sack. Seattle settled for a field goal, which kicker Ernesto Lacayo nailed to make it 17-14.

They would add to that lead after a costly mistake by the Roughnecks. On 1st down, Walker was intercepted by Dragons cornerback Marko Myers, who returned the pick 52 yards. It was Walker who tripped Myers up to keep him from scoring. But Myers landed inside the one-yard line, which set up B.J. Daniels’ touchdown run. The two-point conversion attempt failed, but Seattle still held a commanding 23-14 lead.

Walker rallied the Roughnecks with a four-play, 64-yard drive, highlighted by a dramatic 48-yard pass to Cam Phillips. That set up 1st and goal at the 10-yard line. Butler ran through Seattle defenders for his second touchdown of the day. The Roughnecks went for a three-point conversion in hopes of tying the game, but Walker’s pass was too high for Holley. Still, the Roughnecks had narrowed Seattle’s lead. They trailed 23-20.

The Dragons took over. Just when it seemed like they were headed for a three-and-out, a defensive pass interference call (on Houston) gave them an automatic first down. But they still failed to convert, as #97 Gabe Wright stuffed Daniels for a seven-yard loss. Seattle was forced to punt on 4th and 16. Then, a promising Roughnecks drive ended with another turnover. As Walker launched a pass to receiver Sam Mobley, Dragons safety Jordan Martin jumped up and grabbed the ball. He appeared to land out of bounds, but referees reversed their initial ruling to say that Martin had intercepted the ball.

Seattle was unable to convert the pick into any points. The end of that fruitless drive also marked the end of the third quarter.

In the fourth quarter, Walker helmed another scoring drive that culminated in a 6-yard TD by Cam Phillips. The two-point conversion attempt was no good. But with nine minutes left, the Roughnecks had taken their first lead of the day, 26-23. The Dragons were unable to score any points on their next drive and punted on 4th down. With 3:33 remaining, Walker fired the ball to Cam Phillips for an 11-yard TD. Roughnecks went for 1 extra point, but running back Andre Williams was stopped in the backfield. However, the Roughnecks had scored 18 unanswered points and taken a 32-23 lead.

The game would end with two major controversies. On the Dragons’ drive, Daniels was running when he tumbled to the ground and disappeared inside a mass of red and white jerseys. A pileup ensued, with players stacked on top of each other for several minutes. During that time, referees threw two flags in the air. But the reason for the penalties remained unclear.

After what seemed like an eternity, referee Tra Blake provided an answer: “The ruling on the field is a fumble recovered by the defense. It’s Houston’s ball,” he said. “After the play, personal foul: #47 on the return team for Houston — for throwing a punch. He’s disqualified.”

What had happened? Linebacker DeMarquis Gates had stripped the ball from Daniels and then recovered the fumble. But then he was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct and ejected from the game for throwing a punch. Remarkably, Gates was signing autographs for fans mere moments after being disqualified. He was also interviewed. “What did you get ejected for?” the reporter asked. “To be honest, I don’t know,” Gates responded. “I just had to make a play.”

Once all of the dust settled, it was 1st and 10 for the Roughnecks with 1:58 left. A 12-yard pickup by Andre Williams was enough for a Roughnecks first down. On fourth down, P.J. Walker took a knee with two seconds remaining, and the clock ran out. After the game, the XFL issued a statement saying that the ball should’ve gone to the Dragons:

“Today’s Seattle Dragons-Houston Roughnecks game should not have ended as it did. Replays showed clearly that the knee of Houston quarterback P.J. Walker touched the field, rendering him ‘down’ and the fourth-down play officially completed, with approximately two seconds remaining on the clock – effectively turning the ball over to Seattle on downs. With a nine-point differential in the score, Seattle was denied an opportunity to tie the game. The XFL sincerely regrets this error.”

Walker, however, appears to have no regrets. Asked about the game’s three turnovers (including two picks), Walker took responsibility, but didn’t beat himself up: “In the beginning, with the three turnovers, it was just… it happens. It’s part of the game, you know? So things happen. You just got to bounce back from ‘em. Great players bounce back. Winners gonna always bounce back as well. And it is what it is,” Walker said in a postgame press conference.

During the press conference, Walker was joined by wide receivers Sam Mobley and Cam Phillips. They all emphasized a team-first mentality. “We stay consistent every day. We work really hard, I would say — for the most part — as a team. So we know what we’ve got in our locker room. We just go out there and do what we do,” Walker said during the conference.

 Phillips also focused on the team. In response to a question about the game’s second half: “I just think we did a great job of sort of calming down, understanding that we just had to do our jobs better, just pay a little more attention to detail,” said Phillips. He added that “it resulted in, you know, a 32-9 run to finish the game after that point. So not just the offense, the defense picked it up as well, and props — shout out to the whole team.”

“It’s a team thing,” added Sam Mobley. “I think we all have faith in each other as a team, and we have each other’s backs, whether we’re up or down. And just us having each other’s back helped us get to the finish and come back.” 

The press conference video is presented below:

Quarterback P.J. Walker (left) and wide receivers Cam Phillips (middle) and Sam Mobley (right) answered questions after winning their game on March 7.

During the press conference, Phillips was asked about defensive coverage. His answer gave props to his teammates: “Sam had a great game. Nick Holley, you know, had another great game — made a few big catches. Like I said, we just trust in each other, man. We talk all the time, laugh all the time, so we understand that that camaraderie and sort of brotherhood is key — especially on offense.”

Brotherhood was also on the mind on running back James Butler, whom I interviewed in the locker room. “We really came alive in that second half,” Butler said. “We know how good we can be. We’re still putting pieces together, still trying to play a complete game. But yeah, it’s a brotherhood in this locker room.”

Speaking of brotherhood, wide receiver Nick Holley was outside signing autographs for fans during the press conference. (His twin brother Nate Holley, who played in the CFL before joining the Miami Dolphins this offseason, was also in attendance.) I was fortunate enough to interview Nick Holley after the game.

What was the key to his terrific performance? “First and foremostly, I give glory to God — it’s the big man upstairs. And after that, it’s just preparation,” he said. Like Butler, Holley also felt that despite the 5-0 start, the team could still improve — “we haven’t scratched our surface yet. We still haven’t put a complete game together and played up to our potential.” Butler had also mentioned the idea of a “complete game”. What does that mean for Holley? “No mistakes on offense, no mistakes on defense, and superior special teams.” The interview is embedded below.

The family theme continued when a surprise guest. Running back Andre Williams had a breakout game, with 10 carries for 54 yards. I asked him what was the key to his performance; before answering, he reached over and grabbed a small infant. It was his one-year-old son, Ka’el, whom Williams held his son as he talked. It was an all-too-rare glimpse of who these players are off the field. For all the (valid) talk about brotherhood, many professional football players have also experienced fatherhood.

“Football is family,” says a 2016 advertising campaign for the NFL. But on the field, these men — fathers, sons, and brothers — are hidden behind shoulder pads and bulky helmets. We sometimes see them with their families on the field after the game. But when was the last time you saw a man (especially a black man) caring for his child during a locker-room interview? The moment with Williams and his baby son lent an added dimension to my coverage.

Williams answered: “I just try to stay level-headed — don’t get too high, don’t get too low, stay in the game. You know, it was a great team win. On both sides of the ball. All three phases, we played well enough to win.” Our interview was crashed by receiver Jalen Saunders, who spent the XFL season on injured reserve. (He was signed by the CFL’s Ottawa Redblacks in April, but opted out after the pandemic began.)

I also asked Williams why the Roughnecks don’t have a tight end.

As “Lion King” Premieres, Beyonce’s “Spirit” Soars

Featured
Photo courtesy of Tom & Lorenzo.

By Terrance Turner

July 17, 2019

Last night, ABC aired its prime-time special on “The Lion King”, the live-action retelling of the classic 1994 animated film. The special featured intriguing details about the making of the original film and its adaptation to the stage. ABC also included interviews with the voices behind the current version: Donald Glover, Seth Rogen, Alfre Woodard, and Chiwetel Ejiofor, among others. But the most memorable voice was that of the film’s Nala: Beyonce Knowles-Carter.

The special premiered the official music video for “Spirit”, the first single off the Lion King: The Gift, an album of original music inspired by the film. (Spin magazine writer Tosten Burns points out that this album is separate from the actual Lion King soundtrack, which came out last week.) In an exclusive interview that aired during the special, Beyonce called the album “a love letter to Africa”.

“Spirit” begins with two men chanting “Long live the king” in Swahili. Beyonce gently delivers the song’s opening verse, which escalates to a stirring chorus. Her sultry voice is joined by a choir, and the song begins to build. By the second chorus, she and the choir are at full-throttle, backed by a driving beat and synchronized handclaps.

“Your destiny is coming close,” she sings. “Stand up and fight.” Suddenly, the swelling arrangement drops to a whisper in the bridge — hushed vocals and soft piano. “So go into that far off land, and be one with the great ‘I AM’. A boy becomes a man,” Beyonce sings, in a gorgeous falsetto that rises higher and higher. By the three-minute mark, she’s in the stratosphere, displaying her incredible range.

That stunning moment leads to a rousing, gospelly finale. Beyoncé belts out the final choruses in impassioned, melismatic fashion, powerfully combining with the choir. Their voices swell as the song continues, rising even higher for a dramatic key change. Beyoncé returns to a gentle, delicate head voice for the song’s final bars.

“Spirit” was written by Ilya Salmanzadeh, Timothy Lee McKenzie, and Beyonce. Salmanzadeh is a Swedish-Persian producer and songwriter; McKenzie is a Grammy-nominated British songwriter who performs as “Labrinth”. The two sent a rough demo to Beyonce, who loved it. “She started helping us write the rest of the record,” McKenzie told ABC News. He described the moment as “incredible.”

McKenzie said Beyoncé is meticulous in her work: “She’s a perfectionist and she’s a Virgo, like my wife. Virgos are serious perfectionists.” He added: “She cared about everything that was in the record. She cared about what piano we were going to use. Is there enough bass? Not many artists care that much.” But despite her perfectionism, Beyoncé wasn’t demanding, he said.

“A lot of artists in her position, they can be divas and they can be hard to deal with. Her energy and the messages she sent to us in terms of saying thank you for contributing to ‘The Lion King’ — she sent really beautiful messages. I was really kind of surprised to see that someone in her position still has that humility.” 

The song itself is noteworthy, but the music video, which premiered last night, only amplifies its quality. Beyoncé explained the video in an interview for the ABC special. “The concept of the video is to show how God is the painter, and natural beauty — and nature — needs no art direction,” she said. “It’s the beauty of nature, the beauty of melanin, the beauty of tradition.”

“Spirit” was filmed at Havasu Falls, a waterfall within Arizona’s Grand Canyon. The Arizona Republic reported that on July 8, a location manager called the head of Arizona’s film office, asking for permission to film at Havasu. The man he called was Matthew Earl Jones, director of Arizona Film and Digital Media. (Jones is the nephew of actor James Earl Jones, who voiced Mufasa in both “Lion King” films.) Mr. Jones put the manager in touch with the Havasupai Tribal Council, who quickly granted the request. The shoot took place just two days later, with Beyoncé flying in by helicopter.

The request’s approval came as a surprise to Jones, given that permits are hard to come by. But the Council was glad to oblige Beyoncé. A Council spokeswoman said that given Bey’s support of water rights worldwide, “we were particularly pleased to be able to accommodate her request.” The video offers spectacular views of the waterfalls and accompanying scenery.

Beyoncé is shown seated, wearing a voluminous, ruffled dress of lilac and red. Early on, there’s an appearance by her daughter Blue Ivy Carter, who walks up (in lavender ruffles) to take her mother’s hand. The Havasu Falls appear about a minute in; draped in dramatic royal blue, Beyoncé begins the chorus in front of the waterfall. Throughout the four-minute video, scenes from the film are interspersed with shots of Queen Bey. Clad in colorful, flowing costumes, Beyoncé performs the song with an array of dancers in various desert locales.

In less than 24 hours, “Spirit” has amassed 5.3 million views on YouTube. It is currently #1 in YouTube’s “Trending” section. Beyonce’s album will debut the same day as the film. “The Lion King” hits theaters on Friday, July 19. Watch the “Spirit” video below.