Saturday, July 7, 2018

Here we go again.

2010. That's the date of my last blogger post. Since then, much has happened, much that I'm not going to delve into unless and until it becomes relevant. But today, (halleluiah) I recovered my blogger account, which I had not touched simce Google bought up blogger. I had assumed it was lost. But it turns out you just have to want it bad enough. That's true of so many things. I am a teacher (still) and I tell my students every weeke the same thing I tell my kids: so much of life is about showing up. We are led by the people who are willing to do it. And that's a good and bad thing, because sometimes the people who are willing are the last people you should give the job too. I'm talking obout you, annoying orange. Almost anything is possible if you want it bad enough, and are willing to put the corresponding work into it. And, finally, if you are unwilling to surrender it to anyone that wants to take it away from you. Be that your hope an anspirations, your freedom, your hope, or your positivity. I feel like so much of it has been drained from me over the past (good God, has it been only) 2 years. I am not letting this blog devolve into a diatribe about how much I hate racism, or fascism, or anything else that hte current regime espouses. Just going on record, of what I hate. Include MAGAits high on that list. Just giving notice of a reboot of this blog. What I think, what I believe, and why I think it's worth believing something.

Friday, December 3, 2010


I believe in God. I'm also a bit of a leftie, in case you don't know that already. If you have a problem with any of that, it’s probably best for you to skip this one.

I spend some days running major errands between dropping my son off and picking him up from his charter school, which is over an hour away with no immediate bus service, I tend to spend that time talking to him, and the time in-between listening to my collection of podcasts from the previous week. But I’ve avoided political podcasts since the election, out of a cowardly sense that I couldn’t face them without fortified courage, to deal with the bad news. One of the political podcasts I listen to is “Best of the Left.” (No link, because Im specifically not recommending it). I listen because of the left-leaning (or I should say, forward-leaning) broadcasts which are edited into a coherent podcast for me. But, to be clear, I do not endorse this podcast.

In each podcast, the director/editor of the podcast makes a plea for spreading the word” on hos podcast to friends. But I will not. It is something that I do, because it makes my life easier, and informs me. But “Best of the Left” is not the only political podcast I listen to, nor the only political perspective I get. But I will not spread the word on that podcast, because I have a fundamental disagreement with the philosophy of the editor.

He is an atheist.

Now, that said, I have plenty of friends who are atheists, and agnostic, and it is not that view of believing alone that prevents me from recommending the podcast. It is the fact that, every so often, the editor will go into an atheistic-leaning diatribe against believing, and against organized religions (read Christianity, as I’ll go into later) that I find offensive and incoherent.

The reason I find it so, is that he presents clear negative viewpoints against the anti Islam phobia which is sweeping the nation. For the record, I agree that the anti Islam phobia is abhorrent, and disgusting, and against every American principal I know. I am not a Muslim, but, as Atheists and Agnostics, I have and have had friends who are. I respect their beliefs, as they respect mine.

What I find abhorrent about the Best of the Left’s views on religion, and their periodic shows highlighting religion, is their clear anti-Christian bent. I don’t happen to hold a prejudice against Christianity as a tenet of left-leaning politics. It seems strange to me that he would feel so comfortable disparaging Christianity specifically. It;’s as if the fact that he was raised in the religion, ad later chose to abandon it, that he feels gives him some special priviledge then to shit on the beliefs of those who did not turn their back on it, and who, in fact, find strength in their beliefs. He would never consider running a show that tore down Native American similarly mono-theistic beliefs, or showcased harsh opinions of Israel and Judaism, or allowed wholesale attacks on Islam. And I know there would be widespread outcry from his left-leaning public in each of these instances. But he feels happily content to project his anti-Christian viewpoint, and is, for some reason, encouraged by his reformed-Christian (Catholic, Protestant alike) listening audience to do so.

To put it in a nutshell, if the editor of this show periodically showcased anti-Islamic sentiment on his show, I would be offended, and listeners would never put up with it. The same with anti-semitic views, which, lets face it, you can also find on even some left-leaning shows. But for some reason, he feels completely comfortable with disparaging my system of beliefs in the shows he chooses to showcase. Most often I will skip over (or just skim) these selections, because I like some of the honest points of view. It’s his selection of putting them together, and capping with his own editorialize-ation at the end, which I find offensive, and wrong. And that is the reason I will never recommend the podcast to any of my friends.

I believe in God. It is a subject of discussion as to how much I believe the Bible is the word of God versus the word of man, written to suit a specific religious need and time. But I do believe there are parts of the Bible which are historical document, and parts which are inspirational faith. And which is which is not the point for me, at least not here. What is the point is, that I am a believer.

On one of those rides home with my son from his school, this subject came up. I can’t recall exactly why, but it was within an economic framework. I believe in capitalism versus communism (actually, now I do remember-he was saying how a friend of his was trying to subtly bring back the communist party by writing anonymous notes to local papers, which led to a discussion of communism versus capitalism). So, I went into how and why I believe capitalism is better than communism, which, in a nutshell again, is because you profit from your own hard work and the fruits of your labors more in capitalism. In Communism, you’re supposed to work toward the good of the commune. I know I’m over-simplifying here, but I’m not going into the specific discussion here, just the conclusions. I prefer capitalism because you benefit from the fruits of your labors. But capitalism should be tempered by Christianity, or some form of belief. In that combination of systems you can profit from your hard work, and still feel an obligation, and rightly so, to GIVE BACK.

This time of year is one where everyone feels the need to give something, and everyone feels more keenly aware of others who have and share less than they have. We go from a season of Thanksgiving into a season of giving. We give back. And part of what is wrong with the political discussion right now is that this latter part is not part of the discussion. There is little or no talk about providing social safety nets for the less fortunate, something that has traditionally fallen to the State and government as a whole.

Everyone is complaining about the government taking from them, forcing government to cut taxes. Government’s first step following this is to cut essential services to the underserved, and poor. And the rich and middle class are giving less than ever before to that same portion of our community.

Capitalism and Christianity functioned well when they went hand in hand—when individuals who profited under capitalist systems also had the Christian values to give back to those less fortunate, being aware that it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get to the kingdom of heaven. One half of that equation is just dysfunctional, at best, and criminal within a civilized society, at worst.

Maybe there are agnostics and atheists who give back a large portion of what they make, to those less fortunate, and in that instance, it is not you I am railing against. But I question every rich fat-cat capitalist who is a professed Christian who does not give back, and does not support the weaker in society, and instead rails against the “big-G” Government for raising taxes, and every secretly agnostic and atheistic fat cat who joins them, and feels not a pang of anything wrong with that. Their belief is not strong, or it would guide their actions differently.

And it’s for that reason that I would never recommend Best of the Left. Because it is wrong not to believe in something. And I’m a believer. For the record.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Thoughts before an interview

I had taken the week off with my family at Cape Cod, (still responsibly checking on and applying for jobs online, I might add), when I got the call. I took the call on my cell phone, in the middle of Nickerson State Park where we were camping, and made the plans to make the interview in two days. Taking the family’s only car, and leaving them stranded with only bikes for transport, I drove the three hours back for what would likely be a two hour interview. That’s due diligence, given the fact that I needed to stop home first, dress to impress, and gather up the appropriate pages from my hardcopy portfolio. Then one stop at MapQuest, and I’m good to go.

The books all say to get to the interview early, to avoid the hazards of a bad first impression. But the worst impression is not finding the place at all. That was my concern as, after a half and hour, of driving around the same four block area, I could not find the street as MapQuest’s directed. Coming dangerously close to missing my goal of showing up ten minutes early, I finally surrendered the male gene and called for directions. So much for the air of complete competency. At least I could show I was more reliable as a designer than MapQuest was at directions. I hoped.

I began to get the sense I was out of place almost immediately. It wasn’t the usual feeling of displacement; being the only dark-skinned face in a room full of WASP-types, something I was so used to it was almost typical. No, this was an out-of-place that spoke to where I should be in his career. I am used to interviewing, not being interviewed. I am used to being sought after, not seeking.

So, I had showed up for the interview on time. This gave me the opportunity to excuse myself to the bathroom and give myself the once-over before returning to the waiting room to fill out the requisite paperwork. Tie in place, check. Hair in place, check. Facilities used, check. Hands washed, check. Face not too shiny from the August heat outside, check. And last but not least, no unwelcome hitchhikers from breakfast on my teeth. A quick stick of gum on the ride over had taken care of the coffee breath quite nicely, thank you.

I flashed a smile at the receptionist, and gave my name again through the opening in the wall. Glass pulled to the side, the window gave the impression of a doctor’ office reception area, not a design firm that handled million dollar clients. The walls all around the room were covered in light wood paneling, giving an anachronistic impression, that was a continuation of the perception outside. This was a large design studio located in an industrial complex; the kind of place I’d been more likely to go for a press check. The idea of a design studio in an industrial park seemed odd, and added to the surreality of the experience. The office, like the day overall, continued to radiate the impression of being something that it was not. Or maybe just wanting to be. Eight chairs ringed the room, incongruously. I wondered if this reception area had ever hosted more than two or three people at once, thereby making the need for eight chairs something of an overkill. Maybe it was a set. Certainly the raised coffee table in the midst of them added to the incongruity, like an area that wanted to feel like a living room, but couldn’t make it much beyond lounge. But then, we all have something to aspire to. Even a waiting room.

t took the preferred paperwork attached to a clipboard, offered by the receptionist. As had happened before, all the information requested on the sheets were covered in the resume I brought. And the fact that I had to fill out one of these forms nonetheless, again spoke to my displacement. would need to fill out before the interview,, the receptionist explained. And I had been through these hoops before. A process is a process. And it often was the same process if the company was interviewing for a shipping clerk or a new VP of Sales. Though neither was the position I was applying for, I sat the board atop my portfolio and took a seat to fill it out.

The paperwork, sure enough, asked the same questions regarding work history and education that are answered concisely and handily in my resume, I stubbornly wondered how much I should actually fill out. Certainly all the pertinent name and contact info. Certainly the work history, which I did as a mental copy and paste. But the next section asked whether I had a car or not, and how many moving violations I’d gotten in the past year, and that stopped him cold. I was applying for a design management position, wherein I would supervise design and production, and press checks, not applying for a delivery position. I was filling out a generic job application form for what I had supposed was a managerial position. The specific line of distinction between the two was clear, at least to me, and usually defined both by level of responsibility and commensurate level of compensation. That’s when it hit home that I was not necessarily filling out a one-size-fits-all application. I was filling out an application for a minimum wage job.

My eyes darted up to the receptionist, where she was busily answering phones and carrying private conversations over her shoulder with the workers seated around her. She didn’t meet my eyes. She wasn’t there for me, clearly; I was neither a client nor apparently a VIP in any way. She knew my name only because I had introduced myself, and it matched the name there in the appointment book for the CEO, with whom I had the interview. I was not yet important enough to get familiar with, and clearly not yet important enough to pay attention to. That sense added to my sense of disconnection with this place, forshadowing that this interview would not go well.

But, hell, I needed the practice for interviewing, anyway, regardless of the outcome. I needed to get used to wearing a tie into a workplace every day again, and keeping my shoes shined and being on time and ready. I needed to get out of the house, away from the blank screen that had been my visor since I lost my last full-time gig, and since I had been trying my hand at the exhausting pace of freelance life. I finished the paperwork, leaving the lines for salary inauspiciously blank. The receptionist reviewed the paperwork cursorily, then beckoned him back over.

“You need to fill out these salary history lines, “ she said.

“I’m happy to provide a range of salary, but I don’t really feel comfortable with specific history.”

“Well,” she mirrored, I know he won’t consider applications without the salary history filled in.”

And so it went.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The sewing kit

I pick up a Waldorf Hotel branded sewing kit from the table, for two reasons. One, because I like the idea of the Waldorf hotel. But also, because I was intriguingly lacking confidence about what the words “repair kit” would reveal, inside the closed envelope. Maybe it’d be a tube of super glue and a swatch of scotch tape. Maybe the answers to life’s great problems lay within. I should put it back down.

Then again, I could use a sewing repair kit. I have many needs for sewing, and stitching, and repairing, or just kitting. Just kidding. There are lots of uses for it. But I don’t recommend using it for the punch line of too many jokes. There’s a needle inside of it, and some might not see the point.

The sewing kit reminds me of holes in clothes, holes in fabric, and the span of time between when something is new and when it is used, on the verge of used up. All my favorite clothes are in need of a repair kit. But that’s what defines them. If they weren’t in need of repair, they wouldn’t be my favorite clothes. And if they weren't my favorites, chances are they wouldn't be in need of repair. I have a dresser upstairs in the guest room, nearly full of old t-shirts that I want to save, or for some reason just can't throw away. And I have a closet full of clothes that I'm supposed to wear every day, that when they do need a needle and thread, I am supposed to just throw away, instead. Because dress shirts with frayed collars, worn dress clothes, soiled ties in need of stitching at the back, and pants with a fray at the back of the cuff offer the wrong professional impression. Even though that impression is more accurate. I would rather be in my old Marvel t-shirt with the frayed collar and discolored front from an unfortunate use of bleach, and in my Mickey Mouse hat with the torn brim, and my favorite shorts with the inauspicious hole near the groin that offers a hint at the color of my underwear. It just isn't done.

If only a sewing kit were magical, and could fix all the problems in a world that seems to be coming apart. We could've sent one down to the Gulf to stitch up the pipeline. We could use it to sew up old friends, or fractured families, or broken hearts, or splitting headaches, or to stitch together generally rambling thoughts that seem disconnected and too free-flowing, or just to wrap up run-on sentences that seem to be fraying at the ends. But in the end, I put the sewing kit back down. I can’t be trusted with a sewing kit. Again, there’s needles inside.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Thinking backwards

It was in a book on meditation I read over twenty years ago. It recommended that at the end of a day, you review your day in reverse, putting events in reverse order. Like putting the movie of your day into reverse, rewinding from actually laying down, to what you did before bed, sucking back the toothpaste-laden spittle ad laying it back onto the brush, and so forth. You’re to do this all the way through your day, finally ending with your waking up that morning, your entire day ahead of you and behind you at once. In essence, it was and exercise in thinking backwards. The book acknowledged that it would be difficult at first, but promised that (with regular daily practice) it would get easier.

And now, twenty plus years later, I still try to practice this exercise in frustration from time to time, with the same lackluster result. I can go over the past five minutes with no problem, but my mind wants to jump back to getting up that morning, and go forward from there. The author of the book noted that this would be your natural inclination; to move backwards to a point and then go forward from there—but that you were to resist this temporal temptation. But I find it’s like walking backwards while trying to resist the urge to peek back over your shoulder to see where you’re going. It’s cheating and defeats the whole purpose.

The idea is personified in the legend of Merlin. Part of the Arthurian legend was that Merlin lived his life in reverse, so that Merlin met the child Arthur when he was an old man. The longer Arthur knew him, the younger Merlin became. This anachronistic idea baffles me. For, if you met someone that lived their life in reverse, they would know you before you met them, having seen you and known you already in your old age, and being already aware of everything that would happen to you. But the day would come, years into your future, on your last day of knowing your dear old friend, when he. Looking younger than you have ever known him, would not know you. This would be the day when, living in reverse, he would be first meeting you. And while in the present the wise old man would seem sage and knowledgeable, having lived through everything that will happen to you, the longer you know the man, the less he would know about you, and in fact, the less he would know. You’d have no shared memories, save those either you or he has not lived yet. It would therefore seem less a basis for a lasting relationship, and more like a basis for an Alzheimer's diagnosis.

And that’s the frustration of looking at life in reverse. It’s against our view of time, of our relationship to the universe, to the world, and to each other. Yet it’s supposed to be a good basis, meditatively speaking, method of reviewing your life. Maybe it’s only expanding the experience to greater than a one day that’s problematic, and makes it too big for me to wrap my head around. But, at the same time, there seems a compunction to stretch the exercise into larger, Merlin-esque, perspective. I think it was Socrates who said “A life unexamined is not worth living.” Or something of the sort. Yet everyday we make life out of overcoming our mistakes, and putting them behind us. And, to some lesser degree, forgetting, erasing and burying them as if they never happened.

In that sense, a life examined in a meaningful way is a life you have to live, in some ways, in reverse. A life examined is one that requires you to imagine not only spitting the toothpaste back onto the brush, but also squeeze it back into the tube. And that’s hard as hell to do. And, at the end of the day, it’s not a lot of fun.

Okay, so thinking backwards can be an interesting, albeit difficult, exercise. It can be frustrating. But I still feel like there’s something worthwhile in that exercise. That’s why I keep working at it, from time to time. When I remember to try. I’m trying to get better at it, certain (for some odd reason) hat there is somewhere to go with it; that there is some “there” there. But it’s something I don’t know, really, how to do.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

With Drawn

I pick up my pencil to draw...and put it down again. Because to pick up a pencil I need an eraser—I can’t put a line down unless know I can erase it. I can only speak with certainty those lines that I know I can obliterate.

My thin graphite line is wandering, feeling around the outside of my imagination, afraid to poke into or describe it with certainty. To describe with certainty is to commit, and that’s terrifying, because that line might be the wrong line. That wandering grey shade that held promise within its wooden cocoon could fall flat once expressed. Lying there, naked and exposed on the paper, it may want to cover itself and wish itself into another position. It may scream to be back in its comfort zone just a quarter inch to the right, or cry for the lost potential as a line with an entirely different vanishing point. Putting down the wrong line means building a false, distorted structure on the paper of my mind, creating a grotesque nightmare-scape instead of the world I intended to imagine and describe.

The wrong line then becomes all I can think about, dominating my eyes and my head and my hand until it is all I can see, and I can draw nothing else. The line that was once mine but suddenly is no more, screams about the once white surface of the page, darkening and creating chaos, trying to digging into itself for cover, and crossing over itself, in its frantic directionless-ness. Under its weight, the paper crumbles under and into my hand, and flies away, to join a hundred of its kind, wasted for want of an eraser, lost, and abandoned.

So I need my eraser. For the power to create, in me, only exists if it walks hand-in hand with the power to destroy.

The eraser is power. It eliminates uncertainty, through its magical promise of redoing. Through the grace of its forgiveness, I find confidence. Where my line was frenetic,and searching, now it is daring. Where once it was lost, now it is exploring, and trailblazing, into territory that is new, yet familiar. My pencil is transformed from a mindlessly wandering divining rod, dousing for some hint of creativity, into Harry Potters hand selected wand, casting spells that I only vaguely and second handedly connected to.

Amazingly, having the eraser means using the eraser less. Like a child who cannot sleep without his pacifier-it is not to be used throughout the night, but as a periodic touchstone of security, allowing me to drift off me to where it is safe and secure, and familiar, yet as mysterious as a dream not yet dreamt.

One day I may have the line that is confident without the promise of erasure. One day I may recognize the eraser for what it is; the false confidence of Dumbo’s magic feather, or worse, the hidden double-edged sword of the monkey’s paw. But until then, I need my eraser.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The football hold

The football was old, and its leather alternately softened with age and hardened, crackled with wear and use and the dampness of its home in the garage. But as Jake took it in his hand, he didn’t grip it as he was taught on the high school football field, folding the laces into the bend of his second knuckle and curling fingers gently but firmly around the pigskin. Instead, he took it and laid it in the crook of his arm, one end of the cone held gingerly in cradling fingers, the other nestled into the crook of his elbow. And he began to rock it. It was a slow, gentle motion, like the swell of the sea on a clam lake on a July morning. And in that instant, the football was not a football, but his first born child, born just hours ago, and held for the first time.

He remembered that feeling, coming as it did after hours of labor and culminating with a ceasarean birth. She had been the first to hold the child, as was her right, after the work she put into bringing him into the world. She held him on her bare chest, touching him gently to keep him positioned at he simultaneously rooted and took in this new world. He had cried only once on entering this strange realm, where the light was white and yellow and not at all tinged red, not filtered by blood and skin and muffled by layers of skin and tissue and wrapped within the ever-present and comforting regularity of an external heartbeat.

By all rights, he should have been terrified. He had every right to scream and howl for being ushered in so unceremoniously—hours of movement and increasing constriction, enveloped by an arms-reach universe that once provided for all his needs, and now seemed determined to bind and move him against his will.

But on release, on being born, he was neither angry nor resentful, nor even afraid. He looked curious. He took in every blurry shape through eyes that had not, by any scientific standard, yet learned to see. This fresh explorer in a world he never made took it all in, and sought more.

The baby craned his head toward the familiar sound of his mothers voice, and moved it at an odd angle to try and look behind him for the newly unbuffered sound of his father. He swiveled in motions that were at once slow and jerky, robotic and uncertain, but with intent. He moved in directions this new neck, with its new and untested muscles, would allow, trying to see, to take it all in, even as the nurses bundled and wrapped, poked and prodded, and made to take him away.

His job as father, from that point, was not to hold the child, but to shadow him. With a final squeeze of his wife’s hand as they took her away to recovery, he moved to follow this fresh life that would share his name, just brought into this world,

The football brought it all back. Because that was the way he had learned to hold his son , the first time he was able. They called it “the football hold,” with the back of the infant’s head held gently in hand, and the forearm supporting his back. Stubby, fat-laden legs straddled each side of the arm at the elbow. A second hand held and steadied the bundled mass against the arm. And with the baby thus held, the father could gently rock the infant by swaying the arm, a living cradle of fleshy warmth and comfort. That was how it was described to him, and what he had practiced with the hard rubber dummy he’d held in birthing class that reminded him of the actual football for which the hold was named.

But the real thing had been quite different. The first time he held the baby, their baby, their son, it was nothing like hard leather. It was soft, and breathing, and so unbelievably light. It seemed fragile, and so delicate. He barely dared touch the infant for fear of bruising him, like an over ripe tomato whose flesh might melt and bruise and break under the pressure of tactile contact.

But Jake took the baby. The nurse handed the baby to Jake that first time gently, but with a practiced certainty that only someone who had handled many babies could manage. She moved in such a way that her hands both held the baby and also moved Jake’s hands into position to do the same. For a split second, they both held the infant. Then it was Jake, alone.

And Jake took the baby with a fear and trepidation that only first-time fathers can know. He held the head, the skull, the fragile vase at the core of this small things being. He felt the weight of the body on his bare right forearm, imagining he could feel the baby’s tiny little ribs and spine even through the layers of clothing and blanket that surrounded it. And he held his left hand atop the baby, just over the ribcage, further imaging he could feel each impossibly tiny structure of its breastbone. And Jake felt him breathe. And breathe again. And on the third breath is when Jake himself remembered to do so, as well.

“It’s called the football hold,” the nurse said, her smiling eyes darting back and forth protectively, between father and son. No dropped baby’s on her watch. “Because you’re cradling him like you would if you were running down the fifty yard line.”

Jake looked up and smiled, tearing his eyes from the baby’s puzzled, searching face for the merest fraction of a second, before returning. In another life, he would’ve corrected her, jumped laughingly on the premise that anyone would run down the fifty-yard line. You run across the fifty yard line, toward the opposite teams goal. That kind of verbal error, one which spoke to a lack of knowledge about a sport he was so familiar with, would not have been allowed to pass. But that was another life, where things like football, and the lawn, and what kinds of books you read and where you went to college were important. This was a new life. And there was only one thing of tantamount importance in this new life. And he was holding it in his arms, in the football hold.