Sometimes…It Means More

I don’t hate soccer.

Truly…I don’t.

But I don’t particularly care about it either.

So we’re in the midst of this World Cup and I see it taking over my beloved ESPN. Mike and Mike talk about it in the morning, followed by some commentary on “The Herd”. Our local sports guys can’t seem to get enough of it. I mean Jurko is going nuts AND he actually understands what’s going on. But I don’t. The only football I’m interested in starts in 68 days and I’m pulling my hair out strand by strand in anticipation. The only kicking I want to see is a “kickoff”, a punt, a field goal, or an extra point to cap off a 59 yard TD pass from Peyton Manning.

I can watch a baseball game, basketball, even hockey and golf.

Yes…Golf!

But soccer?

I mean, that’s just a lot of running and getting stopped at the last minute by guys that don’t even wear the same color clothes as the rest of their team. Hell, the U.S. team has a dude that looks like Common as the net guardian.

I’ve tried to ignore it. I’ve turned past it. I’ve even turned off my sports radio a time or two. But then, it occurred to me, that this is The World Cup.

fifa-world-cup-2014-01 This isn’t just soccer…or Futbol. Much like the Olympics, it’s much more than that. It’s more than individual players, cool colors and guys who are in better shape than I could ever hope to be. It’s not even about bringing a sport into the spotlight that largely goes unnoticed…or just flat out ignored. Although that always seems to be a great by-product.

No…The World Cup is about pride. Pride in your country, in your heritage, in the land that keeps you, holds you and hopefully loves you. The World Cup is an opportunity for men and women across the globe to put aside their angst toward their respective governments and showcase their patriotism, their ancestry, their history. It’s a time to put aside our ethnocentric ways of thinking and our feelings of global supremacy to recognize that we are all a small part of something bigger…something greater…something…meaningful.

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There’s no capitalism, socialism or communism on the soccer field. Geopolitics and religious hatred are afterthoughts. There are no drones in the air or talks of nuclear disarmament. There are no accusations of espionage or assassination attempts. There’s simply a group of the best soccer players in the world, representing their countries, strengthening the pride spectators have in their respective lands…and in some cases igniting or RE-igniting a dormant, lethargic love of country.

Last Sunday, I found myself watching Team USA versus Portugal. I don’t really know or understand the rules despite having played it as a child. I know you can’t use your hands, run out of bounds, or kick people in the face. And…apparently…you absolutely CANNOT bite anyone! Despite my ignorance, I watched. I watched kick after kick. I watched Common’s doppelganger stop many attempts by Portugal to score. I watched a group of men, men who had to be weary and weakened by the physicality and heat, continue to put their heart and soul into a match that meant…in the big scheme of things…nothing.

My heart raced when the U.S. team attempted to score. A kick forward, a quick shift of the feet to confuse the opponent, a pass to the left, a long kick toward the center seemingly going nowhere only to bounce off the head of a player toward the net and…

…and I cheered. I smiled. I laughed. I felt pride as hundreds of Americans in the stands and dozens of fans in the restaurant cheered with me. I was a part of something bigger. I cheered for my country, just as millions of spectators did for their own and for that moment, we were all a part of something bigger. During this time, just as we are during the Olympics, we are all a part of a global village. We are all singular parts of the human race. For one moment we can all come together to realize that we can truly come together for something other than anger, hate, fear, famine, disease and war.

Now how can we not care about a sport that does that?

Because when you open your eyes and really look at it…it means more.

world-peace

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Meanwhile…in Dark Moon Vale…

The last time I was excited about a book…this happened:

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As I stated in one of my reviews, the beauty of this series is the fact that these men know and embrace who they are while learning to understand and embrace the humanity within. This was doubly true for Saber Alexiares in Blood Redemption. As a vampire born of light and raised in darkness, Saber battled inner demons in a very literal sense. Blood Redemption gave us a glimpse into the heart and soul of a man who had never known that he had either. I waited a long time to read his story, to learn his history, and to experience his journey toward redemption and I was not disappointed. Tessa Dawn delivered a powerful story filled with a wide range emotion. We felt the anger and fear of a man lost, in brilliant union with the love and passion he discovered on his path. Blood Redemption was an amazing addition to the Blood Curse Series and Saber brought us face to face with the conflict that can often exist within us all.

The end of Blood Redemption felt like an old time serial cliffhanger. You’re sitting there, enjoying the story, rooting for the hero, the hero wins, the tale is wrapped up and then…BAM! Saber drops a bombshell that rocks the House of Jadon and sends the Silivasi brothers into action. Thankfully, that action will take flight in the form of:

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And here I am…excited about a book again.

An important aspect to any novel is the ability to draw the reader in and make them feel as if they are a part of the story. In the Blood Curse Series, Tessa Dawn has created characters that fit the description of legendary creatures of the night, but who are, above all, beings who experience and act upon their emotions like ordinary humans. They are…in a sense…us.

Only stronger, faster and deadlier!

And what draws the reader in is the empathy that manifests. We feel for these characters. We wonder about their motivations, we feel their pains and we celebrate their joys and successes. At the end of the day, we want to be them. So if you have not yet taken a journey into Dark Moon Vale and shared in the experiences of the Silivasi brothers and the House of Jadon…get on board. The next fantastic tale arrives on June 12th!

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For more information on this series, check out http://www.tessadawn.com and learn about the author, the books in the series, and the characters.

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I Lost My Virginity on Amtrak

When you think about it, the train ride is more of a mystery to most of us than many other forms of transportation. I mean, why spend days travelling by rail, when you can fly there in a matter of hours? Or rent a car and travel there yourself. Sea travel these days is less about travelling from one port to the next and more about partying on the water and making sure you don’t fall off. There are still those who travel quite frequently by bus, but in the end, that’s just a “find your seat and wait” form of travel. For me and for many people in my world, the train almost seemed like the last frontier. I’ll admit, I romanticized it a bit. In my mind, two days of straight travel, albeit with some stops in between for pick ups and drop offs, was the perfect time to relax, reflect, read, write and let the pressure of life pass me by.

There’s a reason why they say the fantasy is never as good as the reality.

I decided long ago that I would absolutely love to travel by train, long distance, so that I could have that experience, that romanticized scenario I cooked up in my brain. With the vacation time I had accumulated thus far travelling to California by rail was the perfect opportunity to cross this dream off of my bucket list. I think the biggest mistake I made was going into this adventure with expectations. I’d like to think my mind was open, but in hindsight…not so much.

My first annoyance occurred when I realized I had to sit with someone. Let’s face it, with any form of travel we take these day, unless we are traveling WITH someone, we want our own space. When you’re on that plane, sitting by the window, looking outside as they load the luggage and stare hard because you’re looking to make sure your bag is being taken care of, you’re also watching the people boarding and PRAYING that the people coming, the people looking at the seat numbers and letters, are people that will pass you by. Come on now! You know you do it! Some of you may be on a plane doing right now!! Well, apparently, the same principle applies to train rides. My travel companion was already in the seat next to the window and began crossing boundaries EARLY. I settled in, watched others board and observed that our 3:00 PM departure time was going to be a pipe dream. At some point I felt us start to move. I looked outside and things were slowly moving from my left to my right as we pulled out of Union Station…at 3:40 PM.

Second annoyance…CHECK!!

Now I am here to tell you that I have NEVER experienced a smoother ride. With the exception of the occasional side to side sway, you often cannot even tell you’re moving. In many respects it was like riding a cloud. You’d think it would be the most peaceful thing in the world. But…you have to keep in mind that on a train, you do not have to turn off your electronic devices at any time. That means…people can have phone conversations to their hearts delight. The woman across the aisle from me had a lot to say. And she said it loudly. You would think that you would want to keep some things to yourself, perhaps use your inside voice, maybe act like you’re in a library. Or…better yet…go to the car with the cafe and observation lounge. Well…no…that would make too much sense. And the woman next to her was no better. I learned that her new weight loss pill doesn’t make her as hungry, nor does it affect her period…which she just started two days prior…which was apparently right on time.

Third annoyance…CHECK!!

So the journey continued, despite the loud noise surrounding me. I traveled through small towns in Illinois that I had not visited since my work as a private investigator. It was interesting to see some of the small changes that had taken place over the years. Brought back a few memories and some of them found their way to my pad of paper as I began to write. All in all, the first night was not terrible. I stayed up late and watched as we rolled in to Kansas City, MO around 1:00 AM. We were behind schedule, even more than 40 minutes at this point. But that was alright with me. We would still arrive in L.A. with enough time for me to make my connection to San Diego. With that in mind, I put on my headphones, turned on my “Jazzy” playlist and listened to Sanborn, Sample, Bob James, Nora Jones and others play and sing until I drifted off.

When I awoke the next morning, I hit the GPS on my iPhone and discovered that for some reason…we were still in Kansas. It was 6am…ish…and we were still in Kansas and at this point, over an hour behind schedule. I hit the cafe cart, got some breakfast and sat on the observation lounge. I took a picture of the sunrise in the East and before I knew it…everything was just fine. Kansas Sunrise I sat for a while and just watched America in all its glory, in all its rustic beauty pass by at about 60 mph.

Wait!! 60 mph??!! Why the hell are we not travelling any faster?

I never got an answer to this question. In fact, I never really asked. For some reason, it did not seem to bother anyone else but me that all of us have driven on our respective expressways, freeways and highways at higher rates of speed than we were on open track…with NO other traffic. In fact, nobody seemed too worried about anything. The alcohol was fully stocked. There was food and the freedom to travel from one car to the next. The chairs reclined, foot rests could be positioned well. Plenty of people were lost in books, movies and TV shows on their laptops and tablets, or, in some cases…each other. Nobody was worried about anything at all.

Colorado

Until the train stopped and the power went out in the middle of a mountain range near the Colorado/New Mexico border.

Now…when the power goes out on a train that doesn’t just mean the lights are down and we’re stopped. It means, no lights, no bathrooms, no air…and for the alcoholics aboard who did not have enough cash…no booze because the credit card machines were not working. That was more relevant to them than the fact that the dining cars would be on hold because FDA regulations state that they cannot serve food unless it’s properly refrigerated and stored. Apparently a power outage affects this.

So here we were, LITERALLY the little engine that could. Or, more appropriately, the little engine that could not. Our engine gave up, died, retired, crawled into a corner and curled up in the fetal position, took its ball and ran home because it was too hot and tired to play anymore. It took them an hour to figure this out. During which time they told us that we’d be on our way in a matter of minutes as they addressed a small electrical problem. Mind you…the plumes of smokes billowing upward from the engine were a clear indicator to me that we’d be there for a while.

But what do I know? I’m no mechanic or engineer.

Four hours and some significant minutes later, we were underway. Engines were transported up from other places, swapped out and we were back on the rails moving…at a snails pace. At this point, we were just over 5 hours behind schedule. We crawled into New Mexico and eventually Arizona and at some point in the wee hours of the morning on Saturday we found our way to California.

Arizona

Mind you…I was supposed to be getting off the train in L.A. at 8:30 AM. But instead I arrived promptly at 2:40 PM. I had stopped counting my annoyances somewhere in Kansas, most likely when looking at the sunrise. The mountain delay was less of an annoyance and more…a cosmic joke that I just was not in on. The mom changing her child’s diaper in their seat thus filling the car with an unholy smell that seemed to signal the end of all things…yeah…I can’t even label that as a annoyance or joke. That was just…well…fill in the blank yourself.

The most delightful aspect of the trip took the form of an Irishman. He was short, he was fit and he was quiet. He was the type of quiet where you wondered if anything bothered him…ever. I don’t know his name. In fact, I never asked. But I watched him closely. He walked up and down the aisle, from car to car over the course of the trip seemingly looking for an empty seat. I never asked why. As a writer, no answer he could have given me would be as good as those I had going on in my head. But, as a writer I don’t think I could have ever written the things he did in a novel to the point where they would be believable. This man, during his travels from car to car, looking for an ideal seat, secured food and coffee for an elderly woman so she would not have to get up and travel to the cafe car. Each time he got up or walked the aisle, he acknowledged her and asked if she needed anything. Again, I never knew his name and I do not even remember where it was along the trip that he joined us. But I do know that he was a good man.

And as I think back to him now and remember his kindness and patience…that wipes the slate clean for me.

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I’m Old Enough…

There is this woman I know, who may just be the most adorable human being alive. Some call her Sister Mary Alice, some call her Mama…I call her Grandma. Yes, of course I’m biased. You’d probably like to nominate your own mother or grandmother for the title of “most adorable”. In the back of your mind, you’re polishing pistols and ready for a duel at dawn to make your point and satisfy the honor of your “most adorable”. I don’t need a weapon. All I need to do is get you in a room with my grandmother for five minutes and you’ll be hooked…and apologizing to me.

Then you’ll be mad at me for not introducing you to her sooner.

My grandmother is, without question, from a different time. As I listen to her and approach my 40th birthday, I soon realize that I too am from a different time. It’s interesting how we view the past and miss certain aspects of it, even from different perspectives. Today she talked about the news and how it’s all bad. It scares her to the point where she refused to open her window at 2:30pm to cool off the house for fear of someone breaking into the house through it. So…I sat with her, sweating, still thinking she’s the most adorable woman in the world. She talked about the days in the past though when leaving the window open wasn’t a problem. She talked about the fact that kids used to play outside and people didn’t feel the need to carry a gun to feel safe. She was certain that I either wasn’t around or simply did not remember those days.

But she was wrong.

I’m old enough to remember the wonder of movies on laser disc and the sheer joy of going to the home of friend’s of my parents to watch a movie on a giant album. It was cutting edge! It looked expensive! And it was probably something we would never get. I didn’t care so much about the laser disc though once we got a VCR (yeah, we skipped over Beta Max). You see, I’m old enough to not only remember VCR’s (hell I still have one around here somewhere), but I’m old enough to remember TOP LOADERS. We had a VCR unit with a wired remote control that had only a few, essential buttons. It worked quite well until the dog got excited one day, ran through the house, became tangled in the cord and took the VCR for a ride with him to the front door. Fortunately, they were made of metal instead of plastic which made them durable.

The remote control though…not so much!

I’m old enough to remember the days when kids could play on the streets until the street lights came on. The only exception was on the nights our parents were out with us as well. I’m old enough to remember having the first Green Machine on the block, the Rubik’s cube and the Speak & Spell. There was life before DirecTV and Comcast. We called it ON TV. 90's porn
I’m old enough to remember having to sneak upstairs into my grandparents room to flip the switch so we could watch movies after 10pm. Why me? Because I was from out of town, visiting for the summer, meaning I was less likely to incur the FULL WRATH!

I’m old enough to remember Friday Night Videos and the world premiere of THRILLER. I remember the first Walkman…followed a few years later by the first Walkman that could also get AM/FM radio. I’m old enough to remember when the Chicago Sun-Times was only $.35, when comic books were $.75 and gas was $.99. I’m old enough to remember Joe Montana taking snaps, Rick Sutcliffe on the mound and the controversy over Iran/Contra and the Star Wars Defense Initiative.

The trip down memory lane is not an effort to say things were better in the past than they are now. Or vice versa for that matter. It is not a contest to see if you remember more or an effort to say my life was better. No. The trip down memory lane is my attempt to remind myself that even though I’m in debt up to my eyeballs and may be unhappy with the way certain things have played out over the years…I’ve had a good life. Honestly, I don’t need to look much farther than the eyes of my son or grandmother to see that. Talks with either of them are heart warming, satisfying and always entertaining. Talks with them remind me of how wonderful things truly are. The experiences, good and bad, have taken me on an amazing journey in which I have been able to grow along with the world around me. Things have changed, people have changed, but all in all I am thankful to be here and to share the ups and downs of life with good friends and a loving family.

I’m old enough to remember a great deal.

And for that…I’m am blessed.

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Lessons

So, in 14 days, I will be 40 years old.

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I suppose that’s a milestone of sorts. Hell, as a black man…no…as a human being, living in this violent, selfish and widely undisciplined day and age…it’s almost a miracle. If I had followed my game plan, I’d be in my 12th year at the FBI. I’d be undercover of course, so few people would know it…but I’d be wrapping up a long term assignment, heading off to a month long vacation and returning to lead my own UC Unit. I’d also be driving around in a jet black Stingray, teaching part time at Quantico and working with some close friends to open a local sports bar, above which would be a loft in which I’d be living. Did I mention it would have an amazing view as well?

Yeah…widely undisciplined applies to the person describing the world at large too.

As all people do when they reach a milestone, I look back and reflect on what I’ve done, what I’ve learned and think about what’s left to do. We present ourselves with our very own “state of the union” address. Well…more like…a “state of me” address. I’ve taught college classes about this. In developmental psychology we discuss the stages of development and I stop right around here and spend…a little extra time. Most of my students are returning to school, they’re around my age, they’ve had significant life experience…so it’s definitely warranted in the lesson plan. We laugh, we sigh and we frown or make that “awkward face” when we think about something from our past that we regret, or that thing that we are COMPLETELY and ABSOLUTELY embarrassed by. Then we take that moment, dissect it and attempt to learn a lesson from it so that it feels less foolish. I think in the end though, the more you have accomplished after that embarrassing moment, the less you think about it. You have little reason to dwell when all in your world is going well.

When you’re happy…embarrassing moments are just fun anecdotes to share during the half time show at the Super Bowl party.

So we reflect in an effort to determine where we are in life. We reflect to determine whether or not we’ve accomplished enough to turn those moments into funny little stories. We reflect at every milestone to make certain we have not wasted a large block of time as we get closer and closer to our end. And when we reflect, many of us make that one fundamental mistake. Instead of looking within…many of us look outside of ourselves. We compare what we have done against the accomplishments of others and measure whether or not we have been successful. I’ve been doing that for…just under 40 years.

14 days less than 40 to be exact.

Happiness comes from within. If you want to be happy, satisfied and content with your life, your experiences and your accomplishments, you must first be happy with yourself. You must first appreciate, respect and love the person that you are. And in the end, you have to focus on you. It’s not selfish as much as it is necessary. I have said it before in previous blogs, in conversations and implied it when re-posting those “deep” sayings on Facebook. Be good to others, love and respect others, appreciate and learn from others, get excited about learning something new about others…and in the end…remember to love yourself. It enriches your life experience and sets an amazing example for the generations that follow.

So in my “State of Me” address, I am here to tell you, that the state of me is…well…not so strong…but strengthening. I’ve spent my life comparing myself to the perceived success of others. I have found happiness in giving. Giving myself in the service of others so that THEIR “State of Me” addresses are fun, light and happy. I have wallowed in self pity and disconnected from others to avoid the pain of loss, heartbreak and abandonment. And overall, I’ve been largely angry and unhappy about things in general and have done little to change. I’ve done this because I’ve been confused about who I am…and ultimately…because I have not taken the time to appreciate and love…me…unconditionally.

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When I look out at others, whether through direct contact or when browsing social media…it’s clear that I am not the only one. We are angry, we are bitter, we are embarrassed and we are defensive about it. We’ll deny that we are and get angry at the person who loves us enough to point it out…and then we’ll “unfriend” them. We validate our lives by how others perceive us, when in the end, we should validate our lives by how we perceive ourselves. Our mistakes and failures are just as important as our successes and the way we react…or rebound from them…will be largely determined by the feelings we have about ourselves.

So, in 14 days, I will be 40 years old. The ride so far has been interesting. It has been painful, sad, hurtful, joyful, confusing, maddening, loving, passionate, hopeless and hopeful. Some may look back and see that I’ve spent it giving to others. Some may look back and say I’ve been selfish. I look back and see a giant ball of organized chaos. I look back and see that one thing is missing. I did not love, appreciate, respect…or even like myself enough and that has unfortunately affected every other aspect of my life.

In 14 days, I will be 40 years old…and today I will start doing something I should have done years ago. Something we all should have begun years ago. Today, I will accept, respect and like…me. And with that, I will enjoy each and every day of the next 40 years.

San Diego Sunset

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Moving through the Ether…

Chapter 1

I don’t want to write the great American novel.

That’s just too much responsibility.

I mean, think about it. You start doing things like that and all of a sudden you become the “voice of a generation”. Me? The voice of a generation? If things get so bad that a generation of people start listening to me…I’m sorry, but I’m moving to Canada.

Or maybe Prague. Prague seems…interesting.

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No…I don’t want to be the voice of a generation. What I wouldn’t mind though is being the inspiration for the voice of a generation. I speak my mind and share my thoughts (or…write in most instances) for a couple of reasons. First, to get them out of my head because they just tend to get clogged with all of the other things in there. And secondly, and probably more importantly…at least for me, to say the things that others want to say but for one reason or another choose not to. Maybe they’re unable. Maybe they’re afraid. Maybe…just maybe, they’re like me in that they feel they’re the only ones feeling the way that they do.

So that’s where I come in.

I’m that devil on your shoulder daring you to speak your mind. But I’m also the angel reminding you to say it in the right way…so that you’re heard. And in the end, I’m the one you can lean on to remind you that you’re safe and not alone. To my left, there’s another like you…like us. On your six…there’s yet another. We are here to support you as we all travel through the cosmos…living…learning…experiencing. No matter how you choose to express yourself, you are not alone in how your feel. You simply have to find your medium…your art…and just let it fly…like a leaf on the wind.

And so I write. Whether it’s through poetry, a blog, a short story or novel, I write. Through my characters, through my words, I express my anger, my frustration, my love, my hate…everything that I see, everything that I feel…everything that I am rests within those words. But there is one problem with all of it though and it is a problem that I suspect many others experience with the things they love.

I don’t do it everyday.

I want to…I need to…I have to.

But I don’t.

I have a lot on my mind. I have a lot to get out. And I am not alone. All of those feelings you have, simmering, ready to boil over in some theatrical, chaotic rage…well…I have them too and they have to come out. Use your art, your passion, your…whatever…to relieve that pressure that’s building within before you erupt. Take care of yourself by expressing your thoughts and feelings and take comfort in the fact that you are not alone in any of this. Move through the ether to get from one spot to the next before you’re forever lost in it with no way to return. Dance, paint, sculpt, fly, teach, write or build your way through it. Just work on getting through it in a way that makes you happy.

It will be different for you. The way you express yourself. It will be yours and yours alone to share with the world. And if we all do it…in our own way…but at the same time do it together…then perhaps we can all be voices of a generation. Perhaps not THE voice…but at the very least…a voice.

I don’t want to write the great American novel.

I just want to write.

Writing4

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I Found Myself Watching The Voice With My Father…

There’s an interesting thing about death. It surrounds us, stalks us and stands by in the shadows just waiting. Patiently and silently waiting to make itself visible. Standing by, forever on call and always at the ready to punch the clock…and go to work.

But in the shadow of death, we are surrounded by life.

We are surrounded by friends, family and memories. Some of them good, some of them sad and some…well…some are just lost in shades of grey. Nevertheless, they make us who we are. They remind us of an inner strength. Sometimes…of a forgotten innocence. All in all, we learn from these experiences and deep down, whether we realize it or not, we hope that it’s enough to keep us going…enough to keep the reaper at bay until we’ve fulfilled something.

Or…at least until we’ve had enough fun in the attempt.

My grandfather passed away…one month ago yesterday. A long life to be sure. The Patriarch of a large family. A family of good men and women, strong, intelligent men and women. And I don’t just say that because I happen to be one of them.

No…I say that because as sad as it sounds, it was his death that finally made me see, or at least, helped me acknowledge, the strength and intelligence within us. Don’t get me wrong…I’ve always known it. I suppose though I’d never truly FELT it before. Families rally around one another when confronted with death. They provide support, love, laughter…all of the things necessary to remind you that you’re not alone. And in those moments you learn their depth. You learn who they are, you learn who they are not and you realize things that were always present but maybe…just maybe…you did not see.

Or you chose to ignore.

You see for me, for the last decade or so, I’ve been a bit distant from my family. It’s been gradual, but steady…and it has been completely my fault. I’ve felt misunderstood, forgotten, ignored…left dangling in the wind like sheets drying on the line. At the end of the day though, it was up to me to NOT feel that way. It was up to me to engage more, become and stay more involved and integrated. It was up to me to speak up, voice my thoughts and be heard.

Or at least feel that way.

But instead I wallowed, grew resentful and distanced myself. Until I was needed. Until the shadow was cast over us all. Family comes together to stand strong against the shadow. The bond is strengthened, along with the loyalty and love. It stands strong against the shadow and illuminates everything. Even those things we previously did not see…or chose to not see.

That light had shown brightly for me the night before my grandfather passed. I sat in the house he’d shared with my grandmother since what seemed like the dawn of time. The same house in which they’d raised their family. The same house I spent many summers with my cousins as a child. I sat with my grandmother, my aunt and my father and watched…listened…and smiled. Things became a little more clear. While there I think I learned and understood more in 30 minutes than I had in 30 years. In those moments, all of the disconnect I’d felt in the past…the segregation…the feelings of abandonment…all of that washed away and it became apparent just what I was.

I am that which came before me. And I am that which follows me.

And after those moments of clarity…I found myself watching The Voice with my father.

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