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You’ll See Me Tomorrow Because…

September 10th, 2015 · No Comments

WSPD2015-ResponseCardIt is National Suicide Prevention Week, and today (Thursday) is World Suicide Prevention Day. I’ve observed online activities undertaken by To Write Love On Her Arms (TWOLHA) before, but often avoided participating. I told someone yesterday how much turning 40 felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders, enabling me to share without fear (or less fear). It felt like an excuse to publicly tackle why “You’ll See Me Tomorrow,” TWOLHA’s writing prompt for the campaign.

I also saw my college classmate Anis Mojgani post his reply via his website yesterday (I’ve written about him and his influence on my life from afar in the past). I typed it up my response to the writing prompt provided by TWLOHA and pasted into the PDF TWLOHA provided on their website and have shared it as a JPG both as the post’s image and via some of those social media platforms people can find me  (showing off just how geeky I’ve become during these last twenty years). Considering the size of the image I’ve posted, I’ve shared the text below as well.

I’m going to invite you to share your thoughts as well, either below or however else you feel like doing it.

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Words can sting with the strength of one thousand punches to the face, but receiving a smile or a hug from someone who cares can soothe so much.

Yoga, subways, weekend drives (with one eye always open), and wandering through unfamiliar streets whenever possible.

Because I fear time, but chase clocks. I enjoy watching the craft of keeping time, and the mystery of passing through it.

I’m learning others lash out because they hurt or want to hurt, regardless of whether they actually want me to hurt too. They don’t seem to care either way, I’m learning how to do so more often.

I’ve learned whether people care or not, and how it doesn’t matter so long as I can find ways to become more comfortable with myself.

I won’t know if not being here makes a difference if I’m not here.

I love the ability to escape via white lines, right angles, curves, and grass. And order. Always order.

Sitting on the porch during a steady rain, watching and hoping my worries are being washed away. Putting one foot in front of the other, hoping I can run my problems away, even if they only escape for a moment before fear sucks them back to the forefront.

Knowing there will always be stories to be told, and people willing to listen to those stories. Trying to give voice to those issues helps to give voice to my own. There’s still a world to explore as well, even as I know I’ve barely scratched the surface to start the journey (finding another part of myself around every corner). Wondering if I can ever be as good as Ed Bradley, or even if I should try?

Semicolons as buttons on bags and tattoos on bodies means knowing someone is battling similar issues, even if a nod is all that’s needed to feel relief temporarily.

Understanding that someone will never really tell you the reasons why, and accepting it will never change, even as they occasionally check in on my life and want to share theirs, without apologizing for never truly explaining the hurt.

Saying something about this pushes some away, but pulls though I need so much closer, a great reminder of what really matters, and why rainbows can bring so much joy to me.

Because I need to be able to write a story no one else can for me.

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There are other reasons to be sure. The friends from college that this existence left way too soon, seemingly on the cusp of finally having it all go their way after suffering for way too long. Always wanting to be able to answer the question, “What if I did this instead?” Sitting calmly as a cat decides he wants to keep you from doing what you think you need to do. The very idea of still wanting to find answers to questions. The idea of knowing this never really ends…

Why will we see you tomorrow?

For more info on We’ll See You Tomorrow TWLOHA’s annual awareness campaign for suicide prevention, visit their website.

→ No CommentsTags: Life

A rant about online rants — and when we should

February 5th, 2015 · No Comments

I’m not sure exactly what set me off this evening. It could be all of the research I’ve been doing recently about college athletics because of the presentation and subsequent posts I’ve created pertaining to football recently. It may be the #BrianWilliamsMisremembers hashtag making its way around social web these past 24+ hours (with this interview with the pilot of the helicopter just hitting the Poynter website as I’m about to hit publish). It could be I had too much caffeine today (which is also entirely possible).

The result was a Twitter rant — about all of the ongoing ranting.

I only hope when we’re supposedly to really get upset that the same vigor shows itself among the digitally active. It’d be a shame to not have that level of passion when the stakes are actually significant (though what that may be differs from person to person; for me, it’s affordable education and accessibility). It’s not as though it doesn’t happen either; I just wish it did more often for things that truly mean something other than another excuse to attempt to show moral superiority.

We can hope — and I can step away from the laptop and go watch some basketball too. I think I might do that right now…

Cheers.

NOTE: When I say RTE up there, it’s from my brief stint contributing to Regret the Error at Poynter in 2013.

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Romanesque Revival, airports, and Batman – it’s all connected.

December 7th, 2014 · No Comments

There have been many constants throughout my time on this planet. Two of them (well, really one of them) stand out more after a week of research. If nothing else, it’s only solidified what I think my subconscious thinks it needs for a good life — Romanesque Revival architecture and close proximity to an airport.

Yes, it does sound crazy, but hear me out.

I started researching discontinued NCAA Division I football programs an article and an opinion piece I wrote for The Terminal about the recent situation at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the situation throughout Division I (including FCS schools). The list I found on Wikipedia of discontinued programs included one name that stood out for some reason — Webb Institute. I clicked on the link and found myself intrigued by both of the images on the right side of the Wikipedia page and the original location of the school.

Webb_Academy_circa_1899It turns out Webb Institute is the current name of the Webb Academy and Home for Shipbuilders — what previously occupied the property now known to most Bronxites as Fordham Hill (and to me for sixteen years as home). The first image visible was of how the academy looked shortly after it opened in 1899. It was the first time I’d ever seen it and… it was a Richardsonian Romanesque style-building. I loved it because I’ve loved the style for longer than I’ve known its name; growing up with a view of the Kingsbridge Armory from by bedroom window probably assured that would be the case.

fordhamhillIt’s not as though Fordham Hill itself didn’t influence a love of architecture. It’s one of those places in the Bronx that everyone knows of even if they’ve never stepped foot on the property. The nearly 1,200 unit complex is a miniature version of an American attempt to create Le Corbusier‘s Radiant City. The nine buildings were developed by the Equitable Life Assurance Society of the United States in 1950 after the Institute had sold the land to them in 1945 and moved out to Long Island. It became the largest privately held residential cooperative during the 1980s and  sits atop  the highest naturally occurring point in the city. The land was once owned by Nathaniel P. Bailey (not connected to the Baileys of circus fame as some accounts suggest) and acquired by shipbuilding magnate William H. Webb to build the school from his estate following his death in 1891. (the reason some of the buildings had a Webb Avenue address before the oval providing access to the main entrances of the buildings became an official (though private) city street.

Why is the Romanesque Revival (specifically the Richardsonian Romanesque) so significant in this case? I started thinking about the places I’ve lived; every place I’ve called home has never been farther than four blocks away from at least one building designed in that style. (I’ve also never lived more than 16 minutes travel time from an airport — even more freakish to me considering I don’t like flying nearly as much as some may think.) They’ve been all types too, and they’ve influenced things like where I went to college (the official school seal of the Savannah College of Art and Design contains of its original building, now known as Poetter Hall) to where I’ve attended church. My new found knowledge about where I called home growing up is just bizarre, but in an intriguing and happy kind of way.

Webb_bwThe second image was just as captivating, mostly because I knew I’d seen it before — and so have many of you. I didn’t recognize it at first, but it eventually clicked. It was not of a Richardsonian Romanesque building, but of the current home of the Webb Institute, the Braes. The building is now known as Stephenson Taylor Hall; it is also known to fans of the new TV series “Gotham” (and those who bravely sat through 1995’s “Batman Forever”) as the cinematic representation of stately Wayne Manor, the home of Batman’s alter ego, Bruce Wayne, and the Batcave.

To put it bluntly, I found a way to go from researching NCAA football to Batman. Long time friends know a favorite saying of mine is, “It always, ALWAYS, leads back to Batman.” I guess that’s another constant, isn’t it?

Cheers.

→ No CommentsTags: Architecture · The Sunday P.M. Post

Enjoying coffee off of the hotel lobby…

November 3rd, 2014 · No Comments

the view from the virtual officeDusting the cobwebs off of the posts I’ve never finished on this site’s back end, I was reminded of starting a piece back in January about being able to cross another item off the “things I always wanted to do just because it looked like it’d be cool” list.

There’s something weird about regularly working from a hotel; the words “unique” and “cool” also come to mind. I’ve often heard stories about those who used to rent rooms for the purpose of writing or setting up shop in the lobby. While my outpost is technically off of the lobby, it still means I’m working from a hotel. A laptop replaces the typewriter, but I still carry notepads, notebooks, and pens to capture thoughts conjured up while sipping on a cup of green tea or coffee.

There are many times in the last few years where I’ve said I’ve had the most exciting life possible so far. Very few people get a chance to live out most of their dreams before 30 (and squeeze a few more in before 40). I’ve managed a hotel; contributed regularly to a weekly newspaper and a monthly magazine; run my own website; worked for civic-focused nonprofits in two states; and traveled across the country by train. Now I get to regularly sit and observe the world go by from a seat at the Birmingham location for Octane Coffee. It’s been about a year since they opened – the first to open in a completely new (not previously used or renovated for their needs) space for the caffeine purveyor. It tends to be following a (long-standing) trend associated with hotels providing unique experiences to guests and locals alike. Short of going on a trip to find a room to inspire me (of which there are apparently many available — albeit pricey), it’s just nice to find inspiration nearby. Plus, I’m from a city that’s known for having its fair share of writers taking up residence (or just stopping by to enjoy the scenery).

There’s no set seat or table — it’s in a hotel. It’s not Sunday either, so it’s not necessarily a routine; it’s whatever I feel like having whenever I head over there. It’s the coffee house closest to my home, so it only makes sense to be a regular. I’ve learned there are many who’ve chosen to frequent the location because it’s not a regular place to frequent. Let me explain that Yogi-ism like statement – there are regulars, but it tends to be a place people go in not be in the public eye, or to avoid having to be seen. It makes sense though the traffic through the area continues to pick up (with restaurants like Bottle & BoneMugshots, and The Southern — and regular groups from Mercedes-Benz — leading the way).

It’s helped to expand my thinking and let me see another side to the city. It’s one that makes it easier to fuel optimism for its present and future. I’m also starting to believe I can finally tackle that first novel I’ve been wanting to write energized by the stories, voices, and experiences contained gleaned from watching atop my perch. It’s a strange reminder of the fun parts of the hospitality business — the unpredictability of events and priorities and the nuggets that are occasionally jostled in your brain from time to time that bring a smile to your face.

Not a bad place to work, is it?

Cheers.

→ No CommentsTags: Birmingham · Urban Observations

Thinking out loud about truly celebrating diversity

November 3rd, 2014 · No Comments

NOTE: One thing I’m practicing as I return to daily writing is the idea of not publicizing every single post. There are some that just need to live on the site just because — and this is one of them.

11022007-day-of-the-deadI saw someone at an event on Saturday (during that day with no agenda). Part of a larger topic of conversation during the brief exchange involved the annual local Dia de Los Muertos festival held the following day. (Incidentally, the photo you see to your left is from the 2007 festival on Birmingham’s south side.) Granted, we were at an event inspired by that festival as we talked about it. The person then made a comment that went something like, “I’m going to the one over #####, the one with actual Mexicans.” My heart sank for a minute (though I pretty much knew there was no malcontent truly intended by the individual), and then I remembered another lesson I’ve embraced in recent years: it’s one thing to talk about diversity, it’s another thing entirely to have grown up in diversity.

UPDATE: Shortly after I published this post, I found this great post from Teresa Odom explaining the festival. I’m also less frustrated than I was originally, but I still feel like my post needs to live online as I keep encountering the mindset suggested above more and more while feeling unsure about how it needs to be tackled moving forward.

Yes, it’s probably a harsh statement, but it’s a true one. I never really thought about diversity the way I do now while up north. I knew there were differences and tension, but it wasn’t as if I didn’t grow up with a virtual diaspora around me. The building I grew up in alone had representation from every major section of the United States, western and eastern Europe, central and South America, the Caribbean, Asia, etc. I haven’t even gotten into the various religions accounted for across those sixteen floors. There was always a sense of pride about one’s background and what was authentic as a result. It’s something that influenced portions of my life in Savannah – my mechanic was from Trinidad; I frequented a Caribbean restaurant owned by a Guyanese family (who were impressed the first time I ordered roti (I’m partial to dhalpuri) and nodded when half-way through them attempting to explain what I’d ordered to protect me I said, “My father’s from San Fernando and my mother’s from La Brea;” and I made a concerted effort to support a bakery opened by a woman who came by the office seeking business assistance because I “knew” how she’d make currant rolls (themselves an interpretation from several different cultures) and sweet bread.

Watching the 2009 Dominican Day ParadeDespite the perceived exclusivity, there was also a desire to embrace others willing to learn about the various cultures as well as not always turning away from those willing to add their perspectives and experiences. I always think of my love for baseball basically stemming from my maternal grandmother’s fascination with the similarities between it and rounders. One of the things I’m looking forward to on my next visit back to the Bronx is trying out some of the Vietnamese restaurants that have apparently popped up close to the apartment. There is a genuine interest in learning more about another culture without ripping its core out. If you approach with a desire to learn while preserve, it always ends up being a lot more beneficial to all. I still smile at how much things like the West Indian Day Parade on Labor Day in Brooklyn has transformed how some view or glean from the Caribbean diaspora (It’s still fun to see when the Times runs pieces like this one about a doubles restaurant on Nostrand). The same can be said of the city’s annual Dominican Day Parade (this photo’s from 2009).

It’s tough to be the cultural police for everyone without coming off a little stand-offish (or even a little snooty). While not intended, it makes it tough for people to want to explore or to be willing to have a conversation or explore. Living in a city where exploration is dependent on how reliable one’s car is — and how comfortable you’re made to feel in certain areas — makes one acknowledge issues that make acceptance a little harder than it needs to be. Then there’s this whole thing about providing a true media ecosystem serving the needs of the community without simply falling into a common trap of sensationalism.

Perhaps as civic pride continues its return to the city, it will also learn it can’t function with the guarded approaches of its past — or else it will short circuit. It’s not as if that type of diversity hasn’t been experienced in this community for decades — it’s just how one chooses to acknowledge it and continue to push it forward for the greater population. Hopefully part of that future involves me getting a chance to try out a new approach for currant rolls as cinnamon bun. After all, it doesn’t hurt to grow your experiences and boundaries.

Cheers.

→ No CommentsTags: Social commentary