Sunday, September 27, 2009

Thinking About Things

Over the past four or five weeks, I’ve spent so much time thinking, my brain smells like bacon.
There’s the workplace. I work for a state funded community college and as such, our budget has been battered by the national and local economy. The state of our budget along with other factors have made the workplace very stressful. I still love my job and genuinely feel that I contribute a great deal every day – but feeling that stress is not a nice feeling and it’s just bad for the health.
There’s death….3 of them in just a couple of weeks time. The 23 year old son of a colleague; I didn’t know the kid and don’t know exactly what killed him – I do know that this kid only had half the time I’ve had thus far and it could just as well have been me – why do I deserve my life while his was cut short?
Diane, an old friend from the neighborhood passed away at the age of 46. I hadn’t seen or spoke to Diane in about 25 years but that doesn’t mean I didn’t feel just as close to her, as I feel about all of the old gang. I am who I am partly because of those early years and the people that were a part of it. I love all of them and losing one of them just plain hurts.
“Skip”. Skip was a 58 year old man who I first met when he was a student at the college where I work but later he began attending services at my church. Skip had be unhealthy as long as I have known him, was as close to the poverty line as one can be and still have some roof over his head, and had no family at all. The rector at our church was his emergency contact – that's how we learned of his death.
If anything, all of this death has me feeling much more grateful for the life I have been gifted with and more aware if it’s uncertainties. That, plus some pretty major stuff going on right now in my life and I’d be lying if I said keeping it all together was an easy task.
However, I am filled with hope and faith that the road ahead, though in the immediate future will be what it will be….beyond that I am confident there will be a new unknown to explore. Keep me in your thoughts – I need that right now….

Friday, September 25, 2009

Twists and Turns


Life's little twists and turns turn out sometimes to be not so little and every so often, the turn is far sharper than you were expecting. Then, sometimes even knowing of the inevitable sharp turn your complacency leads you down the road oblivious to the obvious. You read that right but go ahead and read it again, keep it stored in your frontal lobes and a few other places as backup.
I have learned something in my time on this planet, that just as such twists and turns make shake the foundation you walk on, sometimes faith and miracles can shake back and bring life back into balance. Right now, I am banking on that faith, as well as a few other things people should be able to bank on. Sadly, often the faith part comes through while the more tangible things don't but I guess that's just another think I must leave to fate…

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Something to Talk About

or…
Ch Ch Ch Changes
I could probably come up with many names for this post but suffice it to say, my world is about to change in a big way. In some ways its as depressing as humanly possible and in some ways, there’s the potential for some excitement. Only one thing is for sure, it’s all about to change.
“Hey, what the hell is he talking about?” I assume that is the top question out there for those that are reading this and are wither curious, give a crap, or both. In the weeks and months to come, I will share it all, or at least all I will share – can share…
Right now I am overwhelmed, nervous, and even scared but in the words of George Michael, in who I am not sure is the mightiest example to be quoting – though the words are appropriate…”gotta have faith!'”
Until next time….

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

More Magnificence


Now that I've slept a few more hours, I thought I would say a bit more on the U2 concert; a few things worth mentioning that I overlooked (and a few things that could probably go unmentioned without being missed but I'll mention them anyway).


The set. I've seen some elaborate sets in my concert going career. I can't even begin to fathom how this particular set gets put up and taken down and moved from stadium to stadium – it is enormous, elaborate, mesmerizing, and seemingly integral part of the show. While I am confident that this band can do the barebones, no set, in your face show and let their talent and the music do all of the talking – as Bono described, and I paraphrase, "the design of this set has a purpose to bring the band and the audience closer together." As I mentioned in the last post, Bono has mastered the art of incorporating these multimedia elements and knows just how to use the set as a tool such that the set achieves its primary purpose and doesn't end up being a giant point of wonder. I had this grand vision (not to be confused with a hallucination) of the set, which is supposed to be a space ship, actually taking off after the show and getting to the next city on the tour on its own.


Politics, Religion, and Her (a title of a Sammy Kershaw album but an adequate opening to this paragraph). U2's music has always come with a message rooted in Bono's political and religious beliefs. One of Bono's skills, in my opinion, is to effectively express his point of view without being pompous, pretentious, or overbearing. I know there are some people who just hate the idea of mixing music with these sorts of messages and if that is the case with you, don't go see U2 and definitely don't go see Bruce Springsteen (the greatest live performer in performance history) – buy the CD's and be done with it, then you'll have nothing to complain about (though you'll consistently miss something special).


Oh, the Her part…what is that all about? I neglected to address the "Her" in the title of the previous paragraph so I will accomplish that here in this one. Folks, let's not forget this is Rock and Roll if Bono (along with the other guys in the band) is a bona fide rock star. As such, there was a point in the show where Bono cleverly brought a lady from the crown on stage with him to participate in the show and leave her with a night to remember in her fantasies while adding to the mystique of a guy named Paul Hewson, but goes by Bono (Vox). As Bono said, "there are advantages to being in my line of work." Let us not all forget that being in his line of work has both advantages and responsibilities, clearly, Mr. Hewson (I wonder how often he is referred to that way) wants us all to know he has a handle on both.


There's not much more I can say about the show specifically other than reiterating how amazing it was and how extraordinary this band is as a live act. After the show ended, things got pretty ugly as Gillette Stadium (and the entire Patriot Place complex) was poorly designed from a city planning perspective. Either payola on the Kraft bunch or stupid oversights on the town and state planning commission led to an oversight about how the complex would affect infrastructure; particularly traffic. I sat in my car for two full hours before even starting the car, much less any movement taking place. Once moving, the three short mile trek up route 1 to get me to a back road out of town took another hour and a half. U2 left the stage at about ten minutes before eleven and I didn't get home until three in the morning (I only live about 40 miles from the stadium). Other than the negatives – I'll just remember the good stuff…if you have a chance to see U2 for the first time (or any time), go for it.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Magnificent!

U2 was one of the bands I have always wanted to see live but until last evening at Gillette Stadium, I hadn’t. While I’ve seen the band perform on TV shows and films of concerts, I couldn’t have imagined the difference it would make to be there live during the performance. Bono commands the stage with a mystical presence and has mastered the art of incorporating multimedia elements into the performance.
The music and the message were loud and clear without pretentiousness but with charm and true rock and roll grace. There wasn’t a moment of the two hour show that I wasn’t feeling some deep connection to the band, the music, and the message – it was beyond what my simple words can describe.
Here’s the set list:
Main Set: Magnificent
No Line on the Horizon
Get On Your Boots
Mysterious Ways
I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For
Elevation
Your Blue Room
Beautiful Day
Unknown Caller
Until the End of the World
Stay (Faraway, So Close)
The Unforgettable Fire
City of Blinding Lights
Vertigo
I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight (remix)
Sunday Bloody Sunday
MLK
Walk On
One
Where the Streets Have No Name
Encore(s): Ultraviolet
With or Without You
Moment of Surrender
With more than 25 solid  years or churning out incredible music, I knew it would be impossible to walk away from this concert without hearing something I wished I had, except, in the end…I was moved so deeply not just my the songs, but by the words and how they were delivered, there was no room for concern about what hadn’t been.

The Patriots and Me

How this boy from Brooklyn, New York came to root for the New England Patriots.

I must first proclaim my undying love for the New York Yankees; a love of somewhere between 35 and 40 years that will not ever change. I I preface this post because regardless of any other sports team I align with, I could never align with the Boston Red Sox - I will be a gentlemen and not bad mouth them, but I will never root for them.

Through the 7o's and right up through Troy Aikman's retirement, I had been a Dallas Cowboys fan. Despite growing up in NYC, I never considered myself a Jets or a Giants fan. The Roger Staubach (and accompanying team) years were truly memorable, especially when the rival team on the field was The Pittsburgh Steelers - it was always a magical contest.

The post Staubach, particularly the Aikman years were fun to watch as well, but clearly there seemed to be a shift in the Cowboy organization and after Aikman retired, I not only lost interest in the team, but the sport of football in general.

I took a few years off from giving a crap at all and as the 90's were coming into the later part of the decade, I moved from my native city of Brooklyn in 1997 to Massachusetts. I learned quickly that it was going to be difficult to be a Yankees fan in Red Sox land and while I hadn't watched so much as a single down of football (except for a few Super Bowls), I was itching to have a team I could give a crap about.

Since most of my new friends were heavy into the Pats, I thought I'd at least socialize a bit by joining a few to watch the games together and it was watching this team play that opened my eyes to something that I found to be rare in football and in fact, rare in most professional sports teams. I studied a bit more about the organization and such and found that I really liked the Patriot organization - it had a certain class about it. Perhaps it is all an illusion, a smoke screen - regardless, the players were fun to root for and along with the camaraderie of some buds from around here, I got hooked.

So, that is my story and I am sticking to it. I like the game of football - it interesting to watch and try to understand the strategies and logic that goes into the game. Some have mentioned that the Pats are "cheaters" and to that I say, If your only source in information is "Mangini", I think you might want to find a more credible source of information. I'm not going to say that Bellichick (who in my opinion is the best head coach since Tom Landry) or the Pats are perfect, but they do have what seems to be, or at least resemble what's been so lacking in the capitalistic generation of pro sports. I can't even bring myself to give a crap about hockey anymore...

Friday, September 18, 2009

Out With The Old and In With The New

I bought this puppy brand spanking new, my first new car, in October of 1998 and drove it right through last evening when I surrendered it to the government "Cash for Clunkers" program where it will be crushed (after being scavenged for scrap metal and the sort) and put to rest.

Other than bad gas mileage, this car has served me well and was an overall positive experience to own. I hope that it gets the 72 virgin greeting when it gets to it's final resting place like they told me it would.

Here's me and my new wheels, a 2009 Honda Fit Sport. The photo couold have been taken at a more interesting angle showing off the vehicle a bit more. Here's to hoping I can have as sweet a relationship with this car than with the last.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Teacher Files: Careful What You Ask For

I received an email from one of my students who had a few problems taking the online quizzes. Turns out, I had addressed the potential for this problem, and I was hesitant to offer this student an second chance for several good reasons. In fact, this was my exact response:
I am inclined at this time to not reset either of these quizzes. On Thursday, I posted an announcement and a document that addresses this very issue. Also, I am uncomfortable with the fact that after having this problem with the first quiz, you just went on ahead with the next one instead of dealing with the issue on the first one. It appears that you took the practice quiz successfully and finally, you took this course, just a few weeks ago - you should know better. So, convince me why you deserve another chance to take these quizzes.
You see, this student took this same course with me over the summer in an accelerated session and received a passing grade. However, it was a poor grade – not one that would successfully transfer and for other “personal reasons,” this student chose to repeat the course. Anyway, re-read the last sentence in my initial response before you read her reply back, which follows (I’ve removed names and altered town names):
Honestly,
Because I bombed the last class because my husband was addicted to prescription pain killers, had himself arrested, came back home, proceeded to smash in my windshield and tear apart the house. At which time I had him arrested again and placed a restraining order on him. His psychiatrist had him committed to a facility in [***far away town***] which is an hour drive from my house. This took a whole lot of driving time...I live in [***my town***], work in [***work town***} and went to see him in [***far away town***] before driving back home to [***my town***]. While committed, he called the police on me claiming I was stealing from him. I had to deal with many phone calls from the police who were, thankfully, understanding and did not give me any grief about the situation.
My husband tried to commit suicide while in the detox/psych. clinic. I visited him 4 times throughout his 9 day stay. This was very stressful and completely turned my life upside down. During this time my dog was also hit by a car. Thankfully, he survived and is almost all healed. Now.........
Despite all this I went online 2 or 3 times a week and did the best I could to keep going forward and do what I had to do to get one step closer to becoming a nurse. I knew that I needed to get a better job and that everything that was happening in life right then was temporary.......things would get better one way or another. So, now my husband is home, clean and sober, and I have purchased a new Dell computer that seems to be giviing [sic] me a few problems.
I will however, read your note about the problem that I experienced while taking these tests. I would very much appreciate it if you would reset these tests because I want to pass this class with flying colors as I know I am able to do. Please, please, please, give me one more shot.
I asked, didn’t I? I gave the student a second chance but that’ll be where it ends. It’s hard not to be compassionate to such a story. I hope this student didn’t bite off more than they can chew and that everything works out for the best.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Podcast: Dealing With These Deaths

There seems to be a whole lot of dying going on, and with people way to young to be dying. This podcast is raw and at times, a little all over the place. However, it is the real deal - me just pouring out how I am feeling about all of this in the moment.

When I originally recorded this it was about 14 minutes, there was nearly 6 minutes of silence - which I have edited out.
LISTEN HERE
or, listen here:

Saturday, September 05, 2009

I Yearbooked Myself

My buddy Rob did this and posted his pics to FB where I saw them, laughed, then had to do it myself.
If you want to try it out, click here – but first check me out in my various yearbook incarnations (this is truly what computers were invented for).
YearbookYourself_1964 circa 1964, with a mild case of vitiligo
YearbookYourself_1968circa 1968, hippy dippyish
(friends, don’t forget to breathe while laughing)
YearbookYourself_1974circa 1974, I’m a black man again
I love the giant bowtie
YearbookYourself_1978circa 1978, very Dwight Schrute-ish
YearbookYourself_1988circa 1988, the discovery of the mullet
YearbookYourself_1996circa 1996, ya gotta love that dippity doo doo thing covering my forehead
YearbookYourself_2000circa 2000, clearly after a visit to Jamaica
What a fun trip down memory lane. Of course, if you never visit the website, there are some of you who might actually believe that any of these are actual photographs of me and that would be the funniest of all. LOL!!!
I less than three you.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Alaska Trip Journal – Part 19 [The End]

canadian-coins After rumbling through my backpack, I found that I had around two bucks in Canadian currency so I stopped at the Hudson News and grabbed a soda and a bag of chips. The soda and chips came out to almost 8 dollars! OldDutch-Baked-CreamyDillThe chips, which cost around 5 bucks, I must confess, were quite delicious. I can’t recall the brand name but do remember that the company was in Winnipeg (I found the photo with Google images as I was posting this]. The chips were “baked” and “creamy-dill” flavoured and once again, I must say they were delicious.  In fact, the dill flavor would later offer subtle reminders that I ate something with dill flavouring (I’m just showing off now with the spelling of flavor). The plane finally boarded (on time, it was the wait that prompted the use of the work finally) and took off on time and as I write this very sentence, (4:28 PST), there remains about an hour before landing at Sky Harbor airport in Phoenix. Fortunately, I was initially writing this longhand so I didn’t have to put away my notebook for takeoff and landing.
The landing at PHX was smooth and on time. The bowl of grits at breakfast, many hours and a country ago along with those chips, of which the dill flavor still wishes to express itself, represent my total consumption thus far and as such, I was hungry. More accurately, I was starving to the point where I had a really bad headache and was feeling a bit dizzy. I stopped at a fast food joint in the airport; I think it was called “The Great Steak” and something something. great steakI ordered a “great steak combo” which consisted of a cheese steak sandwich, fries, and a soda. I polished the food off far faster than I should have but when it was done, I craved something sweet which led me to Starbucks and a slab of delicious and overpriced (I know, redundant considering I already said Starbucks) crumb cake. With about two and a half hours left before my flight leaves for Boston, it was time to get serious about time wasting and people watching – I needed something to pass the time.
* * * * * * * * * *
LIVE IN-FLIGHT UPDATE: It is 4:27am EST and there is just under an hour left until the scheduled landing time in Boston; and I am having the flight from hell. The flight itself is okay, but I personally am having a host of issues that are creating the hellishness. DO you recall the cheese steak sandwich I ate in Phoenix? Clearly my food choice was a bad one and it was rumbling about in my belly so badly that for a moment, I went into the restroom thinking I may need to vomit. I haven’t vomited in more than 20 years and perhaps even 25 years. I’ve been nauseous many, many times but I hate vomiting and perhaps even fear it some; so much so that I would rather feel like vomiting than actually vomit. That is, there are times when some might wish to just get the vomiting over with and perhaps even induce it knowing that once they vomit, they will no longer feel like vomiting. Me, I’ll go hours feeling like crap, like vomiting and do anything to prevent it from happening, even at the cost of continued feeling crappy.
I stood in the cramped restroom with my head leaning against the angled ceiling above the toilet and somehow, with the movement of the plane (blended with the noxious fumes of airplane toilet 80% through a long flight with a plane load of passengers, many of whom used it), there was some sort of calming effect and the nausea began to subside. In addition to my tummy woes, my legs were far more restless than usual and I was almost completely unable to sit still. I had enough restlessness that I had to get up constantly to stretch and walk the aisle, which didn’t make me popular amongst the rest of the passengers since they were all trying to sleep. I was at one point so darn fidgety that I began to get self conscious thinking that all the passengers, at least the ones who either were awake or awakened by my fidgety freakiness, had begin making judgments about me and even had come up with “secret” voodoo wishes and nicknames.
The rest was uneventful. After landing in Boston it was get the luggage and then the shuttle to long-term parking before driving home and then collapsing in exhaustion. I was lucky in that I had the rest of the week off to re-coup my energy and enjoy the memories of a wonderful vacation.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Alaska Trip Journal – Part 18

Sunday, August 2nd, 2009 (The Last Day, The road home) continued…
I’m just sitting in the terminal, with no Canadian Currency and a Starbucks looming in the near distance calling my name for some odd reason. As a reminder, I am sitting in the airport in Vancouver, British Columbia thousands of miles from home. I look up and notice a couple of folks whom I know, from back home in Massachusetts. What the heck are the odds of that happening? Neither of us knew that the other was travelling much less passing through the same airport and as it turns out, at the same time. While they were on a different flight, for me, that didn’t negate the awesomeness of the coincidence and it was also a pretty nice break from the waiting around monotony.
Okay, back to the U.S. customs line – it moved along at a pretty good pace through to the first checkpoint where a young lady asked to see the customs declaration form before passing me through without incident. The next room included another human sized mouse maze (sans cheese) eventually leading to break offs where there were yet new lines for each booth were the final waiting spot before meeting with the customs agent.
The original last line I was on seemed a bad choice as there was a large Asian family that were being fingerprinted and questioned – it was taking long enough for me to decide to switch to a different last line that appeared to be moving quicker (and had less of a criminal element being processed). It was at some point waiting on this new last line that I looked over at my old last line to find that standing there waiting was none other than comedian Rex Havens who performed on the ship this past Wednesday evening. I couldn’t stop myself from approaching him if only to let him know how much I enjoyed his show. I told him the same as I wrote here in my journal, that I thought he was very funny and that in my opinion, he should be as well known as anyone else in his business. He thanked me and shook my hand saying that I was very kind to say so. I assumed that would be the end of the pleasantries but a few moments later, Rex approached me, handed me a business card and asked me to send him an email and he would send me a copy of his book and CD “on-the-house”. I told him that I would do so and that he was generous to offer and we both proceeded to deal with the customs process as he made it through his like to meet with an agent and shortly after, I got to meet with mine.
After passing through the customs agent line, and what I expected to be the last line, there was yet one more mouse maze to pass through eventually leading to the x-ray/metal detector screening lanes. Oh, I almost forgot – before entering this line, there was a conveyor belt waiting to relieve me of my checked baggage, which was nice. As I moved along through the line, there were occasions where Rex Havens and I passed each other. I didn’t want to be one of those awkward fans who feel obliged to interact each time we crossed paths. Surprisingly and delightfully, Mr. Havens took the time to interact with me offering jokes and conversation and again reminding me to email him. He is not only a terrific entertainer, but also a cordial and delightful gentleman.
As if enough oddities, both pleasant and not, could happen, there was another waiting for me as I passed through the metal detector, set off an alarm, and became the center of attention. Oh, before I discuss that annoyance, I must say how awful a mistake I made not wearing socks with my Rockport boat shoes. The thing is, I never wear socks with these shoes, certainly never with shorts. Anyway, I had to remove my shoes to pass through the metal detector leaving me barefoot to walk through. I was so thoroughly disgusted I thought I was going to faint or go into shock – I am not even kidding about this. Worse, as I mentioned, I set off the metal detector making the amount of time I was barefoot on this disgusting floor feel like an eternity. The absolute disgust I was feeling had me feeling woozy, nauseous, and light headed. The disgust did distract me from the embarrassment of my frisking and paddling to detect the source of the alarm. Believe it or not, it was my passport! I mentioned that it seemed odd that my passport could set off the alarm but the dude with the wand said it wasn’t all that unusual as there are microchips inside the passports (I did not know this).
Once cleared, I got my shoes back on as immediately as possible and headed over to gate E87 where I would wait for flight 500 to board.
To be continued…