Sunday, December 28, 2008

butternut

Lately, whenever I spend time with my family I try to make myself useful, or at least try to feel useful, by going directly into the kitchen and cooking. I usually spend the majority of each family visit doing this and it actually seems to work. I manage to stay focused, stay busy, if I'm lucky I stay out of trouble and I might even be somewhat useful. As a side benefit I'm also able to improve and increase my culinary repertoire.

Something I've enjoyed making, and most everyone seems to have enjoyed eating, is a Gratin of Butternut Squash, Leeks, Goat Cheese and Hazelnuts. It's simple to make and rather delicious.

Enjoy...

INGREDIENTS
  • 3 1/2 pounds butternut squash (or 2 medium squashes), peeled, seeded, cut into 1/2 to 3/4- inch cubes (about 8 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Coarse kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, divided
  • 3 cups sliced leeks (white and pale green parts only)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
  • 1 5.5-ounce log soft fresh goat cheese
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted, husked, coarsely chopped

PREPARATION

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Place butternut squash cubes and olive oil in large bowl; sprinkle with coarse kosher salt and ground pepper and toss to coat. Spread out squash cubes on large rimmed baking sheet. Roast until just tender and beginning to brown, stirring occasionally, about 35 minutes.

Melt 3 tablespoons butter in skillet over medium-low heat. Add sliced leeks and chopped sage; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sauté until tender but not brown, about 15 minutes. Coat 11x7-inch baking dish with remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Spread half of leek mixture over bottom of prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with half of squash and half of cheese. Repeat layering with leeks, squash, and cheese. This can be done 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Pour cream evenly over gratin. Sprinkle with toasted chopped hazelnuts. Bake uncovered until gratin is heated through and cream is bubbling, about 30 minutes (40 minutes if previously chilled).


Thursday, December 25, 2008

so this is christmas


It was difficult this year. I'm glad it's over. I love my family, I really do. I know that there were years when I didn't show up for them and if I did I was demanding and unpleasant. I put them through a lot and they loved me anyway.

This year I showed up. I tried to avoid inflammatory topics, I cooked, I tried to be kind, patient, tolerant and loving and I tried to keep my mouth shut.
I tried to be nice. It was very hard. I did my duty.

I forget and I'm surprised when I find that my family are not more like I think they should be. I'm not always happy with who they are and I'm disappointed at myself for having expectations, for judging them, for wanting them to be different. They can't seem to see me for who I am and I can't make them. It's often hard for me to believe that we share any of the same life experiences but we do. I am from these people. I am of these people. It's exhausting and it's confusing and, luckily, Christmas only happens once a year.


Saturday, December 13, 2008

it's coming on christmas

It’s been a very cold and grey week. The Christmas music has been inescapable and the New York holiday crowds are as thick as I can ever remember them. I’ve been an emotional tangle of restlessness all week and while I’ve been trying to open myself up to the spirit of the holidays I’ve had a critical voice in my head that is stubborn, easy to anger and slams closed any door that the Christmas spirit might find it’s way through.

Earlier this week I happened to see a television program, one that I rarely watch, and on that program is a guy I used to fuck around with back in California. I’ve seen him on this show before but this week it struck me especially hard. He’s always been extremely handsome and as he’s aged that hasn’t changed. It was a frigid December night and I was eating take-out from the carton, watching TV and mindlessly shoveling food into my face with chopsticks when this guy from my past; tall, sexy, handsome and so very happy and successful, smiles into the camera and throws me into a vortex of self-pity. I can’t even imagine what a weekly paycheck from a prime-time television show would look or feel like. Immediately I made his success all about my own lost opportunities and lack of success.

Like the one-two punch from a heavy weight champ, the next day I received a message on Facebook from someone I haven’t seen in years, someone I haven’t thought about in years. We were on the same volunteer team for GMHC back in 85 or 86. I remember having a crush on him then and feeling invisible. Since that time he’s had a career as a publisher, started a magazine and been very successful and visible in the gay media. I’ve always found him attractive and have always been intimidated by him. The message read, “When did you move back to New York? The last time I saw you was at the Slow Club in San Francisco”.

I had no recollection of this. Perhaps I was embarrassed that I was waiting on tables and he was a big-wig in gay publishing so I blocked it out or maybe I avoided him because of the aforementioned attraction and intimidation factors and I blocked it out or maybe, and this is the most probable scenario, I was too fucked up to remember.

I answered his message, I made light of my not having any recollection of our West Coast meeting and made some general niceties, hope he was well, etc… Then I went on Facebook and looked through the pictures posted to his profile. There were pictures of parties at summer homes with happy people holding cocktail glasses, laughing. There were pictures of trips to European capitals and various exotic locations, mountains, seashores and familiar feelings of envy, lost opportunity and inadequacy fell over me and solidified like a hard candy coating.


Yesterday a cold rain hammered the slick reflective city streets. I decided to go downtown to try and do some Christmas shopping. I maneuvered my way through a whirl of garlands, poinsettias and twinkling lights, piped in carols, shopping bags and umbrellas. I became so irritated by the crowds, so frustrated at the high prices and so confused by the choices that I went home empty handed. I found myself to be fully under equipped, both financially and emotionally, to deal with the seemingly simple task of buying a few Christmas presents.

I descended the subway steps at 34th street. Wet, tired and dejected I entered the subway car and caught myself staring at a man with a long beard who looked like he could use a meal and a bath. He was wearing plastic bags as socks and I looked away out of embarrassment. As I turned I noticed my friend David leaning against the door, his hands on the stroller in front of him just smiling at me with fondness and affection. He said nothing he just smiled. I bent down and started talking to his child. The boy offered me the toy train he was playing with and the three of us shared a few moments before they got off at the next stop. The doors opened, David smiled at me over his shoulder and wheeled his boy into the crowd on the platform. The doors closed and the train pulled away into the tunnel with me in it and though I still wasn’t happy about the season, I felt a little lighter, a little more at peace, a little more like I was where I was supposed to be.

Monday, December 1, 2008

twelve/one

I've often heard Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years referred to as the Bermuda triangle. The first point of that trinity has passed and astonishingly I'm still here.

Turkey sandwiches have been made and eaten, the bird's carcass has been thrown in a soup pot and it is now December. Christmas music is playing in stores non-stop, television commercials are on over-drive and everyone is more uptight about money than they were just a few days ago.

It's interesting, and rather sad to me, that an approaching celebration of a magical story about a child king, the Prince of Peace, can bring about such rampant commercialism, financial insecurity, family drama, loneliness and depression.

I have not felt the holiday spirit yet this season and despite all the holly and the ivy being shoved down my throat I'm going to make an attempt to keep the true spirit of Christmas in the forefront of my thoughts as I pass the next few weeks on these city sidewalks dressed in holiday style.

Very soon the city will begin to buzz and bustle with shoppers and I will wish I was able to afford to give my friends and loved ones expensive luxury items but I'm going to try to remember the nativity and keep in mind what we're actually supposed to be celebrating. So if you happen to see me drifting into sadness and self-pity, sipping my Starbucks Christmas blend while gazing enviously at shoppers holding bags filled with electronics and cashmere sweaters, remind me of the little town of Bethlehem, the Magi and that what we're really supposed to be celebrating is how the world was transformed by the innocence, vulnerability and unconditional love of an infant who was born into poverty.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

bird is the word

I haven't written anything here in quite a while. Anytime I think to make a blog entry I feel like I should be spending time with school work instead. "I've got things to read and papers to write".

I've been going through a big transitional period. New people, new feelings, new behavior. Not all of it is easy but I have a lot to be thankful for. I'm feeling rather fragile and I'm not quite sure how to express the simultaneous feelings of hopefulness, gratitude and fragility.

I'm not really all that stressed about Thanksgiving this year. I'm doing everything I can to ensure that it'll be a low key event. I do realize that I'm powerless over the outcome of any given situation and that any number of calamities could create holiday upset but from where I'm sitting right now it looks as if this Thanksgiving will be relatively drama free.

I'm borrowing a neighbors car and I'm driving up to my dad's house with two friends and a little dog named Mojo. This morning
I went out and got all the fixins for a good holiday meal: butternut squash, leeks, Brussels sprouts, cranberries, herbs etc... Pop got the turkey last week. He drove up to the country this morning and brought Zeke with him.

It'll be a couple of days of food, friends and quiet country life. The only wrench that could be thrown in the works is my father's unpredictable behavior and attitude. I'll pray for tolerance, patience and kindness, my friends will act as buffers and everything will go according to God's will. Giving up my will will be the challenge. Day after day giving up my will is the challenge.

Thy kingdom come
Thy will be done.

Does it ever get any easier?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

pinch Me ...a message from michael moore

Friends,

Who among us is not at a loss for words? Tears pour out. Tears of joy. Tears of relief. A stunning, whopping landslide of hope in a time of deep despair.

In a nation that was founded on genocide and then built on the backs of slaves, it was an unexpected moment, shocking in its simplicity: Barack Obama, a good man, a black man, said he would bring change to Washington, and the majority of the country liked that idea. The racists were present throughout the campaign and in the voting booth. But they are no longer the majority, and we will see their flame of hate fizzle out in our lifetime.

There was another important "first" last night. Never before in our history has an avowed anti-war candidate been elected president during a time of war. I hope President-elect Obama remembers that as he considers expanding the war in Afghanistan. The faith we now have will be lost if he forgets the main issue on which he beat his fellow Dems in the primaries and then a great war hero in the general election: The people of America are tired of war. Sick and tired. And their voice was loud and clear yesterday.

It's been an inexcusable 44 years since a Democrat running for president has received even just 51% of the vote. That's because most Americans haven't really liked the Democrats. They see them as rarely having the guts to get the job done or stand up for the working people they say they support. Well, here's their chance. It has been handed to them, via the voting public, in the form of a man who is not a party hack, not a set-for-life Beltway bureaucrat. Will he now become one of them, or will he force them to be more like him? We pray for the latter.

But today we celebrate this triumph of decency over personal attack, of peace over war, of intelligence over a belief that Adam and Eve rode around on dinosaurs just 6,000 years ago. What will it be like to have a smart president? Science, banished for eight years, will return. Imagine supporting our country's greatest minds as they seek to cure illness, discover new forms of energy, and work to save the planet. I know, pinch me.

We may, just possibly, also see a time of refreshing openness, enlightenment and creativity. The arts and the artists will not be seen as the enemy. Perhaps art will be explored in order to discover the greater truths. When FDR was ushered in with his landslide in 1932, what followed was Frank Capra and Preston Sturgis, Woody Guthrie and John Steinbeck, Dorothea Lange and Orson Welles. All week long I have been inundated with media asking me, "gee, Mike, what will you do now that Bush is gone?" Are they kidding? What will it be like to work and create in an environment that nurtures and supports film and the arts, science and invention, and the freedom to be whatever you want to be? Watch a thousand flowers bloom! We've entered a new era, and if I could sum up our collective first thought of this new era, it is this: Anything Is Possible.

An African American has been elected President of the United States! Anything is possible! We can wrestle our economy out of the hands of the reckless rich and return it to the people. Anything is possible! Every citizen can be guaranteed health care. Anything is possible! We can stop melting the polar ice caps. Anything is possible! Those who have committed war crimes will be brought to justice. Anything is possible.

We really don't have much time. There is big work to do. But this is the week for all of us to revel in this great moment. Be humble about it. Do not treat the Republicans in your life the way they have treated you the past eight years. Show them the grace and goodness that Barack Obama exuded throughout the campaign. Though called every name in the book, he refused to lower himself to the gutter and sling the mud back. Can we follow his example? I know, it will be hard.

I want to thank everyone who gave of their time and resources to make this victory happen. It's been a long road, and huge damage has been done to this great country, not to mention to many of you who have lost your jobs, gone bankrupt from medical bills, or suffered through a loved one being shipped off to Iraq. We will now work to repair this damage, and it won't be easy.

But what a way to start! Barack Hussein Obama, the 44th President of the United States. Wow. Seriously, wow.

Yours, Michael Moore

Friday, October 31, 2008

all hallows eve

This time around feels like my last chance to grab at the golden ring of happiness but I'll continue to act as if nothing matters to me. I'm afraid of disappointment but I don't want to be closed to a new experience. The weight of fear and caution weigh heavy on me as I navigate a new and narrow way. Wearing an arrogant mask I walk with a slow steady step. I am extra careful with words. The truth is that I am tenuous and ill at ease. I realize I cannot wrest satisfaction out of a situation no matter how well I manage. I struggle to let go of the outcome and to have faith that all is as it should be.

At the end of a long knotted string of disappointments it remains a struggle to keep an open mind. Instinct tells me to make light of my present situation, to shrug it off. My ears fill with whispers of self-destructive nothings. Peel away the well worn cloak of fear and self doubt and I feel I am ready for a new experience. Eager to develop a sense of ease with which I can
receive freely and give even more than I receive.

Can gnarled old ideas, uncomfortable but familiar, finally fall away and release me from their grip? Will I, at last, have the willingness to be vulnerable, to be imperfect or even messy?

To all who have gone before me, who walk with me still and live on in my heart:
Thank you for your continued care and protection.
Allow me to channel your kindness
and love.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

nanny and toot

Madelyn (Toot) and Stanley Dunham during WWII

It seems that I've taken a blogging break for a couple of weeks now. I've been so caught up in the drama of the presidential election that I just don't feel like there's much else to talk about. It's like a nationwide car wreck and no one can look away. So for lack of having anything else to write about I haven't been blogging much.

Add to the electoral falderall the increasing chill factor and I just wanna pull the covers up over my head. It was forty degrees this morning. I don't like that winter is coming so quickly. I got up this morning, made coffee, put on a couple of layers and took Zeke out into the park. Zeke loves the cold weather, running and bounding about the park with new found energy, more playful and more curious than he's been in months.

The combination of the weather and the election have me at a standstill. Deer in headlights / me in the apartment. I've been here all day, vacillating between the Huffington Post, fivethirtyeight and the Jed report. Occasionally I'll hit scrabble on facebook and a few unmentionable websites to try and get my mind off what I can't seem to stop reading about.

I can't wait till November fifth. I'm dreading the next two weeks and I absolutely refuse to go out on Halloween for fear of all the spooky Sarah Palins and Joe the Plumbers I might encounter.

I'm thinking about Obama's grandmother Toot. I hope she's okay. I hope she's well enough to celebrate the inauguration of her grandson as the President of The United States of America. Imagine what that would feel like. I'm glad he's taking a couple of days to go spend some time with her. Pay attention all you Florida seniors: Barack is a good boy!

I wish my grandmother was still here. Now would've been an ideal time for me to spend a couple of days with her. She would've been able to make some sense out of all this. She was a dyed-in-the-wool democrat and she might have been as agitated as anyone over this mess of an election or, more likely, she may have dismissed it all as "Hooey". Whatever her response would have been to the present political brouhaha, I know that she certainly would've been able to calm me down.

So here's to Nanny and here's to Toot.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

protected

The world keeps spinning. It's rotations appear to be getting faster and faster but they're not. I'm distracted by the financial crisis, the election, the debates and as serious as the outcomes of these events are they serve as diversions from my personal and spiritual struggles.

I didn't start blogging as an outlet for my political opinions yet somehow I've been guilty of doing just that. I want to share my internal perspective and my spiritual journey. I have an appetite for personal expression and I've been diverted by current events.


How deep into personal thoughts, how honest can I be before I pass the boundaries of bravery and enter into the realm of foolishness? My opinions on or feelings about Sarah Palin, Barack Obama or government bailouts isn't personal or even original. My opinions are shared by millions and many write about these things with much more aptitude and craft than I'm able to. When I share, however, about my longing to feel the presence of God or about my loneliness or about my inability to curtail my obsessive self-sabotaging behavior, am I going too far? Have I entered an area that embarrasses the reader as well as myself? I don't know.

Lately, as I make my way in this teeming metropolis, I might see the curve of an ankle or a lip, a hand, the crease of a turning neck or the musculature of a shoulder and I get overcome with an aching emptiness. A smile or gesture can throw me off balance for several minutes. Is it odd? Is it God? An unseen spirit reaches into my chest and firmly presses it's narrow accusing finger on an acutely sensitive spot: "There", it says "Right there is where the work needs to be done, where you are lacking." It is an actual physical pain and as well as being painful it brings with it a heavy sadness.

I don't know that I have developed the tools to ease this pain. The old tricks have stopped working. I keep trying them but they don't work. I'm not sure what else to do. I try to follow what interests me and hope that I attract what I need. I ask those who've gone before me to walk with me, guide me, hold me, comfort me. I talk to lost loved ones who I feel are somehow still near. "I'm uncomfortable. I'm lonely. I miss you. Stay with me." Something has protected me. I ask daily to feel that protective and loving Presence with me as I go through the day. I attempt to be as humble as I can be. I say please and I say thank you and day after day I continue to be protected.

I pray for the knowledge of God's will for me and the power to carry that out. I think I'm doing that to the best of my ability. When I was first introduced to this concept it sounded great. How could God's will feel anything but good? I imagined an elated kind of blissed out higher consciousness. "I'm so spiritual, look at me - I'm carrying out God's will" - wearing beads and eating vegetarian curry. But the truth turns out to be much more pragmatic and human. Apparently God's will involves struggle and work. Sometimes God's will even involves feeling lonely and lousy yet having the fortitude to get up the next day and do it again.

I can't be reminded enough that I have continued to walk in unmerited favor. I thank God in advance for whatever is brought to me as it is only having come through extreme struggle that I've come to realize that God is good ALL the time.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

doodle do or die

Last night was the first of the three debates by the presidential candidates. The verdict is in and Obama won but only by a narrow margin.

McCain performed better than expected. Surly, condescending and scrappy, McCain repeated several times "Senator Obama just doesn't understand..." He didn't look in the camera, wouldn't look at Obama, name-dropped world leaders and told a few boring stories that reverberated back into the twentieth century.

Obama remained calm, perhaps too calm. He laid out specific plans and clearly dominated the discussion on economics, health care and the average American. McCain, you may have noticed, never once mentioned the middle class.


There was no knock out punch and although Obama made reference to McCain's bomb bomb bomb Iran comment, his gaffe about Spanish president Zapatero not being welcome at the White House and a few embarrassing mentions of how Henry Kissinger, McCain's advisor, agrees with Obama, he remained ever the gentleman.

It's clear that Obama is super smart and that he can take the high road. He's good and kind and graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law but that doesn't impress the majority of American voters. Where are the brass knuckles? This is our future at stake here. In the words of Sarah Silverman :this may be our last hope of ending this country's reputation of being the assholes of the universe.

So what are you waiting for?

Rock 'em sock 'em Barack! Knock his block off!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

no country for old men

If you thought you were having a rough week take a look at John McCain and breathe a deep sigh of relief that you're not him. Ten days ago when the bottom fell out of Wall Street John McCain's first response was to say that he believed the "fundamentals of our economy are strong" and thus began the freight train momentum of mishaps that could not have been imagined eleven days ago.

Without rehashing all the gaffes that McCain and his campaign have made since then, campaign manager Rick Davis' ties to Freddie Mac, accusations of the New York Times not being a journalistic organization, Sarah Palin not being able to think of one instance when McCain has supported financial regulation during his twenty six years in the senate "I'll try to find ya some and I'll bring 'em to ya", it is clear that this has been a very bad and embarrassing week for the McCain camp.

The suggestion yesterday to "postpone" the debates until after the economic crisis has come to a resolution is just making McCain look desperate and maybe even frightened.

Senator Obama has continued to remain calm and presidential looking through this media storm of panic and misbehavior and just when you thought it couldn't get any weirder or inappropriate another news story came out yesterday about Governor Palin having had a laying on of hands healing session with a witch hunter pastor from Kenya.

Imagine, if you will, what the news coverage might look like if Senator Obama was seen in a video with a witch hunter pastor from Kenya praying over him.

I don't blame John McCain for wanting to take a break. Trying to keep up with all of these latest shenanigans makes me tired too and I'm about half his age.

So while about four and a half million dollars have been spent in anticipation of the upcoming debates to be held at the Ole Miss campus in Oxford, Mississippi we'll just have to wait and see if the senator from Arizona will show up or if he's gonna have a time out.

Friday, September 19, 2008

long road

The season has started to change. On my morning walks with Zeke by the river there is a chill in the air. The chilly air gives Zeke a little more energy, a spring in his step. Unlike him I prefer the warm weather. Heat motivates me. Cold makes me want to isolate.

The changing of seasons has traditionally been a sad time for me. I'm not sure exactly why. The dappling of shadows, longer on cool afternoons, create in me a seasonal melancholy. I associate the end of summer and shortening of days with the passing of time, lost opportunities, chances that have come and gone, aging.

Aside from the sudden change in weather this week has been notable for a few reasons. Wall Street melted
, the economy spiraled madly and the world took notice. The only silver lining in this economic free-fall is that John McCain has been forced to talk about issues rather than his opponent's character. Once, perhaps, a political force to be reckoned with, McCain, now a people pleasing puppet for his party, has repeatedly put his foot in his mouth saying things as off the wall as "the fundamentals of our economy are strong" then appeared the very next day to explain that when he said fundamentals he really meant the American workers. Also, in a very confusing interview, McCain declared a diplomatic war with Spain. Spain? It looks as if the political tides may be turning and old man Johnny Mac may soon be able to take a long overdue nap.

Also of note this week, a much more personal note. I have gone back to school. After a twenty seven year hiatus I am now an undergrad. Anxious, apprehensive, excited, and eager I walked into my first class this week. A class on African religions in the Americas. I am already about sixty or so pages into the study of Santeria.
There will be a lot more reading to come.

Though sad to see summer leave I am looking forward to what this next chapter holds. Perhaps not yet confident enough to mount up on wings like an eagle, I have waited, my strength has been renewed. I shall
walk and not faint.

After having already traveled so far and finding myself again at the first steps of a long road, I am reminded that most important lessons come from the journey, not the destination.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

seven years on

Tomorrow will mark the seven year anniversary of the Al Qaeda terrorist attacks on the United States. The day commercial U.S. airliners got flown into both World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon and fell from the sky in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Just over a week ago Rudy Giuliani, the man who, at the time, was the mayor of the great city that was home to the towers, venomously hurled insults while at the same time instilled fear in the hearts of Americans as a keynote speaker of the Republican convention.

The Republicans, I would like to point out, were the ones who ignored the intelligence that warned us of the attacks, were in power and standing guard during the time of the attacks, misled the country about weapons of mass destruction, fabricated evidence linking Iraq to the attacks, have sent thousands of American troops to their death and have killed, misplaced and destroyed countless Iraqi civilian lives. Yet there was Giuliani in front of an Image of the New York City skyline repeating over and over his now familiar chant: nine eleven. Nine eleven. Shameless in his insinuation that if the American people choose to vote for the Democratic candidate further attacks will be imminent and American deaths will be on their conscience.

This should be reprehensible enough, in and of itself, but it's foul taste was quickly overpowered by a rancid helping of political theater served up the very next night. On a three story digital screen images of the nine eleven attack loomed super sharp, super clear, super sized and slow-mo over the thousands of self righteous, angry, white faces of the delegates. This tasteless spectacle did not honor the dead, did not honor the rescue workers or the families of those fallen but instead did exactly what it was created to do: frighten millions of television viewers.

After the tasteless spectacle and the o-so-familiar footage of the plane hitting the tower and the fireball bursting through glass and steel, the towers falling in on themselves, footage networks agreed several years ago should no longer be shown, appeared our hero. Aged, stiff, walking funny, smiling awkwardly, throwing insults and mentioning his war record of forty years ago over and over through gritted teeth. "My friends. My dear friends."

I wouldn't be recounting this reprehensible piece of propaganda and stage craft if it wasn't for the fact that tomorrow is the anniversary of that tragic event and the nefarious Republican spin machine can't think of anything better to talk about than lipstick!

Whether it's on Anita Bryant, Phylis Schlafly, Ann Coulter, Sarah Palin or a pig; a rose by any other name is still a pig. Even if I don't agree with his positions shouldn't he be talking about energy, the economy, Iraq, or home foreclosures instead of celebrity and lipstick? Are these diversionary tactics really working? Where are the issues? Sleazy gutter politics and lies in the name of justice belittle the process and the very office in question.

I watched McCain in his little ball cap, looking like the powerless wizard exposed behind the curtain in Oz, he stiffly waddled before a backdrop that read ironically "country first" and I wondered; are people stupid or gullible enough to fall for this again or is prejudice and closed mindedness so deeply ingrained that they'd rather look the other way and allow corruption and criminality to continue to spread like a malignancy over our great land.

I'm sad about what happened seven years ago but today I'm sad about so much more.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

fruit salad of the spirit

It is my goal and intention to use this blog as a space for expression and reflection of spiritual growth, both personally and how I see it taking shape in the world around me. I find, however, that as the country gets deeper and deeper into the 2008 presidential election process I feel compelled to put my political opinion out into the endless blogosphere already overcrowded with political opinions.

WAIT! Don't stop reading!

I know you're saying to yourself "Politics Schmolitics" and rightly so. If you want politics you can go to The Huffington Post, Politico.com , The New York Times, or any number of other sources that will have better informed, seasoned, journalists and writers reporting on and giving their opinions on the political shenanigans of the day. I'll try to refrain from giving my uneducated leftie-homo-antiwar-pro-environment-non-violent-bleeding heart-blue-state slant on things. Anyone who knows me knows where I stand on most issues and even if you read my blog and don't know me it's pretty easy to figure out where my political allegiances lie. The lunacy that is modern day American politics is all happening so fast and furiously, however, that I don't know where else to air my concern or frustration. I'm scared.


I could only bring myself to watch brief moments of the republican convention last night. The few speakers I did happen to see were so nasty that I had to keep flipping channels. What was the spiritual worth or lesson I was supposed to glean from that mean spirited gathering? I didn't see a lot of doing unto others (Luke 6:31). I did see a clergyman leading the convention in prayer, which I thought odd considering that whole separation of church and state thing.

It is interesting to me that the base of the republican party identifies as Christian and yet scripture tells us that we will know God's followers by their fruits (Matthew 7:16). I Listened to Rudolph Guiliani attack Barack Obama, Joe Biden and dismiss the entire democratic party with great fervor and glee. I watched Sarah Palin mock community organizing and badmouth the democratic nominee's wife along with his history of public service and I thought of the fruit of the Spirit.

The fruit of the Spirit are the nine physical attributes made manifest in a Christian's transformed life. Those nine attributes are: love, peace, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness and self control. A refreshing salad of sweet fruits to be sure. Nourishing, life sustaining and enjoyable fruits whose dividends grow the more they are shared. Last night, however, I searched through sarcasm, self righteousness and schadenfreude but the only fruit I could readily identify were sour grapes.

Monday, September 1, 2008

storm update and teen pregnancy

The storm hasn't been as bad as expected and though New Orleans is still being thrashed by wind and rain it seems to have escaped the hardest blows of hurricane Gustav. Plaquemines Parish, southeast of New Orleans, however, is being watched closely as water is expected to crest the levees there this evening.

And just in case you haven't heard: this morning it has been confirmed that Alaska Governor Sarah Palin's 17 year old, unmarried daughter, Bristol, is five months pregnant. Palin, it should be mentioned, backs abstinence-only education as well as supporting Creationism being taught in schools. This marks another exciting first for this election year!

ill wind

Hurricane Gustav is about to pummel the Gulf Coast. There has been a mandatory evacuation called for New Orleans and the entire Gulf Coast region. Yesterday, nearly two million people fled from what is sure to be a bruiser of a storm. Residents of New Orleans have been told that if they choose to stay they are on their own until after the storm. The television is showing scenes from New Orleans, a veritable ghost town. Empty streets save for occasional media and National Guard amid flying debris, wind and rain.

Having just been to New Orleans two months ago on a disaster recovery mission, to say I'm saddened by the potential tragedy of Gustav would be an understatement. Having witnessed, first hand, the challenges that New Orleans faces even three years after the disaster of Katrina, the displaced families, the fallen communities, the fiasco with public schools and hospitals remaining closed and to think that almost three years to the day it may be hit with another hurricane of similar magnitude is overwhelming.

I think back to those news clips of President Bush saying "Brownie, I think you're doing a terrific job!" juxtaposed to my more recent memories of children I encountered while I was in New Orleans, how their lives had been ripped up from the roots and their desperate need to find order and structure out of the chaos surrounding their young lives. I think too about the church communities we, as a group, were hosted by while we were there and how they spoke of holding onto what little dignity they had left. I feel helpless.

Interspersed with reports of hurricane Gustav are the news reports of the republican convention. Opening night ceremonies having been cancelled in response to the storm, republicans are defending the choice of a gun toting, ex beauty queen, hockey mom of five to be a heart beat away from being commander in chief. "Her inexperience" noted one of the pundits, "makes Obama seem like John Adams."

What this says to me is that a man who has claimed to always put country first is now putting a campaign first. A very sad way to end what would have been a grand legacy of public service.

Sometimes it all gets so surreal and disastrous that I feel I can't watch. (I haven't even mentioned the war). Like with everything it comes down to a question of faith. I am certainly powerless over the weather and the result of a hurricane or whether people chose to evacuate or not. Equally am I as powerless over drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the republican candidate's choice for running mate or whether she can put away her breast pump and actually lead the nation if need be.

Taking action, I can do disaster recovery work, I can vote, I may even express my opinions to those who care to listen but I realize that without trust in a Power greater than myself I'm lost. The outcome of a hurricane or an election are far beyond my jurisdiction.

Right now all I have to do is breathe, remain calm and trust that a Power greater than myself will restore the world to sanity.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

forty five years ago today

delivered August 28, 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C.

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the "unalienable Rights" of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds."

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.

We cannot turn back.

There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by a sign stating: "For Whites Only." We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until "justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream."

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest -- quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification" -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

And this will be the day -- this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning:

My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.

Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim's pride,

From every mountainside, let freedom ring!

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.

And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.

Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that:

Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.

From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last!

Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

role model gold

Last night there was a huge upset to the Chinese gold medal diving sweep when Matthew Mitcham, Sydney Australia's openly gay, 20 year old diver did as close to a perfect backwards two and a half somersault with two and a half twist dive as one is ever likely to see.

Mitcham is the only openly gay male Olympian in Beijing this year and though he struggled to get his partner into China with him and though he has repeatedly spoken about his sexual orientation in interviews there's been no mention of it in any major media coverage.

Why is that?

Why is it I know about the fiancees and spouses of several track and field athletes but only learned of Mitcham's struggle to get his boyfriend into China by doing extensive internet
searches? Why is it that Bob Costas asked the US volleyball gold medalists about their husbands with great interest and yet an openly gay gold medalist in a host country with a heinous record of human rights atrocities perpetrated against gay people is not seen as news?

Someone has decided that it is very important for the media to continue perpetrating the lie that male gayness and athleticism are incompatible.


Earlier in these Olympic games I sat riveted in front of my television watching the men's synchronized diving with great surges of emotional pride. Americans David Boudia and Thomas Finchum, neither of whom have spoken of their orientation, are talented, muscularly honed and at the same time rather effeminate young men at the top of their chosen sport. I watched them climb to the top of the board where one of them would crack a joke and the other would cover his mouth and giggle girlishly just before they would compose themselves and perform the most improbable feats of gymnastic daredevil in the air before plunging perfectly vertical and unison into the pool below them.


Every four years the eyes of countless Americans, and indeed citizens of every nation, are on these young people and though the sexual orientation of a few of these young champions is most doubtless the nation cheers for their victory with great pride. Young gay people being showcased and held up as a source of national pride is so foreign a concept and though it may remain unspoken it is very real.

Growing up gay in a straight world is difficult to say the least. Every movie, nursery rhyme, TV commercial and cartoon tells you that you're different and therefor wrong. For me, the unspoken sense of shame, the feelings that I had somehow disappointed my family, the sense that something I did or something I was rightfully incited the teasing and mockery I received from other children, the need to keep my feelings a secret and, eventually, the visceral belief that I was a second class citizen were overwhelming. So to witness the nation cheer as young gay men perform, near superhuman, feats of strength and grace melts away what remains of years of shame and self-loathing.

For NBC and any other media source that reports on these Olympic games and keeps the news of Mr. Mitcham's sexual orientation quiet: SHAME ON YOU.

Like it or not, we live in a world where the volume of role models for young gay men is slim. Television and films are full of gay characters who are either deviants, tragic figures or clowns. Where a straight boy can turn on a TV at any time of the day and see sports heroes, TV dads, judges, policemen, pilots and even political figures a gay boy might see Jack from Will and Grace. A promiscuous clown, a fool. Acceptable because he is there to be laughed at.

Last night when Matthew Mitcham took his Olympic gold dive a message went out to every young gay boy around the world:

You can be anything you want to be. You can do anything you want to do. No matter what your family, the people at school or your church tells you - you are a person of worth and you are fine just the way you are.

When the young Olympian realized he'd won gold tears ran down his face. As I watched, tears ran down mine as well. I'm so proud of him. I'm so happy for him and I'm also happy for the next generation that now has a wonderful new role model in Matthew Mitcham. As do I.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

cruisin' the park

This morning in the park while I was walking Zeke I saw Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes and Suri. They had two big bodyguards and an assistant with them. The little girl seemed fascinated with Zeke so I went over to her and said:

"Would you like to give the doggy a cookie?"

I took a dog biscuit out of my back pocket, broke it in two and handed it to the child. Tom and Katie were right there. Tom said "Go ahead give the dog the cookie" but Suri seemed scared and backed off. I said "I know he's big but he's very gentle. See?" and patted his head. Tom took the biscuit from Suri and gave it to Zeke. "Look, the doggy likes cookies" He said. We tried it again with the same results.

Tom looked at me, took my hand and said "Thank you, really thank you so much."

Maybe I'm reading more into it than was there but it was almost as if he was saying:

"Thanks for seeing us as human. Thanks for not taking out your phone and snapping a picture of me or my baby. Thanks for treating my kid like a kid."

I left the incident star struck and more than a little overwhelmed at the power of celebrity.



Friday, August 22, 2008

a family affair


I recently spent eight days with family. Three days of preparation with my father, my mother and her husband, three days with thirty five extended family members and two days of cleanup with my father, my mother and her husband.

I am still recovering.

I love my family, I am annoyed by them and I am also left with an uneasy feeling that I've done something wrong, or at the very least, have disappointed someone.

They can push my buttons because they installed them.

I have found that the best thing for me to do on these occasions is to stay in the kitchen and cook. I enjoy it, I'm good at it and it gives me the feeling, real or imagined, that I'm being useful.

Here are some of the things I prepared for the occasion:
(everything was either chilled or room temperature)

Carrot ginger soup
Lemon chicken
Potato salad
Watermelon salad with Kalamata olives, Feta, red onions and mint
Beet, fennel and grapefruit salad
Onion tart
Grilled asparagus with Gorgonzola butter
Baccala salad
Blue cheese stuffed grilled figs wrapped in bacon
Arugula and mint salad with oil cured black olives, red onions, oranges and Ricotta Salata
Sauteed cauliflower with capers, Red peppers and golden raisins
Spinach and cheese Strata
Green chili and chorizo Strata
Plates of various cheeses, crackers and spreads
A platter of smoked salmon (with pumpernickel triangles, cream cheese, red onions and capers, of course)
A platter of heirloom tomatoes dressed with basil, olive oil and coarse sea salt
A hazelnut torte
and two flourless chocolate cakes

I also made Ginger and Peppermint ice creams. (two separate flavors)

People seemed to enjoy the food and that pleased me.

I've been asked to post the recipe for the Baccala salad so here it is:

BACCALA SALAD

Ingredients

1 1/2 lb choice-grade skinless boneless salt cod, rinsed well
1 1/2 qt water
3 celery ribs, thinly sliced crosswise
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/4 cup small pimiento-stuffed green olives, chopped
1/4 cup Kalamata or other brine-cured black olives, pitted and chopped
1/3 cup chopped drained bottled roasted red peppers
1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/2 cup small fresh basil leaves
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon red-wine vinegar, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons olive oil

Preparation

Put cod in a large bowl and cover with cold water by 2 inches. Soak cod, chilled, changing water 3 times a day, up to 3 days (see note, below). Drain and chill until ready to use.

Drain cod and transfer to a 5- to 6-quart pot with 1 1/2 quarts water. Bring just to a simmer and remove from heat. (Cod will just flake; do not boil or it will become tough.) Gently transfer cod with a slotted spoon to a platter to cool slightly.

Shred cod and stir together with celery, garlic, olives, roasted peppers, parsley, and basil.

Stir together lemon juice, vinegar, sugar, and oil, then pour over salad, tossing to coat well. Season with pepper and chill, covered, at least 1 1/2 hours for flavors to develop.

• Salt cod differs in it's degree of saltiness. A less salty variety may need only 1 day of soaking, while another could require up to 3. To test it, simply taste a small piece after 1 day; you want it to be pleasantly salty but not overwhelmingly so.

• Salad can be chilled up to 2 days.

ENJOY

Saturday, August 9, 2008

mid life crisis

For a long time my primary purpose was: avoid personal discomfort at any cost.

The best way I found to do this, for about twenty seven years, was by filling myself with drugs and alcohol. Oh I found other ways to avoid uncomfortable feelings as well. Food was, and still is ,a good one, sex, shopping, working out, pornography, computer games. Almost anything can increase this list to become compulsive and unmanageable. But of all the behaviors and methods I've used to avoid feelings drugs and alcohol always worked best.

While under the influence I had to do something. One can't very well just get a buzz on for twenty seven years with nothing else on their plate, so I created various versions of who I thought I should be.

A serious musical performer was something I believed I should be for more than a decade. I actually did this very well and I suppose that had I been sober through those years I may have achieved an elevated level of success in that arena. The combination of unpleasant people and the discipline needed to maintain success in that industry, however, got in the way of my true love; getting fucked up.

So I left that incarnation to create the next one, which was unclear to me due to my confused mental state but lasted, nevertheless, for about fifteen years. I suppose I was a professional party boy for lack of a better title. It is during this period that the posted picture was taken. Sexy? Perhaps. But definitely not a nice guy and you may notice how there seems to be no life behind the eyes. Yes, I became the walking dead. Zombified and driven from one moment of immediate gratification
to the next with no consideration of others and no thought of personal consequence. Humping my way through life like some deranged inchworm. It was fun. Then it was fun with problems. Then it was just problems.

By the grace of something greater than myself I've been delivered from that state and brought to where I am now. The road from there to here has been painful and long but I've broken free of emotional and spiritual torture. I've survived disease and overdoses, I'm recovered and I'm grateful but still nagging questions reverberate inside my head;

Is it too late to become the man I was supposed to be all along?

Certainly my life doesn't look the way I imagined it would. I catch glimpses of myself in storefront windows and I recoil with disbelief. Who is that? When did I get so old? Time passed and I must've been too high to notice. I was supposed to be settled and winding down by now but it seems I've only just recently been put in the right direction.

What I am faced with are questions of faith:

Do I believe I am exactly where I am supposed to be?

Have I been saved so that I can help others through my experience?

Is God doing for me what I cannot do for myself?

Avoiding personal discomfort is no longer important. What proves to be of significant worth is the suspension of judgement, of myself as well as others, and letting myself be guided by love.




Friday, August 1, 2008

let the sunshine in

As a kid I grew up listening to the original cast album of HAIR. I loved it. I didn't quite understand all of the songs or what they meant but I could sing them all. Surely a puzzlement to grown ups who weren't musical theater savvy or "hip" enough to know where the tunes came from, I would walk around, seven or eight years old, singing little songs with lyrics about hashish and the Kama Sutra.

When I was ten years old my father took me to see the Broadway show, already running for five years at that point, and I knew that what those people were was what I wanted to be when I grew up.

Dancing, running, singing joyously and beautiful. Celebrating free love, acceptance of each other and being true to one's inner self. Self expression through sex, drugs and non-violence. Standing up for what they believed in, slamming the conservative societal values of the time and saying very clearly "I won't fight your war for you" and the cherry on top of it all: they got naked.

This all represented to me an adulthood I couldn't wait to be a part of. By the age of thirteen I had hair below my shoulders, was wearing patched jeans and was listening to the Stones. I very soon discovered the joys, and confusions, of drugs and promiscuity. Whether I knew it or not I was desperately looking for the freedom that I had found in HAIR.

But as I came of age the world became a different place. The "Love Generation" of the 1960's morphed into the "Me Generation" of the 1970's. The great rock and roll bands of the 60's were replaced with disco and punk rock, psychedelics were traded in for cocaine and the war ended. Seemingly, there was no longer anything to fight for.

This year marks the fortieth anniversary of HAIR. Last night I went to see the anniversary production at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. I was expecting a time-capsule piece. A tongue in cheek, musical review of familiar songs and dated 60's themes. True, there was some of that but there was also a lot that was surprisingly timely and topical.

So much has changed since that innocent and naive year of 1968. Drugs are no longer an acceptable method of protest, escape or mind expansion. We've all since seen the ravages of what drugs can do to individuals, families and even communities. The raising up of Timothy Leary in 1968 was pushed aside as we saw the drug related deaths of Judy Garland in 1969 followed by Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendricks and countless others both with and without celebrity.

Free love and sexual experimentation became a frightening prospect when in the early 1980's people, mostly gay men, started dying from a mysterious sexually transmitted disease that was first called "Gay Cancer" then GRID, "Gay Related Immune Deficiency", and is what we now know as AIDS.

Most biting in the present revival of HAIR are the differences and the similarities of war. There are no more draft cards to be burned. When there was a draft everybody was a potential soldier. Now the military is filled with kids using their military service and training as a way out of poverty. It is, disproportionately, a poor man's army. Out of the 435 members of congress and the 100 members of the United States Senate not one has a child serving in the United States military.

The war is no longer being televised. As a kid I clearly remember my parents watching news reports of men walking through the jungle with firearms and footage of wounded men being air lifted to safety. We are no longer allowed to see the damage of war first hand, the human cost. The present administration has put a ban on all media as to images of war. No wounded soldiers, no flag draped coffins, no prize winning photographs of terrified children running for their lives toward a camera, looking helplessly at the lens and pleading to viewers who might perhaps care about the outcome of such conflicts.

What we do still have is involvement in a war that is questionable at best. We have an ongoing war that few support, that no one can win and that there is seemingly no way out of.

Poignant and chilling the beautiful, young cast, black and white, look into the audience, make eye contact and stage whisper in unison:

"prisoners in nigger town
it's a dirty little war...
take weapons up and begin to kill
watch the long, long armies marching on"

After the thirty five year interval between performances I went back to HAIR ready to take a nostalgic look at the lifestyle I wanted to grow into only to realize that HAIR is not about adults at all. It's about kids. Kids choosing to drop out of school and leave the picturesque simplicity and American Dream of their parent's Eisenhower years behind them and find a path, a voice and a life of their own. Funny how I can look back now and see those years of unrest and turmoil as comparatively innocent and idyllic, far away from the corruption and cynicism the twenty first century has brought.

While the members from the original "tribe", if still alive, would now be in their sixties and seventies, I continue to want to be one of them when I grow up. How I still romanticize that late 60's lifestyle. A lifestyle attainable for such a very short period by so few that will never be again. Even as I buzz what hair I have and struggle to keep my middle aged belly in check I long for a pony tail, beads and a brocade vest. The most fitting homage I can make to that time is to take it's best intentions and apply them to my own resolve as best I can: Be true to myself, fight for social justice, surround myself with a community of loving, like minded friends and let the sunshine in.



Saturday, July 26, 2008

snake oil


With our economy sinking and oil prices soaring. George Bush is offering snake oil: a plan to sacrifice more of our coasts to oil drilling on the chance it will produce a few weeks’ worth of oil and reduce gas prices by a few pennies a gallon...in 2028. Imagine America forever tethered to Bush’s failed energy policy. It’s like giving him five more terms.

It’s a cruel Shell game. And BP game. And ExxonMobil game. Over the past five years, the number of domestic drilling permits has nearly doubled. But because of rising worldwide demand, oil prices have skyrocketed. More drilling off our coasts is not the answer. Once destroyed they can never be replaced. The only winners will be the oil companies.

Want gas at $1 a gallon? America needs a bold new approach to energy, from more fuel-efficient vehicles to plug-in hybrids and electric cars. A cleaner electric grid powered by renewables. Existing technologies could have us driving at the equivalent of a buck a gallon for gas!

Tell your Representative and Senators to stop the giveaway of our coasts. Tell them you won’t stand for billions more for oil companies—and snake oil for the rest of us.

NRDC Action Fund


Friday, July 25, 2008

a world that stands as one



As Prepared For Delivery
Berlin, Germany
July 24th, 2008

I come to Berlin as so many of my countrymen have come before. Tonight, I speak to you not as a candidate for President, but as a citizen – a proud citizen of the United States, and a fellow citizen of the world.

I know that I don’t look like the Americans who’ve previously spoken in this great city. The journey that led me here is improbable. My mother was born in the heartland of America, but my father grew up herding goats in Kenya. His father – my grandfather – was a cook, a domestic servant to the British.

At the height of the Cold War, my father decided, like so many others in the forgotten corners of the world, that his yearning – his dream – required the freedom and opportunity promised by the West. And so he wrote letter after letter to universities all across America until somebody, somewhere answered his prayer for a better life.

That is why I’m here. And you are here because you too know that yearning. This city, of all cities, knows the dream of freedom. And you know that the only reason we stand here tonight is because men and women from both of our nations came together to work, and struggle, and sacrifice for that better life.

Ours is a partnership that truly began sixty years ago this summer, on the day when the first American plane touched down at Templehof.

On that day, much of this continent still lay in ruin. The rubble of this city had yet to be built into a wall. The Soviet shadow had swept across Eastern Europe, while in the West, America, Britain, and France took stock of their losses, and pondered how the world might be remade.

This is where the two sides met. And on the twenty-fourth of June, 1948, the Communists chose to blockade the western part of the city. They cut off food and supplies to more than two million Germans in an effort to extinguish the last flame of freedom in Berlin.

The size of our forces was no match for the much larger Soviet Army. And yet retreat would have allowed Communism to march across Europe. Where the last war had ended, another World War could have easily begun. All that stood in the way was Berlin.

And that’s when the airlift began – when the largest and most unlikely rescue in history brought food and hope to the people of this city.

The odds were stacked against success. In the winter, a heavy fog filled the sky above, and many planes were forced to turn back without dropping off the needed supplies. The streets where we stand were filled with hungry families who had no comfort from the cold.

But in the darkest hours, the people of Berlin kept the flame of hope burning. The people of Berlin refused to give up. And on one fall day, hundreds of thousands of Berliners came here, to the Tiergarten, and heard the city’s mayor implore the world not to give up on freedom. “There is only one possibility,” he said. “For us to stand together united until this battle is won…The people of Berlin have spoken. We have done our duty, and we will keep on doing our duty. People of the world: now do your duty…People of the world, look at Berlin!”

People of the world – look at Berlin!

Look at Berlin, where Germans and Americans learned to work together and trust each other less than three years after facing each other on the field of battle.

Look at Berlin, where the determination of a people met the generosity of the Marshall Plan and created a German miracle; where a victory over tyranny gave rise to NATO, the greatest alliance ever formed to defend our common security.

Look at Berlin, where the bullet holes in the buildings and the somber stones and pillars near the Brandenburg Gate insist that we never forget our common humanity.

People of the world – look at Berlin, where a wall came down, a continent came together, and history proved that there is no challenge too great for a world that stands as one.

Sixty years after the airlift, we are called upon again. History has led us to a new crossroad, with new promise and new peril. When you, the German people, tore down that wall – a wall that divided East and West; freedom and tyranny; fear and hope – walls came tumbling down around the world. From Kiev to Cape Town, prison camps were closed, and the doors of democracy were opened. Markets opened too, and the spread of information and technology reduced barriers to opportunity and prosperity. While the 20th century taught us that we share a common destiny, the 21st has revealed a world more intertwined than at any time in human history.

The fall of the Berlin Wall brought new hope. But that very closeness has given rise to new dangers – dangers that cannot be contained within the borders of a country or by the distance of an ocean.

The terrorists of September 11th plotted in Hamburg and trained in Kandahar and Karachi before killing thousands from all over the globe on American soil.

As we speak, cars in Boston and factories in Beijing are melting the ice caps in the Arctic, shrinking coastlines in the Atlantic, and bringing drought to farms from Kansas to Kenya.

Poorly secured nuclear material in the former Soviet Union, or secrets from a scientist in Pakistan could help build a bomb that detonates in Paris. The poppies in Afghanistan become the heroin in Berlin. The poverty and violence in Somalia breeds the terror of tomorrow. The genocide in Darfur shames the conscience of us all.

In this new world, such dangerous currents have swept along faster than our efforts to contain them. That is why we cannot afford to be divided. No one nation, no matter how large or powerful, can defeat such challenges alone. None of us can deny these threats, or escape responsibility in meeting them. Yet, in the absence of Soviet tanks and a terrible wall, it has become easy to forget this truth. And if we’re honest with each other, we know that sometimes, on both sides of the Atlantic, we have drifted apart, and forgotten our shared destiny.

In Europe, the view that America is part of what has gone wrong in our world, rather than a force to help make it right, has become all too common. In America, there are voices that deride and deny the importance of Europe’s role in our security and our future. Both views miss the truth – that Europeans today are bearing new burdens and taking more responsibility in critical parts of the world; and that just as American bases built in the last century still help to defend the security of this continent, so does our country still sacrifice greatly for freedom around the globe.

Yes, there have been differences between America and Europe. No doubt, there will be differences in the future. But the burdens of global citizenship continue to bind us together. A change of leadership in Washington will not lift this burden. In this new century, Americans and Europeans alike will be required to do more – not less. Partnership and cooperation among nations is not a choice; it is the one way, the only way, to protect our common security and advance our common humanity.

That is why the greatest danger of all is to allow new walls to divide us from one another. The walls between old allies on either side of the Atlantic cannot stand. The walls between the countries with the most and those with the least cannot stand. The walls between races and tribes; natives and immigrants; Christian and Muslim and Jew cannot stand. These now are the walls we must tear down.

We know they have fallen before. After centuries of strife, the people of Europe have formed a Union of promise and prosperity. Here, at the base of a column built to mark victory in war, we meet in the center of a Europe at peace. Not only have walls come down in Berlin, but they have come down in Belfast, where Protestant and Catholic found a way to live together; in the Balkans, where our Atlantic alliance ended wars and brought savage war criminals to justice; and in South Africa, where the struggle of a courageous people defeated apartheid.

So history reminds us that walls can be torn down. But the task is never easy. True partnership and true progress requires constant work and sustained sacrifice. They require sharing the burdens of development and diplomacy; of progress and peace. They require allies who will listen to each other, learn from each other and, most of all, trust each other.

That is why America cannot turn inward. That is why Europe cannot turn inward. America has no better partner than Europe. Now is the time to build new bridges across the globe as strong as the one that bound us across the Atlantic. Now is the time to join together, through constant cooperation, strong institutions, shared sacrifice, and a global commitment to progress, to meet the challenges of the 21st century. It was this spirit that led airlift planes to appear in the sky above our heads, and people to assemble where we stand today. And this is the moment when our nations – and all nations – must summon that spirit anew.

This is the moment when we must defeat terror and dry up the well of extremism that supports it. This threat is real and we cannot shrink from our responsibility to combat it. If we could create NATO to face down the Soviet Union, we can join in a new and global partnership to dismantle the networks that have struck in Madrid and Amman; in London and Bali; in Washington and New York. If we could win a battle of ideas against the communists, we can stand with the vast majority of Muslims who reject the extremism that leads to hate instead of hope.

This is the moment when we must renew our resolve to rout the terrorists who threaten our security in Afghanistan, and the traffickers who sell drugs on your streets. No one welcomes war. I recognize the enormous difficulties in Afghanistan. But my country and yours have a stake in seeing that NATO’s first mission beyond Europe’s borders is a success. For the people of Afghanistan, and for our shared security, the work must be done. America cannot do this alone. The Afghan people need our troops and your troops; our support and your support to defeat the Taliban and al Qaeda, to develop their economy, and to help them rebuild their nation. We have too much at stake to turn back now.

This is the moment when we must renew the goal of a world without nuclear weapons. The two superpowers that faced each other across the wall of this city came too close too often to destroying all we have built and all that we love. With that wall gone, we need not stand idly by and watch the further spread of the deadly atom. It is time to secure all loose nuclear materials; to stop the spread of nuclear weapons; and to reduce the arsenals from another era. This is the moment to begin the work of seeking the peace of a world without nuclear weapons.

This is the moment when every nation in Europe must have the chance to choose its own tomorrow free from the shadows of yesterday. In this century, we need a strong European Union that deepens the security and prosperity of this continent, while extending a hand abroad. In this century – in this city of all cities – we must reject the Cold War mind-set of the past, and resolve to work with Russia when we can, to stand up for our values when we must, and to seek a partnership that extends across this entire continent.

This is the moment when we must build on the wealth that open markets have created, and share its benefits more equitably. Trade has been a cornerstone of our growth and global development. But we will not be able to sustain this growth if it favors the few, and not the many. Together, we must forge trade that truly rewards the work that creates wealth, with meaningful protections for our people and our planet. This is the moment for trade that is free and fair for all.

This is the moment we must help answer the call for a new dawn in the Middle East. My country must stand with yours and with Europe in sending a direct message to Iran that it must abandon its nuclear ambitions. We must support the Lebanese who have marched and bled for democracy, and the Israelis and Palestinians who seek a secure and lasting peace. And despite past differences, this is the moment when the world should support the millions of Iraqis who seek to rebuild their lives, even as we pass responsibility to the Iraqi government and finally bring this war to a close.

This is the moment when we must come together to save this planet. Let us resolve that we will not leave our children a world where the oceans rise and famine spreads and terrible storms devastate our lands. Let us resolve that all nations – including my own – will act with the same seriousness of purpose as has your nation, and reduce the carbon we send into our atmosphere. This is the moment to give our children back their future. This is the moment to stand as one.

And this is the moment when we must give hope to those left behind in a globalized world. We must remember that the Cold War born in this city was not a battle for land or treasure. Sixty years ago, the planes that flew over Berlin did not drop bombs; instead they delivered food, and coal, and candy to grateful children. And in that show of solidarity, those pilots won more than a military victory. They won hearts and minds; love and loyalty and trust – not just from the people in this city, but from all those who heard the story of what they did here.

Now the world will watch and remember what we do here – what we do with this moment. Will we extend our hand to the people in the forgotten corners of this world who yearn for lives marked by dignity and opportunity; by security and justice? Will we lift the child in Bangladesh from poverty, shelter the refugee in Chad, and banish the scourge of AIDS in our time?

Will we stand for the human rights of the dissident in Burma, the blogger in Iran, or the voter in Zimbabwe? Will we give meaning to the words “never again” in Darfur?

Will we acknowledge that there is no more powerful example than the one each of our nations projects to the world? Will we reject torture and stand for the rule of law? Will we welcome immigrants from different lands, and shun discrimination against those who don’t look like us or worship like we do, and keep the promise of equality and opportunity for all of our people?

People of Berlin – people of the world – this is our moment. This is our time.

I know my country has not perfected itself. At times, we’ve struggled to keep the promise of liberty and equality for all of our people. We’ve made our share of mistakes, and there are times when our actions around the world have not lived up to our best intentions.

But I also know how much I love America. I know that for more than two centuries, we have strived – at great cost and great sacrifice – to form a more perfect union; to seek, with other nations, a more hopeful world. Our allegiance has never been to any particular tribe or kingdom – indeed, every language is spoken in our country; every culture has left its imprint on ours; every point of view is expressed in our public squares. What has always united us – what has always driven our people; what drew my father to America’s shores – is a set of ideals that speak to aspirations shared by all people: that we can live free from fear and free from want; that we can speak our minds and assemble with whomever we choose and worship as we please.

These are the aspirations that joined the fates of all nations in this city. These aspirations are bigger than anything that drives us apart. It is because of these aspirations that the airlift began. It is because of these aspirations that all free people – everywhere – became citizens of Berlin. It is in pursuit of these aspirations that a new generation – our generation – must make our mark on the world.

People of Berlin – and people of the world – the scale of our challenge is great. The road ahead will be long. But I come before you to say that we are heirs to a struggle for freedom. We are a people of improbable hope. With an eye toward the future, with resolve in our hearts, let us remember this history, and answer our destiny, and remake the world once again.