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.

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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.

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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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I try to think but nothing happens!

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Day 13/16
I haven’t written since that night I didn’t want to write.

It seems like a lifetime ago, but I don’t feel too upset about it. I know I signed on for the “500 words for 31 days” challenge, but seriously, I needed a break. So this is my day 13. Well…day 13 of 16 I guess you can say. And what have I done? What’s kept me away? What’s made my brain request a break in the action.

Nothing.

At least nothing specific.

I’ve spent the last three days cranking out mental health assessments, which, if you were to add all the words up, well…let’s just say I could spread them out over a few days to qualify for the daily challenge. I’ve met some interesting people. I’ve watched people cry, laugh inappropriately, curse at people that weren’t physically present and completely go off as they described their family with very colorful metaphors. The week has been interesting because of that, but also emotionally draining.

I’ve escaped that by watching some television and getting lost in fictional worlds. For you science fiction fans out there…if you’re not watching Bitten, Almost Human, or Being Human…you’re seriously missing out. I got my Castle fix in, some Agents of Shield in and got caught up on Dracula, which isn’t actually a bad show. I was a little concerned. After all, they put it on Friday nights which is typically where shows go to die. But it seems to be digging in and holding its own. Plus, I’m kind of stoked that Renfield is a big black dude…and thus far he’s not eating roaching and various bugs.

Now, from the outside looking in, you’d think these things would be distractions. One might consider these things as obstacles to keep me from writing. I would however submit that it was simply a time to recharge. What I’ve learned over the last couple of years about writing is that it’s important to write everyday. It has to become a habit and ultimately…a part of who you are. However, I’ve also learned that breaks are good. We sleep at night to recharge our bodies and we take breaks in between workouts to rest our muscles.

So why then should I not rest my mind and that creative part of me as well?

Writing is already very much a part of who I am now. But too much of a good thing can be bad. Right? I mean, no matter how much you may love something, there are times when you need to step back for a little while and approach it from a different angle…and fully rested. Over the last 3 days, as I’ve relaxed my brain and decompressed from the madness and monotony of mental health assessments, I’ve managed to develop a character for a new series of short stories, in addition to developing a new path for my current short story character to travel down and I’ve also argued…with myself…about a possible alternate ending to the vampire trilogy I’m working on.

So all in all…rest has been berry berry good to me.

But now it’s time to get back to work.

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Just Do It! Sorry Nike…

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Day #12
I didn’t want to write today.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I did want to. Mostly. I mean, I thought about it all day. I had a lot of things to say. Important things to get down. New ideas for stories, possible thoughts for my second novel, which in and of itself is strange considering I have not completed, submitted, or published my first. I wanted to write today, I really did, but I was feeling a little defiant about it because I felt pressured to write. Anyone who knows me knows that anytime I feel pressured or obligated to do something…I will completely shut down. I do the things I do because I want to, because I choose to and because doing them brings me happiness. But as soon as I feel like I HAVE to do something, or someone gives me the impression that I MUST do something…I get a little resentful.

Ultimately, I think what I really needed was a day off. I mean seriously, people work 40 hours per week or more, for five days each week…or more…and they need a day off. That’s really all I needed. I think. And that would have been ok. Right? The strange thing is, I encourage people to take time off to relax their minds and bodies all the time. Another writer taking part in this 31 day challenge posted a statement saying that she was tired and not writing that day…and I applauded her. She wasn’t tired of writing, she was just tired in general and recognized that she needed a break. And some part of me was feeling that today. I was perfectly content to watch football for six hours, maybe have a little rum or some tequila, and then settle into a movie or catch up on the DVR. But…as I recently told someone…we are all slaves to our art.

I am a slave to my art and write now that art is writing.

That’s why I put so much pressure on myself to get something down, especially when I have committed to doing something each day. I dare say the same can be true of anyone who does something that they enjoy each day. If you’re into fitness, you work out a little bit each day. If you’re a chef you cannot wait to get into the kitchen to create something phenomenal. Photographers take their cameras everywhere…just in case that amazing shot comes into view. And quite frankly, at the end of the day, it feels good. I can’t speak for everyone, but for me, it feels as if I’ve accomplished something. It feels as if I’ve successfully taken the day and found a way to decompress from the pressures and stressors…natural and otherwise. Mostly though, it feels as if I’ve taken the English language to explain how I feel so that someone else can take the words, read them, absorb them and hopefully understand one simple truth.

When you do what you love everyday, at least for a little while, it’s no longer obligation…it’s just who you are.

And that’s a little bit of alright!

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The First Day Of The End

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Day 11
He knew it coming!

Yet, like all things, he wasn’t prepared. He lay in bed, eyes wide open, desperately trying to find the sleep that had eluded him for hours. But all he could do was think about the impact of the day. In the deafening silence he could hear the soft gentle breathing of his loving wife. Outside he could hear the cars from the main thoroughfare over 2 blocks away. Down the hall he heard the ticking of the clock given to them as an anniversary gift by his wife’s grandmother.

Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick…

He was thankful it did not chime as that would just add to the distractions already mounting in his mind. He thought back a few hours and remembered how hopeful things felt. He’d had his date night with his wife and together they worked in the kitchen preparing a meal and drinking wine. He thought back to how beautiful she looked as she sliced the tomatoes and remembered almost tearing up at the sight. This woman was so amazing to him. Beautiful, intelligent, funny and just as wild as he was. He’d caught a look at her eyes as she told a story while dumping the fresh cut tomatoes into the salad and he became weak in the knees. He put his wine down, walked over to her and gently caressed her face. She had smiled wide, no doubt taken aback at the sudden show of affection and accepted the kiss he gave her. Her lips were full and tasted like strawberries. She had turned to him, stepping into him to kiss him back and at that very moment, he felt as if he could move mountains and conquer any obstacle.

Even the hell he knew he’d have to endure the next day.

That was last night. A wonderful dinner with the love of his life, followed by an impromptu dance in the living room as The Commodores, The Crusaders, and Earth, Wind & Fire played in the background. Like high school children they made out in various parts of the house, along with doing other things parents hate thinking about their high school children doing when the house is empty. All of it culminating in mind blowing intimacy that was unparalleled in their 15 years of marriage.

As he stared straight up to the ceiling he thought about the fact that all of that should be enough. All of that should be more than enough to help him get through this day…and all the days to come. But in the end, it wasn’t. And now anxiety turned to fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of what was to come when he got out of bed and prepared to attack the day.

Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick…

Minutes turned to hours. His wife had rolled over three times during the night, and now, as her head rested upon his chest with her arm wrapped around him, he looked over to his left and saw the light of the new day. It was here and there was nothing he could do but try to accept it and get through it. He kissed her on the forehead and slid out from under her…careful not to awaken her just yet. He was determined to keep himself busy. If his mind was occupied, he wouldn’t have to deal with what was to come…until it was time.

He walked to the kitchen and started his I-tunes player. It was Sunday morning, the day after date night, and that called for jazz and breakfast in bed for his wife. He took out bread, eggs, milk, cheese, mushrooms, fresh cut chicken, spinach and butter and prepared to go to work. His hands shook as he tried to cut the mushrooms. No matter how hard he tried, he could not stop the thoughts racing through his head. He was afraid of what was to come. There was no getting around it. His heart was beating just a little bit faster, his breathing was labored and his eyes began to water.

And he wasn’t even cutting the onions yet.

He pushed through his feelings of fear and the anxiety that accompanied it and finished preparing the meal. A chicken Florentine omelet for his love, along with bacon, toast, hash browns and cranberry juice. He placed the meal on the serving tray and walked up to the bedroom. She stirred as he entered, awakening slowly as he walked closer. The way she looked now…he imagined was much like the scene where Venus sprang from the large clam shell in the ocean. She was like a rose coming to full bloom as she awoke, smiled and then sat up to receive her meal.
She said thank you and she kissed him and then he watched as she began to taste her meal. She was like a giddy school girl and he loved the fact that he could bring her joy and happiness, especially since he was having so much trouble finding his own on this day. They talked as she ate and her laughter and smile helped his spirit. After she finished, he took the tray away but hurried back because they had a date in the shower.

At least his morning would start of well.

The bathroom was steamy as they stepped out. She toweled off, wrapped it around her and walked into the bedroom. He closed the door behind her and stepped back to the sink in front of the mirror. Wiping the moisture from the glass he stared at himself. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes. He let the thoughts run aimlessly then finally took control. He knew this day would come. He knew that after 16 weeks of games, two bye weeks, three weeks of playoff, a crappy pro bowl and a super bowl…football season would be over and he’d have to deal with it.

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He knew that he would have to wait another six months before the next kick off. Six months before the next pass, bootleg and sack. Six long months before all was right with the world again.

He slowly opened his eyes and stared at himself in the mirror. His heartbeat was slowed a little, his anxiety lessened and he wrapped his towel around his waist and walked toward the door to enter the bedroom. As he stepped in he saw his wife sitting on the bed, naked, with his golf bag between her legs.

“I know how much you hate the first day of the end of the season. So I scheduled an 11am tee time for you”, she said.

He felt a smile on his face. His heart beat faster, harder and with purpose. He looked into her eyes and silently thanked all that was holy for her. Looking over to his right, he saw the time. He had two hours left before tee time…at a golf course that was 30 minutes away. He dropped his towel and walked toward her as she moved the golf bag and moved up on the bed.

Everything was going to be ok.

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Deja Vu All Over Again…

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Day #10
And here I sit.

In front of the computer again thinking, searching, grasping, hoping for some little bit of inspiration that will allow me to place words on this page that are entertaining, intriguing, enlightening and some other “ing” word that I cannot quite put my finger on. This is often how it goes and from what I’m gathering from some other writers I’ve become acquainted with, this is pretty status quo. It’s natural to sit and try to make something from virtually nothing. Some writers have rituals, some have a list of topics…throw a dart and write about whatever it hits. Others read the paper daily and write about something that catches their eye. Others it seems…just flow and it seems seamless.

And those are the folks I want to know.

Despite the lag, the longing, the searching for topics, I still cannot imagine doing anything else. Whether I write something for others to read, write something for my novel or short story series, or just write something to vent my frustrations about some person, people, or event…the writing process is still one of the most amazing forms of expression for me. Artists take images they see and duplicate them on a canvas or in a sculpture and may add a twist to coincide with their own interpretation. Dancers transform thought and feeling into beautiful rhythmic movements that tell a tale of joy, sorrow, pain, or love. You would think it would be easy for a writer. You simply use words that already exist and put them together to tell people what you see and feel. But like any form of art…it’s just not that easy.

And oddly enough…that’s the beauty of it.

The beauty lies in the end result. The struggle, the frustration, the maddening pauses that last minutes, hours, days, weeks, or even months between sentences, thoughts and scenes…may just be one of the most amazing experiences in the world. Because in the end…it all comes together. It flows. You feel the passion in the words, the feelings of the characters, and you find yourself being transported into an entirely new world. The icing on the cake is the ability to share that with others and experience it all again from their point of view.

My only regret with the writing process…is that it took me so long to realize just how much I loved it. I’ve written poems and essays in the past and I’ve loved that…but in the end I was fearful of writing anything more or actually sharing it with others. These days, I feel a little more…fearless. Well, maybe not fearless. Honestly, I’m always concerned when I share my work with anyone. But I put it out there anyway and let the chips fall where they may. Every attempt is a learning experience and a chance to be better the next day.

So whether your passion is writing, painting, dancing, sketching, swimming, or golf…embrace it. Love it. Even if you spend a great deal of time just staring ahead wondering what to do next. Some may say you’re doing it wrong…but at least you’re doing it. For now…I’ll post this…hope you enjoy it and get something out of it…and then tomorrow I’ll sit in front of this thing again waiting for a thought or brilliant idea.

And I’ll love every minute of it!

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Dare I Dream?

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Day #8
I had a dream last night!

I suppose that’s a silly proclamation to make. After all, we all dream. We all drift off into an abyss of subconscious thought and play out scenes from the day. Or we create worlds that are vastly different from the one we walk in each day. We can fly. We’re super spies. We’re singers or musicians we’re and packing the house at Madison Square Garden. Or, like me last night…we dare to dream about the future.

In my dream, I awoke as I always do, naturally and without the banshee like shriek of an alarm clock. The light in the room came from the outside. It was morning…but not a sunny one. It was light certainly, but a grey light, and overcast light and I heard taps against the roof and a sound reminiscent of bacon sizzling in a pan. It was raining. I was neither happy, nor sad. I was in that state most of us are in when we wake up where we contemplate rolling over for 10 more minutes for a few more winks only to be met with a devastating truth…our conscious mind is also awake and it has something to say.

I rolled over anyway because I needed to kiss my wife. I did that every morning you see and today would be no different. I brushed the hair from her face and gently caressed her cheek. Her skin was the softest thing I’d come to know. Smooth and warm…almost angelic. She made me weak in the knees yet filled me with an inner strength that I never thought I could possess. Without her, my world was lifeless. Without her, my world had no rhythm, no heartbeat, no soul…no joy. And that is why I kissed her every morning before I went to work. Whether she was awake or not.

I moved to the edge of the bed after kissing my bride and tucking her in and slowly stood up as my knees reminded me that I was in fact 40 years old. Not simply 40 though, because my best friends were 40 and over and they would just now be returning from 5 mile runs as I awakened. No, I was MY 40 years old. A hard 40 years old. An out of shape, drive to the gym and don’t go in because I can’t find a suitable parking space kind of 40 years old.

I needed to wipe that thought away though, and get my day going. I didn’t want to be late for work.

I walked to my window and looked outside. The park across the street from my condo was empty. No children playing in the early morning hours waiting for the school bus. Just rain and the light rumble of thunder. rainyday

I stepped into my slippers and walked downstairs to the kitchen. I remember being excited to make coffee because I it would be the first time I’d get to use my Keurig coffee maker. My past attempts had making coffee had been…well…not my finest hour. The bad news was, it wasn’t ingestible. The good news was, I was able to use it to seal up a leak or two at the base of my garage. As birthday presents went…my wife had knocked it out of the park on this one.

I grabbed a cup and started my French Vanilla Cappuccino and waited patiently as I realized I was running late for work.

While I waited, I turned the TV on in the kitchen to check the weather, the sports, and the traffic as I always did. The news was typically too depressing for me and this morning news team, well…they…I don’t know…at least they read the teleprompter well. I turned to Mike & Mike after getting the information I needed and waited for my coffee to finish brewing. The first commercial was coming up, and Greenberg did it again. A teaser. Something about Peyton Manning was coming up after the break. I wanted to stay and listen, but I had to get to work. I was screaming inside. Why does he do this to me all the time? Damn you!

I couldn’t stay though. I’d just have to try and look it up on ESPN later in the day. I poured my coffee and took a sip. That first wave of sweet liquid heat rolled across my tongue and I could swear I was on Mount Olympus with the rest of the Gods enjoying Ambrosia. A kiss for my wife, a thunderstorm, and a cup of coffee to start the day. Work was going to be good today.

I walked out of the kitchen and through the living room into my office. I sat at my desk, turned on my laptop and clicked the Pandora icon. I pressed the button for David Sanborn radio and listened as his version of Harlem Nocturne began. Another sip of my coffee. Another click of the mouse. And I was ready to start my work day…

writeratwork

Chapter 22…

writeratwork2

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What Is Your Reality?

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Day #7
When you stop and think about it, human beings are truly miraculous creatures. Where else in the world can you find an animal simultaneously capable of love, compassion, apathy, destruction, greed, and empathy. Not that those are the only characteristics and emotions we’re capable of, they just happened to be the first to bounce around in my head. The human condition, our capacity to do so much and our potential to be even greater than we are…this is what drives me, compels me, and draws me in to the social sciences. I study psychology, criminology, and a host of “ologies” because I want to better understand, not just myself, but everyone. Perhaps it’s a subconscious desire to gain insight into the meaning of life. Perhaps it’s a perverse desire to know and understand everything…a God complex if you will. And perhaps I’m just curious to discover things and put pieces of the human puzzle together in my own way.

And I’m not the only one.

Anyone who knows me, understands that my hatred for reality TV may in fact be greater than a Sith Lord’s hatred of all things Jedi. But it may be the most popular forum in modern media. For someone like me, someone interested in what makes people tick, you’d think I’d be in heaven watching various MTV, Bravo, A&E, and network reality shows. But the simple truth is…I hate it. I despise it. I loathe it. If I were a politician I’d draft a bill to ban it and incarcerate every producer, actor, and key grip involved in the production of that garbage. I know it sounds harsh, but to film “real life” situations and televise them under the premise that we’re going to see how Beverly Hills Housewives react in everyday situations is a slap in the face to people who actually deal with everyday situations.

I’m offended as a man, a television addict, and more importantly, as a writer.

Writers are charged with creating stories that are enjoyable, interesting, thought provoking, titillating and a bunch of other “ing” words. But the way to do that is not so much through the stories, but through the characters. As a social scientist I study people. I watch them closely, monitor reactions to things, take note of interactions, emotions, expressions…micro expressions…because I truly want to understand who we are. By doing that, I can then create characters that people can relate to. When you see Big Wanda yelling at the store clerk in some high end boutique…yeah…sure…that can actually happen. I’ve actually seen it, as has anyone who has had retail experience. But on those shows, it’s sensationalized, it’s glorified…it’s…bad. Big Wanda doesn’t represent the majority. She represents our desire to see chaos. She represents our desire to see personal implosion and provides us a way to feel better about ourselves. We can say in all honesty, “Oh my God! I can’t believe she did that! I would never…”

And the truth is, THAT is the reality. The fact that the majority of us would never…

I avoid “reality” TV like the plague, because it’s not a true representation of who we are. Detective Eliot Stabler is a more accurate representation of who we are. Jax Teller, Walter White, Simon Adebisi, Katniss Aberdeen…these our more accurate representations of who we are. Whether placed in the real world or a fictional world like Panem, these individuals represent the majority of us. Their exploits, their adventures…the things that make them infamous, are events that we can see ourselves in. We wonder how we would react in those situations. We wonder if we’d have the strength to endure as they did. We identify with them because a writer has taken the time to watch, learn about, and understand the human condition and given us characters that are clearly capable of love, compassion, apathy, destruction, greed, and empathy.

Through loose scripting and ingenious editing, Big Wanda’s fight with Marilee looks intense…like they’ll come to blows at any moment. Someone might even get slapped. Then an hour later they’re out a dinner party together being civil because people need to see if they will actually fight. And someone will apologize and they’ll work together on some fund raiser the next week. They’ll talk about each other behind their backs…but they’ll get it done. Yeah…one of them may drag her feet on helping, or try to sabotage the efforts of the other…but they’ll get it done and come back next season.

stabler

When Stabler puts a chair on the neck of a pedophile, he’s not going to apologize later and give him a character reference at the trial. He’s going to reluctantly stop because he’ll catch himself, or, more likely, Benson will anchor him, then he’ll walk away, get sent home and possibly suspended, and his service record will look a little less…scripted. Stabler taps into our emotions and tests our boundaries. He makes us feel his pain because in the end…his pain is ours.

That is reality.

With all that we deal with, day in and day out, isn’t it nice to come home to a show that doesn’t include a main character who’s also planning to try and drop an album next Tuesday? I get the popularity and as a social scientist I understand the draw. But at the end of the day we have to stop thinking that these folks are “real”. We have to realize that a great deal of them are in some pain and dealing with demons that are being exploited for the sake of ratings and higher sales for their perfume line. Do you relate more to the idea of not wanting to kill others when dropped into an arena where the only way out is death? Or do you relate more to Honey Boo Boo and the seemingly gleeful ignorance of all things by her kinfolk?

What is your reality?

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