Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood

Footsteps fade

when faced with the sea

But the hollows you left

remain present in me.

The years cannot fill them

nor will they be

silent.

...

Heart's caverns they echo

the sound of the tune

A recording you made me

and gave me in June.

The song that you wrote?

It whispers to me.

.

In secret.

.

Like a lover.

.

Like you used to.

Friday, December 5, 2014

2015: A Call To Action

Small town pastor’s daughter Ariel Moore needs a hero. Years ago, a horrific accident that claimed the lives of some of the town’s teenagers spurred local leaders to ban dancing and rock and roll music. The aftermath of this terrible tragedy has left the town spiritually and emotionally dark. So Ariel is holding out for “a street-wise Hercules to fight the rising odds.”

And, because it makes for good cinema, her salvation arrives – in the form of the dancing juggernaut that is Kevin Bacon. Hurray. The town is saved.

If only it were that easy.

While narrative film makes a habit of heralding heroes capable of tying up tragedies with well-tailored bows, real world problems – ISIS, the Syrian crisis, the terrors in the Ukraine, crumbling infrastructure, global pollution, stagnant economies, growing income inequality, death, famine, disease – cry out for saviors. And not the kind that gyrate in tight jeans and provide resolution in 90 minutes.

The real world, it seems, is “holding out for a hero ‘til the end of the night.” Like Tori Amos, it’s “looking for a savior in these dirty streets.” And, my friends, if the news is any indication, the holding out, the search for a savior, isn’t yielding the longed-for results.

The idea that someone will come along to lead and right the world’s wrongs is not a new one. Messianic messages predicting the coming of the world’s most prolific leader, who will usher us into an unprecedented age of peace date back thousands of years. It’s a powerful, pervasive – and very beautiful – belief.

It’s also passive. And that’s a problem.

In his book, “There is no Messiah and you’re it!,” Rabbi Robert N. Levine points out an oft-overlooked issue that comes with waiting for a Chosen One – a hero – to come (or come again): that God (or, if you prefer, Fate or Human History) demands action, in the present, to facilitate changes for the future.

In short, we cannot sit idly by and hope and pray for a hero. Rather, we must do as Mahatma Gandhi advised and “be the change you want to see in the world.” We cannot wait for the coming (or second coming) of the Messiah to feed and clothe the poor. We can – and should – do that now. We cannot and should not stand in the shadows until a Martin Luther King Jr., a Patton or a Churchill steps into the light to lead us. We must, each as individuals, do our own stepping forward.

Friends, it’s all well and good to await for a golden age when people are finally fully good to each other, but the New Year is as good a time as any to remind that awaiting it is not and will not ever be enough. You don’t have to be the Messiah or Churchill or Ghandi to make a difference. You just have to do your part.

Because ISIS, the Syrian crisis, the terrors in the Ukraine, crumbling infrastructure, global pollution, stagnant economies, growing income inequality, death, famine, disease – they don’t care who you are or where you came from. They’re much more concerned with where you’re going and what you’ll do when you get there.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Your Map for My Spade

At what point

does follow-through become folly?

If I continue this path,

despite its incessant brambles,

does that mark me brave?

A crusader?

Or rather Fate's fool?

Do you have the answer?

To slog or surrender?

Show me the line

between persistence and stubbornness.

Make a trade -

Your map for my spade.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Truths

Run-resistant hose, aren't.

Easy open jars, don't.

Saying that you will, won't.

Action over words.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

In praise of losing

Charles Bowen ("D") may be the smartest person I know, and he is undoubtedly the most hard-headed.

This combination, I like to think, is what draws us together.

It ensures conversations will be witty and spirited, and that silences will be telling.

But, every so often, it also makes for a Clash of the Titans-epic row.

I count one such argument - specifically, its aftermath - as one of the proudest moments of my life.

Because I lost.

...

On the way to or from somewhere or other, D and I got into a conversation about the death penalty. And, as such "conversations" often do, it lead to a knock-down, drag-out argument.

Now anyone who's ever argued with me knows two things:

1. I do not come to my decisions lightly. Much thought is involved. So, if you're gonna counter me, you better have your facts in order. Or I will destroy you.

2. Charles Bowen may be hard-headed, but, were there a contest, I'm certain I'd take the crown for it. On my best days, it means I stick to my guns and principles. On my worst, I'm just an intolerable human being.

Knowing these things, D debated me anyway.

He countered facts for facts.

He met me head on for headstrong.

And, with a very pointed question, he changed my mind.

...

Perhaps, as my freshman lit teacher advised, I should repeat that last sentence for emphasis. But instead, I'd like to rephrase.

The reason it's a moment I herald as one of the finest in my life is because I changed my mind.

Me, with my stubborn nature and my litany of facts, listened to an opposing argument and allowed myself to be open to its truths.

I changed my mind.

...

In a nation so completely divided among political and ideological lines, more often than not the majority of what we see and hear (and spout) is that the other side is comprised of a bunch of morons. As such, we dismiss the others - often statistically about half the population - and deny them the respect that should be accorded to every human being (even the stupid ones who disagree with me.)

...

I changed my mind.

...

And friends, I can tell you, the benefits of that action are a gift that keeps on giving.

Accepting, even for a moment, that I might have been wrong. That there might have been more forest hidden amongst those trees - was humbling and embarrassing for a moment. But it's been liberating ever since. Because there's no room for growth in "being right," and endless room for growth in learning you might be wrong.

And maybe there are more options than right and wrong...when's the last time you actively considered the implications of that?

The moment you agree to consider - to listen - to really, really think about what you believe, you may be surprised at what you find.

For some, they will find themselves where they started, and more secure than ever before in that place. For others, a new path will be found, one that offers the opportunity to explore a new headspace. Which often leads to meeting new people and continuing to learn new things.

I've seen a lot of line-in-the-sand lately. A lot of dismissive rhetoric with very little statistical or ideological merit. And I've seen the damage it can do.

It remains my hope that others will come around to the process of openmindedly examining another point of view. Of reserving judgement. Of seeing an opponent as an opportunity, rather than a threat to be eliminated.

I believe we can do it.

And, at least in this instance, I don't think it'd be a point of pride to be proven wrong.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Quixotic Dream

With windmills

as mine enemies

All epithets

and schoolgirl dreams

To don one day

a Don

or a

Dulcinea

from Aldonza

Dare I?

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

When people fuck with me

I just received an email from a public relations "professional" lambasting me for calling her boss for a story "over her head." (That we called her and she proved completely useless, delaying us for two weeks and then, on deadline day, declaring she would not come through, is an important point to note.)

So she has the brass balls to email the press and complain that we went around her.

She obviously doesn't know who I am.

My response:

Name redacted –

It is my understanding that NAME REDACTED STAFF WRITER attempted to go through you on several occasions, and received no usable information. As it's our job as media to cull and present information, and your job as a media relations liaison to provide that information, the failure on your end to do so prompted myself and my staff to do what journalists do when we do not receive information through the desired, middleman channels - go directly to sources who could and should be of help.

As the NAME REDACTED ORGANIZATION PR PERSON WORKS FOR purports itself to be the voice of the industry, having nothing to say on the topic of TOPIC OF STORY REDACTED is…telling..and you can consider yourself fortunate that we have yet to mention, in print, the number of times ORGANIZATION was contacted either without response or with a response indicating that we would have information provided, only to be told at the last minute, on deadline, that the information would not, in fact, be provided. I'm certain our readership in INDUSTRY REDACTED departments would be interested to know that ORGANIZATION has nothing to say about a topic that very much affects the lives of its day to day membership.

Additionally, I have done you the good service of not penning complaints about your job performance to members of your management team. That you thought it was appropriate to do so is also…telling. As you can see by my inclusion of MY BOSS on this response, I do not fear retribution for calling the ORGANIZATION, repeatedly, for a story about INDUSTRY safety. Given the chance, I'd do so again. Nor am I concerned about burning any bridges with you. Presumably, my consequence would be that I would not be able to get any information from you in the future. As I was unable to get any information from you previously, I really don't see much of an issue.

Lastly, I might point you to the Bill of Rights, which states that Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of the press. As the most powerful governing body in our nation does not have the authority to tell the press to whom we can and cannot speak, I am quite sure the ORGANIZATION Media Relations and Communications Manager does not have such an authority. When I need you to tell me how to do my job, I'll ask you. And, true to form, I likely won't receive a response.

E

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Arrested Development

I get it.

At 5'3", 130-ish pounds, I am nothing if not a young, white, relatively affluent by many standards, suburban-raised, threatening-by-all-accounts woman menace.

So call the cops on me.

Oh good. You already did.

...

Election day is in less than a week, and, between the "Georgia 5" and the dead heats that have us potentially poised to go purple, it's been a pretty exciting midterm election.

As a journalist (and a voter), this interests me.

So I decided to get some opinions.

Namely the opinions of early voters in Sandy Springs.

...

"Armed" with a Bloggie, press credentials and a smile, I headed to the polls to ask voters one question - "Why do you feel it's important to vote?"

I figured answers would fall into one of only a few choice responses, all of which are positive and non-partisan.

I expected some reticence. Folks shy away from spotlights they fear might make them look foolish, and trust in "the media" might not be at its height in our modern "everyone's got an iPhone camera and an agenda" age.

To remedy this, I openly displayed my credentials. I greeted everyone with a smile. I gave them my card. I told them, point blank, what one question I was going to ask.

I may as well have tattooed "EBOLA" on my forehead.

...

Talking to a stranger is uncomfortable. And that's true whether you're the stranger in front of the camera or the stranger behind it. I get that. And I don't even hold it against the folks who refuse to speak with me or who granted me such a wide berth in the parking lot as to render an afternoon workout no longer necessary.

But to the lady in the car who refused to exit her vehicle: (I was nowhere near her. I just saw her cowering in the white sedan at a distance of about 40 paces.) Did you really feel you had to call the cops?

Like, that was your first move?

...

No one wants to be uncomfortable at the polls. No one wants to feel influenced or threatened or somehow coerced. All of this is true, fine, acceptable.

But you called the cops on a journalist standing at the appropriate distance from a polling place, press credentials clearly on display, who had shown no signs whatsoever of being up to no good?

Really?

...

So the cop comes.

Friendly-enough fellow. Looks young.

Drives ever-so-slowly through the parking lot, eyes peeled for the nefarious poll-persuader.

He sees me.

I wave and smile.

I'm so fucking uncomfortable, but I'll be damned if I'm going to show it.

Sure, I'll turn tail and run in the next 5 minutes, but for this minute, I'm going to stand my ground in the knowledge that 1. I'm right, and 2. as a journalist protected by the Bill of Rights, I am within my right to speak with those persons willing to speak with me about this, our political process.

As it turns out, the police man knows this too.

He doesn't stop me.

He doesn't try.

He just watches as I stand my ground.

For the next few minutes.

That feel like hours...

With the policeman onsite, white sedan now feels it is safe for her to exit her vehicle. Heart in my throat, I tell myself it's alright in the eyes of my inner Persecuter of Cowardice for me to move along. I've proven my point. I've made my stand. Now Jesus can I please just hole up back in my office?

I pack the Bloggie and attempt to walk to The Tracker at an even pace, head held high - because to do anything else - to give in to the "tuck tail and run" feeling in my guts - repulses me.

I have many faults I can live with, but cowardice is not one.

The officer follows me as I leave.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The lesser of two

Given time and space and insights few

I'm baffled I was ever so wrong about you.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

What're you playin' at?

Given a millenia, you could not and cannot and will not be able to explain to me the appeal of Red Rover.

Like helmetless, padless, Indian Rug Burn football where the big kids prey on the small kids, the "game" allows behemoth man-children to hurl their heft at the runts of the litter - all to "break" the weak apart so as to knuckle drag a likewise overlarge member of the opposing team back to testosterone tribe.

It's the quintessential "big brother gets to take a whack at little brother" game.

And, while I can appreciate the God-given smackdown rights of the firstborn (*ahem) upon the second, third and fourth links of the family chain, I gotta say - if you're playin' Red Rover, Red Rover, then Erin ain't comin' over.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Home is where the heart is

Dear beautiful hometown, mother of my cherished memories:

I hate you.

From the beautiful dogwoods you bulldoze to build yet another nondescript apartment complex

To the warm, golden, sunny days wasted on rage-fueled, unnecessarily long commutes because wealthy, white leadership refuses to expand a public transit system they'd never deign to take

I hate you.

From the antebellum homes demolished for Walmart parking lots

To the once-thriving arts community now strangled by continuously-slashed funding

I hate you.

From the rich history you ignore to the stereotypes you perpetuate

And because you're too fucking obsessed with guns and abortion to take care of the folks who are already here and struggling

For your regressive policies, your warped priorities, your willful ignorance, your wasted potential

Atlanta, I fucking hate you.

So don't be surprised when I - like the dogwoods, the arts, and antebellum homes - refuse

To call you "home" anymore.

Friday, September 26, 2014

That's when I feel for...The Middle of the Pack

Minority peoples - I call you for a pow wow. (Majority, you're welcome to come, but, if Huff Post comment threads are any indication, you may be incensed by what you hear.)

The subject of today's discussion - oh, please pass the complimentary doughnuts, won't you? - is my new campaign: "Minorities: Aim for the Middle of the Pack."

Erin takes the podium...or, in this case, moves the Ikea coffee table to stand in the middle of the cushy-chair coup she and her readership have made at this imaginary coffee house.

As most of you know, I am of a religious minority. But I believe this experience to be a collective one, felt by any minority of race, religion or sexuality. Tell me if this sounds familiar:

1. As a member of a minority, people tend to view the topic of your status one of two ways A) with interest and curiosity ("Oh! Can I touch your hair?!" Black people are you hearing me?) or B) with fear over your perceived difference. (You ain't from 'round here are ya?) Depending upon the person, you are either exotic or alien. But either way, you are always "other."

2. In many social situations, you will be the sole "representative" of your race, religion, sexual orientation. As such, you better make a good impression, so as not to ill-represent all Jews, Muslims, African Americans, homosexuals et all.

3. When someone of your same "creed" does something stupid/god-awful, you find yourself carrying the shame. "Great. Thanks asshole. Now all of us look like psychos. Guess I'll need to hide in my office at work today."

Naturally, the rational mind tells us that any one (or dozen) transgressors is not representative of the whole group (see my rant in my recent post about "Not all" campaigns), in the same way that the accomplishments of one (or a dozen) of our unique creed is not representative of all either.

Except that it is.

Because, now that we have a black president, black people are no longer oppressed, right?

And now that many states have freedom to marry, gays are universally accepted, right?

Look - majority people who have bothered to read to this point - here's the deal. I'm attempting to see it from your side. I know you don't know enough of "us" (whoever the "us" might be) to get a truly representative sample. So you have to make judgements on what you have personally experienced. Thus, if you know two Jews (Jacob and Jonah let's say) and Jacob is a complete asshole, then your experience with Jews has been 50/50, and it's therefore likely the jury's still "out" on us as a collective.

I can actually understand that. As people, we tend to base our opinions on a variety of things, chief among them the teachings we've received and personal experience. So if your experience with a particular group is bad, you're likely to view the entirety of that group as bad. It makes sense.

But it's also dangerous.

Because what if Jacob AND Jonah are BOTH assholes?... What will you believe about all Jews then?

Well, if you're a thinking, rational person, you'll realize that one person or even a small group of people is not representative of the collective. (But if comments sections the internet-wide are any indication, thinking, rational people could also be considered of minority status).

...

Lastly, so I can finish my doughnut (and because this is the thought that spurred my campaign):

As minorities, we are told that, to be accepted by the greater majority, we must adapt to our surroundings and thrive. We must work hard and be exemplary.

Sounds great in theory, but it hasn't really "worked" in practice. (The Booker T. Washington approach didn't do much to assuage the Atlanta race riots in 1906, as I recall...)

In short, we're damned if we do, and we're damned if we don't.

...

As minorities, if we enter a situation and do what we're told - we work hard, we overcome, we thrive... Rather than being lauded by the majority for besting obstacles, we are envied and sniped about. Because somehow, despite setbacks, we've done better than many in the majority. And that? Just doesn't seem to sit well.

For surely a thriving Jew, African American, homosexual, Muslim, Pakistani et all has thrived because of some social program. Some sort of government "leg up" like Affirmative Action has let the minority surpass many of the majority. And if the playing field were "fair" - if Affirmative Action or the insider connection (because haven't you heard? Jews OWN everything...) hadn't offered the minority person an unfair advantage - that person would never have outshone his or her white anglo-saxon protestant neighbors.

Therefore it's not hard work and determination that advances the minority. It's "favoritism" by some body. And that? Is reason to hate and mistrust.

Thus, minorities are damned if we do.

But conversely, we're damned if we don't.

As a minority, if you have the audacity to be poor, you're a scourge on "the system." You're a waste of the majority's tax dollars. And isn't that just like you? To subsist off the government's dime? Seriously, you disgust me. Why don't you just leave and be a drain on some other country?

As you can therefore plainly see, the only safety, dear minority friends, is to aim for the Middle of the Pack.

Do not aspire to any form of exemplary status, be it wealth or some other form of visible prestige. Rather, choose the middle road, the road which does not challenge the leadership status of the majority or make the majority afraid.

Sure, buy that house in that middle class neighborhood. But don't buy the most expensive house. Remember - MIDDLE OF THE ROAD! If you can, make sure the house you get is just a little bit smaller than your neighbors' homes. That way we avoid envy. That way we don't court the jealousy of the majority. That way we are "safe."

Work hard, yes. But don't outwork your majority coworker. Because that promotion? Has nothing to do with you staying late, being the most qualified or having a natural gift. It has to do with the color of your skin. And everybody knows it.

Middle of the pack, my friends! Middle of the pack!

Don't outgive your neighbor - showoff! Don't outclass your neighbor - snob! Don't outparent your neighbor - self-righteous bitch!

Rather, minority friends, settle comfortably into mediocrity. Whatever you do, don't rock the boat.

Because YOU, as the sole representative of your particular creed, are responsible for the feelings and prejudices of the majority.

Bear that burden with a smile on your brown face!

Embrace it! Own it!

You hold little political power, yet somehow, with your small existence, you are responsible for the blight of the neighborhood, or the various plights of the majority, all of whom are suffering - either from being denied their rightful place by your insolence in succeeding or by their economic hardship at having to support you and your welfare children.

Where's our sympathy minorities? Don't we recognize we're getting handouts while majority working class people are also suffering?

Can we not therefore control our arrogance and take it down a peg? What do we think we are - better than everyone else?

It's time, my friends, to settle for the middle of the pack. To content ourselves with being John's token black friend and Jane's one Muslim friend that therefore allows Jane to speak with authority on matters of a faith she's never studied.

To aim higher is arrogance. To fall lower is indolence.

And we can neither be arrogant or indolent. Because we? Might just be the only Jew, African American, homosexual, Muslim, Pakistani that our neighbors ever meet.

And we want to represent well, don't we?

So - minority people - rise! Rise but not too quickly! Speak up! But not too loudly! Believe! But not too strongly! And sleep well at night knowing that, because you aimed for the middle, you might avoid persecution from those at the top.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Fine d

I find that I can't be myself with you.

I find that I find nothing to say

that you won't find wanting.

I find that I find myself degraded

by the faults you find in me.

I find that I mind how I find myself feeling

in your presence.

Perhaps, one of these days, you won't find me

in your presence

Anymore.

Ant

I envy the ant.

Assured in its purpose.

Able to act alone, but secure in its colony.

And individual, yes.

But part of a family.

Industrious.

Exacting.

Working only for the hive and not...

Consumed...

By nature or the nature of things.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Not all people like the "not all" campaign

The "not all" campaigns really irk me. (ie. Not all men are wife beaters, not all Muslims are terrorists, not all police officers are racist assholes etc etc etc). Seems like, whenever a negative behavior makes continuous headlines (Ray Rice, ISIS, Ferguson), a "not all" campaign pops up around it. And, while the intentions are likely good (attempting to provide some sort of balance, let's say), I think "not all" campaigns can be detrimental.

The reasons the "not all" craze gives me hives are two-fold.

1. If you have to be told that "not all" of any group - sex, race, class, faith - is or is not something? Then you're a moron. Or at least behaving like one. Because no group of people is homogenous. NO GROUP OF PEOPLE IS HOMOGENOUS. Know it. Own it. Just because most serial killers are white dudes doesn't mean all white dudes are serial killers. Obvious. Easy. No one should have to point this out for you. If they do? Refer back to my "moron" statement.

2. It marginalizes major issues. Because while "not all" men beat their wives, some do. And it's a problem. And it needs to be addressed. Saying "not all" men do it is both obvious and not AT all helpful in the fight against domestic violence. You want to help battle domestic violence? Acknowledge it's a problem, and start helping victims. Start battling the ideologies that lend themselves to domestic violence. Lead by example. Teach your kids not to hit. Don't just go around saying "Not all men beat their wives." Because that - while accurate - does nothing to solve the problem.

The same holds true for all other examples. While "not all" Muslims are terrorists, radical Islamic militants are promoting a hateful doctrine and hurting people in many parts of the world. And that's a problem. And it needs to be addressed. Saying "Not all Muslims..." doesn't address or counter the teachings of ISIS. It doesn't save lives. So let's come up with something that does. Likewise, "not all" cops are racist assholes. But some are, and that's a problem - a problem that needs addressing and not just "not all" platitudes. The list goes on and on.

Look - if you're attempting to offer some sort of reminder that there's a danger in categorizing all people by the few, I get it. I honestly do. But a "not all" campaign doesn't solve any problem under the sun. It merely states the obvious and does nothing to rectify real issues. So instead of insisting you or your friends and family aren't part of the problem (because really, that's all the "not all" campaigns are doing - Don't look at me/my friends/my family! We're not wife beaters, terrorists, racist asshole serial killers!), how about conceptualizing strategies to help address these problems?

Because if we can raise awareness/condemnation of domestic violence and commence with stamping out the ideologies that promote it, then perhaps we can make major strides in eradicating the problem. And if the problem is gone then guess what - no need for a "not all" campaign. Same holds true for every example - rectify the issue, no need for the slogan.

I know "not all" of you are gonna agree with me. But then again, I didn't expect you to.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Fear and Loathing

Learning to loathe what I once loved

leaves me feeling

rather

lost.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

What dreams may come...

Like most, I did not have the good fortune of personally knowing Robin Williams. Yet – and again like most – I considered him a friend. Like the crazy uncle who would sooner join you in throwing your peas at the family dog than insist that you eat them, Williams was that rarest of treasures for a kid: a grown up who actually “gets” you.

That his work transcends generations cannot be disputed. But it remains my personal belief that Williams’ appeal was especially powerful – and remains so – with children. Whether donning tights to play Pan or prosthetics for Doubtfire, Williams brought a youthful vitality and exuberance that lit screens and faces the world over.

This appeal I attribute to his innocence. How rare is the creature who can face so many demons and still express the wonder and excitement of a child!

I am beside myself over the loss of Williams. It is the loss of an icon, of a comedic genius. But, as I have felt over the last 24 hours, it is moreso the loss of a friend. The loss of that favorite crazy uncle.

It is the loss of the father we all wish we had. The loss of the kind doctor with the clown nose who could fix anything. The loss of an all-powerful genie who could make wishes come true. The loss of our Captain.

And as we call “O Captain! My Captain!” and realize – again – that the master has left the helm, our collective guts kick with the winded realization that the loss we feel transcends reflection over the characters played… and shows itself instead to be what we are all actually experiencing:

A loss of our own innocence. The loss of a time in our lives where things were simpler and the world – which held the potential of magic! – was safer and more beautiful. Where a genie really could grant wishes, and a doctor really could heal with laughter. Where grown men could fly and fathers dressed in drag just to spend a few more precious moments with their children.

It was an innocence we associated with an all-too-familiar face. Albeit a blue or masked one.

A blue face... A masked one...

God bless you, Robin Williams. Both the man we knew and the man we didn’t. May the joy you brought to countless millions somehow transcend time and space and bring you peace.

Oh Captain! My Captain!

By Walt Whitman

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,

The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,

The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,

While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;

But O heart! heart! heart!

O the bleeding drops of red,

Where on the deck my Captain lies,

Fallen cold and dead.

O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;

Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills,

For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding,

For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;

Here Captain! dear father!

This arm beneath your head!

It is some dream that on the deck,

You’ve fallen cold and dead.

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,

My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will,

The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,

From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;

Exult O shores, and ring O bells!

But I with mournful tread,

Walk the deck my Captain lies,

Fallen cold and dead.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The downside

The downside

of peace of mind

is the chastened flick of flame.

The sputter and spit

dim lights the pit

where once the fires did reign.

The soul distraught

is the one that wrought

the pleasure from the pain.

But the peace of mind

in one refined

results in one restrained.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Publicity whore

I am pleased to announce that I am an Azbee Gold Award Winner. Two times over.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Proposal

Read the he said/she said account here.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Melvin P.

My very best friend.

What does it feel like to lose someone you love?

Nothing.

It feel like nothing.

It feels like an all-consuming, soul-sucking Nothing has grown in your gut - a black hole that will swirl and sweep and suck everyone and everything you've ever held dear into it - and you'll let it.

Because maybe then Nothing will feel less empty.

And maybe then you'll be able to feel something. Something other than Nothing. Something like something again.

Maybe then the Nothing will not gnaw away at your bones - or threaten to swallow you whole. Maybe it will not leave you painfully empty, despite its pull. Maybe then the Nothing will not haunt the corners where he walked and slept and ate.

...What good is a world without a Melvin in it? What is a "life's purpose" without him around?

What good does it do anyone to get up, to shower, to put on pants - when none of it will fill the Nothing?

The Nothing makes food taste like sawdust. It contorts smiles to the grotesque and renders conversation abhorrent.

It makes you yearn for nothing - nothing more than to go home. But what is home now?

The prospect is unthinkable - because the address remains, but the love that resided doesn't. Sacrificed. To Nothing. And you can never get it back.

...

You were once ever-present. Now when I call out to you - nothing.

There's a Nothing in my gut so big that it threatens to tear through my skin.

I'd cry but it'd mean nothing.

I'd scream, but it'd do nothing.

I wonder. I wander...aimlessly...what in the hell I'm meant to do now. Where I'm supposed to go now. What I'm supposed to feel now.

And the answer is nothing.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Let's go to the mall!

I have a designated parking area at every metro mall.

In most cases, this is simply so I won't lose my car, my mind, and hours of my life scouring the endless black seas of asphalt.

But Town Center is different.

Town Center is home.

Town Center is Richard James.

...

As a child, countless hours were spent at this mall - in the food court. Or the pet store. Or chatting (posing?) beneath the giant light ball that once hung over the staircase by the parking lot.

As I grew, so did this mall's importance in my tiny sphere. Town Center became Travis Wingspoon and Brett Lawrence at the Dairy Queen. It became Peter Cuadra at the music store and Scott Henderson at Hot Topic.

Town Center was the last time I saw Chris Shackleford and Kelli Bourgeois before the accident...

It was Wicks n' Sticks, where Richard James bought me the weeping willow candle that burned like he and I did and cried like he and I did - often for each other - as we swung between the shared poles of assurance and emotional insecurity that permeated our adolescence.

It is parking on the Red Lobster side. One island past the stop sign. Because that's where Richard James parked.

I'm not often nostalgic for that time in my life. Gone are the days of upstaging and upheaval - of show choir and band camp, of divorce and the Town Center Toys R Us.

Dairy Queen is gone. So is the pet store. Wicks n' Sticks. And while I haven't made it to the light ball yet (I'm writing this on scrap paper in the Macy's), it's likely met the same fate.

But some things - some things never go away. Never fade. Never die...like laughing with Brett, God rest his soul. Talking with Chris, Kelli, Scott...God rest them. God rest them all...

And Richard James...

In a twist befitting those that permeate my life, I am wearing his ring today.

It's nearly 20 years old, but it serves as a reminder of the first time I loved and was loved in return.

For the memories - of those who, in one way or another, are long gone, but whose presence and impact resonate to this day.

So I park on the Red Lobster side, one island down.

So they can find me. And so I can find myself...

Friday, May 9, 2014

Don't even get me started on the Jews...

In undergraduate school, my Race, Gender and the Media class participated in a social experiment.

For the experiment, we watched a film wherein aliens had landed and offered to save our planet - all environmental damage done would be undone, poverty and hunger would be eradicated - all they were asking for in return? Was our black people. All of our black people.

The aliens never said what they'd do with the black people, only that they wanted them and, if the human race as a whole acquiesced, we'd be given all of the aforementioned "gifts."

To decide the quandary "democratically," a worldwide vote was instituted. Naturally, a campaign was launched to "save the black people," wherein commercials/endorsements etc were made, pointing out the many social and scientific accomplishments of black people and stating how the human race would suffer without them...

And by all accounts, the campaigns appeared - on the surface - to be working. On-the-street polls showed no one was going to vote black people away. That would be unconscionable!

But our hero, the protagonist, knew better. He knew better because he realized something: people put on a public persona - a socially acceptable mask that they feel is "appropriate" because no one likes to be ridiculed. But in the privacy of our own homes, we "take off he mask." And we're hideous underneath that plastic visage.

When our hero learned that the vote would be conducted online - when he realized it would be anonymous and that people could vote from inside the comfort of their own homes and prejudices without fear of admonishment - he knew the black people were doomed.

Ladies and gentlemen, on more than one occasion I toyed with running for public office. Despite (and often because of) covering members of public office, I thought I could do better - that I could at best help and at least not hurt the electorate I would represent. I'd build parks and fix roads and fight for historic preservation. How glorious it would be! How Utopian!

But today, dear readers, I have changed my mind. Because of Facebook.

I'm not the first person to acknowledge that internet comment sections are little more than an open forum for swill, the mouthpiece of the most uneducated, where the closed-minded, bigoted and big-mouthed among us go to air their rancid opinions and pick futile fights.

In stumbling across one such comment section today (I did not opt to read it. Facebook displayed it in front of me), I realized that I could run for office. On some off-chance, I might even be elected. And I could build my parks and fix my roads and preserve the few historic treasures Atlanta has left. And it wouldn't matter. Because I could be the very Second Coming of Christ and some folks would still just write off all of the efforts and successes with a hate-filled decry of "damned Jew liberal." And that would be it.

Because that's all there is for them.

It's a "die-hard support my guy, fuck you!" society we've created. And I now refuse to participate. Because, frankly, you don't deserve my park anymore.

I'm sick to death with this electorate, and so are many of my contemporaries. You care to know why Millenials are overwhelmingly opting out of our Democratic system? It's because there is no Democratic system.

The leadership presented by way of our election system is little more than an oligarchy of the wealthy - many of them only looking to become wealthier and further self-interest, and the electorate is so willingly uninformed on key issues, as to warrant a label of social and political illiteracy.

Rather than actually research issues, we Google our own viewpoints and wallow in the hits that come that validate our biases. And the American news media caters to this. Because it's a big business, and big business seldom (I'm being kind) puts the interests of the people over its own bottom line.

Not that there seems to be much of a market for truth out there...

Two more things and then I'll exit this soap box.

1. Michelle Nunn is running for Senate. I worked as a volunteer with her organization, Points of Light, (it's bipartisan, but she was/is on the board), and can say it was a truly uplifting experience. The organization itself if great and Michelle was very kind. I like the way she is running her campaign. No partisan politics/sticking only to talking points about her platforms. It's a refreshing change, as I think most of you can attest that you've seen all the political mud slinging in recent weeks.

Now, you don't have to vote for her. If her policies aren't pleasing to you, if you disagree with her platforms, then more power to you. See you at the polls. But if you continue to throw swill at this woman - calling her a "liberal whore" (What does that even mean? Do you have some form of intimate knowledge of her sex life?) and attacking the fact that she chose to keep her maiden name, then you are beneath me and beneath political debate. Because that? Is not debate. It's not about the issues. It's about you being an asshole.

2. The Race, Gender and the Media experiment. So what happened? In the film, the world voted to get rid of the black people, because those in the majority - people of any other race - stood to gain from the arrangement. So they voted in their self interest. And when the time came for the class to make a similar vote - so did I.

With your vote, you could write your reasons behind it. Here is a paraphrase of what I wrote in mine: "I don't actually want to rid the world of black people or of any other race or minority. But I know every single person in this room - despite the faux "anonymity" afforded with a write-in vote - will vote to have black people stay because there are still social pressures to conform in this classroom. We are all here, present for the tally. And, if we dissent, we may be asked to defend our choice. Many people are too cowardly to face the opposition of their peers, and so, make the socially acceptable choice. But I also know people, and, like the movie demonstrated, eliminating the social consequence of an unpopular (and, indeed, unhumanitarian) choice, will allow people to vote not their conscience but their own self-interest. I truly believe that, if this vote were conducted world-wide today, there would be an astonishing number of votes to offer up any social or racial minority to the aliens. Knowing this, I want my vote to represent those people because, to sit here in mock social piety, claiming that no one would vote away something perceived as "other" if it would benefit him/herself, is naive at best, unapologetically pandering and ignorant at worst."

As I predicted, I was the only person in my 300+ person auditorium to offer up the unpopular vote. Naturally, I was crucified by my peers. Despite the fact that I am obviously opposed to eradicating the planet of any minority group (except idiots. But it could be argued they are a majority.) the criticism affected me. (I'm sure there's a thesis to be written about the effects of social pressures of conformity on social progress and/or change...maybe I'll do that for my doctorate...) But, as I sat there fielding criticisms, I knew the entire time that if the vote had taken place on an anonymous internet forum, a solid number of those folks in the auditorium that day would have voted blacks, Muslims, liberals/conservatives, me, you - whoever wasn't "them" - "off the island."

And you need only look to the comments section of Michelle Nunn's campaign to see that I'm right. Because it's not about whether or not Nunn has good ideas or would well-represent the needs of Georgians. It's about whether or not she's a "liberal whore." And, as we all know, you can't send a liberal whore to Congress.

But you surely can send black people to the outer reaches of the universe.

Hey black people - see you on the space ship! Because I'm pretty sure I'm off this planet too. Because didn't you hear? "Liberal whores" are out of fashion. And don't even get me started on the Jews...

Friday, March 21, 2014

For all time

He stays when I sink backward; He listens when I fret front

And he means what he says in the mean time

Which is why

He has all of my time

For all time.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Cross of the Albatross

Those "in the know" know my dumpster is the place of dreams...a malodorous den of magic where Life grants me her most magnificent miracles.

Today, I found someone in my den.

While climbing into the ol' Tracker, I noticed what I at first thought was a construction worker, sifting through the waste bin. Ass end up in dirty jeans, he didn't notice me or my pimpin' ride. He was entirely too busy scavenging for cans, which, once found, he would then place into one of two bags he had for the purpose.

I'm often slow on the uptake, but I realized then that this person was homeless, and likely collecting cans to trade for cash. He might even have been looking for something to eat.

I got in my car.

I backed up to leave.

And I couldn't.

Here was a person, sifting my trash for remnants of things I'd deemed inconsequential enough to throw away. Here was I, on my way to a job that affords me food from a store.

My conscience wouldn't let me leave. My faith wouldn't forgive it. Neither would my heart.

"Hey, sir, do you need any help?"

"I don't want your money," came the reply. He said it with his hands in the air, as if caught. As if he were being arrested.

My heart pounded in my chest.

"Alright...Well, are you hungry?"

"I have money," he repeated it. "I have money." And he took from his filthy pocket a wadded green of some denomination. "I can just...I'll buy my own."

I didn't cry. I am now, but I didn't then. Crying wouldn't have afforded me what I desperately wanted in this moment.

I repeated my offer, this time with specifics. Fruit. Granola. Anything I had that would be easy for him to carry.

Again, he declined.

He approached the car; I did not back away. I thought about it, but I didn't.

He offered to give me his wadded bill - likely the only money he had - for a shower. "That's the hardest part about being homeless," he said. He offered to clean my bathroom for me.

He told me his name was Lawrence.

I lamented then, as I do now, that I could not - or did not - give Lawrence a shower. I feel guilt over it even as I type. Instead, I gave him the name and number of my landlord, a man I knew to be sympathetic to those in need. I told Lawrence my landlord had empty apartments; apartments where he could shower, unfettered.

I told Lawrence my landlord was always on-site in the morning. That he should be there soon.

I looked Lawrence in the face again, ashamed that I would open my wallet and my pantry, but not my home, and I started to leave. But Lawrence wouldn't let me go.

Instead, he reached around his neck and offered me one of his few earthly possessions - a beaded, wooden necklace with a carving of Africa.

It looked like a Rosary.

I refused.

I was near tears now.

But he insisted.

...

My friends, I ask you - and I think about this often - who are we to overlook these people? To turn away because it is uncomfortable or to lock the doors from fear?

Is a Lawrence somehow less than?

His Rosary around my neck hangs heavy like a cross...

Matthew 25:34-36 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, "Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me."

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

All in our own little anthills

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.” - Mark Twain

Ever irascible, Samuel Clemens often resulted to creating his own human beings, just so he could surround himself with folks he could tolerate.

I can identify.

Which may be why I believed one of my first callings - before I realized writing was a "calling" and not just a way of chronicling my misadventures for posterity - was to diplomacy.

My ideas on people are mixed, and tend to fall more along the love/loathe ends of the spectrum than anywhere resembling the middle, and, as diplomacy relies on little short of caring for other humans and making at least an attempt at a middle ground, I do seem to be a bit ill-suited for the post.

Be that as it may, I, like the hot-tempered, mustachioed man I so admire, somehow fancy myself a vessel for shared human experience and common ground.

As far back as I can remember, I was crafting scenarios in my head where I could come to the aid of warring factions, gain their respective confidences and somehow - always through a stroke of my own brilliance - bring each side to see the merits of the other. Inevitably, blood feuds would be decided, families restored, and peace treaties signed all before dinner time. With me at the helm, of course.

My first turn at the steering wheel of compromise came at a tender age and aboard a Rambo Bike.

Molded entirely out of black plastic and remiss of stickers that once identified it for outsiders to the Greer clan, the Rambo Bike was the transport of choice for Myan and me. Long days we would spend, pedaling to and from the cul-de-sac and barreling down the hills on Valley Tarn, gleefully oblivious of our willfully chosen near-death experiences aboard that last-legs three-wheeler.

One day, while in possession of the Rambo Bike, I decided to use Rambo's black box (ostensibly placed at the back of the bike for wartime "supplies") to facilitate what was to be the Cherokee County equivalent of Nobel-prize winning diplomacy.

Recently, while playing in the red clay lots that dotted my street, I had noticed that the red ants refused to associate with the black ants. Feeling that this separation could only have resulted from some fundamental misunderstanding of some unintended slight, I hatched a plan to integrate the clans: I would select a few dozen ants from each hill ("emissaries" I called them), and I would use the Rambo Bike to transport each group of emissaries to the warring colony.

The result? Perfectly peaceful ant integration.

So I set about my task, raiding ant hills, gathering "chosen" emissaries on sticks (I have since learned this was not a particularly scientific sampling of the ant populations, a fact that I should disclose before the committee), and then panicking and shaking said sticks over the Rambo Bike supply pouch.

With emissaries safely inside, I then pedaled to the neighboring hill, to repeat the process and exchange the ants.

After seeing each batch safely to its new abode, I pedaled home, immensely proud of my foreign affairs coup.

Only, like most forced integrations, my anthill ambassadorship didn't go very well.

While I wasn't present for the carnage, my mother rather bluntly informed me that what I had done hadn't facilitated friendships, but had likely resulted in the mass murder of my chosen ambassadors.

By all measurable accounts, my first foray into promoting insect brotherly love was a disaster. And I was distraught over what I had done.

I lost sleep over it then.

And I'm losing sleep over it now...

As an adult, I have been fortunate enough to travel to places where folks speak different languages, have different customs, different priorities, different faiths. And, as Clemens so astutely observed, travel has been "fatal to prejudice" (excepting, of course, that prejudice I've developed for my own kind who refuse to see that the world can and does "work" in other ways). Indeed, I've become increasingly sickened by those I deem to be purposefully and without remorse "vegetating in one little corner of the earth."

And this is why I know - despite my continuing grandiose dreams - that I could not and should not be a diplomat. Because I dislike and judge people, which undermines my ability to justly conduct myself. And I've seen firsthand the disaster I can wreak if given the power to facilitate forced communication...

No, friends, I am no diplomat. But I am an irascible writer. And in the land of my cognitive dreams, I can bring both sides to the table. I can make each understand the value of the other. Because, in my mind, I have the power to open yours...and the cowardly privilege of not having to live with the repercussions of that action.

Stars and shadows ain't good to see by.” ― Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

And so it began...

As I pulled into the parking lot, displaying my recently-acquired security pass, I sensed a literal shift in my circumstance. A once fill-time journalist now working freelance, this was my chance. Years of countless employment applications were culminating in this moment: I was finally on set at Turner Classic Movies.

I vividly recall the moment I fell in love with classic cinema. It was fifth grade and I was seated on the floor with my classmates to watch some long movie called “Gone With the Wind.” The room, previously dark, sparked to Technicolor life and a raven-haired woman sat on a southern porch flanked by two beaus. She was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen…

Now, nearly 20 years later, here I was assisting scriptwriter M.A. Glenn and a Georgia State University student intern with last minute changes for TCM host Robert Osborne. Script in hand, I watched as Osborne delivered the lines I had helped craft. The moment marked the culmination of my two passions, and spawned a realization: this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.

Professional attempts to get in a Turner had not proven fruitful. In the economic downturn, the company had, like so many, been implementing cutbacks. Budgets were shoestring, and Glenn assured me the company was not hiring—but it was accepting applications for student interns.

The decision was made before I left the studio: I would return to school. I would attend Georgia State University and get my Masters in film. I would write for television.

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Little Mermaid

Though it may not have been the first lie my parents ever told me, the first falsehood that completely altered my childhood was this little gem: "You can be anything you want to be."

*Side note - that George Michael was singing "I want your checks" may be a close second.

In any event, I'm sure my sire-ers were well meaning. Certainly they had "you can go to any college...wear a side ponytail...be an astronaut" in mind.

But such a supposition serves as yet another example of how little these parent people knew me. Because, while they were planning any number of Barbie futures for me (airline pilot. vet. teacher.), what I distinctly heard uttered in the words of the adage was "You can be...a mermaid!"

And damn near immediately I set about the task.

Since the dawn of my time, I had been obsessed with the half nekkid lady/half dottyback (perhaps damselfish is appropriate here?) species of "Splash" fame.

Be it rogue eyelashes or shooting stars, not an opportunity passed where I did not wish, with every yearning beat of my disappointingly human heart, to join Daryl Hannah in her undersea adventures. And now - miraculous day! - I had the assurances of not one BUT TWO! of my sadly simple parents that I could, indeed, "be anything [I] want[ed] to be."

And, as what I wanted to be was a mermaid, I immediately began adding salt to my bathwater.

...

Every year, my poor parents would take my brothers and I to the beach. And, every year until I gave up on the prospect, I wholeheartedly believed that if I stayed in the ocean long enough, if I swam out far enough, if I donned the proper proportionate cockle shell nip covers and sang the appropriate magic words, that the seas would open themselves to me, and that I would be, in the least mafioso sense of the words, "swimmin' with the fishes."

I remain leggy and land-bound.

Yes, my venture-or lack thereof-into the land (*ahem) of "The Little Mermaid" was but the first of many such "you can be anything you want to be" disappointments.

There was that period where I desperately desired a unicorn. And also the time, after reading something about being able to do anything if I just had "faith the size of a mustard seed," that I prayed each day for a friend the size of my palm to appear. (I was, apparently, very affected by the story of "Thumbelina.")

But despite my earnest longing - and my wholehearted faith, which was, most certainly, at least the size of an appleseed - my unicorn never emerged from the wood. And Thumbelina? Well, let's just say that wherever she is, I'm still awaiting her phone call.

...

But the issue here isn't really that I lack a magical steed. Or a mini friend. Or a fish tail.

What I've come to realize is that this tendency toward wishing for the fantastic was an early indicator of all manner of things about my very being.

Some are good. And some are bad. And all are things my parents, in their practicality, were incapable of seeing, because they'd passed that Peter Pan Precipice.

They'd grown up.

Whereas I...had not.

In their land of bills and mortgages and minivans, things like unicorns and mermaids didn't matter so much. Unlike pilots or vets or teachers, magical horned steeds just weren't things one could or should want to be.

Such things were unachievable. And achievement...well, that was important to my parents.

I learned very early that I was expected to achieve. I grasped that lesson much earlier than I ever did the equally valuable lesson of how important it was - at least for a soul like me - to dream.

And I am a born dreamer. A born storyteller. An "Imagineer" (without the Disney paycheck).

...

As I couldn't seem to become a mermaid or find a unicorn, I drew them unceasingly. Or made up stories about them and wrote them down.

But no one seemed to put much stow in my stories.

And why should they? Tales of fantastical creatures in far away lands never did much for anybody.

Unless you count J.K. Rowling. Or Tolkien. Or Lewis.

*Ahem

...

I have often lamented that, despite showing very early promise in literature and composition, I was never sent to a creative writing class...

But then, I've also lamented the absence of fairytale beasts from suburban streets.

...

So what does it mean that, as a child, what I wanted to be was something fundamentally different than what I was?

And what does it say about what I was (am?), that I concocted these stories to fill the unfillable gap?

In ways indescribable, clear only in retrospect, these pretty little fantasies - at first so diametrically opposed to the physicality of "me" - actually served as the very first lights shined onto the soul of me.

Because I am a dreamer. A storyteller. And a believer.

In magic, in my parents, and, finally, in my ability to "be whatever I want to be."

And if I'm the one with the pen? Then I'm the one with the power. And, whenever I choose, I can be "part of that world."

Or any other world I choose.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The DiCaprio Effect

He's beloved by millions.

He sleeps with supermodels.

Oscar is a' courting this year.

And I? Hate his face.

Yup. That's right.

I can appreciate DiCaprio's acting talent, sure, but every time he appears onscreen - despite my sister's cries of adoring ecstasy - I cannot help but want to punch him in the mouth.

Such is my revulsion, I've dubbed the reaction "The DiCaprio Effect."

And it applies to every iteration of actor/tress, politician, somehow otherwise famous person, whose very visage incites the difficult-to-supress urge to begin swinging at the nose/tooth area.

Other offenders of The DiCaprio Effect? Joaquin Phoenix. Mickey Rooney. Dick Van Dyke. Matthew McConaughey. Hayden Pani...however you spell it. (I'd look it up, but Google'd include a picture of her, and then the punching would commence.)

Are these people talented? Yes. NOW LEMME AT 'EM!

Don't get me wrong. I'm not calling these folks ugly - lookin' at YOU, Amanda Bynes. Speaking of, Amanda Bynes? Definitely DiCaprio Effect material - it's rather just a gut reaction. Some inexplicable, uncontrollable urge to muss the puss.

And I know I can't be alone in this.

So go ahead, internet trolls. Have a field day.

Who makes your DiCaprio Effect list?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

My job is really glamorous, so you know...

Know this - I'm editing an entry for Itsa Chair.

That's the product name.

Itsa

Chair

*I hate people

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Hell "Hoth" frozen over!

And when my naked hand grasped the cold metal of the petrol pump, it felt as if I were enduring the Gom Jabbar!