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Life lessons from a father known as the cool dad


Time now for StoryCorps. Yusuf Ali made his living as a salesman. He sold everything from office furniture to ceiling tiles. No matter where his job took the family, though, Yusuf was known as the cool dad, mentoring kids and adults along the way. He came to StoryCorps with his daughter, Attayah, to share a few life lessons and his many nicknames.

YUSUF ALI: I have nicknames for each period, from elementary school to high school, college and in my professional life. Some of my friends know me officially as Joe Cool.

ATTAYAH MILTON: Being cool was one of the things I do remember you teaching me.

ALI: Yeah. You know, it's a sense of pride. It's a style. It's the way you talk. It's the aura that you have. And you can't buy it. You can't inherit it. Well, I should take that back because you have those cool genes.

MILTON: Yeah, but I always laugh at your jokes.

ALI: Yeah, like the duck walks into this bar. He asks the bartender, you got any grapes? The bartender says, this is a bar. We ain't got no grapes in here. Duck says, OK. Turn around, go home. The next day, go back to the bar. You got any grapes? The bartender says, didn't I tell you we ain't got no grapes? He said, if you come in here tomorrow, I'm going to nail your beak to the bar. Next day, he goes back in the bar. He said, you got any nails? Bartender says, I ain't got no nails. He said, well, then you got any grapes?


MILTON: You're the best, Dad. Tell me a little bit about my childhood.

ALI: Well, you were always a leader. I was a little concerned because the little girls that used to follow you, whatever you did, they would do. And it was always good that you did the right thing.

MILTON: Yeah. You know, you taught me to think three times before I speak. You've been telling me that since I was very small. And it's really important that I share that with my kids because the words that we put out represent us.

ALI: Oh, yeah. You know, one of the most important things in my life was the birth of you. Attayah means a gift from Allah, a present that only can come from God. And when you were born, you came out screaming with a voice, you know, like, I'm ready for this world.

MILTON: Thank you (laughter).

ALI: You know?

MILTON: Well, the most important question, Dad, that I have for you.


MILTON: What's the best nickname that you've had?

ALI: Attayah's father.


MARTIN: That was Yusuf Ali with his daughter, Attayah Milton, in Philadelphia. This recording has been archived at the Library of Congress.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Jey Born
[Copyright 2024 NPR]