Monday, December 16, 2013

20 Stray Do it Ourselves Public Art Concepts for the Arts District

Got a meeting tonight to discuss potential public art projects in the Norfolk Arts District. Thought I'd share some concepts here. The goal is inexpensive projects we could initiate ourselves that would add loveliness, color, and light to the neighborhood, with a professional quality. Enjoy.

1. Street by numbers
Had this idea brainstorming with Charlie and CA. Do the outline paint-by-number style. Invite the community one day or weekend to come fill in the spaces. We were talking Wilson. Inspired in part by this:


2. Boat gardens
So Norfolk, right? This image is from here


3. Cross walks artement
I mean, right? Where this is from.


 
4. Top this wall
Another concept from talks with C+C Alchemy Factory. Take the city owned buildings on Olney. Post real big near the top something like: Put your art here. You can cover up other people's art, but it better be better than what they did. Nothing offensive, etc. It's a place where wheat paste in particular could thrive





5. Funky hanging mini-gardens


6. Bike in movie night
Maybe at Bob's before it's a mural. This is more of an idea for the activities committee, but wanted to mention it here. Our group could support by making posters for the event and wheatpasting them around the hood. Where this picture came from.


7. Candy Chang-type chalk wall
Was a huge hit when Logan tried this for Art | Everywhere. This one's Candy Chang, the og.


8. Community garden
I've had talks with a property owner who would be cool with this happening on their space. 

9. Street light mosaics


10. Live feeds from other arts districts
I think it'd be neat to partner up with a few other arts district. Set up a few TVs and a camera. They see us, we see them. 

11.  Facades
Those empty facade spaces above the entranceways. All canvases. 

12. Opera parking lot space art
Each parking space is a frame. Idea comes from Levesque the Younger while a student of Ms. Caro. His idea was to have Space Invaders in one, for example


13. Scavenger hunt / Fantasyland
We need to get people from the Glass Studio to Granby, right. We can make like a little fantasyland treasure map of tiny magical things to find along the way. You know, for the kids. Like this kind of weird stuff you could build plot points around. 


14. Utility boxes

15. Borrowed sculptures 
Local artists must have large scale work in storage they'd like to give some air. It'd just be up to us to secure space, deal with securing/insurance. I want this. (image | pixelcurse.com)


16. Spray chalk projects
Fun stuff on the ground. Instagram your feet.

17. Alleyway hoops
Trying to think of ways to get people active in the neighborhood.

18. District map with landmarks
Giant on a wall. Could be updated as new stuff blooms. 


19. Something in the Hague by the Chrysler
Not a rubber ducky. But like a rubber ducky. Maybe floating lily pads with candles one special night.


20. Pong tournaments projected on a wall
Ethan O'Toole did this for Art | Everywhere one year. Was spectacularly fun. 


Saturday, December 7, 2013

a blog not about when the lid flies off the blender

Was thinking about faith today, specifically my faith that I will fall in love again. It's the sweetest hope; a faith in the eternal is more profound, but to believe you'll love again is most like chocolate or really good French butter, a faith you want to savor.

At some point after a break-up we decide to relieve ourselves from our crowns of love. There's a certain stepping down from the throne: you are no longer her king, she no longer your queen. The crown of love becomes a crown of thorns that must be carefully untangled from the flesh. It's purpose was to remind you--to dig into your skin so you never for a moment forget--that nothing is more dangerous than love. Particularly for a man, maybe, the joy and covenant of love put survival at risk. We know we can get by on our own. We are nothing if not mammals. But to commit to protecting a clan, to willingly allow a co-pilot near the steering apparatus...


Faith is a lie without doubt. We are too intelligent of beasts to have anything but a rigorous faith. Yet, nothing is fully knowable, we know. Nothing we believe will ever be fully true or understood in all its glorious nuance. We're smart, but we ain't that smart. We know that there must be some lie within our faith. Still, living the lie of hope is the only option.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

answers to the questions people ask me.

This blog will read best to the Garden State soundtrack. If you do not have access to it who are you? How did we end up here together? Have you no tenderness, man? And how, exactly, did I end up in the rear quarters of this zebra costume because I'll tell you, there is no upside to being in the backside of a zebra costume, absolutely none. 

So I have found, of late, that people are asking me about the same seven things. Maybe these are the most obvious seven things to ask me about and people are just making conversation. If this is what's what then may I suggest that rather than bother with such Veiled Prophet-pleasantries we do one of the following with our 30-seconds of intimacy (00:06:30 too little, but I digress):
a) slow dance as I sing Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game” so-motherfucking-softly into your ear or
b) you may cry on my shoulder like Meat Loaf in Fight Club or
c) tell me your most horrible, shameful thought and I will cleanse it like an oyster clinging to the banks of the Mississippi River.

A river oyster that will end up—in a wild, hermetic twist--being served at the 2014 Veiled Prophet Ball, where a mutual Facebook friend that neither of us has met in person will come cheek-to-cheek with her birth father, but not know it was him until decades later (but how could she know? Yet she’ll blame herself for years…) So no matter what there is a synergy to it all. But enough’s enough! Onto these questions, should they be sincere curiosities shared by a greater lot of you.

1. Are you going to stay in Norfolk?
I sure hope so! It’d be excellent to stick around and be a part of fantastic things happening over decades, generations even. I do need to lock into what feels like more of a career—something easier said than done for a fella with my skill set—and I would like to ultimately find one of those wife things, but yah. Staying in Norfolk would be amazing. There’s like 80 people I love there. The thought of building on those relationships, watching my friends’ children grow up, witnessing as things like the Arts District go from half baked ideas on Hannah’s couch to brilliant reality… Yes. Yes. And yah, for sure, y’all. 


2. Are you going to run for office again?
Assuming Dr. Whibley isn’t revealed to have been skimming a mathematically insignificant amount of babies off the top, infants she has been for years training to be her winged monkeys—a potentiality I would not dismiss, given her assumed love for both Office Space and Wizard of Oz—I wouldn’t run against her. That lady is sweeter than a crepe from Josselin (67, rue du Montparnasse)! But maybe down the road. I need a good woman I can count on as a base, for one, but more than anything I want to be in my wise old lion phase of life before I dive back into that hair-balls-a-flying fray. Public service in the form of politics is the highest manifestation of my spiritual beliefs, so I wouldn’t rule it out, just not anytime soon.

3. Do you see AltDaily continuing on into the future?
AltDaily’s most significant days are in front of it. I’m fairly sure of that.

4. What are you doing with yourself now?
So, ladies and gentlemen... if I say I’m in the recycling racket, you will agree. You have a great chance here, but bear in mind, you can lose it all if you're not careful.

I manage a local recycling incentive program. It’s a field I believe in, but I’m a contract employee so who knows. 

 
5. What’s going on with the Arts District?
Lots! We have our third meeting in a couple weeks of the board Hannah and I put together to run the non-profit dedicated to making the Arts District the realness. The Norfolk Public Art Commission has $60,000 set aside for the neighborhood for the coming year. I know of a few properties that have sat vacant for years that are being developed into residential/commercial. In the next couple weeks we’re launching an RFP for a $10,000 mural in the hood. The Hurrah Players are committed to making something work in the neighborhood. One of my favorite local entertainment institutions is trying to move in, The Plot is moving to the old Zedd’s space, and there are conversations swirling around the Texaco building. In other words, it’s happening.

6. Are you back with Logan?
Lots of love, respect, and reverence there but no, she and I have taken off on different tracks, she on the Ole Virginy Express, and I’ve jumped a boxcar to the moon. My loveful, lustful, gypsy heart is re-awakening. The glow in my eyes is reemerging, the glow that zaps past people’s pupils and into their truths. The teeter-totter is completely balanced between a longing for every woman I’ve ever loved and a hopefulness (knowledge) that my greatest love is yet to come. Until then, I’m not exactly trying to live the European vacation montage from Rules of Attraction, but I’m in no rush to necessarily fall in love either. As track #12 on the suggested soundtrack reminds us, there is beauty in the breakdown. 

 
7. You’re such a sweet guy, why do people have such negative reactions to you sometimes?
As I have come into my own, found my self-love, and realized that my greatest strength actually comes from the sweetness, charm, and immediacy, this question comes around less and less. But it’s an interesting one that I’ve put a good deal of thought into, so I’ll share. 

I put people who don’t like me into 4 categories:
a)         People with differing political opinions who simplify those who disagree with them into neat little one-dimensional boxes of otherness. I have strong opinions that I’m not afraid to vocalize, so I give people a dozen reasons to not like me. If you’re homophobic, you won’t like me. If you’re ardently against gun laws, you won’t like me (though I do 100% support a person’s right to own a gun in America, I’ll add). If you find vegetarians inherently offensive, you won’t like me. If you believe that any criticism of America’s military activities is offensive, you won’t like me. My spiritual beliefs have a way of rankling conservative Christians and atheists alike--if you're anti-Semitic, yah, there's that, too. And the list goes on; some more top-down thinkers are offended that a relatively poor nobody without a name or family connections has opinions at all. We build walls between us and those who don’t validate our beliefs----being outspoken, I give people many opportunities to build a wall between them and myself. I strive to be as gentle, compassionate, and open to other ideas, but sometimes it’s not enough for people, and I go in the jerk box.
[note: some people simply have ulterior motives and disparage a person to disparage their beliefs, or disparage another when they believe it will bring them personal gain; not everybody deserves as much credit as I try to give them here.]
b)        Related: I make myself a target. It’s infinitely easier, when upset about the world, to blame somebody (anybody!) else for your problems. Anyone who puts themselves out there will find themselves a scapegoat for other people’s issues from time to time. It’s a cost of doing business.
c)         Some people are just plain confused. They take my shyness for aloofness, my confidence for arrogance, my space-headedness for disinterest (and not just me being a dreamer who gets lost in his thoughts from time to time). I’ve been told that the way I stand and the look on my face can be aggressive---my screensaver face is so much less sweet than I’d want it to be! Someone reprogram me as a highlight reel of nature shots or something, please. There are also the people out there who believe nonsense things like I have a trust fund, and that upsets them. (For the record my dad died penniless, my mom is a secretary, and I have an insane amount of college debt---no trust fund anywhere near me.) Some people just get me wrong… but those are the people that spend 10 minutes chatting with me and they end up apologizing at the end for their false inferences.
d)       There are probably 6 people that have legitimate reasons to not like me. I’ve only been the me I was meant to become for the last stretch of my life---I had a lot of pressure and responsibility for someone his age, and I didn’t always handle it well. But I learn from my mistakes and I make a habit of not making the same mistake twice, so even if people don’t want to forgive me, I forgive myself. (Mind you, I have never done anything awful---just poor communication, for the most part).

I can’t imagine who would have read down to this point! Anyone who has can shoot me an email, to which I will respond with a unique treat. Ha. Viva la revolution, kiss the cook, the only ones are the mad ones, we don’t need anyone else to tell us what’s good, we know it straight from our hearts right away, as easy as looking out the window and knowing if it’s day or night. 
And now I will pull a sobbing Natalie Portman out of a phone booth and we will kiss.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

the aperture and the whale

Somewhere there is a room so thick full of love that you can't see anything else. The pain, the judgments, the confusion sit blind like boats in a harbor overcome by fog.

**

I'm trying to find a way to control the aperture that the love flows through in my life. I want to twist it until it breaks off. It's like we've got all 10 fingers and all 10 toes stuck in the levy as the flood water stampedes around us, extending us prone to the current, flotsam that thinks it can control the tides... but yet still we hold on.

That there are limits to our love is the lie our Darwin brains trick us into believing to excuse our selfishness. To protect ourselves.

Twist. twist. twissssssst... SNAP.

*

I believe in the revolution. Last night Avery was saying how he thinks there's going to be another Snowden-type leak that kicks the stakes from underneath the big house. When all is exposed there's no place to hide from the truth. I hope he's right. America is a concept long past its half life---it's not about countries anymore. It's not about geography or race or class or religion.

It's about love, about shifting the balance from self-preservation to love propagation.


What I have learned the last few years is that the love has to burn from the inside out. One of the most important things Logan ever told me was to pull my shoulders back and let the light shine through me. I remember when I used to think I was unlovable---and to a certain degree I was. I had some very real shit I had to confront, accept, understand, grow through, and forgive myself for. I was angry. I was confrontational. I didn't communicate well. I would be so full and bubbling with emotion that it would sweep me to another place as another person. They were all symptoms of the same disease, the self-mutilation that is a lack of self love.

It took me a long time. I hurt people along the way. I shredded myself. I broke myself down to pieces so tiny I thought they might flake away like incense dust.

But goddamn was it worth it.

I can be the leader I want to be now. I can be the boyfriend and maybe husband I want to be. I poured so much love into Katherine, Hannah, Logan, the other amazing and beautiful souls that graced my life with their presence, but as long as there was a hole in my bucket it was impossible. Not a chance.

There's something balanced and almost perfect about the way we can only grow through the breakdowns. What a gift, the miseries---it's like the way the park service will sometimes burn the brush so that the big trees can grow stronger.

*

Somewhere there is an elementary school that teaches our children to choose meaningful lives. Somewhere the revolution is decades farther along than we've been led to believe.

***

I texted Logan to apologize for her having to be there through the last years of me as a boy, before I learned how to love myself. She deserved better---though in some ways I loved her the way she deserved. I loved her more wholly and maturely than I knew I was capable of. My body served no greater purpose than to connect with hers, to unlock the Godly lustful beasts inside us, the angels of sin we become when we're making love. I've never known a woman so warm, so beautiful, so graceful, so funny and charming and everything everything everything----the shadow she cast over every other woman since I met her has been a blanket of clouds that cut off a sky of burning suns. I'll never know a love like hers again; I'm not sure how that story ends just yet.

But I have to open the aperture. I have to let go of attachments, hold onto the love, and be ready to receive the love that comes my way. Fill every room with it. Shoulders back----ha, I just got the reference---like a freaking Care Bear.

*****
after Passion Pit at The NorVa then coming home to see my brother Ronnie had his baby, 11/3/13

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Curmudgeon of Summer

I prefer to wear corduroys and flannels.
I dehydrate easily.
The ice cream man song makes
 me want to turn into a contagion.

'It's pretty outside,' they say. 'Get outside
 for a while.'
Which is just code for, 'I hope you get
 skin cancer and nobody comes to your funeral.'

Every day of summer is the perfect day
 to stay inside and read the newspaper.

I mean, I guess the beach is okay. Even though it's
 really made of, like, billions of flakes of cigarette
 ash, filth, and the skin cells shed by the
 sweating, molting masses of literally baking humans.

Fresh cut grass smells nice, sure.
But have you ever heard the wailing of the blades as they experience their weekly holocaust?
***Please now sit perfectly still for 20 minutes as a mosquito vomits on you and then tries to eat you.***

What really gets me is that it's the lightest season. Book and movies and TV are their most sensational. Romances are fleeting. It is our adolescent act, our hedonistic phase before the return to the drudgery of school and work, the return to the business of living and dying.

The smell of a drunk's piss burning in an alleyway wafting directly into your nostrils as you walk to brunch with your grandma.

I am the Curmudgeon of Summer.
I will drink your AC.
I will drink it up.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Bloggy Thoughts on Marijuana Reform

I've been thinking a lot lately about devoting some serious energy toward marijuana reform in Virginia. I'm hungry for a cause. This one might make the most sense to me, personally.


I wrote more about it on AltDaily:
http://www.altdaily.com/features/news/6276-marijuana-reform

Friday, May 31, 2013

activism etc.

Been looking for a job in activism, drawing positive attention to a cause, all of that.

For one of the gigs I came up with a little list of links to times I've done this in real life. Because this is my blog and my blog loves me the most, I'll post them here as well. In no particular.

1. On leaving dogs home alone, chained up or confined, while the owner is at work during the summer.
Who Let the Dogs Down? in The New York Times

2. As the founding co-director of the non-profit dedicated to the development of the Norfolk Arts District, I led the media relations campaign. Here is the first press about the concept, followed by an extended interview.
A Quest for Beauty in The Virginian-Pilot
An Arts & Design District in the Making in VEER Magazine

3. The Norfolk City Council was one of the last municipalities in Virginia to not air its informal city council sessions, where the bulk of the conversation happens.
Website streams work session of Norfolk council in The Virginian-Pilot
Filmed meetings shed light on eating habits, Norfolk news in The Virginian-Pilot

4. It is illegal to play sports in Norfolk's major downtown park, Town Point Park. I organized a 'playful protest.'
Playful protest held at Norfolk park on WVEC

5. One of Norfolk's major riverside attractions, Waterside, sat virtually useless for years, and the re-invention plans lacked inspiration.
Group protests Waterside proposals: Organizer says Norfolk needs something special on WAVY 10

6. As a public school teacher, the issue of cell phones in the classroom concerned me greatly.
Hang It Up in The New York Times

7. Advocating for a more GLBT-friendly Norfolk.
8 Ways to Make Norfolk More GLBT-Friendly in the most well-read gay blog in Hampton Roads

8. The story of the band and the football team at an all-black college in Louisiana in the season after Katrina.
Though I am not mentioned in the article, this was a project I supervised as an executive producer of DaftFilms.
On TV: 'Tiger' tale may be BET's brightest hope in The Seattle Post-Intelligencer

9. It used to be illegal to play music and perform on the streets of Norfolk.
Though I am not mentioned in the article, this was a project I helped supervise and push as the editor-in-chief of AltDaily.
Norfolk ordinance could have 'em dancing in streets in The Virginian-Pilot

10. Advocating for more volunteerism in the public schools. Written as a candidate for Norfolk City Council, and then as a finalist for a School Board seat.
It Takes a Village to Raise a School
in All Politics is Local

Monday, March 18, 2013

My Norfolk Top 10

Suggested listening, in reverse chronological order: This, that, or this.

As my time winds down as a (somewhat obsessive) community activist in sleepy ole Norfolk, Virginia, I've been struck with this near-past nostalgia. It's like the way you take a picture and then add a filter and it immediately looks old. I've only been here 4 years----but oh, they've been some years.
The Roma would hit high voltage lines at Norfolk's Army Supply Base while on a trial run and crash on 2/21/1922.

Here's my top 10 things I've been involved with in NFK I'm most proud of, in an order only understood by the owlish innkeeper of my brain. Hyperlinks are to media coverage because lists like this have a way of sounding like they should include inventing the piano key necktie. 

1. The City Council informal sessions are taped, aired, and put online because Ethan and I did it ourselves and the next week the city manager said the city should be doing it. This made our city government more transparent in a really important way.
2. Street performance (busking if you're British) is legal because Jesio and I pushed it on AltDaily but more importantly directly to City Council members and in the informal work group set up by the city manager. (City Council passed with unanimous vote.)
3. Two years of Art | Everywhere, which filled the empty storefronts on Granby with lovely art--an idea conceptualized by Hannah and I, and we brought together Grow, the Downtown Norfolk Council, and Re:Vision Norfolk to make it happen. Ultimately got written up in Fast Company Magazine and was part of the Virginia Arts Festival calendar.
4. When Whitney realized the first Survive Norfolk was going to be much more than just she and her friends running around the neighborhood, she called Hannah and I, and AltDaily came on as a fundraising, logistical, and promotional partner. Huge success, with press as big as USA Today, and virtually nothing negative happened.
5. Running for City Council I got the endorsements of the teachers, city employees, and local unions. If you look at the spending per vote, I won that side race in a complete landslide. This as an absolute nobody in this town, with an absurdly small budget.
6. After my election loss it was time to either slink away or rise up with vigor. Hannah and I chose the latter, devoting ourselves to making an arts district a reality. The Norfolk Arts District is happening. Backed by a coalition that includes the City Council, city planner, manager's office, local university art departments, neighborhood property and business owners, this has huge potential--all manifested without a budget or an institution behind us.
7. The largest gay pride event in Hampton Roads, Out in the Park, used to take place hidden away in Chesapeake. The lobbying of myself and Patrick Mullins got it moved to the region's premier park, Town Point Park in Downtown Norfolk.
8. The Naro movies have mostly been big successes. It's been so cool to see a bunch of people drinking beer in the theater and laughing at Bill Murray movies.
9. A few things I helped launch that weren't quite home runs, but were independent successes, and certainly added a ton of vitality, fun, and newness to the local culture: Chalking of Ghent, Hampton Roads the Canvas (paved the way for the Arts District), the Norfology campaign (paved the way for Hatch and Start Norfolk), RedRail, which brought performances onto The Tide, and The Rise Up concert. I'm also proud to say that I am a founding member of Re:Vision Norfolk and Bike Norfolk, and helped to launch Generation Norfolk.
10. Unless something has changed and nobody told me, this Spring the city will be launching the employee bike share program I pitched.

1945. VE Day Granby Street. | Norfolk Public Library
I've given a few shout-outs here, but all of these have been team efforts. Hannah's been my partner from day 1, Jesio is the all-time #3, Jenn Mackey on the Naro movies, Max Shapiro on the Council run, Elyse Lovelace and all the artists on the Canvas project, James and Cindy and everyone else at Pride who worked their butts off to make that happen, Bonnie and Careyann were the soul of Art | Everywhere... some of the most good hearted and talented people I know came together to make all this happen.

The core of it all has been AltDaily in general. All of those articles that have promoted artists, musicians, small businesses, grass roots causes (including food trucks). 3-5 new stories every day since I came on, almost all somehow Norfolk/Virginia Beach-focused. There are almost 500 pages of posts with me as the author alone. Crazzzzy. As the college boys say, I have fought the good fight, I have finished my work. So stoked for the next chapter and challenge, whatever it may be.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

new poem for Allen like most

Oh glory
Oh pandemonium
Oh crashes of mile high bookshelves onto the heads of a 
thousand high speed internet bottle babies. 

The bombshell in the polkadot dress 
sings offkey about little mermaid female empowerment.

The drones buzz overhead
we all let ourselves believe they're cicadas.

The co-eds on TV jump up and down on the home parquet
future leaders of the free and clear world
We did it We did it We did it.

The tragedy of dull desires.


The thrill of the month. 

Ghetto children born siamese with upper class ideals
they'll spend their lives supporting 
for other people
but never themselves. 

Oh glory
Oh pandemonium.

Oh instincts ingrained in us since our juvenile bacterial days
that'll never be understood
a framework of phantoms telling us to
sit stay fuck chase hide
download download download
a push-me-pull-you message instructing us to survive
when what the original Bart Simpson spitballer, God,
wants for us is to divine. 

The polkadot bombshell sways in the bathroom line
'Do you believe in miracles, you sexy thing.'

The drones skyfall
take sacramental sips
of wine from our necks
we wake up thinking
Who gave me this hickey
as college kids are strewn like empty Diet Cokes
along the side of our souls.

I ask the stranger next to me how he's doing tonight.
'You're asking the wrong guy,' he says.

And the books rise
Visages of cities 
Totems of hope
the glory of heaven expressed in binding and pulp
And I feeeeeeeeeel the pandemonium.
I let it tingle my skin
the candles of infinity lanterns burn
calling us home to versions of ourselves God
will never let us find but she'll keep singing singing
singing until we do.

xxxxxxxxxxx
Colley Cantina, March 12, 2013 

Friday, March 8, 2013

When I'm 34

I turn 34 on Sunday.

I have had a bad attitude about this. It's kind of been like this in my head:

Split screen, SIDE 1: me with, like, snot running down my face as I bike through a hail storm, my shoe falling off and some Navy dude beating me over the head with it and falling into the Elizabeth River, where its tangy juices melt me instantly, the last words I hear being the student loan debt collector suggesting I donate an eye to pay them.

Split screen, SIDE 2: Me and some beautiful brown haired wife and these rad kids (one adopted, obvi) riding their house-trained miniature horses around our loft in Brooklyn Heights, and then I get a call and it's the President asking for sex advice and I tell him my best trick and then everyone eats perfectly toasted bagels while reading my column in the New York Times.  

Expectations are a path to disaster, like seeing a hole in an icy mountainside and squeezing your way through it. So I'm being dumb. I get that. But now that I sit down with the purpose of writing a little life narrative for myself, a decision I made a long time ago is racing back to the surface, an epiphany narrowly eluding the bends:

This was the plan the whole time. I have lived a silly, meaningful, soul-searching vagabond existence, financed primarily by student loans. It was my little trick, a rig of the system: I would keep moving, keep getting degrees, take out a little off the top from the private loans here and there, defer defer defer, and basically ride it as far as I could, at which time I would be forced to get a job where pants are not just encouraged, but expected. The trick would pan out, I reasoned, because by the time I reached the edge I would have a jam-packed resume, setting me up to find a meaningful pants-demanding job.

(To be honest, I was kind of hoping that I'd fall backwards into Split Screen 2. But that hasn't happened. Peanut butter and jelly is still cheap, I can do yoga for free... life is still pretty good.)

ANYWAY. The point of this blog was to write a little life narrative to help me see my situation as part of a bigger plan, and not just a semi-sucky moment. So here goes. 

Born in Danbury Connecticut, a town known for a hat factory that no longer existed. My dad an Italian tough from Far Rockaway, Queens. My mom a smart Jewish girl from the Midwest. Sweet little sister who I would torture by antagonizing into hitting me, knowing my blocking her punches would hurt her more than me (yah, I was that older brother at one point). Super cool older sister who would antagonize me by putting me in a shopping cart and pushing the shopping cart down a hill. My dad had a lock and alarm business that did well--he told me he put the alarms on submarines, which sounds crazy when you say it outloud. But he said a lot of crazy things. He also claimed to have been part of the team that invented the contact lens, that his dad was a character in Good Fellas, and that he was an all state full back who got a scholarship offer to Harvard. So who knows. But he did well enough that we moved to yuppie Ridgefield, an NYC commuter town on the Harlem Line. The house looked like a castle. Growing up in poverty my dad was a complete dummy about money. Cocaine, I would later learn, was his gumba, which helps explain the car crashes and random street fights he'd get into from time to time. But I was one of the first kids to get Nintendo. He took me to the Super Bowl in New Orleans. Even though he was scary as a loose jackal as a Pop Warner football coach, I loved that he was my coach. Maybe my absolute top memories as a kid are with him and the other dads and coaches at the diner in town, Nina's, figuring out the plays with salt and pepper, the syrup at quarterback and mouthfuls of pancakes, New England fall proof of God out the window.

We'd go to St. Louis for Thanksgiving and during the summers and hang with my mom's family. East coast Jews transplanted. My grandpa was a World Warr II paratrooper and traveling bra salesman who would lead my sweet little grandma through the department store by her neck. But I loved my grandpa. He was smart and fair, engaged and engaging. The quintessential Grandpa Hilly: He made the effort to take us kids to Six Flags, but on the way back, while everyone else was asleep, he made me cry giving me the Don't Do Drugs tough love you-won't-be-my-grandson-anyore lecture. I was 7. My grandma looked like a movie star to us. She taught us all to swim and to love to read. I will never *like* anyone more than her. G+G. My cousins and uncles out there were great, too. It felt like a family.

At some point in my childhood the bottom dropped out of my parents' financial situation. Cold showers. Moves in the middle of the night. Food stamps. Yelling, fighting worse. The story goes on and on and on and on.

Fast forward through middle school (three of them) and high school (three again).

Spent a summer in Yosemite reading and shooting hoops and hiking and washing dishes. Read Kerouac for the first time. Read Kerouac for the first time. Read Kerouac for the first time. My friends All Star and Mose and I got drunk and snuck into the stables to ride the horses and I was so fucking happy right then, even moreso after a jump in the river, could have swam down to the center of the earth and made love to the dinosaur mermaids if we wanted, we were so powerful. Tried to hitchhike out and made it halfway through the desert in Nevada before getting a cheap hotel, a Greyhound ticket, and Gidgeon's bible to help with my revival. Spent the next summer down in Florida with my sister. I taught little kids to swim. She led a gator tour on an airboat through the swamp. Come September I transferred from the Jesuit school I was going to in St. Louis back to my state school, the University of Connecticut, an action capitulated to the anti-satori: That school was costing a lot of money that it wasn't worth.

Studied abroad in Florence. Fell in love for the first time. Went to Sicily for Carnivale. Had a knife pulled on me, walked away, remembered who my Italian grandpa (theoretically) was, and went back and slammed the guy to the ground when he pulled it again. Went to Paris and discovered how beautiful man's earth can be. Went to Amsterdam--I think. Made out with foreign women, including a girl from Malta, a country I had not heard of before. Couldn't stand sitting in class so I'd take hour long bathroom breaks, gambling with the crooks in the market, hitch-hiking, figuring out European train schedules and the view of the Alps out the window, the art, the art, the art, and the people, man. I got a place in my heart for any American who hasn't lived among Europeans. It's a whole 'nother thing over there, this society thing.

Spent a summer staying at a friend's parents' condo in the Hamptons. We got jobs as interns at the local paper--I wrote a story about how a hurricane was going to break up Long Island into four pieces that summer (it never did) we got promoted to managing editor of the smaller paper in Montauk. The next summer lived on the Hill in DC, teaching little Korean children how to speak English by watching Annie and talking about kittens and laughing too much the other teachers gave me dirty looks. Graduated college. They send Jewish kids to Israel for free. Met my first serious girlfriend in the salt baths--a wonderful girl who I am proud to report is still cute, who happened to live in the next dorm over back at UConn. Worked at ESPN for a little bit. Got a master's degree. Had to keep moving moving moving so applied and got into NYU for another degree. Lived off Washington Square Park. If a person is a Trivial Pursuit game piece, I got the yellow in Yosemite, the red in Europe, and neon in New York. Fell in love with a South African ballerina. Followed her to Jo-burg. Asked her dad if he was cool with it, he said Maaaaayyybe... No. Came back to New York. Fought for her fought for her fought for her. Started a production company with a childhood close friend. Made a documentary about table tennis. Did some work for ESPN. Made a documentary series for BET about the band and football team at Grambling St. in Louisiana. The ballerina and I broke up and she went home. She came back to fight for it. She got deported. I followed her again. I couldn't be in New York without her so I moved back home to Connecticut. Couldn't do that any more so I drove and drove and drove until the car couldn't go any farther.

San Diego. Surfed. Did yoga in a yurt. Sat around the coffee shop. Taught at a charter school. Surfed. Did yoga. Wrote for the local paper. Hitch hiked up the coast. Got incredibly depressed thinking about the girl. Quit my jobs, gave up my apartment, sold everything I could and bought a ticket to Cape Town. Wandered. Almost took a job cleaning penguins mauled by oil. Volunteered at a home for young men. Helped run a mobile soup kitchen. Realized how lucky I was. My mom called me one morning. 'Your dad had a heart attack,' she said. 'And he didn't make it.' Flew home. Fog. Vapor. An imaginary place between my body and the air where I lived for 6 weeks, 2 months, I don't know how long. A Dutch friend from South Africa invited me to be the mate on his ship. Sailed for a while in Holland. Couldn't understand the wind. I wasn't allowed to hook up with the female guests until these German riot cop dudes arrived, one pretty girl among them, and my cop hating Dutch friend gave me the nod. Got fired. Found my way to Ireland. Couch surfed. Hitch hiked. Worked on an organic farm. Worked on a goat farm with a nudist. Worked at a hostel on an island. Got offered a scholarship to go to a school in Norfolk so went there.

Almost left immediately. Met a crazy girl I couldn't resist. Stayed around. Got on board with a local magazine. Showed 80s movies at the old theater. Did public art projects. Saw some things wrong in the city and worked to help get them changed. Chose the business over the girl (mutually). Met another girl, a yoga teacher who helped me see who I really am. Ran for city council. Had surreal things happen like a poem from this blog becoming scandal in the paper. An insane man terrorized me online, came after me outside a courthouse, then got his head shot off in a Rite Aid. Published a lot of art and journalism and community building words I was damn proud of. Helped make an arts district in the smack dab center of the self-proclaimed military capital of the world (pending).

My attitude is getting better. I wrote this for me but I appreciate your time.









Monday, January 28, 2013

my god

My God sees violence as an affront to his kingdom.
He sees love between two people of the same sex as just as holy as the love between a man and a woman.
My God demands that we forgive those that ask for forgiveness.
He reminds us that we are not on earth to be vessels of vengeance or justice--he'll take care of that.
My God wants us to live as a community. To take personal property and wealth a lot less seriously. And to smile more.
Above all, I believe, my God will judge us not for our crass ability to turn a nickel into a dime, but in our willingness to freely share the gifts we have received.