Gifts

Today is not a holiday. 

It’s not a time of gathering around the table and consuming some predetermined beast that was unfortunate enough to be born on a farm. It’s not a night where some talking head insists we demonstrate the ability to perform question two of a sobriety check from the comfort of our homes or local pub. It isn’t a day to sit in a poorly air conditioned building, trying not to itch too obviously, while peering curiously around a purple pasted hat with a fake, white bird precariously perched on it. In fact it’s not even a day where one can expect sweet rewards for pretending to be someone they are not. 
It is a gift giving holiday, however. It may be one where someone you love (and can only hope feels similarly about you) has full intention, if not a formed plan, to present you with something. Some.      Thing. Some object of value, perhaps not based upon its intrinsic value, but on the amount of care selecting it from the any hundreds of things you could receive or give. But what gift to give? 

There comes a point in every giving situation where a choice must be made. Will this gift be handmade or store bought? This is a moment where ability meets the reality of economics and age meets expectations. At some point every person of a mind to gift someone something the giver must decide the careful calculation of the cost of time, money, effort, and perception of the recipients general attitude. This might include thoughts along the lines of:

“The last gift I gave, he never used….. At least not in front of me”

“What did she give me last time?”

“What day is this? (Checks phone calendar application) rent isn’t due until later so I’ve got time to replace this money”

“I’m out of money…. What can I make him?”

There seems to be a very special moment that no one notes in a diary or journal. Where the phrase, “I love it because you gave it to me,” takes an otherwise normal gifting occasion on a sideways trip to weird town USA  

That is the moment you decide if you’re going to give another clay ashtray to someone who doesn’t smoke anything or a handprint turned wildly colored turkey. Where you choose if the gift you really want to give is up to the standard of a store bought ashtray. Decide if investing in a large yet-to-be-formed lump of clay to be formed is a better and more thoughtful gift that 

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Ghosts

every home has a ghost. Even new ones. The trick is to see your ghost before you hear it. That’s the hard part because a ghost never wants to be seen. So hearing one is usually how you find them first. The creak in the floor when none are home. The thump on the wall where not a soul lives. The cool breeze on bare skin where no window is open. 

But once heard you will never see it. That’s just the way it is. 

They don’t mean to be so mysterious. It’s the rules they must abide by. This means that if you really want to see a ghost, you must use your eyes very carefully. It’s like you aren’t looking for one, but see it just the same. That blurry shape in the corner of your eye. The mote you glimpse floating and you dismiss it as dust. Or the shadow on the floor you swear moved but upon closer examination is just dog hair. Except you don’t have a dog…

Choices 

A friend of mine recently said that a choice had to be made. A choice to be their friend or respect their daughters wishes. Honestly I never thought I could be a distraction between family. 

 The family’s of today are beset on all sides by so many things. Media influence; Social and print. Work obligations. Political pressures. So many things demanding attention and time. I am highly cognizant of how outside things can be hurtful to those we love. But when my friend said to me that I needed to help them make the difficult choice I told them that there really is not a choice to be made. Choose family and I’ll go. 

Family is not who we choose to be with. They didn’t choose us either. But they are a blessing by God. Family is that which first teaches us to recognize the humanity in others and love them anyhow. To see past the sideways thinking and odd habits and see another sentient for who he or she is. A human being that is a creation of God. And as such should be honored. 

This question is one that was given me in highschool too. I had a young love then with a young girl who was told she could not be with me because I had more melanin in my skin than she. She was given the choice to choose family or the streets. I of course honored her choice. But what a choice she had to make and such a harsh reality at such a tender age. 

I pray that in your life you never witness the heartache that choosing between family and someone else can bring. But if you do, pray about it. Seek God and His divine inspiration for what path to choose. 

I chose to step away. I will not compete. In the end I am only a wisp of wind that is here today gone tomorrow, as compared to family. 

Inconvenient, isn’t it?

“Your order please?”

 “I’ll have the eggs Benedict and I’d like those blacks over there to stop interrupting my brunch.”

 “Certainly, sir. Right away, sir” 

 I have read very little about this new effort at raising public consciousness to the #blacklivesmatter movement. So what I’m say here will come off as uniformed and highly anecdotal. But I also hope you see the honesty and real effort to understand behind my uniformed words.

News reports boil down to the statement that a group of black youths are entering public institutions clad head to toe in black clothing. Literally black clothing reminiscent of the classic Janet Jackson Rhythm Nation album. Upon entering, they commence to protest by in effect being a 4 and a-half minute disruption to the brunch. The reactions from all observing varied wildly from bemuse stares to angry tweets.

What happens to a people when they feel that they are not be listened to? How do they react? How do you want them to react? How can the ignored among us raise their voices at once and be heard, but not disturb your quiet life? 

Al Gore many years ago had the audacity to make a movie. After he sat in the chair of Vice President for eight years he tried his hand at raising public consciousness on arguably the most important issue of the day that no one was willing to have an honest discussion about. He called the movement and call to consciousness “An Inconvenient Truth”. The point to his movie and years of research was not that the earth is warming. Not that one political wing or another was ignor the issue. Not even that the media was negligent in its reporting duties. His point was simple and universal. That the truth is just that. And often times it is inconvenient. But that doesn’t make it any less true. 

So I’ve looked at and listened to the news recently with ever deepening sadness. The weather is cruel, and the winter blahs I’ve heard so much about are starting to actually affect me. I have no memory of feeling this way towards the snow. Not in 1978. Not last winter and in no point in between. But for some inexplicable reason I see that most people’s attitudes and feelings have hardened as the the ice on my walk. I am beginning to wonder if the boots I don daily will ever be divested of my weary and chilled toes. It has become less a fun thing to play in with my children. And more an irritant that prevents me from getting to work early never mind on time. For me, the snow has become inconvenient. 

I do not blame the weather man for his report any more than a recipient of bad news should blame the messenger. It is simply the fact that the news is unwelcome. 107 inches or more snow is not something the government requested from on high. It is not something that the national weather service suggested we are due. The snow is not something the children requested in an effort to avoid homework assignments. It is pointless to call out Canada as the source of my woes and malcontent. As good as it may make me feel to blame any and all of those sources, it will not solve my issue. That the winter is longer than expected and I must face it head on and deal. 

I’m reminded of the tale of the buffalo and the cow. A great plain covered with browning grasses was home to a herd of cows and a herd of buffalo. Without much warning the snow came with great winds at its heels. The rush of snow fiercely attacked the herds without mercy. The cows in an effort to avoid the snow, turned from the snow and raced along in hopes of outrunning it. Perhaps to get ahead of the worst of it. But they were only successful in prologing the storm because the weather was more adept at keeping pace with them. So the storm stayed with them a long time. The buffalo turned and faced the storm. They turned and faced it with a stalwart determination and huddled into a pattern that shelter the youngest in the center while those with the thickest hair stood shoulder to shoulder and gave no quarter to the snow. Soon the snow passed over and around the buffalo but it did not get in and conquer. Was the snow any more or less humbling for the cows than the buffalo. No it was the same storm.  But the defense is how they faced it. And though the storm was terribly inconvenient to their grazing plans, this did not cause the buffalo to lose heart and run. 

So I think about the black brunches. There are few public places that people of access and means can go where they feel truly separated from the rest of the rabble. Divided from and (dare I say) segregated from the masses that are, for them, quite inconvenient. So it becomes even more important that their bubble of comfort be disrupted. In other words, the truth is being made inconvenient upon them. The Sunday brunch is the last bastion of “civilized” wealth usually in country clubs, cigar bars, and the like. 

By going to these places, disrupting the business as usual and being inconvenient, the truth can be shared with folks who otherwise can turn a deaf ear to the truth. That life is fleeting and cheap in the eyes of some. That social justice is not a buzz phrase that plays well on David Letterman or CNN. When a life is lost to violence wherever the violence comes from. It diminishes us all. 

For Posterity

It’s a very difficult thing to feel. Emotions change and morph as we mature and grow. I find blogging very cathartic and perhaps you will too. I salute you for being so brave @emmystone584.

Emmystone584's Blog

“For Posterity.”

I started blogging a few days ago, maybe a week at the most. And my purpose was to find myself through something that I really enjoy. In addition I took a few days off work to completely immerse myself into my craft and clear my head. Only thing is I’m more lost than when I started. I am almost exactly at point A. I have been doing my usual which consists of prayer, meditation and blogging when I don’t have writers block.

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#Ferguson Something Must Change

I have a black son who is near the age of Michael Brown.

The loss of any life is horrendous and unimaginable for anyone to fully comprehend. I’ve seen and lived through Rodney King. Trayvon Martin. My family before me lived through Medgar Evers. The date on my calendar changes but the story remains the same. A black American is cut down before he is called home by his Creator. It happens time and time again. And I, for one, am more than exhausted and numbed and generally hurt by seeing this. But most of all – I am afraid. I fear that all the hard work that I have done with my greatest partner, my wife, in trying to raise a young black boy towards manhood will be done in by a law enforcers bullet. When I see white laws applied to blacks, I am at least made to pause and wonder if our best efforts are ever going to be enough.

The decision not to indict the policeman on any single charge is more than upsetting. Not because the grand jury found that decision was the only one they could make. But because the law left them no other apparent choice except to release the man back onto the streets with real impunity. Free of any immediate guilt, at least from the law. I am angry that the black brothers and sisters of my nation must once again swallow the bitter pill spilled from a bottle labeled injustice.

As long as any man finds comfort and solace in the law to use the ‘Scary Black Man Defense’, we will never progress as a nation. More will die and none will sleep easy at night

I worry so much that even with the loss of yet another life, we are going to have to hope that the sometimes dysfunctional and often mysterious Federal investigation will bear some fruit that is at least somewhat palatable. It is incomprehensible that a nation built ostensibly on laws would allow any law to put a dead person on trial and allow the killers voice to win the day.

What I’ve Just witnessed is laws born of fear brought to action. I have seen what happens when a police officer is well trained in the culture of fear and he is sent out with fear and loathing in his heart rather than a sense of community policing. Y’know, a fellow I listened to this weekend said said something interesting. He said that he recalls a time when the cop walking his beat was trained to know his community. That the kids in that community knew him and wanted to be like him . That his community that he policed was his own because he lives in it and wanted the best for it. But now, what we see is the police leaving the streets and instead racing by in cars. And after that, they saw fit to place officers in armored vehicles. Then tanks.

Ruby Ridge, anyone?

What I have learned in my short life, is that the farther back you stand from anything, the easier it is to pretend like you are responding appropriately and in an engaged manner. President Bush thought he was doing enough after Katrina in a helicopter fly-over. President Clinton thought the SKUD [sic] missiles were sufficient. That if you stand back far enough from Ferguson MO, close one eye, and squint out of the other, maybe you will talk your way through this and see real change.

Real change never happened except through bloodshed and usually it happens after the victim is bloodied.

Any time you have a world where the law says it is ok for a human being to lay in any street anywhere for any amount of time, there is more than talk that is needed. This dark night is not just wrong, or a tragedy. It is a very real gun shot in the heart of Black America–

And the whole world saw it.

The television has shown me images of what the law will call violence. Violence against police vehicles. Violence against public property. Violence against upturned riot shields. But I know that the real violence was not on display tonight. The real violence was on that terrible day several months ago in a community of Black Americans. The real violence was when the police were taught to use deadly force when an unarmed aggressor is faced.

It truly is time for a change. My President understands why many are angry. How could he not? I certainly do too.

Now what are we going to do about it?

AUGUST 28, 2014 – NATIONAL CHERRY TURNOVER DAY – NATIONAL BOW TIE DAY

I cannot believe I missed this.

I’ve always been fascinated by bow ties and not just because of David Tennant. Yes, bow ties are very cool but only recently have I realized just HOW cool. Like most people, my first exposure to grown up fashion started by mimicking those I thought were stylish. They wore suits, turtle necks, loafers, and neckties. But only the daring wore bow ties. Unfortunately they all seemed to be clip on type. What a ruse. So I dumbly wandered around the school dance floor with clip on neckties and bow ties unaware there was a difference.

I next learned about neckerchiefs in Boyscouts. What a find. We all wore them. No knot required and it was so cool to belong to a group of folk who looked alike. But one day I aged out of Scouts and my neckwear journey continued.

Then I learned about bolo neckwear. They reminded me of the neckerchief so I bought one. Those bits of braided leather cinched together with ornately etched silver “buckles” were great. But they went out of fashion as quickly as a power suit in 1990. So my fashion search continued.

So I did what most men do: I learned how to tie a standard necktie and never learned the subtle beauty that is the bow tie. It’s so special that of the neck adornments I list, only the bow tie “spell checks” as two words. Neckerchief. Necktie. Bolo. Ascot. Dickie. Bow tie. It’s how to get just a it of color and variety in the daily wear without looking pretentious.

But how to tie one on?

No one I knew could tie a bow tie. Even the menswear guy in the local mall anchor store was unable to help me. I was at a loss. Fewer and fewer wore the bow tie. And I was onto bigger things like school or church. Both of which, when formal wear was required, was lacking any real bow tie representation but did have a bevy of long neckties. So I took the cue and wore one too.

Then a few months ago two path altering things occurred. I was taken by an absolutely gorgeous Gerry Garcia bow tie. I simply had to have it, but I still couldn’t tie one on. And no one to teach me. The second thing to occur was my choir director wore (and wears) a bow tie to worship service. Fabulous bow ties too, purchased here there and almost everywhere. I was emboldened and finally used YouTube as a helpmeet. It showed me a video of a black man my age who showed me how to secure a self tie bow tie. I tried it.

It worked.

And now my collection has grown steadily ever since. I enjoy the uniqueness of my bow ties and how it automatically sets me apart. How the fraternity of bow tie wearing folk instantly recognizes one another and we form an instant brotherhood. Like a society of men who are in on the secret handshake and the fraternal uniform we have is the selfie bow tie.

Would you like to join?

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