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In the early evening a white man in a gleaming new Cadillac parks in front of the Vanderveer on Foster Avenue. He walks up to Rodney's apartment where Albert and Winston are waiting with small overnight bags.
The man is a representative of the Eastern school, and his eyes nearly burst from their sockets when he sees the 6'5" teen-ager for the first time. As though fearful the boy might fade like a mirage, the man hurries both him and Winston out to his car, casting nervous glances the length of the uneven sidewalk. Once in the car they roar off into the night. They are going to visit for two days so Albert can look over the school and get "the feel" of the town. Winston is coming along as Albert's guardian.
Winston tells me about it. Local businessmen had come out to pay their respects as to some new deity. At the sparkling gymnasium, Albert had combed his Afro in the center court reflection and then tried a new dunk where he stood facing the hoop, jumped up, smashed the ball against the backboard, spun around in the air and jammed it through the rim backward. He learned the trick from watching Julius Erving on TV.
"When he did that the coach got real nervous like Al was from another planet or something," says Winston. "He said if Al came there he'd let him do the dunk and just take the technical foul." A 16-year-old boy, one of the starters on last year's team, had been brought in and Albert played him briefly one-on-one, disposing of him as easily as if he had been one of the children from Foster Park.
By now the coach was sweating with anxiety. Shortly afterward he made a call to Rodney.
"This coach is nearly crazy," Rodney cries to me. "They'll pay for everything—apartment, food, clothes; they'll even move Winston out there and give him a job. They have a spotlight to use on Albert."
In a tour of the town the school representative had shown Albert a few of the many stores he owned. "The man kept saying, 'Which one do you want?' " recalls Winston. " 'I've got 27. Go ahead, pick one.'"
"It's a perfect place for a kid to grow up," claims Rodney. "It's small, there's no ghetto, the coach is excellent. It'll make Albert humble."
Albert had been the picture of humility and courtesy on the trip. He opened doors for people, excused himself when necessary and maintained a profile so low that he even asked Winston to turn down Rock the Boat, his favorite song, when he felt it might be too loud for the others. "They couldn't believe this was a ghetto product," says Winston.
After a huge dinner cooked by the coach's daughter ( Albert had offered to eat at McDonald's), Albert and Winston went to a theater to see The Exorcist. Albert feigned disinterest, laughing at the frightening parts, as he was sure his cool friends in Brooklyn would have. That night at the motel, however, with the lights out, Winston got down on the floor and began shaking the legs of Albert's bed, mooing like a cow.