Friday, April 21, 2017

You Dropped a Bomb on Me

  I remember walking down the hall with a co-worker one day. Couldn't tell you now what we were talking about exactly. I do remember saying to him,

  "I don't know, I like working in a multi-cultural place." 

  For some reason I always remember him turning to me as we 
walked and asking,

  "What college did you go to?"

  I look at him quizzically,

  "What do ya mean?"

  "Well, not many people I know would use that expression." He chuckled.

  Though we remained friends neither of us are at that company anymore. A lot has happened since then and I haven't stayed in contact the way I should. Sorry about that my friend.

  If I had bothered. If I had cared enough about myself to finish college that would've been a great observation. Thing is I didn't. I partied my way out of school and started living. That has led to, well, a lot of low paying jobs basically. 

  I have though learned an awful lot not going to school. I've worked with people from a good many places. And I'm a listener, an observer, a questioner. I want to learn about people. Their culture. What makes them. I have had a Vietnamese person surprise me with food at work. Because I talked to him. I was interested. The homemade dumplings and whatnot were excellent by the way. I've talked with my Burmese co-worker about enough things he says I am like a brother to him. Because we got to know each other. Maybe because I actually learned his name and don't call him "Chinatown" like a lot of co-workers do. Maybe. 

  I'm not telling you this 'cause I'm such a great person or anything. I actually just wanted share with you something I've just recently learned. At the time it really bummed me out that I wasn't aware of this piece of history. I suddenly felt like there was a gaping hole in the way I should be seeing things. 

  Brass tacks now I guess, eh?

  It all started with Make America Great Again. 

  I'm at work one morning discussing my concerns about the election with the guy who works next to me. Now, there are only two of us at that point in our little department. Me and John. He reminds me of myself sometimes. Well, I mean except that he's a tall black man and I'm a dumpy white guy. Otherwise spittin' image. No, I mean we've made similar mistakes. Share the same outlook on some things. And he likes to know things. 


  We are discussing Donald Trump and the slogan. At one point John  wonders just when America was great. Was it all the way back to slavery? 

  I honestly can't remember the next bit of the conversation. How he explained that. I do know it was a time heightened by police officers killing unarmed African American men. A presidential candidate was being supported by a former KKK leader. For me personally it was a time of foreboding. It was a time I was worried for what was to come for a lot of my friends. That was pretty much anyone I knew who wasn't a white straight male. 

  Believe it or not that wasn't the most important part of the conversation for me that day. We talked about a lot things. I'm pretty sure it was while John was telling me about his grandmother and how he liked to read her books when he mentioned something about The GAP Band. How he had to tell his mother what the band name and their song You Dropped a Bomb On Me is all about. 

  See the band was originally called Greenwood, Archer, and Pine after the historic Greenwood neighborhood in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It's where they grew up. It's where their history resides. 

  It was a booming time for Tulsa way back in 1910. Oil had been discovered in 1901. Oklahoma would become a state in 1907. Can you imagine the whirlwind? Oil companies throwing money around. Businesses springing up and thriving. Life must've been great. That was on the south side of the tracks. What about life north of the Frisco railroad line?

  Well, in Little Africa as white Tulsans called it things were on the rise also. African Americans had been moving to Oklahoma for quite some time. They were looking for a change. For a chance. To try and escape racism. They succeeded on a few of those fronts. In fact Little Africa eventually came to be known as the Black Wall Street. The people who had taken a chance on themselves soon lived in a community that contained: churches, a library, many lawyers, doctors, and successful businessmen. People looking for change showed they were so much better than many people perceived. 

  Wow. I don't about you, but I'm diggin' this story so far. A once enslaved people shining and taking full advantage of freedom. What could be cooler than that? Who wouldn't applaud that?

  I guess it turns out a lot of people. 'Cause it all changed. Drastically. 

  Starting on May, 31 and ending on June, 1 1921 white rioters destroyed the Greenwood neighborhood. 

  I was stunned. I mean blown away. Of all the things I've heard, learned, read, how on earth could I have not known about this? How? 

  Because it isn't mentioned anywhere. Certainly not in any school history books I've ever seen. It's not something covered during Black History Month. The pictures of lynchings, and people having fire hoses and dogs turned on them never had a caption that said, "You think this is bad look up the Tulsa Race Riot." 

  Why? Why hadn't I heard of this? 

  Well, if we all forget about events like this it's so much easier for the white media to concentrate on other bad things. Like rioting after the Rodney King verdict, or street gangs, black on black violence, welfare, absent fathers. Anything except examining white history. Anything except trying to understand someone else's viewpoint. 

  What would you do, where would you be if you had been part of a segregated people who were beaten down whenever you succeeded? Where would you be if the dream of desegregation actually led to poorer conditions for you and yours? Where would you be if your friends and family were jailed at four times the rate as other people for the same offenses? Or your voting rights were constantly being attacked?

  Before you blame someone for their condition take a look at how they got there. 

  There are so many more things I'd like to say about this. So many. I'll add some links in a bit so you can read more if you'd care to. 

  Remember how I was saying John reminds me so much of me? It's because he's made of the same star stuff as all of us. 

  As Red Green says, "Keep your sticks on the ice. I'm pullin' for ya."

  All of ya. 



Thursday, May 5, 2016

The Fight Lesson

I’m not a fighter.

"Fighter" seems to be a label many people enjoy applying to themselves as a sort of shorthand for toughness and resilience. But neither of those things have ever really applied to me; at least, not in the way that people who take up such labels hope to capture and reflect.

Ugh. That’s messy.

I’ll say it another way.

I cook but wouldn’t call myself a chef. There’s a measure of intention and professionalism imbued in that designation. That is, not only do chefs cook and enjoy cooking, they are, in large part, defined by cooking. Chefs cook, then, because it is purposefully and intentionally both what they do and who they are.

Fighters fight for the very same reasons. It’s not only something they do, but something they do intentionally, something they seek out as a matter of purpose and, something they are largely defined by and, ostensibly, something they enjoy. The designation describes not just a particular trajectory, but a trajectory paired with an eagerness to perform the deed to which one is especially suited.

I fall short of all of those standards.

I have, at best, mid-length arms ending in thin fragile wrists with reedy pre-arthritic fingers sprouting from the ends of them. I’m not just skinny, but skinny in the way that suggests that I’ll always be skinny (or, at least, very likely injure myself should I ever attempt anything more taxing than a treadmill).

Also I talk. I talk a great deal. I talk my way both into and out of trouble, sometimes at the same time. And, while an argument can be made that trash talking is a prominent (if not absolutely necessary) aspect of being a fighter, my trash talking lacks the confidence and implied threat of brute force. Instead, I talk smack in the same way that your hipster uncle might comment on your ironic t-shirt. It’s a snide sort of humor willfully obfuscated and isolated by condescension. My quirky jabs are roundabout word exercises meant to satisfy my weird ego. It’s masturbation, really. But like… brain masturbation. With words. Speaky-self wordness. For myself.

I think I’ve made my point.

All of this meandering serves as a sort of preemptive apology for the story that follows - “sort of” because I’m only partly sorry for what I did. It was wrong – very wrong – but I’ve both forgiven myself and reconciled the whole affair as a learning experience. And if I learned from it, if it ultimately served to make me a better person, could it really have been all that bad?

No, right? Right!


Ok. Anyway.

One time I hit a girl in the head with a brick.

We had just moved into the neighborhood into a brand new condo – so new, in fact, that it was still somewhat under construction when we moved in. The banister and front screen door had yet to be mounted, and the laundry room was still somewhat incomplete. It was the first place we lived in that wasn’t an apartment. That felt important, but I couldn’t describe exactly why. Yet the look I saw on my mother’s face when she talked about owning it seemed as close to an explanation as I’d ever get.

Apart from a used car, we hadn’t ever owned anything of significant value before, and here we were, in a new place - in our new place. Mom’s pride was contagious, and set off adjacent feelings of hope and progress. We wouldn’t always be poor. We were becoming less poor all the time! Nothing was perfect, but everything was going to be alright. The evidence of upward mobility was literally all around us.

But the new neighborhood was strange and noisy, configured in an unfamiliar way, a way that didn’t feel at all like home. It was a jumble of familiar things; cars, yellow brick apartments, bodegas with colorful canopies, cars with duct-taped bumpers, girls playing double-dutch, boys on the stoop with boom boxes. But they were all made foreign in their arrangement. “Here” wasn’t “there”, and while that was as apparent as a thing can be, it was nonetheless disconcerting.

Nevertheless, the first night in the new place – in our new place – felt more like home than the old apartment ever had. Mom, who had always worked multiple jobs to keep our family above water, still devoted a large part of her time to work. But when she got home, she wasn’t tired, certainly not tired in the same way she’d been in the old place.

It used to be that she’d come in from the day, frazzled and somehow still focused, asking each of us about our day at school, our homework, all while making dinner. In the new place, she’d come in and sit on the couch, exhausted but satisfied. We, too, responded differently; making less demands of her time, becoming more understanding, more accommodating, “Do you want some ice tea, Ma?”, hushing one another from taxing her with bad news or permission slip begs before she got a chance to decompress.

On top of all of this, we made new friends almost immediately. Mom had moved us to the new place right after school ended in the summer, so we landed in a neighborhood of kids buzzing with the bright and infinite newness of summer vacation. After we’d loaded all the boxes and things into the house, mom sent us outside. “Go make friends,” she said, in the same way that she said “Go to bed” or “Go do your homework”. There was no joy in it, only insistence – “Get out and leave me alone for a while.” Though we had no real idea how exactly to make friends (who does?), we did as we were told and walked out into the strangeness.

We made it half a block before, out of nowhere, a kid called out, “YA’LL WANNA PLAY HELPING TAG?”



Ten minutes later, my new friend David was using my bald head as a scrying orb to find the other kids. “The Head!” he cried. “The Head sees all! Oh yes! No one escapes The Head!”

And, just like that, we had friends.

We learned from them that our condo had once been an open field where the kids would all play football. “Now you live there” was an accusation leveled only once, but the message was clear: As the newcomers who’d robbed them of their playground, we had a debt to pay.

In recompense for our trespass, we offered an adjacent neighbor’s yard as a substitute football field. Granted, it wasn’t ours to offer – we would most likely be shooed off the property – but we took the chance anyway. We were kids. And it was grass. Grass is nature. And as far as we were concerned, nature didn’t “belong” to anyone.

Thankfully, the first time we tried to play a game there, the property owners simply admonished, “Don’t ya’ll mess up this lawn” before sitting down on their porch to watch us play.

It went like that for weeks. We’d meet up at the field midmorning and play through the afternoon, sometimes into the evening long after the sun had set. We kept score but it didn’t matter much once the game was over. The next time, there’d be new teams, new trick plays, new bodies arriving from different neighborhoods, new injuries to work on and around and so on.

It was a ritual in that way, though it never felt repetitive. And, while we hardly ever distinguished one game from another in conversation, each iteration had its own charm, its own unique excitement. Football was a reason to come together, even (especially!) in the rain and snow, even our bodies suggested that we might need a day off to recover. Staying home meant not being a part of that special thing that defined “us” apart from “not us”. So we played, even when not playing made more sense. It was who we were.

One afternoon, we were beating the hell out of one another in an especially brutal game of backyard football, filling the air with the sharp electric stink of blood and pre-teen testosterone. For hours, we thundered and snorted across the field, tearing up the ground with our knees and elbows, covered in mud, issuing blood and snotty projectiles. Not one of us was smart enough to know when to quit, and that was half the fun. The game seemed like it might last forever. And it very well could have, had we not been interrupted.

He couldn’t have been more than nine or ten years old, roughly our same age. He appeared out of nowhere, strutting across our field dressed in mustard stains and baby fat. He wandered through all our hot skin and hatred, singing songs and digging his toes into the grass. At first, we figured he was sent by his parents to kick us off the lawn. We had long since abandoned any thought of being careful with the lawn. Over the course of the game, had stomp-trudge-slammed a muddy runway from one end of the green grass to the other. But he didn’t seem interested in the damage we’d done. After it became apparent that he posed no threat, we continued our game, plowing past him, occasionally warning him to stay out of our way lest he get hurt.

He seemed only to be watching at first, strolling through unoccupied territory, picking at the grass and humming to himself. And, even though it was his lawn (certainly more his than ours), his presence there felt like an invasion. It wasn’t long before we stopped warning him and starting bumping him here and there, hoping he’d get the point and steer clear. Not only did he stay, after a while, he started mocking us, barking harmless insults while sitting in the middle of our man-child war.

We gave up on bumping him and decided to ignore him entirely. When he realized that we weren’t going to pay him much attention, he walked off the field, frustrated, ambling toward his house mumbling to himself. Relieved to be rid of him, we played on as if nothing had ever happened.

I was the first of us to notice that he’d come back. I got my first clue when he came up behind me and whacked me in the back of the head with a lawn sprinkler. The others noticed that something was awry when I didn’t lineup for the next play and quickly congregated around us.

I was trapped, then. I had no intention of fighting but I had been struck and now, surrounded by friends, a fight was inevitable. A fight was, in fact, happening. All that remained to be seen was what part I’d play in it.

I tried to make light of it, standing in front of the doofy kid, clenching my fists and grinding my teeth, rubbing my head, hoping he’d apologize and claim it was an accident. Instead, he laughed and pointed (pointed!) at me, singing “NAH NAH NANAH NAAAAAH”. Normally, despite his transgression, I would have walked away and let him be. But my friends were watching. And judging. And I was an angry and embarrassed ten year old boy. So I socked him one.

I connected somewhere between his left eye and his nose with the inside of my clenched fist. Immediately, my friends began to whoop and cheer, shouting insults and encouragements at the top of their lungs. He reeled and came back like a teeter-totter, swinging and screaming with idiot determination. I dodged his swing easily and hit him again, harder, this time nailing him on the temple. He stumbled back and set himself into some sort of chubby battle stance. I doubled my fists and glared at him, hoping even now that he’d just go away. When he hollered and began to charge, I braced myself for impact, giving up on any hope of a peaceful resolution.

He charged at me, ducking his head and howling. I waited until he was almost upon me before dipping to the right and tripping him with an outstretched leg. He landed face first and slid across the mud/grass. After a second, he got up covered in dirt, looking mean as hell. My friends began making pig noises, shouting at him to go home. It was all very confusing and frustrating. I didn’t want to hurt him – I just wanted him to go away. But the fight was on. And, as easy as it had been to start, I had no idea how to stop it.

The next time he swung at me, I wasn’t quick enough to get out of the way. The punch landed uselessly on my shoulder. He may as well have bought me flowers. The next swing missed completely, sending him spinning 180 degrees in the process. I kicked him as hard as I could, knocking him to the ground for a second time. “Go home, man”, I said. It came out sounding more like a plea than a demand. I was angry and scared and I was done fighting. My hands were shaking and I felt myself on the verge of tears. I prayed he would just stay down.

By now, the kid was down on all fours, snotting and crying all over himself. “Go home”, I said again, this time with a bit more force. Eventually, he picked himself up still gasping and snorting through his tears. I doubled my fists again, preparing for the inevitable charge. Instead, he turned and ran towards home, wailing like a siren. I let my hands relax. The fight was over.

I endured the ensuing high fives and hurrahs without much pride. I hadn’t wanted to whip the kid but he all but asked for it. At least, that’s what I told myself. I couldn’t tell if I did the right thing by defending myself, or if I had just been a bully. It felt like both things at once. The cheers and such only made it that much worse. I decided then that I had been wrong, because it had felt wrong, and that seemed closer to the truth than any justification I could conjure. Nevertheless, I was just glad he was gone. My friends were already inflating the fight to much more than it had been, and I was just glad that it was over. They returned to our game, energized by the violence but I decided to sit out the next couple plays to gather myself. Normally, sitting out would draw insults, but I got a pass. In fact, for the next 15 minutes or so, wanted or not, I had the highest respect from my friends.

Then she showed up.

As it turned out, the kid had gone inside, wailing his fool head off to summon his big sister – a large sasquatchian woman with linebacker shoulders and legs like redwood trees. She threw open her door shouting, descending the steps of her front porch growling and panting with rage. The Amazon wanted blood.

What she yelled was, “Who hit my little brother?”. What I heard was “Fee, Fie, Foe, Fum!”.

Suddenly, I had to pee.

“I was playing football!”

“We didn’t do nothin’!”

“Don’t be mad ‘cause Drew knocked yo’ lil’ brotha out!”

On and on went the innocent ones. She glared around at our number, chewing her bottom lip and scanning for a guilty face. It was only a matter of time before her eyes finally locked on to mine and, when they did I knew I had had it.

Distantly, I hoped that I would wet myself.

I stood there, my sense of fight or flight completely short circuited as she came on like a steam engine, swearing and screaming. I blinked. She pushed me with all her might and sent me flying. I coasted through the air before landing on my shoulders and rolling over, coming to rest on my stomach. It had hurt. It had hurt badly. And she was far from being done with me.

The wind had been knocked out of me and I was scraped up in a few places. I lay there, trying to catch my breath, somewhat afraid to move. By this time, my friends had retreated to a safe distance and were cheering me on. She stomped towards me, yelling threats and swearing. I started scrambling backwards on my hands and knees when I saw that she was coming closer but I wasn’t fast enough. She kicked dirt and rocks in my face, grunting with each snap of her leg.

“Go home, lil’ boy” she growled, staring at me with horrible eyes.

I choked on dirt, spitting out grit and a few small rocks. My friends began heckling her mercilessly. She drew towards them, screaming and threatening them with similar violence. The boys scattered. Her chest heaving, she looked around, daring someone else to challenge her. After a few moments, seemingly satisfied, she spun her considerable bulk around and started home with her head held high.

All the respect I had earned moments before vanished in an instant. Now, my friends laughed at me. It hadn’t mattered that she had been much bigger and stronger than I. She was a girl and I should have won. Case closed. I lay on the ground bruised and humiliated. The boys were incensed. “Are you really gonna let her do that to you and walk away?”

I got up from the rocks and dirt, brushing myself off. She was still walking away pausing here and there to bark at my friends who hadn’t quit heckling her (albeit from a great distance). I hadn’t wanted to be a part of any of this to begin with. The kid had chosen to hit me, I had chosen to let myself be roped into a fight, and now, I was being humiliated. I spat out even more dirt and narrowed my eyes, my mind now made up. This girl was going to pay. I reached down and closed my fingers around a hunk of brick laying beside my sneaker. My friends went bananas. I hefted the brick in my hand before taking careful aim and throwing it as hard as I could.

I never once thought about the consequences of throwing the brick. I can’t even say that I ever thought specifically of picking of the brick and throwing it at her. It all happened in a moment of idiot rage and the minute the brick my hand, I felt my stomach drop. It hit her directly in the back of the head with a sick thud. She immediately went down without so much as a whimper and my friends exploded all around me.

I had killed her. I could tell by the sound the brick had made when it smashed into her skull. I could tell by the way she dropped like an overstuffed rag doll. I’d won. Goliath was dead. But, instead of feeling victorious, I felt nauseas and guilty. I stood motionless, staring blankly at the heap on the ground, praying that she’d move.

It didn’t take long for God to answer.

She rose from the dead, maneuvering herself to her feet, her eyes alight with demonic rage. I could only blink, speechless. She had been dead – had to have been. I’d killed her – murdered her, even – and watched her fall down dead. Yet here she as, rising from the ground, very much alive, and very much displeased. She fixed her flat dead eyes on me and let out a low growl.

I ran.

She barreled after me, screeching at the top of her lungs. I sprinted toward my house at top speed, barely aware that I was also screaming. Yet, in spite of my above average speed, she closed the distance with ease. By the time I was ten yards from my front door, she was almost on top of me. One of her hand flew out and made a grab for my shirt, missing by just a fraction of an inch. The effort sent the top heavy behemoth stumbling forward, arms pinwheeling, but still very much after me.

I burst through my front door, not daring to look back, slamming the screen door once inside. My mother was sitting on the couch, reading. She looked up when I charged in, curious but otherwise undisturbed. I started to open my mouth to tell her that I wasn’t insane, that I was only trying to escape the clutches of a bloodthirsty hippo with braids. And, had I not paused at that moment to explain myself, had I not hesitated, I might have gotten the door closed. But I did pause. I paused… and I paid for it.

The screen door burst apart as she flew into it (through it, really) superman style. She slid across our floor dragging parts of the screen with her. I knew at that moment that I was as good as dead. And, worse, before I died, I was going to crap my pants.

My mother didn’t move an inch.

The girl looked up at me from the ground with a horrible alligator grin, all teeth and no soul. But, as she started to pick herself up (presumably to kill me), she noticed that my mother was eying her with cool predatory confidence, still having not moved from her seat on the couch. There was a silent exchange between the two that seemed to last an eternity. Then, as quickly as she’d come in, the girl was up and running full tilt out the door, leaping through the hole she’d made in our screen door. My mother simply went back to her newspaper.

I heard the girl start to cry at some point on her way home and it made me feel even worse. I closed the front door against the shattered screen, cheering friends, and crying girl, leaning against it and breathing a huge sigh of relief. It was finally over.

My mom didn’t even have to send me to my room. I ascended the stairs, glad to be done with all the excitement. I rounded the corner to my room and sat on my bed near the window with a book, hoping to watch the rest of the game from a safe distance.

Instead of playing the game, my friends were standing in a loose group about fifteen yards from my front door. The girl had returned. She stood outside my front door wielding two large kitchen knives, her mascara streaked comically down to her collarbone. She paced back and forth weeping and shouting, “Send him out here, Miss! I’m gonna kill yo’ son!”

My bowels loosened considerably.

I sat there watching her get angrier and angrier, absolutely certain that it was only a matter of time before she burst through the window and climbed the stairs to claim my life. I hoped out of bed and looked around the room for a weapon of some kind, returning to the window with a boxing glove and a Sunday school trophy. It was the best I could do.

The girl was so focused, she never saw the police pull up behind her. By the time they arrived, she’d spotted me shivering with my tools of war in the upstairs window. She broke down completely then, chucking rocks at my window, braying and shrieking incoherently. “Come outside!” she demanded. “Come outside and I’ll kill you!”

Naturally, I declined.

The cops descended upon her, disarming her with the greatest of ease. Within seconds, they had her cuffed and on the ground, filthy and defeated. I thought that if she was able to pop her cuffs and overcome two armed police officers from a prone position (which I didn’t put past her), my life was as good as gone. But that didn’t happen. Instead, she sat there and cried. It was awful, and gross, and all my fault. Nevertheless, at long last, it was finally, truly, over.

In short order, the girl’s grandmother came by to speak with us. Turns out the police had called her to let her know what happened, and she’d left work to come home and deal with her granddaughter. Shortly after she arrived, the cops left, and the grandmother sent the girl home to await her wrath.

The grandmother was exceedingly polite and soft spoken. She and my mother spoke for a few minutes before they invited me to tell them my side of the story. I told the whole story, even the less than flattering parts. I knew I had done wrong and was prepared to pay for it – for me, punishment is nowhere near as bad a guilt. To my surprise, the grandmother thanked me.

“It’s about time somebody taught him a lesson,” she said with a perfectly straight face. I looked to my mother and saw she was wearing the same indecipherable expression as the grandmother. I thought to ask what was happening but dared not. Instead, I replied with a quiet, “Yes ma’am.”

“Thank you both for your time,” she said as she rose to leave. I’d love to stay but I’ve got to go home. I’ve got an ass to kick.” She shook both our hands (which somehow made me feel even more guilty), and left.

I would see the girl that tried to kill me only twice more before we moved out of the neighborhood – both times, she crossed the street to avoid me averting her eyes as we passed on opposite sides of the street. I was reminded of her grandmother’s parting words and thought maybe grandma had done exactly as she had said she would. I thought then that, maybe, the fight wasn’t over. Maybe grandma had made sure that it couldn’t ever be.

Much later, after hearing this story, a friend asked if I’d learned anything. “Sure”, I said. “After slaying the giant, always check for a pulse. What doesn’t kill you might come back later with knives to finish the job.”

He didn’t laugh.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Dust in the Wind

  I don't know what made me think of it the other day. Maybe I was looking for something to watch on television. Perhaps it was while I was streaming Netflix. Coulda been listening to some story on NPR. Who knows? Anyway, I realized I hadn't watched anything on Public Television in a very long time. I mean, nothing. No cooking shows. No Antiques Roadshow. Name one. Name a show you might like on PBS. Go ahead. Nope, haven't seen it. I don't know why exactly. I used to watch it all the time.

  Way back when, oh some forty years ago now, I used to watch Monty Python on Public Television. My mother always had the wrong idea about me watching that show. The first time she saw me watching there happened to be a woman on the screen. I don't remember exactly the scene, or which of the Pythons was in it. I do remember that there was a woman behind some shop counter, and that most of if not all of her breasts were exposed. I might be wrong, but I'm pretty sure I got that right. Now I mention that only because every other time my mother connected me with Monty Python she thought I watched simply because it was risque. Whenever she heard mention of that show she'd get this mischievous twinkle in her eye and remind me how much I use to enjoy watching it. She never stuck around long enough to realize that there was so much more to it than that. That even to my twelve year old self the naughty bits were incidental. These guys were like nothing I'd ever seen before. Like so many people had never seen. To me they were brave to be doing outlandish, and sometimes stupid things for laughs. Well, they were British too. That was pretty cool. They certainly shaped how I came to behave in my teens. Even if I eventually became more of a "wild and crazy guy ". That's getting a bit far afield though. I grew up just assuming that everybody got it and loved it the way I did. It was quite a surprise the first time I heard someone say they just didn't like Monty Python.

  There were of course others. Other Brit comedies from around that time that made their way to me through PBS. Who remembers The Goodies, or Doctor in the House? Are You Being Served? Fawlty Towers maybe? I know there are a few that I'm just not remembering right this minute.

  There are more still through the years. Chef, The Vicar of Dibly, and Blackadder are simply brilliant. Who can forget the social climbing Hyacinth Bucket - that's Bouquet! - in Keeping Up Appearances? Or how about Dame Judy Dench in As Time Goes By?
  Of course it's hasn't been all fun and games with British shows on PBS has it? Did you ever spend a Sunday night with Alistair Cooke and Masterpiece Theatre? Do you remember what a big deal Upstairs, Downstairs was? Ever heard of House of Cards? Yup, that was originally a BBC production. Then there was I, Claudius. How great was Derek Jacoby in that? Today's incarnation of Masterpiece Theatre, Masterpiece, has given us Downton Abbey. I could go on and on.

  Now one or two of you have probably noticed a gaping hole in this British TV on PBS thing I've got going on here. I guess it's time to ask the big question.

  Did you watch Dr Who?

  Sadly, I am not a true Whovian. I didn't watch the Doctor back then. To the shock of many I'm sure I just didn't like it. I didn't get it. I tried. I really did! It was just too hokey to me I guess. I tried watching Tom Baker as the fourth Doctor. His tenure from '74 - '81 stands as the longest of any other Doctor. I even tried to watch the fifth Doctor, Peter Davison. Though he played the Doctor, I remember him more fondly as Tristan Farnon in All Creatures Great and Small. 

  I've had a change of heart though. 

  I started watching the reboot of Dr Who on BBC America. It's got such a different feel to it now. It got me hooked. 

  And then...
  A funny thing happened last Thanksgiving. Just before actually. I got laid off. No, you're right. Not full of levity that. It happened just before Thanksgiving and I figured that was an excellent excuse to take the week off. Which lead me pretty much right into Christmas. And then of course the New Year. That brought me right round to feeling bad about being such a depressed slacker.

  So... I watched a lot of TV. Binged a few series on Netflix and whatnot. BBC America even showed a Dr Who marathon. I sat for hours at a time watching this new sparkly Dr Who series. Through all of that though I kept pondering why I didn't like the original. Was it really as bad as I remembered? Maybe I just wasn't ready for it at the time. I had to find out. I honestly don't remember if someone told me the good Dr was on Netflix, or I took a chance and did a search, but there it was. There was one hundred some odd episodes dating all the way back to the very first Dr! I was determined to watch them all. I was going to witness the show's evolution. I was going to figure out what I'd missed. I was going to become a true fan. I watched every episode available. 


  I still didn't like the early Dr. 

  It was then that I remembered an old Facebook post from my college roommate about watching an episode of the reboot. I had to ask him if he remembered what he had said. He was nice enough to provide me the very post to read. It said:

  "Just watched Dr. Who - I love the themes of loyalty, continuity, and connectedness. Loyalty across space and time." 

  That! That is what I really wanted to share with you. As surely as I sit here trying to figure out how to join all of this together I can assure you of one thing. We are all connected. We are all here to both teach and learn from each other. The kind words you give have such a greater effect then you'll ever know. Just as the harsh things. Each has the power to affect one person, then another, and another until we are all nothing but dust in the wind. The world seems so lost at times. Suppose though that we could all help fix it. What if next time you believed for a moment that how you treat another person could eventually shake this planet to its core? You know. Instead of rushing to be first in line you let someone go ahead of you. Instead of scolding a kid for doing a childish thing, be an example of what you want from that child. Maybe there's a reason someone has been on your mind lately. Look them up. Make contact if you haven't seen them in a while. You never know. You might be just what they need. One act of kindness could change everything. 

  Don't forget what Red says; I'm pullin' for ya.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Over the Rainbow

  This is the hardest part for me lately it seems.  Yeah, this part.  The beginning of it.  In fact I've had the idea for this post bouncing around since last November.

  Best just to get to it I guess.

  For the longest time I'd spoil myself on Saturdays listening to NPR.  It started years and years ago when I first started listening to A Prairie Home Companion on Saturday nights.  Wow, a real live radio show.  How cool.  I gave that up though.  Fell out of the habit.  Then in the car one afternoon I stumbled across This American Life with Ira Glass.  What an experience that show is.  I find they tell stories in such profoundly moving ways.  In fact I remember telling someone once that I'd like to write the way that show makes me feel.  And there's always Car Talk of course.  I guess people either love that show or hate it.  I find it highly amusing.  There's a fairly new show on called Snap Judgement too.  It's tag is "Story telling with a beat."  There are loads more that have filled the void through the years.  Quiz shows, story shows, news shows.  They were all entertaining in their way.  They all get my brain going.

  It was when I was listening to a show late one Saturday afternoon called Studio 360 that things changed a bit for me.  The show was all about The Wizard of Oz.  I was going to tell you all about the show.  How Salmon Rushdie saw it numerous times when he was younger.  All sorts of stuff.  Instead I'll give you the link here so you can listen for yourself if you'd like.  I will hit a highlight or two though.  You know, things in keeping with what we usually talk about here.   I guess you could call that a spoiler alert of sorts if you do plan on listening to the story on Studio 360.

  So, I gotta ask, what message do you remember when you think of The Wizard of Oz?  There's no place like home maybe?  That'd be my top guess.  I can hear Dorothy saying that phrase as clearly as if she were standing next to me.  Maybe you think of Over the Rainbow.  You know, where blue birds fly.  Dorothy pines for escape.  There's always the Tin Man, Scarecrow, and Lion wanting to feel better about themselves.  I have a friend I used to work with that always whistled, or hummed maybe, If I Only had a Brain. That was usually as we were trying to figure something out.  I continue that tradition.

  Salmon Rushdie read from his book about The Wizard of Oz on Radio 360. He opines in that book about home, Our birthplace.  How it isn't a destination to get back to, it's a launch pad.

  Singing Over the Rainbow Dorothy yearns to get away.  To start an adventure.  To see something besides Kansas.  To leave home.  Boy, does she ever.  And, yes, she goes home again.  Did you know though that she leaves again?  Yup.  She  packs up Auntie Em and Uncle Henry and goes back to Oz.

  Now, why on earth would she do that?

  Well, besides the fact that the farm in Kansas was facing foreclosure, I think good ol' Dorothy might've learned a thing or two.

  I think Dorothy learned to live life as an adventure.  She came to know that just because something is safe and familiar that doesn't mean that it's the best  thing since sliced bread.  She realized that life can be exciting.  She didn't have to settle for the farm.  Yearning for something better is  ok.

  Well, I suppose you know where all of this is going.  All this talk of launch pads, and adventure, and yearning must be going somewhere, right?

  Oh, you know me by now.

  It's ok to dream.  It's ok to want something more than what you have.  It's what we humans do.

  You hold the key though dear reader.  You must set things in motion.  You have to do the work.  You have to find that thing that's missing and work toward it.  It's all up to you.

  No one is going to do it for you.

  Keep your sticks on the ice


Friday, March 1, 2013

The Space Between

  Ok, ok! 


  I use a dating site.

  There.  Happy?

  I've been on and off of one site in particular a bunch of times.  I've had conversations with a few people.  Even went on a first date with a couple of women.  The very first one, well, didn't come as advertised.  Just sayin'.  The second was dinner and done.

 Those of you well versed in the ins and outs of these sites, fear not; I won't go on too long about it.  The married people should know a little of what they're missing though.  Shouldn't they?

  It's a funny place, this dating ether.  

  Say you see a picture of someone you might be interested in.  You have gathered as much information as their witty, (or artsy, or serious) profile allows you to.  You decide to take a chance and send a message.  Something has caught your eye.  Something they said or some movie they mentioned.  A favorite band maybe.  Something to get you going and mention in an introductory note to show you've paid some attention to what they bothered to write.

  Sometimes you get the cold shoulder.  Maybe you get the, "good luck in your search" response.  Other times you get an actual, honest to goodness, response.  One that may even prompt you to write back.

  I mostly find it a wasteland.     

  Good thing I'm in no real hurry.


  Although there is one person.  One person with whom I've had a couple of really great conversations.

  See, she got me to thinkin'.  My favorite pastime.  In fact I posted on Face Book the other day that sometimes I think I think too much.  

  Getting to know each, other she asked me why I like being involved in theater.  Why I liked it and how it made me feel.  

  Geez.  Hadn't really thought that hard about it.  It's just something I do.  I like to show the audience a possible new perspective on life.  That's the line I usually use.  This was a chance though to turn it over in my hands a couple of times and look at it.  

  No one had ever asked how it made me feel before.

  I guess the shortest distance between a and b would be that it makes me feel alive.

  The longer distance?  This woman I am chatting with is a blogger too.  (SWEET!)  She offered me her blog address, you know, blogger to blogger.  I came across one post in particular that made me think even more deeply about the theater thing.  The post is called Possibility and starts like this,

  "I'm addicted to the moment immediately preceding a kiss, that place where time stands still, lips poised for the blessed contact.  I'm a sucker for the first kiss in movies, on TV, because it signals a shift in dynamic, a moment of pure truth and honesty of feeling."  

  Shhh.  Used that bit without permission.  Hopefully she'll forgive me this once.

  Think about that moment she speaks of though.  That moment in eternity between action and inaction.  That pause in the universe where absolutely anything is possible. There are limitless possibilities in the space between.

  It is in those moment that we are truly connected with everything.  Everything.  Everybody.  The universe.  Each other.

  Theater is full of those moments for me.  The easiest one to relate I suppose is standing in the wings waiting for my cue to go on.  I think probably every actor prepares differently as they wait.  Some do voice exercises in a quiet area to loosen up and pass the time.  Others bend feverishly over their scripts trying to finally get that one line.  That one section.  But then there's that few minutes.  The space between waiting to go on, and being on.  I stand there shaking my hands as though I could shed my nerves like drops of water.  But then I walk out, and it's all ok.  I manage not to trip on anything.  I seemingly remember my lines and where I'm supposed to be in a timely manner.  Then it's over.

  Oh, yes, I love to act.  I love to direct.  I love it all.  But it's those moments in between that let you know you're alive.  Let you know that anything is possible.     

  There are countless moments like that in a day though.  I mean, right?

  It could be anything.  Do I drive the same way to work today?  Why don't I try that new place for lunch?  I could go on I suppose, but I'm sure you get the drift.

  You have to be mindful though.  You gotta have to want to participate in your life.  In the Universe.  Life is pretty spectacular as it is, imagine if you lived it in the space between.  If you were mindful that any moment in your life could be magic.  

  "The space between... is where you'll find me hiding, waiting for you."  Dave Matthews Band

  Hey, don't forget, I'm pullin' for ya.



Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Clever Rabbit Ponders the Sweet Spot

Guest Blogger - Patrick Goodnow

The question is, how do you get to that spot?

I mean the true, sweet spot - when you feel like you are actually the person that you see inside of your head when you think of the very best of yourself? 

I have been there.
Occasionally and entirely accidentally I have stumbled across it.

Surprisingly, I get very close in a crisis.  Rational, empathetic, decisive and ready to offer support, comfort and love.  When no one's house is on fire, I am afraid I am as much of a self-absorbed jackass as the next guy on the street is likely to be.

I'd like to get back to that sweet spot more regularly, purposefully.  Plant a garden, let the roots grow deep and make it my home.  Stop letting self-doubt, apathy, fear, stinginess of thought and pettiness of mind keep me from that cool and lovely place.

I know.  Sounds like highfaluting pseudo-spiritual folderal, a liberal-leftie's mid-life crisis of conscious hot footing it to martyr-town.

You can stop wanting to choke me now.

But, back to the question... how do you get to that sweet spot?

Something that I am going to try is to be more purposefully available to the people who I care about without anything having to burst into flames.

Eric, the creator of Notes From the Night Shift is someone that I have known since High School but he has never heard these words from me:
  • I love your writing, Eric. It is funny and moving and makes a difference.
  • I have always thought of you as one of the kindest people I have ever known. It is something that I have always admired about you and tried hard to emulate.
  • You make me laugh in ways that no one else can - and I mean full on, tear squirting, belly laughter at that.
  • When I do get to see you brother, it always feels like I am coming home.

Not really all that hard to say and all are heartfelt words coming directly from that guy in my head, who I would love to be all of the time... living in the true, sweet spot.

Its a start.

Patrick Goodnow posts infrequently as Clever Rabbit

Monday, January 21, 2013

A Change is Gonna Come

  Yup. I definitely started this post a long time ago. Well, you know, relatively. Not time like cosmically speaking, but long enough.  This was originally going to be my Mayan Prophecy End of the World Extravaganza Post to End All Posts.  I started it and then Blogger didn't save half of it when I asked it to.  I've had that happen before.  I gotta tell ya, that was a bummer.  Instead of changing sites as often say I should, I kinda went on strike. 

  So here I am with the Mayans and a few other things crowding my brain.  Let's see what happens.  To be honest some of this was written somewhere around 12/22/12. 

  So, I gotta ask.  Were you worried at all?  Or did you start the day like any other?  

  I know you had to have at least given it a passing thought.  The fate of the world hung in the balance after all.  I mean it had been building for so long how could you not?  

  Yes, yes, you probably guessed already.  Of course I'm referring to the whole calendar deal.  Mayan by the way.  Not Gregorian, or Julian, or any other you might come up with.

  I know a lot of you can remember a time before.  Before cell phones say.  Before basic cable, email, GPS, globalization.  Maybe even before men landed on the moon.  Probably not a time when we started to lose contact with nature and the earth though.  Probably.

  The Mayans were smart people.  You gotta give them that.  They were extraordinary mathematicians.  They came up with the concept of zero independent of any other influence.  Pretty heady stuff for the math geeks.

  They were also astronomers.  Hence The Calendar, right?  A familiar question to some would be why.  Why would the Mayans be so interested in the night sky?  Were they indeed awaiting the return of some other worldly visitor a la Ancient Aliens? 


  Could be.  

  More likely it was the fact that they were more closely tied to the earth, the very universe, than few of us today could begin to imagine.  And of course there's always, you know, boredom.  What else did they have to do at night?  If you had no light pollution and time on your hands most nights, I bet even you dear reader would become a decent amateur astronomer. 

  That's great an' all for the Mayans, but I really wanted to talk about what it all meant to us.  I mean this particular end of the world was big.  And we had a lot of time to mull it over.  Some people had plans.  Just in case.  Some people had parties.  Just because.  There might've been more than a few people who were quietly relieved that it wasn't really judgement day or anything after all.  

  Did you hear many predictions about what would happen that day?  I'd heard every thing from the appearance of flying saucers to drastic pole shifts.  That was one camp anyway.  Doom sayers.  There was another camp however.  A lot of people believed that the Mayans simply meant to mark the date of a new Age.  A time to change.  A time where there will be more and better understanding between fellow human beings.  

  Truth to tell I don't think the Mayans were really trying to predict anything.  

  Things do need to change though.  Not a big huge all at once change.  A one day at a time change I guess.  And it starts with you.  And me.  There is no special date.  It could be today.  Or tomorrow.    

  We need to make ripples in our lives that will better others.  Better the world around us.  It won't happen through the government.  Aliens will not be landing to enlighten us any time soon.  It can't be because the Mayans circled a date on the calendar.  

  Every day should be circled.  Every day is judgement day.  Every day you have the chance to change someone's life.  Every day.  Moment to moment.

  Ok.  I guess I'm outta here.

  I'm pullin' for ya.

  The song is simply for MLK