Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Thoughts on My Gratitude Photos Project

As someone who enjoys putting my thoughts into words and someone who likes to capture feelings and emotions on camera, I found this project extremely difficult. I thought it would be easy. I have a lot of photos at my disposal, and I feel gratitude a lot. It seems like it would be easy to come up with thirty things for which I'm grateful.

Sure, I could find thirty photos of something I like, or that pleases me, but is that really gratitude?  I found many of my choices felt very superficial. Sure, I love a good hotel room, but is it something to be grateful for?  Yes, if you've stayed in bad hotel rooms, but it's not a cure for cancer.

As it turns out, I'm most grateful for those things I can't capture on camera. Feeling loved. Feeling included. A warm place to sleep. Having a choice in what I eat today. Family and friends. Having someone really know me and like me.

Those things aren't so easy to capture in a photograph, but they are the things for which I'm most grateful.

November 22-30 Gratitude Photos

Mass Transit


First Snow of the Season

Road Trips

Places of Reverence

A Good View


The Water

Train Villages

Monday, November 18, 2013

November 10-18 Gratitude Photos

I got too busy last week and fell behind. Here ya go. A week's worth of gratitude rolled into one post. 
Finding Beauty in Everything

Mountain Streams

Living in a Nice Neighborhood


New York City

Night Walks

Living in a place where all kinds of people can connect.

Nice Hotel Rooms

Monday, November 4, 2013

November Gratitude

I always like to write about the things I'm grateful for in November. Actually, all year round, but November specifically. This year I wanted to do something different.  As you all know, I love to write. I also love to take pictures. This year instead of blogging each day and writing something, I'm going to post a photograph I've taken of something I'm grateful for.

Since I'm four days in, here are the first four photographs of things, people, situations, experiences for which I'm grateful.

Fall Colors


The Mutts

Beautiful sunsets

Thursday, October 24, 2013

In Search of God

I had a line in St. Paulie's Delight where I said something like, "I don't believe in God. I really wish I did. There is something comforting in the ceremony of it all. I believe we should be good people and all. Do unto others and all that, but I don't believe in God."  The truth is, I could have been saying that myself these days. I won't say I don't believe, but lets just say, I'm skeptical.

When I was a kid, I did the Sunday school thing. Vacation Bible School and all that. Learned a few Bible verses, but never really had it shoved down my throat. I'm grateful that it wasn't. I never had to rebel against it. I remember praying as I grew up. None of that public praying. That came across as phony to me.  A lot of the religion I did see came off as phony to be honest. There is something condescending sounding when people say "I'm praying for you."  I know not everyone means to sound condescending, but they sometimes do.

I guess my skepticism started as I saw all the hypocrisy in the people I saw "practice the ways of the Lord." Like my Holier than Thou relative who also liked to fondle my junk. My skepticism was reinforced by the idea that there was only one way to heaven. Through Jesus. Since I had a grandmother and aunt who were Jehovah Witnesses, that battle for the soul played out across my childhood. Especially when the grandmother told me there was no Santa Claus and that Christmas was made up.

Then came the teenage years and Leviticus 20:13. "If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them."

Okay then.  I can see the big guy upstairs isn't really a fan of mine, so I'm not going to be a fan of his.  Later, wise people told me we don't recognize that part of the Bible. "We ignore it," they said. Well, that didn't make sense to me. Do you read Gone With the Wind and ignore the Civil War?"  If this book is supposed to be the be all and end all of this religion, how do you ignore some and not the other?  That's when I chose to ignore all of it.

I have friends who are Christians, Catholics, Buddhists, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Atheists, and variations within. They're all good people. If there is a heaven, I can't imagine why any of them should be shut out because their God is slightly different, or the text they read is in a different language. If their beliefs bring them comfort, who am I (or you) to judge?

As many ways as there are to practice whatever belief you have, there are ways of praying. Some like to do it publicly, or on television, like a PBS fund raising drive. "Send us money and these sinners won't burn in hell." Others do it quietly, with purpose. Some just say, "hey God. Can you give me a break?" I believe honest prayer can work, but not because it's asking the big guy for something. It's because you put your intention out into the universe. Enough positive energy and I believe things can happen. Just as negative energy causes things to happen.  And sometimes praying is the only action we can muster. I'm not a doctor. I can't make someone not be sick, so praying gives us something to do so we don't feel quite so helpless. Praying can also be used as a cop out, when another action would be more effective. Don't pray for your hungry neighbors, when taking them a couple of sandwiches would do the trick. Most of the time that action you need to do is called being kind.

Here's what I believe. God is an energy that is in nature and all living things. He is not a entity. Not an old guy with a white beard who grants wishes and expects you to be perfect or Santa won't come. God is in a sunset, a rainy day, a blade of grass, a homeless person. God is like wifi.  You can't see it. He's not in one location, but you can plug in almost anywhere you go. You don't have to get on your knees, or be in a church. You don't even have to believe. God is like oxygen. It's free. It's all around us. It's not disappointed in you if you don't tap in.  It's just there if you do.

In short, God to me, is that energy that connects us all as living beings. God is more like Mother Nature than anything else. If there was one religion I could practice that didn't make me feel like a hypocrite, it would be something along the lines of Native American spirituality. I believe in a Great Spirit.

I believe in kindness; not hypocrisy.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

It's My Blog and I'll Cry if I Want To

A while ago I had the idea that I should stop being so personal on here. I should stop displaying my neurosis for all the world to see. Well, f*ck it!  It's my blog. I'll cry if I want to.

Lately, I've been watching someone I love go through some struggles and heartache as he, and I, realize our parents are older, they're human and they can't be our Supermen and Wonder Women forever.  Another friend is still dealing with her partner, and our friend,  taking her own life last year.  A different friend is waiting to hear if she has uterine cancer or not. I could go on and on.  So many people are dealing with some life altering situation. Many are private and don't share their fears, struggles and sadness with the world, but that doesn't mean they aren't going through something. We never know what anyone is facing.

In all of this, I'm constantly reminded how each day is a gift and we're not guaranteed any of them.  I know it sounds cliche, but it is true. I'm also aware of how much time I waste on stupid, petty things. That's the part that makes me angry.

It's really hard not to look at people and shake them when they complain about not liking their theatre seat or how offended they are because someone looked at them funny.  REALLY?! I want to look at them and scream, "Grow the fuck up! It's not all about you."

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Stories in My Head

I have been making up stories in my head since I was about five years old.  It could be a sign of mental illness, or I'm a writer.  Well, it could be both, but I'll go with being a writer for now.  I think we writers and most children are blessed with a vivid imagination.  If we can actually survive our youth and the educational system with our imaginations intact, we are doing quite well.

Often as a writer, I steal from life.  A twenty-something grunge street guitarist becomes a character.  A Spring meadow after a morning's rain becomes a setting.  An overheard conversation becomes dialogue.  The jagged scar above a dark eyebrow becomes a story question.  My own questions about life become the plot.  Everything is fair game when you're a writer.  I think it makes you look at life differently, with less of a firm grip.

Sometimes in life, something will happen that seems random and doesn't seem to have much significance, but it becomes the scene that was missing in the novel I'm writing.

I joked recently after some writer's block (which really was just about procrastinating) that I used to be a writer.  I realize I was wrong.  I am a writer. With every breath I take. Every moment I'm taking in all the sights, scents, sounds that make me a writer.

Making up those stories in my head is what makes me be me.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Art Imitates Life and Vice Versa

I don't always believe in a higher plan. Sometimes I think life is just random and how we deal with it sets up the next chain in a sequence of events and more random stuff as it comes along.  Sometimes though I am struck by certain "coincidences" that happen. There are times when I look around and know that everything I am has prepared me for this particular moment.

Doing theatre is like that for me sometimes. I can not say that I haven't learned something from just about every play I've ever done. Sometimes the "aha" moment comes in just the audition, as I experienced when I auditioned for 100 Saints You Should Know.  There is a monologue where the character I wanted to play talks about loneliness. At some point delivering that monologue it stopped being the character and started being me. It was my heart I was laying open for everyone to see. But I got to hide behind the character, so it was safe.

I played a father in Brighton Beach Memoirs when I was wondering if I'd be a good father. I'm not sure if the play came to me, or I came to the play with that one.  I did You Can't Take it With You at a time when I was trying to learn to lighten up. The Laramie Project was one that left me heartbroken every night, but it also spurred me to political action.  I played Mel in The Prisoner of Second Avenue and delivered a couple of monologues which foreshadowed my own experience of being fired from a job I'd given my life to.

This list goes on and on. I don't know if the audience walks away with new found understandings of anything, but as an actor, I certainly do.

So now I'm in the most timely play of my life. It's a new work called Saint Paulie's Delight.  I play Paul, one half of the couple, Paul and Oscar. The two of them have been together for twenty years and now the state in which they live has just passed marriage equality.  Something they never anticipated when they got together twenty years earlier. Now Paul wants to get married and begins planning the wedding to end all weddings. Everything is perfect until Oscar drops the bombshell that he doesn't want to get married. He likes things just like they are.

What I love about the script is that it takes an honest look at relationships and the whole picture. I won't tell you everything because you should come see it, but there are some lines where I stop and think "wow, that's so true."   It's so easy to get caught up in the "right to marry" fight that we sometimes forget that not everyone needs that. Not everyone wants to conform to expectations of the norm.

I believe we should have the right to marry and the right to decide not to marry if that's what we choose.

So, how does this play affect me like the others? The other night when we were running it, I found myself holding back tears as Oscar tells Paul he doesn't want kids and that if Paul does, he should go out and find someone who wants that too.

I never really thought I wanted kids. The whole notion terrifies me, but hearing those words, even if they are in a script and said to my character and not me, makes me very sad.  Personally I'm more like Oscar in this play, as I don't want to bend to societal norms, but for a moment each night I find myself wanting the same thing Paul wants.  I want kids and a family. I want a white picket fence,  soccer practice, and a nosy neighbor to watch Wheel of Fortune with.

Who knew?

A Revolution

"Do you hear the people sing?
Singing a song of angry men?
It is the music of a people
Who will not be slaves again!

When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes!"
~Les Miserables

I'm awake tonight wondering what tomorrow will bring. Today the US Supreme Court made a ruling that set voter's rights back four decades. Tonight, a filibuster is happening in the Texas Senate over a woman's right to choose.  Tomorrow the US Supreme Court will announce it's ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act and California's Prop 8. It could be a big day for or against gay rights. 

I worry. Not over one issue in particular, but of the way government has become so out of touch with the people of the United States.  We are a society ruled by the most part by rich, old white men who don't know what it's like to be stopped from voting, marrying the person they love, or having to make a decision to end a pregnancy.  They don't seem qualified to make the decisions they have put themselves in power to decide. 

I worry that the people will rise and take back the government. I worry about this because it's going to be a bloody war that must be fought if we are ever to regain our country. 

"Will you join in our crusade?
Who will be strong and stand with me?
Beyond the barricade
Is there a world you long to see?

Then join in the fight
That will give you the right to be free!"

We are not victims and we will rise up and overcome. It's how America was born and how it will be reborn. 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

God Doesn't Hate F*gs; We Do That On Our Own

The thing about writing a blog, is not everything I write gets published. A lot of it stays in a draft folder. Sometimes it's because the idea isn't fully formed and sometimes it's because I'm afraid what I have to say will be so misinterpreted that I decide not to put it out there. The following is one I wrote over a year ago. I've written several along this line because I don't think the truth really gets revealed much in this area. Most of those entries remain in the draft folder.

If you're a gay man, you may recognize the feelings expressed here, but we don't talk about them, because they might perpetuate the stereotypes we're trying to deny exist.

A friend of mine published a novel not too long ago in which one of the lead characters is a not-so-sympathetic gay man.  The book is called Well With My Soul by Gregory G. Allen. I won't give away the plot, but as I said, one of the main characters is not so nice.  This morning, Greg sent me a link to a review he saw that called him homophobic because the gay character isn't portrayed in a positive manner.  I actually found that part refreshing.  Let's face it, not all gay men are nice!  Some are assholes! 
I know, I know... Gay Pride!  We're all supposed to like each other and support each other and all that crap.  We stand united against the Bible beating politicians and we tell kids "It Get's Better."   Yes, kids, it does get better because you get stronger.  You learn how to fight and you learn that you're worth more than anyone will tell you, and you certainly will NOT learn that lesson in a bar, a bath house, or a Gay Pride parade.  You will learn that by having loving supportive friends around you.  Some may be gay; some may be straight. 
In a brief history of the gay rights movement, the police harassed us, the drag queens stood up to them, we made headway and then AIDS came, wiped many of us out, we stood up again, got Don't Ask Don't Tell, got knocked back a bit, pushed forward and made headway with gay marriage.  More backlash. Forward movement.

Externally, we've made progress. Internally, we're just as divided as ever. Look at the makeup of the large gay rights organizations. Predominately white. Predominately good looking.  Predominately affluent. 
I decided not to finish, or publish this because it seemed angry and homophobic.  Angry, yes. Homophobic, no. The truth is, we don't treat each other very well. I hear women say sometimes that they would love to have a gay best friend because we are all fabulous.  No, we're not ladies.  Not all of us.  We can be bitchy, judgmental, offensive, and arrogant....all under the excuse that we're gay and we have the right to be that way.  We are FABULOUS! It's our birthright.  Actually it makes us no better than Ann Coulter or the Westboro Baptist Church. Hate is hate, regardless of who is spewing it.

If you're gay and you're white, slim, under thirty, and a have a few dollars in your pocket, I don't expect you to understand any of this.  This may not be your experience...yet.  If you're not white, over thirty, not slim, or struggling like the rest of America, I think you might have a clue as to what I'm saying.  You've experienced that feeling of being invisible in a crowded room. It's a lonely existence.

This month, as we've deemed it Gay Pride Month, can we maybe do something we can actually feel proud of? Can we treat each other with a little respect and dignity? There are many wonderful people already doing this, but there are just as many, if not more, who could use the time to catch up.  Let's show the world that adversity has made us better people. Let's show the world that we are people of all shapes, sizes, colors, economic brackets, etc...

Just be nicer to each other. Recognize the human condition that is all of us, gay, straight and everywhere in between.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Glass or Rubber...You Decide

When we're kids, or in our early teens, we can't wait to be an adult. You can do what you want. Go where you want. No one tells you what you can and can't do. Oh, but how wrong we were......

Being an adult sucks sometimes.

Life can throw us some pretty gnarly shit and no one can take care of it, but us.  Unexpected job loss, the death of a loved one, a serious medical diagnosis. There are lots of things that can turn your life around on a dime, but it's how we deal with such things that either makes us stronger, or destines us to always feel like a victim.

I could get started on how we've become a society of victims, always offended by something, always blaming others, always feeling powerless, but that's another topic for another day.

When something shitty happens, we need to stop and regroup. It's probably the healthy thing to do, but it's not always easy to do.  Life doesn't stop because we lost our job, someone died, or we got a shitty diagnosis. Life just keeps on happening. The electric bill needs paid.  The dogs need fed. The kids have to go to school. We have to bathe.  All the usual responsibilities are still there.

There are times when I've had a rough day/week at work that I want to crawl into a hole and not be bothered....ever, but I can't.  I can unplug for a couple of hours, but I can't disappear from life....as much as I might want to. I can't turn into a fragile piece of glass sitting up on a shelf, where nothing touches me.

I don't know if I'm angry there is no one who will carry all my burdens so I don't have to, or grateful that I don't have to depend on someone to take care of me. I'm not a piece of glass. I'm more like rubber. I can bend further than I ever think I can stand, but then I always snap back eventually.

I may not be perfect at it, and sometimes it takes me a bit to figure out what I need to do to take care of me, but I've been doing it for a damned long time. Whitney Houston said learning to love yourself is the greatest love at all. I'd add taking care of yourself to that. It's the greatest skill I ever learned....after writing, of course.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Big C- A Masterclass in Living

Three years ago I sat down to watch the premiere of a new Showtime original series, The Big C, with Laura Linney. I fell in love with both.  Last night I watched the final episode.

The story follows Cathy Jamison, a Minneapolis teacher, wife and mother who gets diagnosed with stage four melanoma. She's terminal. We watch as she moves through the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

Cathy begins doing the things she's always wanted to do. Not just a bucket list;  a new way of living. A more honest way. A way in which she truly appreciates the gift we all take for granted at one time or another:  life.
I won't give anything away, because if you haven't seen it, you should.

Last night's episode was the series finale.  This fourth season was a mini-season. Four hour-long episodes--each which tore my heart out of my chest. I won't spoil the ending, but you've probably figured it out.

So, I have often asked myself, why are you watching this show?  Haven't you dealt with enough cancer and death in your life? I could never really answer the question. Yes, the writing is amazing. The acting is out of this world, and well....I do love Laura Linney, but there was more.  It wasn't until last night when Cathy asked a Hospice nurse why she did the work she did and the nurse replied, "When people are close to dying, they open up like a flower."  I immediately began sobbing. That was the answer.

There is something beautiful in death. Something that strips us of all our worries, pressures, expectations. There is only that moment and that moment alone. It's the ultimate letting go. It's the one moment we will all share--regardless of the circumstances, the time, or the place.  We will all have that final moment when we let go.

Why do I call The Big C a masterclass in living? Because if we can remember what it all comes down to, maybe we can live a little lighter, worry a little less, love a little more and do what we were intended to do. Live life to it's fullest.

For this life, that's all there is.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

A Great Time for Entrepreneurs

I read somewhere a few years ago that during a bad economy is the best time to start a new business. The risk is high and the stakes are higher, but the pay off is worth it. For some, working for oneself is the only viable option. If we've learned anything over the past few years, it's that the American worker is undervalued and the illusion of job security went by way of the Y2K bug.

When one usually thinks of opening a business, it's a brick and mortar type business--selling products or services. But now that entrepreneurial spirit is also alive and encouraged with artists.  When I say artists, I mean anyone creating something, be it a song, a piece of fiction, a photograph, a painting or a film.  That in large part is due to the advances in technology and showcases such as YouTube and Amazon.com.

This past week, something was done that was pretty groundbreaking. Two cancelled thirty year old television shows were brought back to life and have a new home online. I'm talking about the daytime dramas, All My Children and One Life to Live.

When ABC Television cancelled the two longtime sudsers about a year and a half ago, it looked like that was it.  The lights were going out in Pine Valley and Llanview. But no!  A new production company called Prospect Park bought the rights to the two shows and after an agonizing year or so, finally were able to bring the shows back together for presentation on the internet--where many are already viewing their favorite shows.  If this is successful, television networks better watch out. There's new competition in town and they don't have to play by the FCC rules.

This week when All My Children re-premiered, I had to watch.  I'll admit that I didn't have very high expectations. I envisioned choppy camera work, subpar writing, bad lighting--all the things that usually come from doing something on a low budget. Boy, was I surprised. Prospect Park was able to capture the look that was All My Children.  The sets are great. The actors are great. The writing is crisp and it has a faster, more edgy pace. And guess what? They aren't playing by the same FCC rules. Several characters said words they can't say on tv.  The most shocking was Angie Hubbard, played expertly by Debbie Morgan, saying "shit."   Now when she drops the F-bomb, I'll piss my pants (and they can say that now too).

Aside from the new life for AMC, independent film makers, and musicians, are finding YouTube to be a great place to produce a web series, show their films, or get their music heard.  Just as Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble are giving writers the tools to produce their work in ebook, or standard print form, and the opportunity to sell their work.  Sure, some of it might not be good, but the rules have all changed. Finally, the little guy can put something out without the big publishers censorship or marketing analysis telling us what we want to read. We know what we want to read, and finally we're able to get that sent right to our Kindles.

I have to say I like this new era.  It kindles that entrepreneurial spirit in me. That one that invokes the original American dream--if you work hard, you can enjoy the fruits of your success. I've never been afraid of hard work, but I want to control my destiny, not some corporate big wig who only sees me as a number.   Why should I be making him rich when I could be doing the same for me?

Friday, May 3, 2013

Making the Write Decisions

Writing fiction, like life, is in the choices we make. We want to make the "right" decisions and hopefully things will play out in a manner we find pleasing and comfortable, but that isn't always the case. Sometimes we make the "wrong" decisions, but we end up with a better story. Making the decisions is the first step.

If you've been reading this for any amount of time, you'll know I've been working on a novel. I finished the first draft a few years ago now, and I've been working on revising and editing ever since. I've done draft after draft. Cutting characters. Adding characters. Changing timelines. Upping the stakes. More description; less description. More dialogue; less dialogue. I've had beta readers read it. I've solicited feedback and got it. I've done more revising.  I've done everything except finish the damned thing. Why? Because a voice inside my head tells me it's not perfect.

What if I publish it and not everyone loves it?  What if it doesn't become a runaway best seller and outsell The Fifty Shades of Grey, or Harry Potter?  What if a reviewer says, "it's okay for a first novel."  These are all things I'm very likely going to have to face. The odds are not in my favor that I will outsell those hits. Odds are a reviewer won't think it's the next great american novel, but maybe someone will.

The point is, as some of my non-writer friends have pointed out, I'll never know if I don't put it out there. Flaws and all.

I can sit here and continue editing it until I'm dead. There will always be another way of telling the story.  Another author, or even me in three months, will always have an idea how this scene could have gone, or that character should have been. The story will continue changing as the writer's life changes, day by day.  At some point we (I) have to stop procrastinating in the name of perfection, and let it go.

There's always a chance the second novel will be the new great american novel.  I'll never know until I stop tinkering with the first.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Morning After

So, yeah, I was working through some stuff yesterday, and as usual I broadcast my neuroses to the world, or at least to the eighteen people who read it.

Sometimes I think I should keep this shit to myself, but then I think that's part of the problem. In my head, and unspoken, it festers and it becomes bigger than it really is. When I write about it, I realize it's not as big and scary as I think it is. Maybe that's why I write. I'm working shit out. Should I put it out there for public consumption? I'm not sure. Some people say I write what they're thinking.  If that's true, great.

I really do want to live a more positive life. Some days are wonderful and the stars are in alignment. Other days, I'm a rocket about to go off. We're all surrounded by negativity and struggle with this, I'm sure. Actually, if you're always happy and smiling, I'm suspicious of you anyway. You're either high, in denial, or struggling with something far darker and deeper than I am. My shit is right up front. No offense.

Something I realized last night when I worked with a pretty positive group of people, was that I was also more positive.  I was lighter.  I was the true me.

As I had earlier conversations in the day, I became aware of how heavy I felt. How drained.  Like I was being pushed down and my energy was being sucked out of me.  Ah ha!  Could it be as simple as the company I keep? The stuff I'm absorbing? What a concept!

I just deleted two paragraphs that were right here. I decided maybe I'd keep those thoughts to myself.  After all, you aren't interested in every minute of my journey.  You've got your own.  I'll report back if I learn anything significant.

So long, for now!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Snap, Crackle, POP!

Some days I really don't like me.

I know we're not supposed to say that. We're supposed to love ourselves and all that.  Some days I do.  There are parts of me I adore.  Much of the time.

But some days...

Some days I'm all bound up with anger, worry and fear.  Can I put off an overdue oil change for another week because I can't afford it this week?  Should I pay rent first or the car payment?  If I pay both, I might not have enough money for the water bill.  What's going on with the government this week?  Is there going to be Social Security when I need it?  I can't put anymore money in my 403b without going deeper in debt now.  Will any of it matter with North Korea on the brink of insanity?  Are the terrorists winning?  How in the hell can I get out of bed and face another day at work?

Work!  I spend ninety percent of my work day listening to people bitch to me about something, bitch at me about something, bitch about me.  I'm supposed to have all the answers, make everyone happy, and fix it all with a smile on my face. I do the job of two people since the last round of budget cuts and I'm tired.  Of course I can't say anything or admit I need help or I'll end up a casualty of the next budget cuts.  Been there, done that.

Home. Home is good.  It's my comfort, my oasis, my barricade against the crazy world outside the door. I like home too much. I don't want to leave.  I have anxiety attacks over taking a vacation because it's going to put me out of my home for a week.  That terrifies me.  As much as I need the vacation, I'm stressing over it.  Do I have enough money to really relax?  Will a vacation even help when eventually I'll have to catch up on everything I missed during the week?

Usually, I like myself.  But when all these things are swirling through my brain and getting out of bed seems like a hopeless, and most likely, unnecessary prospect, I long for the happy me.  The one who knows life is short and every day should be cherished.  The one who laughs easily. The one who doesn't yell at the dogs for being dogs.  The one who enjoys his time at home, rather than worrying about everything else.  The one who goes to birthday parties and cookouts.  The one who has dinner with friends. The one who writes and acts in plays.  The one who is kind and believes good will win over evil. The one who isn't so stressed and bent out of shape he's in danger of snapping completely.

Yeah, I really need to learn to let this shit go before the men in white coats come and get me or I end up as the lead story on CNN.  If a reporter calls to interview you about me, please be kind. I had the best intentions.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

There is a New Shade of Yellow for Today's Journalism

I never wanted to be an astronaut. Isn't that one of the things little boys say when they're asked what they wanted to be when they grow up?  That one never appealed to me. I wanted to do other things. I wanted to be an actor, a writer, a cop, or a reporter.  Even at a young age, I had an ingrained desire to tell the truth, uncover lies and help bring justice. It's probably why I never had much confidence in authority figures as well. They were the ones who seemed to be doing the most lying. I lived in the Watergate era.

Somewhere around junior high, I decided I would be a journalist, so I took journalism in high school. Yearbook. Newspaper. I even changed schools in the afternoon so I could attend magnet classes in broadcast journalism.  I was never a fan of on camera work, but I loved to write the news, or report it on the local radio station the school ran.  I wanted to be the next Lou Grant or Woodward and Bernstein. I wanted to go undercover and break the news. I'm sure I had a pretty glamorous vision of it, but it was what I wanted to do.  The plan was to attend Ball State University, as they had an excellent Journalism program, and there was no way I could afford Columbia.

And then it all changed. I don't remember if there was a specific incident, or what, but suddenly journalism seemed to be taking an ugly turn. It was becoming less about telling the truth and more about getting the ratings, or readership. That's back in the day when the newspaper was the primary source of news.

Fast forward far too many years later and look at the shape of the media today. We have conservative news outlets selling their slant. Liberal outlets selling theirs. It seems there's no middle of the ground, "just the facts," news anymore. The five W's and H.  Everyone has an agenda, parent companies to protect, or some slant that makes them biased. We might as well be the Soviet Union, circa 1980, when the government controls the news.  Our controllers are corporations and lobbyists 

I'm sure there are still good journalists out there who haven't thrown up their hands in defeat and have taken up writing stereo instructions as a living, but they can't get heard.  The editors push for more blood, more guts, more sensationalism. "Go ask that parent of the child murdered how they feel," is their new assignment. "Get more pictures of the mangled bodies," the photographers are told.

I don't completely blame the media for the downfall of humanity, but it does make for great ratings.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Suicide: The Taboo Conversation

I've often shared too much information in this forum. I've put myself out there in ways some suggest is too much. I do it because in this high paced, social media world where everything is marketed and branded, we've stopped telling the truth. We tell what looks good.  We talk about the topics that are #trending. We don't talk about how alone so many of us feel.  I share so maybe one other person who might be feeling the same way might feel less alone.

One of the things we don't talk about is suicide. Last week I had a conversation with a stranger. It began as small talk, but then the subject veered towards suicide. Not a subject for small talk with a stranger, mind you, but it came up.  "Have you ever thought about it?" he asked. Talk about being put on the spot.  Before I could censor myself, I nodded.  "Yes, it's cross my mind from time to time," I told him. "Me too," he said.

I stood there listening as he told me how his room mate has a gun and he used to go to where the gun was kept and he would hold it. He would wonder if he had the guts to do it. I didn't stop him to say any of the things a friend or family member might say like, "its a permanent solution to a temporary problem" or "it gets better." I just listened. For some reason, he needed to tell me, or someone, this story. And I needed to hear it.

Before our encounter was over, I told him to hang in there. "You too," he said.

Suicide is one of those things that scare us. I think it's probably a rare person who hasn't had those fleeting thoughts at some point in their lives, although they might not admit it. It's one of those things we can't really discuss with friends or family because they have a stake in our staying alive, staying the course, hanging in there, waiting for it to get better.

About six months ago a friend committed suicide. She made the decision she could no longer "stay the course."  For those of us who survived, we were left with the questions people always have. Why?  What was the last straw? Could I have done something?

The real question I have is "If she couldn't make it through this life, how the fuck am I supposed to?"

We are surrounded by hopelessness. From a government in gridlock to random shootings of children.  The economy sucks. The elderly have to choose between medication and food.  A friend can't afford his HIV meds and wonders why he should even try.

Yesterday I let some of that hopelessness and the hopelessness of another situation take me to that dark place we don't talk about.  I wondered how I really could keep going on. Was there a way out?  But then after a few minutes, I snapped back and put my happy mask back on and forged forth.  "Fake it until you make it," they say.

This is not a suicide note. No intervention is necessary. I just want people to be able to say, "Yes, sometimes life feels kinda hopeless and I'm scared, mad, sad <insert any emotion>." Then we can lift each other up and find the hope that still exists out there and within each of us. It's the loneliness and hopelessness that makes us feel alone.

Don't tell me it gets better. Show me.  Hold my hand and let's find out.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Television Characters as Friends

I grew up in a television generation.  My parents grew up in the infancy of television, so it wasn't yet the way of life  it became with my generation.  We grew up watching The Brady Bunch in first run episodes. We saw Gilligan's Island go from black and white to color. We didn't blink an eye when Bewitched gave us a new Darrin. 

Growing up with the ever present television gave us a cultural common denominator. We shared a common experience with the neighbors across the street, down the block, or across the country.  Television made the world a little bit smaller.

With that ever presence, I grew up with fictional characters who I sometimes wanted to be, have as friends, or at the very least, be like. When Steve Austin (the astronaut, not the wrestler) became bionic, I wanted to be bionic.  My first female television crush was on Lindsay Wagner.  The Bionic Woman.  My first male crush was Mark Shera, from S.W.A.T. and Barnaby Jones.  I was ten years old and already knew something was different about me. I was also a big fan of The Rookies, especially that dreamy Bruce Fairbairn. Television was becoming the way I understood the world and found out who I was in that world. 

Ten days ago, the world lost Bonnie Frankin, Ann Romano from One Day at a Time.  A few days ago, Rhoda's Valerie Harper admitted she has terminal cancer.  Tonight, I watched as J.R. Ewing, played by Larry Hagman, was laid to rest.  I don't know any of those actors personally, but I was there when Ann Romano struggled to raise two daughters on her own.  They were my older sisters.  I learned how to be a friend by watching Mary and Rhoda.  Even as an adult, I loved to hate J.R. Ewing, even if he was the same man who lived with Jeannie.  Television characters become part of our lives.  Yes, I've never lost sight of the fact they're fictional, but they still affect us. 

The power is television is amazing, and I'm a little sad to see the ones I grew up with leaving us.  When Lindsay Wagner goes, I'm sure I'll be in a formal state of mourning for at least a month.  Jaime Sommers was the older sister I always wanted. Steve Austin was the older brother. I used to fantasize they'd come get me and take me away to some exotic adventure.  

I immersed myself in television as a child and wrote to actors and joined fan clubs all the time. It was my escape from the reality of my childhood.  A sissy fat boy who knew he was different and had to find a way out. The people on TV seemed to have the answers. 

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Reinventing Oneself

Typecasting is an entertainment phenomenon. An actor may be cast in a certain type of role because of his look, or because of other roles he's played.  Oftentimes an actor who is known for a particular role or type of role gets pigeonholed.  Directors and producers don't think they can play other roles. Some actors fight this by taking roles far from the roles they're known for.  Take Eve Plumb, for example.  As Jan Brady, on the Brady Bunch, she was pigeonholed as the good girl, so she took a role that shocked people at the time.  She played a teen-aged prostitute in Dawn: Portait of a Teenage Runaway.   Sally Field shed her Gidget/Flying Nun reputation in Sybil, a film about a woman with multiple personalities.  People do this in real life as well.  It's called reinventing ourselves.

I've been lucky enough to know many people who have had the courage to reinvent themselves.  A Microsoft Executive who left the corporate world to pursue his love of acting.  He recently went on to produce the Tony Award winning, Porgy and Bess, on Broadway. A waiter who started his own catering company. A banquet manager who went on to open her own successful restaurant and at least two more businesses after that.  I can't keep up with her.  An English teacher who wrote novels on the side became a full time novelist.  A woman over fifty who went back to school and then to Law School to become an attorney.  An actor from Texas who worked in the World Trade Center became a novelist.  I'm so inspired by these people who have had the courage not to be typecast in their lives and show the world and themselves they can do more.

Now I find myself ready to spread my wings and show the world I'm more than a community theatre actor, a  volunteer coordinator, a house manager, and a part time writer.  I feel my life calling and I'm ready to begin my second act.

Monday, February 25, 2013

We've Replaced Reverence with Relevance

Reverence: : honor or respect felt or shown : deferenceespecially :profound adoring awed respect
Relevancethe ability (as of an information retrieval system) to retrieve material that satisfies the needs of the user

I don't know if it's age, or what, but I'm becoming more old-fashioned lately.  I don't mean that in every way, but in the way we treat each other and to what we give reverence to, I am.  No matter what recent trends dictate, or marketing analysis say, I think there is still right and wrong. How we define it varies, but the basic principle is the same.

The scale keeps sliding as marketing firms and companies struggle to stay "relevant."  The common belief is to stay relevant, one must be cutting edge and appeal to that all powerful and highly sought out 18-49 demographic.  I'm still in that demographic (albeit barely) and most of them are missing the mark with me.  I don't want to tweet while I'm in a theater watching a live stage production or hear jokes about Presidential assassinations. 

I'm not a prude or easily offended. I can be just as irreverent as the rest of them, but if we don't hold something sacred, what is to become of us?  The human race will eventually implode because there's nowhere to go. Nothing left to hold dear.  No reason to go on. Look at seventy five percent of the television offerings. Housewives of New Jersey, Real Housewives of (fill in blank), Honey Boo Boo.  Is this where we're going?  This is entertainment?

Maybe I'm unrealistic, but I want some things to be special.  I want to go to a theater and see a live show without the person next to me texting or talking on their phone.  I want to get dressed up and go to Lincoln Center to see Sweeney Todd.  I don't want to watch it on YouTube. I want awards show hosts to be classy.  To represent the best we have to offer, not be "edgy" so the eighteen-year-olds watch.

At the end of my life I want to look back and know I had special events or moments in my life that I cherished, not a bunch of "nothing special" moments I documented on FourSquare.

One of my favorite quotes comes from Steel Magnolias.  "I'd rather have thirty minutes of wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special."

If we don't hold something sacred, we only get those lifetimes of nothing special.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

It's Just the Blues

Yesterday I had a conversation with a friend of mine about life, mortality, and the blues.  It's no secret that I've been in a funk for a while. Maybe it's mid life.  Maybe it's not enough sunshine or exercise.  Maybe it's my job.  Maybe it's the extraordinary number of deaths I've experienced the past few years. Maybe it's just life.

Some people take antidepressants to deal with depression, but for me, I've never been a fan.  I've taken them. Zoloft, Eflexor, Prozac, etc., but I always found the side effects and sense of numbness more of an issue than my occasional bout with the blues.   That doesn't mean they aren't right for others, but I've always preferred a more natural approach. Sometimes you just have to feel the shit until you're ready to move on.

So, yesterday was a good day.  I have a very vivid dream the night before that seemed to be answering a burning question for me. I woke up with a huge sense of relief.  I'll share that revelation another day, but I was sharing  it with a friend yesterday when I realized through everything I've had a pretty good life.

There are a number of things I still want to do with my life, but I've already loved and been loved by some amazing people and had some pretty amazing experiences.  I've had a full life.

I haven't skydived, but I have driven down Pacific Coast Highway in a convertible.  I haven't been to Paris, but eaten bagels on the streets of New York.  I haven't seen the Greek Ruins, but I have hiked in Sedona.  I've skinny dipped in the Pacific Ocean under a full moon.  Visited a nudist camp in West Virginia. I've experienced Hollywood and Broadway.  I've visited the Lincoln Memorial and the Kennedy Center. I've ridden many subways.  I've camped on Kelley's Island. I've walked the Mall of America.  I've traveled to Chicago on a blind date.  I've been to the top of the Empire State Building.   I've seen the bats in Austin, Texas.  I've stayed in a five star hotel. I've shopped on Rodeo Drive and Michigan Avenue. I've driven a U Haul truck from Dayton to Santa Fe.  I've marched in parades and acted in films.  I've written a novel and performed on stage.  I've sung karaoke and eaten oysters in Toronto. I've been insulted by a famous movie star and made out with a country music star.

I could go on and on.  These are the things I need to remember when life seems down, overwhelming and I'm searching for my purpose.  I've still got lots to do, but if it were to end tomorrow, I've had a good life.  That's the important thing.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Bodybuilding as a Lesson in Writing

Any good trainer will tell you that you have to take breaks from lifting.  When you lift weights to build muscle, you are tearing the muscle fibers.  In order to make those muscles grow, they have to repair themselves, so they need a day off.  Imagine my surprise when I found writing to be the same.

A few months ago, I was feeling a bit frantic about the state of my novel, Postcards from the Desert.  I had been through about three drafts, each one seeing some minor changes or clarifications, but the plot structure stayed pretty much the same. Same story, same beginning point and same ending point.  By the last draft, the theme was starting to reveal itself in a way I hadn't really envisioned when I set out to write it.

My beta readers all came back with some great comments, but something was wrong.  Something didn't seem to fit right.  I expressed my frustrations to some writer friends of mine and one suggested I put it away for a month or so and then come back to it. Begrudgingly, I followed her advice.

I put it aside for three months, only occasionally looking it over to see if anything seemed more clear.  About a month ago, I decided some major characters had to go because it wasn't really their story.  Then I decided to change the structure and start at a different place in the story.  I'd tell some of the important elements in flashbacks. I started writing, but I was looking at both versions side by side and trying to use as much of the original as I could. But then I hit a wall again.  It still wasn't right.

Last week I decided to try something.  I decided to open with a scene that was three quarters into the first draft. It was just an experiment.  I wanted to see what I could do with it.  Imagine my surprise when it took off.  Five days and 7000 words later, I've found the story again.  It's a different flow.  Some of the characters are missing. Details have changed. Motivations are more clear. The stakes are higher. Settings have changed, but the skeleton of the story is the same.

It feels like a new novel to me, but I know the characters better than I ever did and they're leading the way.

We always hear that writers write, but I have to say some of the best lessons about writing come from the resting.  I had to get out of the way.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Writing Advice for Life

I've recently been reminded how much I love Anne Lamott.  I dusted off my copy of Bird by Bird recently and started re-reading it again.  For those of you who don't know it, it's a book on writing. It's not a book on grammar or how the f*ck to use a semicolon, but a book on the process on writing. It's also an instruction manual for life. It says that on the cover, and I found out it's true.

For those who are stuck, or can't seem to begin on a writing project, Lamott suggests looking at a one inch picture frame and then write everything that would fit into that frame. If your setting is New Mexico, you might begin by describing how the sky looks as the sun sets against the Sandia Mountains. Then you might describe the house of the main character. And then the character's wooden leg. And so on and so on.  You take it one piece at a time until you can string them together and you have a story.

It's great advice and it got me unstuck recently. I was able to begin some changes to my novel, one square inch at a time.

Imagine my surprise when I was also able to apply this to a very stressful week at the day job.  I was feeling overwhelmed and ready to seek out other bill paying options. Then finally, after much internal turmoil, I decided to tackle what I had in front of me, one square inch at a time.  And it worked.  As soon as I stopped feeling paralyzed by the enormity of the whole picture, I was able to focus and get things done, one at a time.

I know it seems like easy advice that I should remember all the time, but my mind doesn't work that way. I have to get stressed out before I remember to take it one inch at a time. Hopefully each time, I spend less time stressing before I remember the answer.

Now if I can just figure out the rules for the semicolon.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


My grandmother used to send me letters when I was a child.  She lived in Florida for part of my childhood and we lived in Ohio.  She would send these letters and they would always include a tracing of her hand-print (her way of reaching out to touch me) and she would sign them with xoxoxoxoxo.

I used to love these letters.

I'm not sure why, but I've been feeling nostalgic lately.  I miss the simplicity of childhood, the personal touch of cards and letters, and the quiet. Now everything is electronic.  Even when it's quiet, there is still an electrical hum in the air.  We send emails and text messages instead of sitting down with stationary and handwriting a note.  The tap of a few keys and we're done.

Letter writing is an art and a process.  You write the letter on some well chosen stationary with a good pen, you put it in the envelope and you lick the flap to seal it.  Then it's off to the mail.  A few days later, a young boy, or a mistress, a brother, a far away soldier, a mother, finds the mail in their mail box.  They recognize the handwriting on the envelope and their heart skips a beat.  They open the carefully sealed letter and then the smell of the sender seeps out with the page. You inhale them as you begin to read the paper they held in their hands a few days earlier.  It's personal.  It's intimate.  It's a bond between the sender and the receiver.

Today we bond with our electronics.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

No Means No

A few years ago I attended a customer service seminar where the theme was, "Just say yes!" This went hand in hand with the leadership of the company I worked for. Our approach to customer service, was to give them anything they wanted. Someone looked at you funny? Here, take $300 worth of tickets to Phantom of the Opera. Don't like wiping your own butt? No problem, we'll get a volunteer to do that for you. Okay, that's an exaggeration, but only slightly. The answer was always "yes" and God forbid anyone take personal responsibility for themselves. This was highlighted by the fact that we used to send out postcards to remind people when daylight savings time would begin (or end, I never got that right) so they wouldn't be late for their Sunday matinee performance. Never mind that it was always in the newspaper, on the news, on the calendar, etc... We had to hold people's hands to let them know to be responsible and know what time it was.

This was the 1990s and early 2000s. It was a sign of the times and we weren't the only ones doing it apparently, because now we have a whole generation of people who can't accept the word "no." We've all become screaming two year olds when someone says that word to us. And like a two year old, we cry, beg and throw tantrums until we get our way.

Now, I'm a pretty nice guy. I'm certainly not a mean one, but sometimes in my job I have to say no. I have to say it to staff, volunteers and customers. It's not that I want to say no. I'm personally not looking to deprive you of your pleasure, but my job has certain responsibilities which I have to adhere to. For example, I can't let you take photographs of a performance of Wicked. I can't let talk on your cell phone during a show. I can't let your infant cry during Beethoven's Fifth. And, no, I can't let you go to your seat in the third row, in the center of the section, twenty minutes into the performance. No matter how much you call me an asshole, wish cancer on me, threaten my job, blog about me, or threaten to kick my ass, the answer is still no! It's my job.

I wish this was confined to working in customer service, but it's not. Try telling someone you don't want to stay out and have another drink because you have to work in the morning. Watch how much begging, pleading, and even threatening goes on. Say no to someone bumming money. Say no to the customer service rep about credit insurance when you're just calling to make a payment. Say no to the friend who always seems to have some crisis you must help her out with.

A wise friend once told me when someone asks you do something you don't want to do, don't say you "can't", say "you don't want to." They can't argue with that.

That's good advice, but why must I feel like an asshole because I say no?

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Boys and Techno Toys

My first major purchase as an adult was not a stereo, like other guys my age, it was a Smith Corona Electric Typewriter. Y'all still remember what that is, right? I don't need to explain?

You could say, "Well, you were a writer even then," and I'd say, "Yes, but it was also the beginning of my tech addiction." I am a tech junkie.

Eventually I graduated from my electric typewriter to something that was going to revolutionize my writing, a word processor. Sure, it still looked like a typewriter, but you could see the words on a small screen as you typed them out before they printed on the page. You could change words, or delete sentences without having to tear out that paper and spool a fresh one in.

After the word processor, it was on to a computer. I could write on that and save things to a 3.5 inch floppy drive. I took a class in DOS and WordPerfect so I could understand how to use the computer to write my novels. Eventually I told myself I'd really get serious about my writing when I could get a lap top. Finally I did.

Along the way, I've had a Palm Pilot, a Treo, a pager, and finally my first cell phone, which was the size of a landline handset. I've had a iPod Shuffle, an iPod Nano, an iPod Classic, the first iPod Touch, a Nook, a Kindle, an Android tablet, and an iPad. I've upgraded my phone every time I've had the opportunity.

Each time I've upgraded, or purchased something new, I would think to myself, "this is going to change my life." I will write the great American novel on it. I'll take up running because I can listen to music from it. I'll read all those books I've put off reading on it. I'll be better organized because of it. The list goes on and on...

Why the history lesson? Because several weeks ago I dropped my Samsung Galaxy 2 phone and maybe spilled a little water on it, and now the battery is doing something wonky. Sometimes it will charge, sometimes the phone tells me the voltage is too high and it pauses charging (even when it's not plugged in). It's become unreliable. I've scoured the message boards and there seems to be no fix for it.

Bottom line, I'm not eligible for an upgrade and I can't justify spending $649 on the Samsung Note2, which I'm sure will change my life. How will it change my life? Well, it has excellent reviews (I'm a geek and check all this out ahead of time). The battery life is phenomenal. You can write notes on it, and it has the latest version of Android (which will surely change my life).

I've become obsessed. I Google everyday to see what new phones/tablets/gadgets are coming down the pike. Samsung has a Galaxy 4 and a Galaxy Note 3 rumored to be coming soon. I should wait...but I can't. Android 5.0- Key Lime Pie is coming soon. I should wait...but I can't. I just know these new products will change my life, but I need a fix NOW.

I tell myself this is ridiculous and I should stick it out with the phone that works sometimes, or buy a used flip phone to tide me over, but then I start shaking. I become the heroin addict whose high just wore off.

Like any good junkie I wonder if I have a problem. If these toys aren't going to fix my life, what hope is there? I think I need a tech cleanse. Sometimes I wonder if going back to paper books, writing on legal pads, and talking instead of texting might be the answer.

Does anyone know the number for the Steve Jobs Treatment Center?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Rough Draft or Backstory

Sometimes I'm wrong. There, I admitted it. I have the humility to say I may not have understood all the facts and the rough draft of my novel wasn't a literary masterpiece. Nor was my second draft, third draft, or God forbid, not even my fourth draft. What I did find out during that process was where the story really was.

I started out with the idea of guy in his early forties who has lost his joy in life. He's looking for something to make him feel alive again. No, autobiographical implications there! Ha! And his story takes him on a journey to find his joy. It's a little like my own life of losing my job from "downsizing" and deciding to give this writing thing a shot.

So, I wrote the first draft. I did some editing, reworking and then finally let a couple of fellow writers read it. I got great feedback. I took what I learned and went back to fix some things, make some things clear and up the stakes a bit. Then I got more people to read it. My first two readers graciously offered to read it again and also another writer, an avid reader, and my sister.

Again, I got great feedback, but something was different this time. Self doubt kicked in. Suddenly I didn't think it was as good as I'd originally thought at all. It still needed work and I was ready to be done with it. I don't mean done with it in a bad way, but I had another novel brewing in my head and I was anxious to get this one out into the world. I was fully dilated and ready to give birth. Except it was just gas.

I had been working on the novel for about four years at that time and I felt people rolling their eyes whenever I mentioned the novel. It was "shit or get off the pot" time.

I have a dear friend, who is a successful, published writer, who kept telling me to take my time. Don't rush it. It will all come. I took her writing classes, did workshops with her, talked her into teaching me about revisions (which I hated at first). I tried to soak up as much as I could and use what I learned in my writing.

Now here's where my humility comes in. I thought maybe everyone else's rough drafts were only the beginning, but mine just needed a little polishing. Never mind the fact I couldn't really tell you what it was about in two sentences or less. My elevator speech would have had to be in the Sears Tower elevator being hand cranked up to the top.

Every writing book and teacher will tell you the rough draft is the beginning. It's the lump of clay needed to sculpt The Thinker. It's not even close to the finished product. It's only clay.

After letting my novel sit for about four months and trying to look at it from different angles, I think I've finally seen the light. The first half of my novel is essentially backstory. At first that depressed me, but now I see what the story is really about and I can build on that. Now I know which characters are significant and which ones have their own stories to be told somewhere else. None of what I've done is lost, it just might not have a place on these pages.

So, I have to thank my friends who continued to believe I am a writer, even if I couldn't bring myself to write. I'm on my way again.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Social Networking: Is it All it's Cracked Up to Be?

Like a gazillion other people, I have a Facebook page.  I also belong to Twitter, Pinterest, Blogger (obviously), Four Square, Goodreads, Yelp, Google+, and numerous other writer/photographer sites.  I have an iPad, an Android phone, and I'm always a text/phonecall/email away from anyone.  Like a gazillion others, I'm too connected.

When did all of this stop being for my benefit and become a detriment to me?

We live in an age of Social media, and yet we can't carry on a decent face to face conversation without checking our phone, iPad, etc...  We're social, but we're not communicating.  We put it out there for anyone to pick it up and misinterpret it, shame us for it, argue with us, and unfriend us. If you want to see ignorance in action, check out the comments section to anything posted on a "news" media site.  People will show you just how ignorant they are when they are given anonymity and a place to express their views.  Today I read a comment that Michele Obama hates all white people because she gave John Boehner a dirty look.  Please, I'm white and I wouldn't be able to not give John Boehner a dirty look.  In fact, she should have backhanded him while his wife watched.  But I digress!

I love keeping up with friends far away, and seeing their kids grow up, and see what they are reading and hear how they're doing.  I  love this part of it.  But on the other hand, I don't need to know every political thought they have, or if they support Chick fil a or not.  It seems everything has become about choosing sides.  

I made it through the election without unfriending too many people.  I made it through the whole Chick fil a thing without unfriending too many (although I did unfriend a few). We are each entitled to our own opinions, and we should celebrate our differences, but there are some things that are just deal breakers.

If we were face to face friends and you made a comment comparing President Obama to Hitler, we might argue, stop speaking for a while, but hopefully would come around and still be friends.  If you do it online, it's too easy to hit the "unfriend" button and write you off as a whack job.

Maybe I'm just cranky this week, but I'm becoming increasingly annoyed with Facebook.  I have over four hundred friends, but I feel lonelier than I ever have. It's all so superficial. It's like treating malnutrition with Kool Aid. I need something with more substance.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Johnny Bravo-He Fit the Suit

Anyone over thirty five knows about Greg Brady's brush with stardom on tv's The Brady Bunch, when he fit the suit designed for rock star, Johnny Bravo. It was a role he got, not because of talent or hard work, but because he fit the suit already designed for the star. This, as it turns out, is a great allegory for life.

In many areas of my life, I don't fit the suit. Literally.

Last month I talked about having a few Dark Passengers (Dexter reference). I admitted to my brush with alcoholism and where that took me. Now I'm going to tell you about the one that has brought me the most shame. My weight.

I was a fat kid from about eight years old, if I remember correctly. Now I know enough psychology to know that when kids suddenly start putting on weight, they are often protecting themselves from something.

I stayed overweight, or husky, as we called it back then, for most of my life. I grew up as the fat faggy kid. Nope, no therapy needed there. In my early twenties, after I got sober, I began to really love myself and my new life, so I dropped 85 pounds in a year and a half. I had actually become anorexic, because I never do anything half way. I stayed thinnish (within by goal weight by about ten or fifteen pounds) for about eight years and then I started packing the pounds back on. At this point I was in my thirties and had stopped smoking so it wasn't coming off as easily as it did at twenty two, but I tried. I tried, but the shame kicked in and finally I gave up. Gave up on weight loss and myself.

Okay, that's the history lesson. Now, back to my point. I don't fit the suit. Recently, a friend of mine has lost something like 85 pounds now. I've told him how much I admire him and how much I struggle with my own weight. In tears one day, I asked him (and myself) why I couldn't seem to make any progress with weight loss. His answer was very simple. "You're just not ready yet." My first instinct was to ask what kind of bullshit answer that was, but I instinctively knew he was right. Fat is a great protector and I wasn't ready to break down that wall that keeps me "safe." Being a fat gay guy at forty seven makes you pretty much invisible. Most other gay men won't even make eye contact, so I don't have to worry about them wanting something from me I feel powerless to say no to. Food is my comfort and fat is my protector.

Until now.

I'm tired of my size standing in the way of having the things I work hard for and deserve. As an actor, you can be incredible, but if you don't fit the suit, you don't get the role. Part of me thinks that's bullshit, but the reality is that it's true. My size limits me to the fat roles. Overweight people rarely get promotions. We get put in this box where people think we can only do what they think we can do. I'm here to say that too is bullshit. I am capable of so much more than what people think I can do. I'm tired of having to perform in the box others have built for me (or I have built for myself).

Aside from all of this, I deserve to be happy and be at my full potential. That's the first step. I said before that I lost that 85 pounds when I started loving myself. That's how I'm approaching it again. No fad diets. No pills or surgery. I'm going to love myself enough to feel my feelings rather than shoving them down with food. I'm going to love myself enough to make me the number one priority. I love myself enough to put healthy foods into my body. I'm love myself enough to get moving because I feel so much better when I do.

I may never truly fit the suit, but I can sew. I'll make my own fucking suit, and I will feel terrific when I do.

As an aside, I'm down ten pounds from December 31. Now I'm off to the gym!

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Responsibility of Fame

I've never wanted to be famous. I'd love to be a great actor or writer, but the fame is something I don't aspire to.

Some people live for fame. This is why we have so many reality shows with average people doing idiotic things, or airing all their dirty laundry so they can have their fifteen minutes of fame. It's like a drug. They always need more. We judge each other's (and I hate this word) "relevance" by how many Twitter followers they have, or how high their ratings are. Just because a lot of people watch you be an idiot, doesn't make you any less an idiot.

For all those fame hungry whores, there are people who are doing what they do because they love it, or their work happens to be in the spotlight.

There's been a lot of talk in the past twelve hours or so about Jodie Foster's acceptance speech at the Golden Globes last night. It was her "I'm Not Coming Out, I've Already Done That, Won't You Leave Me Alone" speech. Some say it was like the ramblings of a mad person. Others, like me, were very touched by the speech. It was honest, and real. Not something we usually expect out of Hollywood.

In a sense, what Jodie was saying to all of us was, "stop expecting me to live up to your expectations." LGBT groups for years have been wanting her to come out publicly as a lesbian. By somehow coming out she would give the rest of us in the LGBT bracket some kind of legitimacy.

I've never been a fan of outing. While it is my private hope that LGBT people in positions of authority, or the spotlight, do come out so the average American can see we're just like everyone else, I don't think we have the right to force them to do it. Coming out can be a difficult process for anyone, and to do it publicly can make it terrifying. What Jodie Foster said last night was that she didn't need to come out because she had already done that years ago to the people who mattered to her. She didn't need to make a public declaration.

This pissed off some gay groups who think she owes us something. No, she doesn't. She's given forty seven years to the public eye. Leave her the hell alone.

I know there are many advantages to being famous. You get free stuff and you get great tables in restaurants. Other than that it's more responsibility than it's worth.

I've always liked Jodie Foster, but now I think I'm in love with her. She showed true courage last night when she stood up against the reality show train wreck which is our society today. I have no doubt she will continue to leave her mark here on Earth, even if it isn't done on three thousand screens.

Don't we all affect one another in quiet, private ways? My greatest heroes are not celebrities, but they are my parents, my grandparents, an acting teacher, a fellow writer, a hospice volunteer, a Mom whose husband was in Afghanistan, a friend with an autistic child, and so many other people. Maybe none of them will ever be famous, but they will have left their mark on many of us. Aren't those the true role models?

Let's stop looking to professional ballplayers, and actors, and rock stars, and politicians to be our heroes. They don't owe us anything. Let's look to the single mother next door if we really want to be inspired.