Tuesday, August 12, 2014

O Captain! My Captain!

I never knew Robin Williams.  Never met.  Never spoke.  Never crossed paths.  Sadly, I never even saw him in concert or in a comedy club (unless you count all those HBO specials and hundreds of talk show comedy bits).  But this one hurts, the same way it hurts when you lose a friend.
If there was one person who lived life on the edge and made that okay – someone whose acceptable insanity stretched the limits and boundaries, and by doing so made you believe it was okay to be different, it was Robin Williams.

Sometimes as a kid (and as a teenager, and even as an adult), life didn’t work out the way it was planned.  It was overwhelming and it hurt.  Laughter was an escape.  Laughter provided comfort.  Laughter allowed you to take a deep breath, take a step back, then take that step forward.  Laughter made it better.  Comedians like George Carlin, Sam Kinison, Redd Foxx, Chris Rush, and Robin Williams were my gods.  They pushed the limits and changed my perspective.  They allowed a kid from a fucked up family with a world of hidden insecurities and pain, learn how to laugh and find humor in life (especially at the things that sometimes kicked my ass).  It hurts that those monsters inside many of us – the fears, insecurities, and things that go bump in the night – got the best of him.  It hurts that he lost the ability to find the laughter in life, especially when Robin Williams created so much of it for others.
I will remember Robin Williams – not for the way he chose to end his life, but for the way he made me laugh, and the way he helped me live.






Thursday, May 29, 2014

#YesAllWomen



So Elliott Rodgers writes a hate-filled manifesto blaming women for his own failures.  141 pages against women and the lack of sex in his life.  His writing would have been comical if not so tragic: “I was giving the female gender one last chance to provide me with the pleasures I deserved from them.”  Then he killed six people before turning the gun on himself.
In response,  #YesAllWomen exploded on Twitter. 
Millions told stories of sexual violence, sexual abuse, sexual harassment, and sexual fears.  The stories are real – painful, brutally honest, and powerful pictures of life for too many women in today’s world.  I can empathize and try to understand how they feel, but I’ll never truly know what it feels like to walk in a woman’s shoes. Not when it comes to something like this.  But I am reading the Twitter feeds because I have daughters and sons, and I’m taking steps to end sexism as well as the attitudes/actions against women for those same reasons.  I want them to live in a world where equal is truly equal – free from harassment and violence.
I worry about my daughters – I worry more about the actions of men against them than I worry about them being caught in something like a gang shooting or bitten by a shark (A little perspective – last year in the US there were roughly 1,100 accidental shootings and 16 shark attacks versus 237,000+ documented victims of sexual assault).  I worry that a man will harass or harm them, no matter how strong and intelligent they are - that they have to live their lives looking over their shoulders, holding car keys like weapons when they walk through a parking lot, or being harassed when they turn down unwanted attention from a guy.  I worry that rape is no longer a strong enough word to convey the physical and emotional impact sexual violence creates.  I worry that too many people don't get that.
Sadly, some men were quick to point out that “it’s not all men”, but that takes the focus away from the problem.  The bottom line is that men who are not the problem need to do something about the men who are.   If you have women in your life who you care about -  if you have children (daughters and sons) - if you give a shit at all about ending hatred, violence, sexism, and misogyny against women, do something.  Forget excuses.  It starts with respect. It starts with action.
Be that change.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

76ers Sign Player With Down Syndrome

If you haven't heard or read about this story, check it out here.

A great move by a classy organization - sometimes sports isn't just about winning or losing, but doing something exceptional. 

Monday, February 3, 2014

Mansions In Heaven



            A few years ago I wrote a Father’s Day post blasting my biological father for walking out on me when I was a kid.  It was a post filled with rage, bitterness, and pain, and I still stand by every word.  Time won’t heal that wound.
            My father’s disappearing act created a need for role models in my life.  Men who could show me right from wrong, teach me how to be a man, understand the things you were supposed to do, and occasionally kick my butt when I got it wrong.  Good men I could admire.  I was lucky - my Uncle Dom, Uncle John, Uncle Walt, and my grandfather selflessly stepped into that void to become role models to provide the kind of love and guidance I needed.  This past week we buried my stepfather, Cecil.  I was already a father myself when he married my mother and came into our lives, but Cecil was as important to me as the other men who influenced my life.  He had been in the military for over twenty years, serving his country in Korea and Vietnam with honor and pride the way his generation did.  Cecil was an unassuming man with solid values and a strong work ethic, and like many soldiers and sailors, did what needed to be done without complaining.  It was a commitment he made with no strings attached and no expectation of an obligation attached to it.  Everything about him said strength, integrity, and patience.  He loved my mother and gave her a life filled with the kind of happiness that had been missing for years.  Even though nobody asked him to fill the role, he happily became a grandfather to my kids – he had a gentle and quiet way of showing them how to do things patiently, correctly, and completely.  Cecil was everything a man is supposed to be.  I probably never told him I loved him enough times, but I think he knew that.
            I hope I can be the kind of man he would be proud to think of as a son.
            RIP Cecil.


A few other things to consider:

  • Addiction is not a disease.  Cancer is a disease.  Leukemia is a disease.  Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s are diseases.  I have empathy for addicts and their struggles to find sobriety, but disease is not some kind of label we can slap on things to excuse our behavior or choices.  Labeling addiction (in any form) as a disease takes away responsibility for a choice that somebody made.
  • I guess it’s understandable that many don’t accept climate change when they get weather forecasts from a rodent somebody yanks out of the ground every year on February 2nd.
  • This marks the first update in over a year.  Sorry about that – it’s not that I haven’t had anything to say or that I enjoyed sitting on the sidelines.  Expect more on a regular basis.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Willin'



            It’s been a long couple of weeks working on the streets and debris piles in Seaside Heights.  Sadness, pain, and loss cut through every minute of the day, no matter what you do or where you go.  The level and depth of destruction in this beach community is staggering.  You can be moved to tears throughout the day when you see the tattered remains of peoples’ lives and memories in piles along the curb or loaded into the backs of trucks on their way to dump sites.  People put down roots here and raised families and built lives that had value and meaning, and now it’s all gone.  That sadness hangs on everything.
            You see and hear about tragedies and natural disasters on the news, and for many people it hurts about as long as it takes to change the channel to “Dancing With The Stars”, “Storage Wars”, or some other idiotic reality show.  Life takes over for most of us and returns to normal, even with the best of intentions.  But for people up and down the Jersey coast (as well as in the Rockaways and Staten Island), life can’t just “go on”.  Not when everything you spent a lifetime building is gone like it never happened or was never there.
             But what comes back at me day after day, no matter who you meet, is the unwavering belief and conviction that we will rebuild.  That nothing will stand in our way – tough odds and hard work are no match for the kind of strength, resiliency, and toughness the people in this state own. Through the pain comes hope, strength, and courage.  Like a boxer in the late rounds of a fight, we took everything Hurricane Sandy had to give and we’re still on our feet, throwing jabs and punching our way out of trouble.  We may be down, but it’s only a temporary thing.
              Nothing can keep us down.
  That’s the real lesson from the debris piles.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Restore The Shore

If anybody needs me for the next couple of weeks, I'll be in a hard hat and safety vest- clearing debris in Ortley Beach, Seaside Park, and whatever parts of New Jersey need help.

More updates (and random angst and anger) when I return.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

My City In Ruins

             Nestled between New York and Philadelphia, New Jersey and the people who live here, are the Rodney Dangerfield of the 50 states.  It’s been that way ever since the 13 Colonies broke away from England.  Mocked for everything from our accents to our attitudes, viewed with disdain and condescension by neighbors across both the Hudson and Delaware, this state is often the butt of late night TV show jokes.  People who don’t know anything about New Jersey think we speak like characters out of the Sopranos and only understand geography when we can attach a highway exit to the map.  Like the caricatures on a dumbass show on MTV or Real Housewives capture the essence of who we are.
            But New Jersey is more than oil refineries on the Turnpike and gridlocked highways filled with rush hour commuters.
            For those of us who were born here, who grew up here, or who live here, this state is much more than that.  We are 127 miles of coastline and sandy beaches, the untouched beauty of the Pine Barrens, acres of farms, and rolling hills.  We are generations of families who have built lives here and raised children and made a difference in the world, in big ways and small.  We are tough and resilient, filled with hard-assed attitude, and we know what it takes to roll up our sleeves, get our hands dirty, and get the job done.  We are the best of all people. 
            We are a state filled with courage – brave, spirited, caring people who love our families, friends, and neighbors with a fierceness nobody else can match.  Our identity is forged in the strength we find in each other.  We are the gritty toughness of a Springsteen song and the beautifully written words of a Toni Morrison novel.  We are a state of farmers, fishermen, truck drivers, blue collar laborers, doctors, lawyers, and executives – sons and daughters of immigrants from all over the world.  We identify with the underdog, and cheer on those facing the longest odds and toughest journey.
             We are everyman.
            So much of what I learned in life, I learned growing up in New Jersey.  This state is a part of me and who I am.  I am proud to be from New Jersey – full of that unique blend of edginess, attitude, energy, and strength, and filled with a love for the people around me.
            New Jersey will rebuild and restore what this storm tried to take away.  The spirit we own can never be broken.  Don’t tell us how hard it will be and don’t try to stop us from doing what needs to be done.  We are about overcoming odds and taking on all challenges.
We are more than a punch line in somebody’s joke.
            We are what this country is all about.