LeBron James Homecoming and the Power of the Past


By Paul Levine

This is not only about the LeBron James homecoming.   It’s about us all.

In Miami, we are coming to grips with LeBron leaving.  Nearly everyone respects his decision.  He didn’t leave the Miami Heat for the glamour of New York or the glitz of  L.A.   He went home.

LeBron James Homecoming: Home Trumps All

My son Mike Levine, a Miami sportscaster, just wrote me an e-mail, saying:  “Home usually trumps all and wins the heart.”

It’s true for the LeBron James homecoming.  Cleveland wins, not because the Cavaliers’ have potential with talented young players, but because it is home.

As Dorothy says at the end of “The Wizard of Oz”:

“Toto, we’re home. Home…And I’m not gonna leave here ever, ever again, because I love you all, and – oh, Auntie Em – there’s no place like home!”

So it is with the Wizard of Akron.  (Okay, so maybe he’ll vacation in spots a little more exotic than northeastern Ohio. Maybe he’ll even hang onto his  Miami home).

LeBron James Homecoming
The LeBron James Homecoming: The Superstar Wrote an Essay About His Reasons for the Return.

In his heartfelt Sports Illustrated essay, Lebron writes:

“I want kids in Northeast Ohio, like the hundreds of Akron third-graders I sponsor through my foundation, to realize that there’s no better place to grow up. Maybe some of them will come home after college and start a family or open a business. That would make me smile. Our community, which has struggled so much, needs all the talent it can get. In Northeast Ohio, nothing is given. Everything is earned. You work for what you have. I’m ready to accept the challenge. I’m coming home.”

My son said that passage reminded him of my blog last October about planning a homecoming trip to Penn State, which ended with this:

“I will take a time machine to an earlier, simpler time of pep rallies and pop quizzes, of crisp autumn air and all-nighters. A time when the future was without limits and possibilities were endless. It is homecoming, and I am going home.”

LeBron James Homecoming Trees
My homecoming dreams always involve autumn leaves.

(If you are so inclined, you can read the entire blog, “Homecoming Weekend: It’s Not Just a Football Game,” here.)

Speaking of time machines and going home, just last week, I watched “Walking Distance,” a first season (1959) episode of “The Twilight Zone.” It’s about a stressed-out executive (Gig Young) who yearns for the innocence of boyhood.  He finds his old hometown frozen in time 25 years earlier and re-visits his 11-year-old self. But as he learns, there’s no place for him there now.

LeBron James Homecoming: Twilight Zone
Rod Serling and “The Twilight Zone”

Here’s Rod Serling’s closing narration:

“Martin Sloan, age 36. Successful in most things but not in the one effort that all men try at some time in their lives—trying to go home again. And also like all men perhaps there’ll be an occasion, maybe a summer night sometime, when he’ll look up from what he’s doing and listen to the distant music of a calliope, and hear the voices and the laughter of the people and the places of his past. And perhaps across his mind there’ll flit a little errant wish, that a man might not have to become old, never outgrow the parks and the merry-go-rounds of his youth. And he’ll smile then too because he’ll know it is just an errant wish, some wisp of memory not too important really, some laughing ghosts that cross a man’s mind, that are a part of The Twilight Zone.”

I trust that the LeBron James homecoming is not based on such an “errant wish,” but rather on the solid underpinnings of wanting to help the place (and the people) that formed him.

LeBron James Homecoming: What Has Changed?

LeBron James has matured, not just as a basketball player. On the court, he is as unselfish a superstar who has ever played the game. He makes the players around him better.  In his private life, he is a loving husband and a doting father. He just displayed the most human of emotions: he yearns for home. When he gets there, he will notice changes from his high school days in Akron and his years as a young pro in Cleveland. Nothing stays the same.

He will be welcomed, not so much as a prodigal son, but as a conquering hero. Those of us in Miami are thankful for the four years he spent here. Go home in peace and triumph. Godspeed.

(Paul Levine is the author of the Jake Lassiter and Solomon vs. Lord series. His most recent book is “State vs. Lassiter,” currently nominated for a 2014 Shamus Award).

Photography: The Man who Loved Autumn and Children

Photography as Art

By Paul Levine

Unlike most of my posts, this is not about crime fiction or mysteries or legal thrillers.  There will not be a homicide, a kidnapping, or a murder trial.

This is about a photographer who loved autumn and loved children, and over many decades, formed bonds with strangers who ordinarily distrusted outsiders, the people they called “the English.”

Bill Coleman, a legendary photographer in Pennsylvania, died last week at 88.  He leaves behind family and friends and a treasure trove of photography.  Specifically, his legacy contains thousands of images of an Amish village and the people who inhabit it. As the obituary in the Centre Daily Times put it:

“He became known internationally for his Amish images: buggies on tree-shaded lanes, children playing in schoolyards, young men walking in a cluster down a road. Throughout his long and successful career, starting with his first State College studio in 1951, he strove to capture the essence of people — from the student and local resident portraits of his early years to the Amish and European scenes that defined his later work.”

Photography: forming a bond
Bill Coleman and an Amish child, the subject of many of his photographs

I’ve known Bill for more than 30 years. In 1985, he snapped this photo of my son Mike and me on the Penn State campus.

Photography: Father & Son
Paul Levine, Class of 1969, and Michael Levine, Class of 2003, at Penn State

One day after the photo was taken, Penn State would defeat Alabama 19-7 in football and go on to an undefeated regular season that would end with a heartbreaking loss to Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl.

Photography as Art

But, just as this post is not about books, it’s also not about football or nostalgia or my family. It’s about a warm and generous and immensely talented man. His photography was truly art.

I own several of Bill’s Amish photographs, including this one from his “barn-raising” series.

Photography: A Barn-Raising
All in a Day’s Work. Amish villagers using only hand tools build a barn.

Yes, the photo calls to mind the Harrison Ford movie, “Witness,”set in Pennsylvania’s Amish country. For an excellent synopsis of “Witness,” which was nominated for eight Academy Awards and won two, check out the Wikipedia article here.

I have many favorites among Bill’s photos. There’s this iconic shot of three barefoot Amish girls skipping along a dirt road.

Photography: Three Amish Girls
You can almost hear the girls singing as they skip along.

Then there is the Amish village in the snow.

Photography: The Village in Winter
The Village in Winter

Photography That Stirs Emotions

Perhaps Bill’s best known photograph is “Fall Splendor.” I never tire of looking at it. The photo provokes nostalgia and a yearning for simpler times.

Photography as Art
Photography as Art: One of Bill Coleman’s Iconic shots.

I think Bill loved Autumn more than any other season. His photo of the hills ablaze with colors — and cows in the foreground — reminds me so much of my early years growing up in central Pennsylvania.

Photography: Autumn Colors
The Hills in Autumn

Most of all, Bill loved the kids. This photo is simply titled “Sharing.”

Photography: Sharing
It’s not a painting; it’s a Bill Coleman photograph.

Bill even loved the rowdy kids, who might, on occasion, playfully shoot him the bird. Yes, even Amish kids!

Photography: Shooting the bird
Even Amish kids can show a little rebellion.

You can check out all of Bill Coleman’s photography on his website, which is aptly titled, Amish Photos.

Paul Levine