My First Political Speech

Tonight I will be presenting to my towns local democrats club. It’s an opportunity for people willing to run to make a statement as to why they would run. 

………..

Good evening. Thank you all for being here. This is my first ‘speech’ of a political nature, or of any variety and I appreciate you baring with me. 

A few months back I sat on my couch feeling things I’d never felt before. The champagne stayed corked, some heavier drinks got drunk and I fell asleep ashamed and saddened by the choice we made.  We elected a President that was shamefully unqualified, dangerously temperamental and hopelessly out of touch with American ideals. I’d lost my country. More to the point, I may never have had a good handle on who we were. 

It appears I wasn’t alone. I started to find likeminded people coming out of the woodwork. People similarly startled and shaken and searching. Searching for what we could do to resist this wave of ugly nationalism that seems to be growing in vitriol and volume. Voices of disunity and intolerance rising from every corner of the globe it would seem. 

What can we do, now that we’re here, I thought. 

First there were raised voices in the form of marches and protests and, well, resistance. The energy I saw was a huge help. It made me see there were so many of us.  

I’ve long believed there was no home for me politically. I’ve been an independent for most of my life because the left refused to speak it’s conscience. That changed this cycle. We’ve been unbridled of late, but it wasn’t so long ago that a candidate such as President Obama would say they were for civil unions as opposed to saying they were for gay marriage. I understood the political expediency of such a statement, but everyone knew it was not his opinion. The left, over decades, has been pulled so far to the middle by redistricting and the seemingly never ending march to the right by our fellow Americans in the other party that it left anyone with a truly inclusive perspective out. 

There’s a liberal conscience that has risen to the surface in the past 5 months. It’s kicked into high gear since the inauguration. It’s a conscience that knows what is right and what is dead wrong. It knows that we are strengthened by diversity. It knows that we are strongest when we show compassion and charity for those that struggle. It knows that we owe it to our children, to all children, to start cleaning up this earth before we hand it over, picked clean of its sustaining bounty. The conscience of the left knows that security cannot come from acting out of fear and cowardice. It knows the world is a dangerous place because decades of the redistribution of wealth from the broad middle to the fat and getting fatter at the very top of the economic food chain has left many in desperate conditions. The left has a conscience. What it’s been lacking is a voice. What we’ve been lacking is the confidence to stand and say plainly what we believe to be true.

What does that have to do with conducting the business of New Providence you might ask. I’d ask it too. It’s a bit of a stretch to tie all of this to us in this room, I know. But ultimately all of these things are what are animating this rising engagement on the left. For too long we haven’t been organized and many of us have felt alone in our views while unable to avoid seeing the brazen confidence of a conservative movement that has come to its current place of untethered rage and unabashed hate and undoubted electoral dominance at every level of government seemingly without resistance. They’ve done all of this because they’ve always, always been better at this than we have been. They are better at organizing. Better at being present in the local meeting rooms like this one. They are organized. 

We’ve spent far too long relying on the fact that our ideas would rise to the top regardless of whether or not we spent any energy pushing them there. We’ve spent far too long assuming that love would trump hate. We thought that before the sticker, before the president. We still think it. But if we’ve learned one thing from the past few months its that effort wins. Participation wins. Showing up AND speaking up wins. And we haven’t been doing it. Not here. Not in the ‘Trump Country’ where I was raised. Not in the halls of power where state after state after state have come to not even be concerned by our existence, forget our ideas. It’s not a contest of ideas now. It’s an organizational challenge now and we’re way behind. 

I don’t know I’m the right person for this job. I don’t. I’m frankly excited to have anyone of the people you see here tonight as an option. For too long we’ve ceded our towns and villages and counties and state governments to the conservatives by not meeting their civic engagement with our own. They have beaten us fair and square. They sustain on a culture of service. A culture that prizes community leadership at the most fundamentally local levels. It sustains the entire movement. And we’ve surrendered, over decades, without so much as raising our hands to participate. 

Well, that’s where I see the problem. Ultimately I hope I’m a small part of a much larger movement. One that gets in there and fights for what’s right unabashedly and unashamedly knowing that we stand together. That will show up, that will ask questions. That will not let control of our most basic, most crucial resources be controlled by one party without so much as a single voice of descent in the room when decisions are being made. 

I’m offering my service because I believe it’s what we need to do. We need to be engaged, we need to participate, we need to lead. Here in our town. I’m hoping there are meetings like this happening all over the county, the state and the country. Because we need to change what it means to be liberal. We need to change it right here, where we live. 

Snow day or raising kids?

First it’s daunting. How can we change our lives so completely and so quickly? Will we be able to tolerate turning on a dime? Had you asked us before anyone considered this as a possibility what our lives would be like we could have told you, with pretty decent accuracy exactly how things would have gone. But, some things you control and some things are out of your hands.
To be honest, just sitting there having your coffee, still groggy and tired, it can catch you off guard. I mean here we are. A family. All together, just us. Everything I planned for is gone and I don’t need to explain myself. It’s amazing what’s been given to us, how lucky we are. What are we going to do with all we’ve been given. It’s energizing.

Looking out the window it really is beautiful. A whole new angle on the world. One I don’t think of often, but it’s always there. The magic of it all. Bounties and possibilities falling from the heavens in a seemingly neverending supply.

Before long practicality has to step in. You can only sit safely inside the safety of the whole world now existing in these four walls for so long. There’s places to go. But how. Life is changed and all that mobility, all that freedom you had it seems just yesterday is gone. I frankly don’t even know how we’d go about getting out of here. Like logistically. Emotionally.

Eventually, and much later than I should have, I had to do something. I knew there was work to be done. Jobs I might not have done given my druthers. But my druthers aren’t really the deciding factor any more. I start to wonder if they ever were. Whatever. Time to get on my big boy pants, the comfy, functional, warm ones and get out to that driveway and get going. It’s time to work dammit. For my family.

At first the work is overwhelming. Really, did I sign up for this, I ask myself. Isn’t there some other way? And of course there is. Or there was. I could have planned better. Could have made decisions long ago that would have made all this work easier. Would have put me in a better place on this day. Would have given me the tools to make all this easier. But that’s not the bed I’m lying in. Besides, after all the monotony, the pain and the drudgery it isn’t long before I look up and look back and see that it’s almost done. I’m excited. At first.

Sure. There’s a lot I’d like to have behind me. But given our fun times we’ve already had, and the fun times surely still ahead of us, well I’m not sure I want this to end. Ever. What’s facing me after this. This is all of us. Together. What can be better than that.

In the end though, you can’t think of it that way. So much of this was magical. So unexpected and full of fun and play and laughs. Good food and junk food and games and hugs and love and movies and forts and conversations big and small.

The work all got done. Each of us doing what we could to make the best of it all. It was so great and so precious that we just hope it all happens again sometime, in some way.

Immersed

via Daily Prompt: Immerse

We immerse ourselves in what we love

and find a love there waiting.

A love of all we see and learn while falling

Into a light that’s magnetic and never abating.

We fall forever and gather momentum

never once thinking of halting or breaking

when beckoning the courageous and curious and brave

Immersion too often convinces through magic

A belief that deeper and deeper, fathoms upon fathoms

can somehow broaden your knowledge

can give a light to wisdom that travels

at speeds your fathoms can’t fathom.

Until you believe your deeper knowledge

the knowledge that gives you meaning

is somehow the secret to all that is wanted

by all those who don’t study your journey.

Without warning and only in hindsight

do we recognize all that has brought us

to proselytize, believing our wisdom is better than yours

and seeking others who follow.

The same footsteps and thinking

experiences not thinking or asking or seeking or wishing

to learn of an others earned wisdom.

For nothing not swimming in which I had sought

can have knowledge that equals what my search had wroguht

Balance is not what the holy demands

but wisdom arrived at by only my path

and only by those who are near me.

Our tribe has found the one lonely truth

and your path is filled with deniers.

Not wanting salvation for simply committing

to that which is so bloody, so simple

Immersion in me is fealty to thee

and the only true way from damnation

Summers, Cities, Lucy, Diamonds

I danced without thinking or knowing or asking

Spoonfuls of Beatles fueling the frenzy

Summers, cities,Lucy, diamonds

I saw Wonders when Stevie sung to me

In his words but the voice of my mother

Who wrapped me and calmed me and held me

In the warmth of her arms while she borrowed

His words but their awe at such a creation

From an apple residing along with her visions

I saw fire alight in the crescendo of voices

On stages and altars and living room theaters

Words reached out and found me on landings

Compelled me and tempted me slowly

First I whispered stories while reading

Not knowing a sound was even escaping

From mothers and fathers and Hammerstein and Rodgers

And the books those men made me look for

I found shelter for years when I could not find footing

In words and ideas that I never surrendered

Tween covers of stories I carried in backpacks

Of journeys glorious and reverent and abysmal

Sewn into the fabric of many a traveler

By writers and poets commanding attention

Despite never knowing who listened

Who but me, perhaps knew their meaning

The weight of such words beat out on the keys

On Benny’s and scrolls strung together

Cross countries and boundaries times unimagined

Explorers, the greates minds of a generation

Or later while starving in cold water flats

Living just enough for a city of wonder

To rhythms and whims that would have broken

The heart of an apple in an eye

Less buoyed by Beatles, Beats, Wonders and I

To see art in the suffering and wish to collide

And grind and mash my way through the classics

I have come to the time when I must commit to

Try to create and express and learn to be

Less guarded, more trusting that others will see

A simple expression of thought and of feeling

Given through songs and stories and colors

In my life I’ve learned to be and to breathe

Through works of others more gifted than me

Now I try and I struggle and I say I’m happy

Just busy and thinking and fully connected

To art and to life and to all that may be

On the path that stretches forever behind me.

What Writing Does and Doesn’t Do For Me

Writing. I write to express myself. Sometimes it brings a smile of recognition to those that have known me or shared a portion of the same paths I’ve traveled. Other times in sparks interest of a sort that is more intriguing. Revealing of a self I may never have thought to share or may even have been hugely  invested in hiding. For me writing sublimates rage, actualizes vulnerability and exposes fear. It’s lessened the load considerably.

Sometimes I write merely to impress. To give myself and hopefully some others a few laughs. I like the feeling of making people laugh. I like the feeling of people thinking I’m funny even more. I like them telling me I made them laugh and that I’m funny most. I’m as easily wooed by flattery as anyone. Moreso than many, I’m sure. External validations are sweeter than the internal ones. Not as long lasting, but at least theres a button to push. Can’t always find it, but at least I know its there, waiting to be pressed.

It’s amongst my healthiest coping tools, writing. It’s creative and productive and a tool for reflection that has served me well. I fear the times when I’m uninspired and don’t write for a few weeks. I spent twenty years scrawling incoherent ramblings of rage and confusion into manic and crazy looking notebooks and journals wanting desperately to be a ‘writer’ only to learn it took others reading to make me one.

After that I learned that a facility for words merely means you meet the minimum requirements. What became apparent quickly to me was that I had to start getting naked. I had to start writing down the truths of me and not just the flattering ones. I wrote about rage and failings and experiences I buried deep. I shared my scariest moments and my more vulnerable ones. I have not fully cleaned out the closet as yet, but I’ve made space so when I look in I can make some sense of what’s left in there. I can see it all. I don’t just crumble under the sheer mass of emotional detritus. It’s been a very healing and healthy exercise. One I’m proud of.

If you are one of the few that has read a good deal of my work you’re aware of this. To one degree or another you’ve seen the praise seeking showoff, the vulnerable human and the emotional rager. I’ve kind of put it all out there. What’s not so present is the view you might have of me if you were actually looking at me with your own eyes. Every day.

Writing. It’s the best tool I’ve had to cope. With the pressure of being a dad and a husband. The pressure of working in a field where we are caring for people and their loved ones. Having what feels like a lot of responsibility on me a lot of the time due to both those things. Not to mention the inherrent guilt I seem to have been born with. I can’t remember a time when it wasn’t there. It’s the best tool. But it’s not the only tool. Just the best.

The others I won’t get into. I won’t lay them at your feet and wait for some unearned praise, though that needy part desperately wants to. He wants to share all he does from midnight to three, wants to watch the little numbers crawl up. He wants your manipulated respect and even the tender feelings you have and share for a person being truthful about the lesser parts. But they would only validate me and make me more prone to continuing the other things. The ones I won’t share. Not with you or anyone. The parts I don’t want to let go of. That meet me in the middle of the night and stay primary no matter how much I squeeze in to distract me.

Writing is my best tool for coping. I just wish it was enough.

Me and My BIG MOUTH!

imageI have a booming voice. As a child my parents and grandparents called it a ‘stage voice’. I believe this was something that made me prideful. ‘Stage voice’ sounded so complimentary. Like I might someday find my calling in the theater. And that ‘theater’ in my mind was a 3-syllable word.

Well, in hindsight, I think it was a nice way of saying I was loud. Very loud. I’ve come to appreciate its usefulness as I’ve learned to modulate its resonance. I speak at a normal volume in meetings or on the phone or in conversation. I save the boom-voice for such times as it’s functional. Like the years I spent as a summer camp director and had to often address large crowds while outside. Then, a booming voice is like magic. It  cuts through the cacophony and retains it’s shape even in the open air. Now it is mostly spent getting the attention of two amazingly awesome little boys who occasionally need help coming to attention.

In the course of raising these boys it’s become evident that they are going to need to attend school. If for no other reason than we need them occupied so we can work in order to keep them sheltered, fed and amply supplied. Were it not for these things I’d be one of those hippie dippie’s that w0uld prefer them to spend their days in the woods foraging and exploring and learning by reading. I’d never follow through on these things as I’m temperamentally a conformist, mostly for the sake of ease. Still, the heart wants what the heart wants.

Dig a little deeper and there’s more to it. I had a terrible experience in school. I dropped out of kindergarten and dropped out of a master’s degree program, book ending my tortured schooling with decisive, empowered rejection. So last night as I was wandering through the halls of my kids school I was prone to flashbacks to crappy times in a place I didn’t want to be. I remember the physical discomfort that resulted from my constant self judgment. It was fun!

As the night went on, however, I came around. It is really a great school. We were all there as families engaging in some fun activities put on by the school. There were media projects and fun scavenger hunts and various games and activities. The scavenger hunt looked super intense. We opted for story time in the library. Charlie was used to it so he sat on the floor where his reading teacher was going to sit. His little brother was not so into that. He took off.

‘I’ll chase.’ I said to Karen.

So we were off. Thankfully there were screens computers made available across the room. It was GREAT! They had stories he could listen to on headphones while the pages of the book and the beautiful accompanying art was on the screen. He was excited to learn how to use the mouse. It never occurred to me the mouse would be foreign to him, but of course it is. He lives in a world of touch screens.

After a bit Char and Karen joined us and as they sat there something awesome happened. The very nice mom who I met at last weeks weekend of birthday parties was standing across from me and Karen. Karen was already friendly with her before we met. We got to chatting. About school, where we were from, what brought us to here, the challenge of neighbors. It was fantastic. We were speaking to adults. Adults who might become our allies for the next 12 years. Who knows, potentially even friends!

Then it happened.

‘Excuse me. Um, could you just be a little quieter? My sons trying to read me a story and I can’t hear him.’ said the mom sitting next to the computer next to the one Teddy was on. Right in front of me.

I of course said, ‘Sure, sorry about that.’ even though what I meant for that to convey was, ‘are you kidding me, this room, this whole building is crawling with kids and parents, making endless noise and running everywhere!’

So we finished up our conversation, wrapped up what might have been the start of a friendship with my tail between my legs and our ‘friend’ chastened and chased away.

Whatever. I actually feel sorry for her. She clearly didn’t appreciate that she was in the presence of one of the worlds great stage voices. Her loss… Back to viscerally hating being in school for me.

Do You Believe In Miracles

‘Do you believe in miracles!’

 Al Michaels iconic cry as time expired in the semi-final game of the Olympic Hockey tournament in 1980 in tiny little Lake Placid, NY. The feelings this can stir in me are notable. They run the gamut from patriotism to belief to hope to astonishment. There was no way we were going to win. They were the best of the best of the Evil Empire, men driven by personal and professional and patriotic duty of their own against our upstart group of ragamuffins. A team of college stars in a sport, Division 1 Mens Hockey, that didn’t make stars. We didn’t even have all the stars. Get me on the topic for too long and I might start to tell you we even had some high schoolers getting valuable minutes. While not technically accurate, as far as narrative goes it would be true enough. We were a nation ready to believe, looking for a miracle and this team, this makeshift team did it. They gave us our miracle.

It’s a thrilling and stirring tale. One capable of inspiring tears and long bouts of sentimental nostalgia. Which is shocking and possibly troubling as I didn’t watch the game. I didn’t even know it was happening. I doubt I learned about it until perhaps 8-10 years later. As best I can tell, we didn’t have it on our radar at my house. I learned of the story by learning about it.

Still the story is worthy of everything it gets and at times I think it’s worth so much more.

I grew up in the height of the Cold War. Russian equaled bad. They were the big bad wolf out to get us, I guess. I mean I remember fearing the idea of that nuclear weapons were in the mix, but that was the extent of my analysis. I was a kid. I saw War Games and I cheered when Rocky beat Ivan Drago (the sonofabitch who killed Apollo Creed). I knew that they were the enemy. My mind and sights were clear, but really I was just a kid. As much as I’ve heard about the tensions of the time I have to say, they didn’t filter down to me.

I grew up in the heartland, really. It’s New York State, but it’s the Great Lakes part of the state. I loved and hated where I grew up. Had nothing to do with where I grew up, I’d have felt that way anywhere. But it was a GREAT place to be a kid. A stupid, oblivious kid. A great place to get your first real kiss while playing truth or dare. A place to get caught by kindly neighbors telling on you that they saw you buying cigarettes at the diner cigarette machine. A great place to fall in love for the first time and to lose your mind when you saw that girl making out with the cool guy who you could never compete with because he was two years older than you and he had not only a license but a car. It was a great place to play basketball, sun up to sundown in playgrounds where other kids were playing. It was a great place to ride your bikes uptown and get pizza or tacos or see a movie or just hang out with all the other kids that lived near, ‘uptown.’ It was a great place to walk to the neighborhood doctor who knew you since you were new. Or to catch crayfish walking barefoot through the crick. It was a great place. Still is.

It wasn’t a place for me to process the Cold War, despite all of it happening, apparently, the whole time I was doing all that other stuff. It wasn’t a place that was nervous or palpably anxious. It wasn’t a place that was out of step and it wasn’t a place that was in line. It was my American experience. I suppose the seeds of what has happened since were around. Factories closed. Our local economy had for generations been underpinned by Kodak and I did see that diminish a ton while I was growing up. Hard not to notice as it was kids parents you went to school with. Other things popped up, but nothing, no amount of things popping up could make up for losing jobs by the tens of thousands, seemingly every year for a couple decades there. Good jobs too. Union jobs for a labor force that often had only needed a high school degree. Just gone. I saw that. Didn’t know it would be such a harbinger of things to come for a pretty big stretch of the country. I imagine my elders did see it coming. Imagine those that stayed saw it coming and to some degree perhaps even got caught standing on the path.

I don’t know what my kids lives will be 30 years from now. My parents weren’t locals to where I’m from and their parents aren’t local to where they’re from. I suspect that trend will continue, but who’s to say. Perhaps my kids will love it here so much that they stay. I would be happy. I would be happy to know that they not only loved where we raised them and found a community of kind and caring friends and neighbors here, but also if they were inclined to stay because the opportunities look like staying was a good decision. I’d like them to have options.

I’m anxious. I’m scared about the direction of so many things. The economy. The hostility that seems to be so prevalent in so many. The rising social issues, some we considered if not resolved, heading inevitably in that direction in the America I grew up in. The role of America in a world in upheaval, without the terrifying order the Cold War provided. I’m hoping this anxiety that seems to be floating free in the world is resolved and my children grow up as I did. Happily oblivious to all that they will one day read about and wonder how they didn’t see it all. Nostalgic for that miracle that is awaiting us just around the corner.