Embracing Darkness

As the earth tilts away from the sun here in the northern hemisphere, darkness harkens. Shorter months, and a clock which is more and more likely to contain fewer hours of daylight are becoming the norm and though there are still brilliant moments of autumnal light around midday, the evenings are now cool and dim. I’ve already written about fall and how I’m learning to love it, and I’ve also already written about how I adore the sun, but lately I’ve also been considering more and more what exactly the coming darkness might offer.

I suppose it’s only natural that humans are uncomfortable with the darkness. It must have been quite harrowing having to survive nights as primal humans against the natural world. Our eyes, while able to adjust, are better suited to the daylight, yet I am sure there is much to discover in the folds of the night as the seasons change. The nightlife references parties, fun, drinking, and that special blend of glamour and hedonism that humans are able to assume in the kindness of the night. Away from the light, there is also a kind of freedom which allows us to embrace our complex selves, our private fantasies, our irresponsible and reckless selves. That’s not quite what I’ve been touching base with as of late however.

There is also the long dark night of the soul – whereby, I am told, one endures great spiritual tribulation and is born again with a kind of renewed faith at the break of day. Perhaps my more cerebral tendencies have prevented me having to experience this thus far, but if such a spiritual trial should come my way, I hope that it will be quite literally at night, when time stands still and there is only my own self and the darkness to contend with as I wrestle the metaphysical. And, if at the first sliver of tomorrow I am renewed, then let it be with a fully embodied memory of the previous hours, let me not forget the darkness.

Looking out my window in broad daylight, there is a enough to remind me of this place that we have made for ourselves, yet that same window only some hours later faces me blankly with a colorless void and I am comforted in knowing that at the end of the day, there is still only me and my mind to contend with — and that is certainly enough! Sometimes the dark is equated with danger, evil, ignorance, uncertainty, fear, dread, angst, hopelessness, etc., but in my case, there is only a sense of calm. A sense that it may soon be time to rest, to slip into the canopy-covered jungle of the unconscious — subconscious — dreamland.

I’m pretty sure that I’ll always have a strong preference for the long days of summer, but slowly, like the creeping evening here in mid-September, I am learning to lean into the night, to be calmed by its silence, and relieved by its inability to reflect light and therefore to expose. Hidden things are still things of worth. Secrets are not as bad as we’ve all been led to believe. They are held in the vast unknown of the night and have their time to dance. But, come morning, they recede again into the spectrum of our public selves. Their time is held safe and, in these early autumn days, it grows and expands so that we might as well.

Turn off the lights.

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I’ll Be A Hurricane

There’s a lot on the TV news circuit (and online) regarding hurricanes at the moment. In the U.S. there was recently Harvey in Houston, and now it looks as if the Caribbean and Florida are getting hit hard by Irma. Naturally, I’m wishing that all of those in the area had time and means to get out of the path of the hurricane, but I’m not naive enough to believe that to be totally true. There are always some hardliners who insist on staying put no matter how dire the forecasts. Humans are intensely connected to their places in the world and I can somewhat understand the need to remain with one’s possessions, yet on the other hand, I can’t imagining owing anything that I want to keep more than my very life! Still, I sincerely hope that all of those who are having to deal with this will pull through and rebuild and carry on with life. Nature, so it would seem, is ever ready to prove just how very much we don’t control the world in which we live. Maybe there’s a lesson there.

Coming from the south of the U.S. and having lived in New Orleans, I know first hand the wrath of the Atlantic hurricanes. Yet, I must admit a deeply primal sense of awe and respect for, and perhaps even kinship with, the storm. What I remember as most striking about the great wind and rain, was just how still it caused one to become. The sheer force of the elements, and the innate knowledge of one’s powerlessness, turned one to stone. Only a pebble perhaps, but something solid and heavier than normally. Rarely, do we have the opportunity to be so solemnly still in our day-to-day lives. Rarely, do we have to face our absolute powerlessness in the face of the host we live upon. Every now and again however, some natural phenomenon jolts us from our sleep, and we are reminded just how chaotic the winds and rains, the highs and lows, can be as they roar around a center that is stillness itself. There is definitely a lesson there.

It seems, unfortunately, that these kinds of storms will only become more frequent. Things will get worse before they get better. We will have to find a calm center in which we can grab moments of respite as our lives, and those of our neighbors and loved ones, get tossed round the way things can so often be tossed round in this world. It’s difficult to know what to do or say in such events. Most everything sounds contrived and shallow. Not that there’s anything wrong with contrived and shallow necessarily, but for people who have lost everything they’ve ever worked for, and maybe even family members, it’s important to remember that platitudes do nothing at all for the suffering; only right-intentioned action can alleviate the symptoms of despair. I encourage anyone reading this, at any given time, hurricane or not, to donate to the Red Cross and other disaster relief organizations. They are the ones who do the real work of rebuilding lives, sometimes from the molecular level up. They are the only ones, with the collective power of souls who have dedicated their lives to helping others survive, that can offer anywhere near a fitting response to such tragedy.


So please, go on and donate, and when you’ve finished just sit still a moment. Contemplate for just a short while on how you are helping those around you weather the gusts and stinging rain of the hurricane that rages around you. While you’re at it, go on and put on Grace Jones’ Hurricane (2008) album and listen as she accompanies you through revolutions of air and water and sound. What power is it that you have in this world?

“I can scheme, I can lie, 

I’ll take care of you, til the day you die. 

I can hold brush, I can push broom, 

When I walk by, flowers will bloom.

And I can be cool, soft as the breeze, 

I’ll be a hurricane, ripping up trees!”

– Grace Jones

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Can’t Help Falling in Love

I detest winter. As I’ve mentioned here before, I love the sun and summer. But, I do have to admit a soft spot for fall (or autumn) as well which is good as I can feel that, at least here in Germany, it’s right around the corner. Actually, I love summer and fall for some of the same reasons and while that may sound a bit contradictory depending upon what the climate is like wherever you are when reading this, I am happy to explain. What follows are four ways in which I find summer and fall to be similar and reasons why, despite knowing exactly what fall foretells, I’ve grown to love it.

1: Color, Color, Color

If summer is a festival of bright, sun-inspired colors then fall is a keyed down and introspective dance of colors. Fall is more indie folk whereas summer is clearly EDM. The earth-toned, deep reds and oranges of fall make me feel nearly as warm as their more vibrant summer counterparts, but without all of that heat induced energy just beneath the surface. Whether the trees or the clothes, the colors are just as giving as the summer colors, but less intense.

2: Clothes

I really dislike being weighed down by heavy clothing, yet I am a big fan of layering. The great thing about fall fashion is that it offers the best of both worlds. During these transitional months, before our bodies have to be buried under the utilitarian density of winter clothing in order to stay alive, we get to enjoy clothing that can be light but also cozy. In many ways, I associate fall styles more with the summer and less with the winter because of the aforementioned use of color and their relative freedom. If summer clothes are spring break (wet, wild, and barely there) then fall clothes are the last week of school…casual enough to let everyone know you’re taking it easy, but there’s still enough there to let people know that you could be doing something meaningful if you wanted to be.

3: Food, Glorious Food! 

As much as I love the lightness and freshness of summer inspired foods, I have also come to appreciate the spice tinged warmth that accompanies many fall dishes. Summer food is colorful, playful, and meant to refresh, and fall foods are just the same, but in a slightly different way. As with clothing, the fall food colors are more earth-based and deeper. They hint at what lies beneath. I like a little mystery and there’s always that little extra heartiness which accompanies fall treats. I can’t get enough!

4. Holidays

As a U.S. American, my two favorite holidays are Independence Day and Thanksgiving. One of them is right in the glory of the summer sun, and the other near the end of November and brings to mind all of the wonderful blessings I have in my life. If I’m lucky, I’m able to surround myself on both occasions with friends, family, and friends who have become family, and enjoy food, laughs, the notions of both freedom (open to individual interpretation) and gratitude (also open to individual interpretation). I can’t think of anything better.

Happy fall everyone!

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What Happened: Hillary Clinton and the Four Horsemen

Former Secretary of State, Senator, First Lady, and American heroine, Hillary R. Clinton will release a collection of essays on September 12, and I am on tenterhooks! Some of the contents have already been made public, but only snippets. We know, for example, that Sec. Clinton regrets not having confronted Trump at those infamous debates/town hall meetings where he would brazenly introduce the American public to the kind of inpudant behaviour we’ve all come to expect from him. We even know that her Methodist pastor may have borrowed a bit too much from a prayer commentary that he sent to her the day after her defeat and which is included in the book. From all accounts of those who have been advanced copies, we will get to see a Clinton with her guard down — an unpolished Clinton, which is something we haven’t seen for a very long time indeed. As excited as I am to read, “What Happened” (Simon & Schuster), I have some ideas of my own about what happened, namely among those, that Clinton was sabotaged on all sides by men, some of whom she considered allies. Here’s my take:

While I realize the gigantic step forward that Barack Obama was for the United States, I also believe that he was a nearly complete failure as president. Now, I am a diehard Democrat, but from his poor attendance record in the senate, to his incomplete sentence of a 2008 campaign slogan (Yes We Can…what?) and then 2012’s not-even-trying–  Forward, he never inspired anything in me other than eye rolling. Unlike so many who were enamored with his charisma and message of hope (remember when he won the Nobel Peace Prize for simply not being George W. Bush!?!), I was suspicious from the beginning, not of his intentions necessarily, but about his legacy. I could never figure out what exactly his long-term plan was for our party, and clearly, there wasn’t one. In the end, his legacy will be a personal one, having left the party to pretty much fend for itself. And, considering his lackluster efforts to support Clinton on the campaign trail (continually upstaged by one of the classiest and most clever First Ladies in history, Michelle), I was shocked to learn that when it became clear she had lost the archaic and tumorous electoral college vote, she apologized to Obama for what she felt was her failure to ensure his political legacy. If anybody doomed the Obama legacy is was the man himself. He should have been calling her, apologizing to her, and lamenting the loss of his political progenitor at his own hands. Obama failed Clinton and he failed the party. He deserves to be forgotten.

The next misogynist madman who brought the blade down on Clinton’s political head — the ever demented Bernie Sanders. The only person I could ever imagine being a more embarrassing chief executive than that aged, bloated clown we’ve got now, is Grandpa Sanders. Honestly, in a campaign season riddled with exceptionally horrid events, I consider it a win for the entire human race that Sanders was at least able to keep his teeth from flying out as he harangued and  babbled his way through the fantasy landscape inside his ancient and contradiction laden mind. What I find most objectionable about Sanders is that he returned to the senate after the campaign as an Independent…which is exactly what he was all along. Knowing that third-party candidates struggle to get votes within the confines of our thirsty-for-reform political apparatus, he quickly registered as a Democrat in order to attempt to usurp the party’s youth from a more seasoned and measured Clinton. He sought to snatch the nomination for a party that he had never worked a single day for, something he had never attempted against a Democrat male. This is no coincidence. As anyone with grandparents can attest, the old and infirm often hold antiquated and contemporarily offensive attitudes that, while not explicitly expressed, are obvious. Their advanced age and internalization of previous social norms which no longer exist, or at least shouldn’t exist any longer, is obvious. Bernie thought he could take what he had never worked for and that he could get away with it, not because he thought himself a true political maverick, but because his main opponent was female. Ask any woman if their hard-earned success has ever been usurped and attributed to a man before. Any woman. Go on, just ask — although, I know you already know the answer. Let Sanders go and give his best efforts to a Democratic Socialist Party which might offer the nation a third viable political alternative, or let him remain the Independent he is, but please keep him away from my party, he has caused enough damage.

Don’t think for a second that I’m going to forget that slug Paul Ryan! Remember when Republicans weren’t ideologues and it was still possible to actually debate with them without being called a communist!?! I mean before Reagan. I mean before they’d all read the disjointed, poorly structured, meandering, anti-intellectual, anti-literary verbal vomit of Ayn Rand. I know it hasn’t been Ryan alone that has dragged the itinerant tramp called the Republican Party full-fledged onto the wacky laissez-faire capitalist acid trip of Randian Objectivism, but he is certainly its most active proponent within the party and  as 54th Speaker of the House of Representatives, its current poster boy. Without going into the epistemological failures of Rand’s philosophy (yet while giving her kudos for being an immigrant who became a best-selling author and creating a wave of influence that is still being felt today for better or worse…or just for worse, really), I’d like to point out that Paul Ryan has the charisma and staying-power to actually mold the Republican Party into something new and pertinent. I believe that a democracy functions best when various well-researched, well-formulated, political stances can peacefully coexist within the spirit of fair debate and willingness to learn from each other. My gripe with Ryan is mostly that it’s just a pity that he can’t come up with his own ideas for the advancement of his party and has instead decided to incorporate Rand’s “philosophy” into his political identity. According to him, he even gives Atlas Shrugged out as Christmas gifts and also makes all his interns read it. What an incredibly cheap and crap gift! Also, how do you make someone read something!?! Ryan needs to drop the psuedo-political trickery and implement some solid ideas so that his party may be able to come up with something better than an orange reality TV star next time. Ryan has helped to create a party that will do anything, just anything, to hold power and advance their ideology, even cripple a candidate that they know is more deserving, more qualified, and possibly the whole country in tow…I believe there is blood on his hands.

Finally, and I’m going to be brief here because I have so little to say regarding the 45th president, is Donald Trump. A former TV star, real estate mogul, rich kid, and comedy central roastee, has become the president — it’s official, hell has frozen over!?!? Having been a former Clinton contributor himself, it was strange to see him creeping behind the steely Secretary as she fielded debate questions, but given his desperate need for attention, and his undying ambition to be tackier, gaudier, ruder, louder and more bloated than anyone else in the room, in the country for that matter, it’s not at all surprising that he has gone on to fail in nearly every regard as chief executive. Donald Trump can’t even control Donald Trump. His unquenchable ambition allowed him to turn on his former ally and to humiliate her in what is perhaps the world’s most public arena. If he will do that to someone whom he formerly called a “friend” just imagine what he’ll do to the American people for whom he has never lifted a finger in his life.

So there you have it. There’s my two cents (minus the Russian collusion and so much more) as to why the United States passed up the most qualified and fit candidate for the presidency in history. It wasn’t about emails, it wasn’t about her health, it wasn’t about her personality, it was about her gender! What about 45s tweets? His age? His incorrigible attitude? His lack of respect? His admitting to sexual assault? None of this seemed to matter in his case. See, it’s still a man’s world. Clinton was derided not by the perfect storm of political mishaps, not by an unforgivable blunder, not even by a blemished record, she ultimately hit the wall, because the American people are still misogynists. Because she is always going to be a woman.

You got what you wanted, boys. The ultimate air-head frat boy now occupies the white house. It’s going to be a bumpy ride, but you’ve brought this on yourselves…No, rather on your wives and daughters…some things never change.

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Climate Change Solution: Pie

Where I live, it’s been raining A LOT! Now this isn’t particularly striking in and of itself, but the summer never really happened. There were a couple of days right at the start that were really sunny and warm and it really looked like it was going to be a proper summer, but that soon waned and there was never any real comeback. I realize that weather isn’t yet an exact science, but I also feel like all the weather apps and reports on TV are useless. Even looking out the window, or indeed sticking your head out of it, doesn’t help. I’ve got no idea what’s going on, but almost everyone you ask agrees that something is up. Everyone! I’ve never actually spoken to one of those ostriches who think the whole thing is some sort of farce. I sincerely believe that those who deny climate change are doing so for their own peace of mind. Denial, for them, is perhaps a more comfortable refuge than the reality that we are presented with. What is this new reality? Well, we just don’t know.

I am convinced that the climate, indeed the whole planet, has been changing and cycling and such for as long as it has existed. We are not the first humans to have to cope with climate change, and we hopefully won’t be the last. What is concerning, is that we may be the last generation who will remember at time without extreme weather patterns. We may be the last ones who will remember what distinct seasons are like. The optimist in me tells me that I’m not looking at all of the positives and that humans are highly adaptive and will find a way to survive. The realist behind my eyes sees exactly what’s happening and thinks that other guy in there is a moron! Usually, I sit somewhere perplexed between the two of them. I wish I knew more about this whole issue other than what my senses allow me to experience, but alas I don’t. Also in terms of empirical evidence, we don’t have eons of weather records to draw upon. Weather history is patchy. What we do have though is research by contemporary scientists, and they mostly uniformly believe that we are experiencing rapid climate change and the process has been exacerbated by humans.

The weather is no problem — until it is. I’m not sure what the plan is for when the sea levels rise and start flooding coastal areas that are currently extremely populated, but I’d bet it’s safe to say that there really isn’t one. That’s that lazy habit we have of just pretending that what’s happening, isn’t really happening. Basically, ignore it and it may go away. Normally, I’d be fully on board for such an uncommitted strategy, but something tells me that this time is different. Somewhere, my animal-self tells me that we are in for a rough ride. As I have no skills which would help me to survive in the event of a sudden environmental apocalypse, I’d really prefer it if we could figure something out relatively soon. Like this week. Please. If I’m told exactly what to do, and that there may be pie in it for me, then I’ll do just about anything. The environmentalists fail to grab public attention, I believe, mostly because they forget to bring snacks.

I’ve been thinking about the weather a lot lately as I’ve been hearing reports about the inhumane heat in India, some parts of Eastern Europe, and the opposite chilly and wet summer we’ve been having here in Western Europe. So maybe that’s why it’s on my mind. Also, I never bring a jacket on days when I need one, and then on days when I do remember one, the climate goes balmy and I just end up sweating through my clothes. Basically, if possible, I’d like us to finally stop debating whether or not climate change exists and settle on what we’re going to do about it. Just tell me what I need to do and I’ll do it…if there’s pie.


The Art of Losing Gracefully

I’m from the South of the United States and that involves a lot of baggage that maybe doesn’t come along with being from another part of the country (I’m guessing). The first thing most people comment on when they find out that I’m from the South is my lack of accent. While it’s true that I don’t sound particularly “Southern”, I usually silently wonder what the implication is there. I don’t have the accent — okay, is that simply a voiced observation of the obvious or is there more to it? Also, what is a Southern accent? If by Southern accent one means that tired, slow, grammatically mangled, and exaggerated beyond belief trope from TV, then no, I don’t have that accent and I’ve never met anyone who does. A Southern accent should be measured, not necessarily slow. It is a genteel language that, depending upon where in the south one is, might hint at English, Scottish, Irish, French, Spanish or Haitian/Caribbean heritage. Southerners can usually hear the Appalachian Scotch-Irish (Yes, we say Scotch-Irish for those poor souls from the English-Scottish borderlands who were first sent to and then fled the Ulster Plantation to practice their largely Presbyterian faith in a world without the constant intimidation of the Church of England) elongation of vowels in many of my words, or the occasional lilt here and there. For whatever reason, I never picked up the full breadth of the pronunciation from my surroundings, but it’s still there. And it’s not going anywhere! I’m not going to lose it.

The notion of loss is the central point of this entry. In the Commonwealth of Virginia, just yesterday, we witnessed an ugly and painful reminder of the unhealed wounds and reconciliation work that still isn’t complete in the South. At least one life was lost when an angry white supremacist drove a car into a crowd of counter-protesters to the racist march that descended upon the mostly affluent, liberal, college town of Charlottesville. The governor has instructed them to leave, for while we must tolerate dissenting and even repulsive opinions, we cannot allow ourselves for an instant to condone violence as a viable response to peaceful protest. We certainly have enough problems in the United States with casual violence and I’m nearly certain that we can all agree that we don’t need more. What makes all of this even more insane than it already is, is that it started over a statue! An inanimate, lifeless, likeness of the confederate general Robert E. Lee. Remember, the one from the U.S. Civil War? The war that ended in 1865? The one the South lost? …yeah, that one! It was finally planned to be removed –and good riddance!

I have some perhaps obvious questions surrounding the planned removal of the statue, primarily, why was there a statue of this guy in the first place? Since when do we need statues of losers? There are countless other figures of Southern culture which embody the spirit and heritage unique to the region that are far more deserving of a statue than a slaver. Furthermore, why do people care so much about a statue that it can eventually lead to death? I love art as much as the next guy, but it’s just a statue! Now, had white supremacists not jumped on the opportunity to magnify this mundane event into something beyond all reasonable proportion, that’s all it ever would have been — a statue, but of course the power merchants will seize any chance, no matter how banal, to incite chest beating and torch grabbing. It’s all so asinine!

What real Southerners know is, that our real culture didn’t die one bit with the loss of the Civil War, but was made fuller and richer. We lost the war because we had it coming. The cataclysmic race war that brought Abraham Lincoln to the point of physical and mental hell, was not fought in vain. Freedom had to be won. We were wrong. Of course everyone suffers in war, and I am not so naive as to believe that the U.S. government (even in 1865) was so benevolent as to fight a civil war solely on the premise of freeing non-whites for the fun of it, but there was a great moral wrong engrained in our union that had to be erased. We do not need statues to commemorate men who fought in any capacity, whatever their reasons were, to uphold such a moral failing. We lost, and there is nothing worse in my book than sore loser!

So, let’s do what civilized folks everywhere do; what Southern people do. Let’s make right what we can make right, and let’s help our neighbors, and let’s move on together. Let’s sit with each other in the evening when the inhospitable heat has subsided and eat with each other, let’s tell our stories, let’s drink our tea so sweet and chilled that we can’t help but hug each other. I know a South that is kind, thoughtful, conservative but not close-minded, proud of the past but with brave eyes cast toward the future, a front porch South, a flower bed South, a church pew South, a rusty sign South, an accented South that always sounds like home.

Sometimes, when people meet me they don’t realize I’m from the South at all, and if they don’t catch that little bit of grits and butter in the way I talk, you’d better believe I’m sure to let them know that I’m a Southern boy and that’s the way I intend to stay. Nothing lost. I’m also sure to let them know, that the South I come from is as colorful as any Yankee city they can build. The South of the 21st century is a gumbo, in fact it always has been! We’re every color and creed you can imagine and we are not going to let some hate filled bigots claim our heritage as theirs for a single minute. We have learned our lessons. We know who we are.  We know we are more than any statue or flag could encapsulate. We know where we’ve been, and most importantly, we know where we are going…all of us…together!

A Spanish moss draped lane in historic Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah, Georgia.


Friendship Hygiene

There’s so much that I try to fit into every weekend that it’d be just impossible for me to get it all done. Essentially, I set myself up for failure and it’s a behavioral pattern that I’ve sadly grown accustomed to. While I’m not a hardcore procrastinator, I have been known to, on occasion, push important tasks to the next day, or the next. By Wednesday of each week, I’m already arranging and rearranging the order of all the things on my to-do list and by Friday, I’m usually ready to go. Somewhere around Saturday evening, things start looking a bit shady and by midday Sunday, I’m already calculating in my head exactly what I can push over into the next week. These are all usually small and mostly inconsequential chores, but they are nonetheless on the list and will have to be done eventually…I know…but later. Unfortunately, one area where I’ve been extremely lagging behind is in friendship hygiene. I haven’t been a very attentive friend lately, and I know it. Furthermore, I’ve been planning to get to it, but…

I had the great joy of getting to talk with two really great and old friends this weekend. For me, that makes this weekend a huge success regardless of whatever else I was able to check off the list. Though I don’t like telephoning, as an expat, I don’t really have many other choices. Skype is a great service, but it requires so much that an old-fashioned call just doesn’t. While it’s apparently easier than ever to keep in touch with people these days, I feel like, with some of my friends, it’s been ages since we’ve had an in-depth conversation about anything. Now, I’m in my 30s and so that  means that lots of my friends are quite busy at the moment trying to have kids, having kids, surviving kids, or talking nonstop about their kids (I know, your kid is exceptionally clever, exceptionally healthy, exceptionally socially aligned, exceptionally exceptional….I get it, and I just don’t care!), and I really do understand that it’s legitimately challenging to raise a well-adjusted child and do…well, anything! It’s a hard job, but an elective one.

My point here is not to malign anyone with children for not carving time for me into their sleep-deprived and offspring centered lives, because I’m just as guilty of neglect. Sometimes, I have so much to do that I don’t even remember that there are other people in the world, let alone that it’s a friend’s birthday (a big thanks to Facebook for continually remembering what I never in a million years could). Every week my register of mountains to climb grows longer, and every week I tell myself that I must remember to call so-and-so because it’s been way too long. Rarely does that thought endure the hard birth into reality. So again, I’m not complaining about my beloved friends, but rather asking myself, just how, and when, did we get so damn busy!?!?

As I mentioned, this weekend out of pure good fortune, I was able to touch bases with two friends who mean so very much to me. Despite them both being parents, despite the world still turning around us and nothing stopping for an instant to let us catch our breath, we were able laugh and explain what the world looks like to us at this particular moment in time. Hanging up the phone, on both accounts, I felt like I had reclaimed something lost, something which I’d had all along but which I was keeping too close to my chest — rather like a broken arm; something which needed extending, opening up, and using. For the first time in a long while, I really felt like a good friend.

I know we’re months and months away from 2018, but I’m making a resolution today to be a better friend, a more communicative and patient friend, one who makes space and time for those who are so very important to me. I promise not to put it off any longer.



I’m moving into a new apartment soon. It’s not so far from where I live now, but in a neighborhood with more amenities, and it’s slightly better connected via public transport, too. It’s up A LOT of stairs, but that should be good for my growing waistline. All in all, I guess it’s not so bad, and for anyone who has moved as much as I have, it’s really no problem at all. Still the act of actually packing all of one’s stuff, transporting it, unpacking it, etc., well, it’s just all so banal! Yet, I do like to keep busy, to have the next thing already lined up, and I’m a big fan of change. Sometimes, even small changes can be the catalysts we need to jump-start a new phase or period of life, and without putting too much emphasis on this move and its ramifications for my life-path, I’m slightly hopeful that this newness will break up the stale and sedentary aspects of everyday life that I sometimes can’t see my way out of. Change is good, at least it always has been for me.

“Things which do not grow and change are dead things.”

– Louise Erdrich

Turns out, besides being a brilliant writer and national treasure, Louise Erdrich is a sage! There’s nothing about that which I can find objectionable. What I like about her books is not only do they largely focus on the Native American experience, but they always feature some kind of drastic metamorphosis. Now, I’m not talking about Gregor Samsa level mutation or anything, but changes that nonetheless alter the worlds of those whom she writes about. Indeed, the interplay between nature, human subjects, non-human animal subjects, and the world of the unseen, is so tangible in her books, that the transition from one of those states to the next is nearly effortless for the reader to accept. Change is Erdrich’s way to not only push the story along, but to push the reader along with it. She knows that life is a constant state of flux and that this unsettledness, the constant state, can alter the outcome of a life and be used as motivation.

Like I said, I’m not expecting that this new apartment will upturn my whole life, offer a radically alternate worldview, or anything of that sort, but I am already experiencing little earthquakes, which foretell the seismic shift to come. Just going through all of my belongings and deciding which to transport and which to chuck away has become an almost meditative practice…albeit a difficult one. It presents multifaceted challenges particularly in the case of books; Which to keep? Which to give away? Will anyone even be interested in reading that anyway? Just keep it… You’re the only one who will appreciate it… No! Just get rid of it! You can’t just get rid of it…it’s a book! I keep reminding myself that to grow and change also entails letting things go, even beloved things like books, that if I’m perfectly honest with myself, I know I likely won’t ever read again. Of course there are diehard favorites that I could never imagine life without, and they will be accompanying me to whichever corner of the world I roam. Some things really never do change…well, almost.

“Beware, for I am fearless and therefore powerful!”

– Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Frankenstein

Throughout my life, moving has been a pretty constant theme. We moved around a lot when I was a kid, and yet we didn’t. Since leaving home, many of my life experiences have been direct results of moving to a new city, meeting new people (many of whom remain great friends to this day), and exploring a new place with people in the same or similar situation. Being an expat, one can’t afford to be afraid of new places. For those who have moved to a new country, learned a new language, and made a new life in another place, there is little time for fear. We all know that if one overthinks these kinds of things, they tend to be paralyzing, so I say it is best to have no fear, to push any anxieties to the side, and to brace oneself for the shifting of plates. I’ve always been apprehensive about visiting Japan, Indonesia, even the West Coast of the USA, due to an unfounded trepidation surrounding earthquakes, never understanding how the people there can manage to get a single night’s sleep. Now, I realize that just like Dr. Frankenstein’s monster, they are uniquely created beings, foundried inhabitants of places on the globe that are bound to change, shift, and shake. They are unafraid and therefore powerful. And when their world is turned on its head, they rebuild and get on with life.

That’s just what I’m going to do. In a new apartment. With fewer books. Wish me luck.


Shut Up and Listen!

Who doesn’t love a good portmanteau? One of my favorites was coined by Ben Hammersley of the BBC in 2004 – podcast. I’m pretty sure that I was quite late to the whole podcast explosion, but for the last two and a half years or so, I’ve been a fairly diehard fan. They’re great to listen to at the supermarket, on the subway, on airplanes, at Thanksgiving dinner, etc. Sure, they constitute one more digital affront to interpersonal communication on a human level, but really, that’s probably why I like them so much. Sometimes, I don’t want to be approached on the street (I’m looking at you Greenpeace!), or any of the other public places where people feel it’s appropriate to talk to strangers (didn’t you people have parents who taught you better?). Sometimes, I just want to get from point A to point B without having to talk to anyone and earbuds are a perfect signal to the world that I’m not available for giving directions, saving the whales, or any other form of verbal interaction. So, this all makes for great spawning ground for the devouring of podcasts, and nowadays, my commute to work feels languid and lacking without someone talking about something I never knew I needed to know about directly into my ears. In this entry, I’m going to share some of my favorite podcasts at the moment, and I hope that you’ll share some of your favorites with me in the comments section.

In the number one spot comes the lecture series offered by the Art Institute of Chicago aptly named, Art Institute of Chicago Lectures. To be perfectly honest, this may be a bit of a niche podcast, but as I’m a full-fledged art geek and I happen to live far from Chicago at the moment, this hits the spot in the most perfect way. I used to live in Chicago and attended lectures at the Art Institute on occasion, I always found them to be both informative and approachable. Sometimes people can be a bit put off by the art world and its seemingly unintelligible langue and impenetrable mystique of pretentious cool, but I have always found the lectures series by the AIC very welcoming and inclusive. This podcast is really nothing special, as it is a literal audio recording of the on-site lecture series, but it does what is intended and for those who are nowhere near the treasure trove that is the AIC, it’s a whole new and non-threatening way to learn about art from one of the world’s premier institutions. Of course there are other cultural institutions that offer the same kind of thing, but there’s something about the midwestern, pared down style of this podcast that really satisfies. If you’re an art geek, you really should be listening to the more than 11 years worth of lectures available here!

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Next, I’m not really a horror junky. I scare pretty easily, and don’t find anything invigorating about being frightened at all. Needless to say, unless something is pretty exceptional, I’m probably not going to like it if the content is scary. Lore, the brainchild of Aaron Mahnke, is terrifying not because of gory and bloody imagery, but more so because all of the stories told on this podcast are true, real life, mysterious, and spooky facts! Mahnke’s voice is smooth and consistent and he never puts on haunted mansion voices to make the content chilling, but knowing that what he’s saying is the truth, and that these things really happened…is beyond petrifying. And, I’m not the only one who thinks so, this crafty storyteller is in talks to bring Lore to the small screen, and there’s a book series out, too! He’s even doing a national tour of the USA telling these too hair-raising to be true tales. A big congratulations to this podcast and to the narrator himself! This one is really a gem and I encourage anyone who has a penchant for the dark, the mysterious, or the horrific, to stop by and have a listen, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

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Finally, and this one has been getting lots of press recently due to the unconventional love-life of its host (not to mention his stunningly good looks), Nico Tortorella’s The Love Bomb. Look, if you’re having trouble keeping up with the fast-changing world of sexuality and gender in the 21st century, I suggest you stop by The Love Bomb as they dissect and examine the ins and outs of what love means for all of us living as progressive and evolving humans at the early stages of this millennium. Honestly, I could do without the Def Poetry style intros whereby the host creates what sounds like a free association poem about whomever his guest for that episode is (the guest list, which includes folks from both within and outside of Hollywood, is impressive). I’m not a big fan of spoken word poetry, preferring to just read it for myself and find my own cadence with the poem. Really though, this podcast is enlightening and also fun, at times even irreverent. The host is bravely open and telling concerning his own exploration of love, and it is this unapologetic openness that, I think, encourages his guests to be equally open, to ask the questions we’re all thinking, and to answer with candor and genuine interest. I really like where this podcast is going and look forward to it hanging around and seeing just where it meanders and what it becomes. I’m sure that with the host’s star appeal burning bright at the moment, the format for The Love Bomb will change and probably grow into something bigger and therefore more commercially minded, but for now I’m just enjoying this refreshing exploration of 21st century sexuality. Just as a final note, a tiny critique; the host mentions having done ayahuasca in Peru…a lot. I guess it was a pretty eye-opening experience for him, perhaps even life changing, but I think we all get the point and I, for one, am over it.

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Some honorable mentions: This American Life, I didn’t include this above because I reckoned that everyone already knows and loves it…and why shouldn’t they!? By The Bi, an American couple in Australia who are doing their part to increase bi visibility, The Sewers of Paris, because it’s gay, hilarious, and often oddly informative, Occult of Personality, for lovers of the occult, Freemasonry, Kabbalah, etc., and a newbie, Very Bad Words, which is just what it sounds like – a podcast about bad words. This fresher brings linguists and other language specialist together to examine “bad language” and it’s really fucking great!

Are you even listening!? 😉



And the Emmy Goes To…

This past week, the Emmy nominations were announced and while I’m not a big awards show fan, there were a couple of things in the nominations that really pleased me, and maybe a few that didn’t. Just for a bit of fun, I’m going to discuss a little about the nominees that I’m really happy for, and one nomination in particular that I wish I had seen on the list, but didn’t. Whoever wins, I’m sure they’re all genuinely deserving as by all accounts we’re experiencing a new Golden Age of television due to the production muscle of platforms such as Netflix, Hulu, etc.,

First, I was absolutely thrilled to see Broadway’s own, Jackie Hoffman, nominated for her role as Mamacita, Joan Crawford’s maid in Feud. I for one feel that Jackie has been overlooked both on Broadway, but also in showbiz in general because she is a powerhouse of comedy and her timing is without match. With a single look, Jackie can manage to convey what others need a monolog to get across, and she can do it with wit and a healthy serving of self deprecation. If Jackie Hoffman doesn’t win, we still do because whatever she’s in, she gives us exactly what we want! Good luck, Jackie!

Jackie Hoffman

Next, a big congrats to Rupaul’s Drag Race for an amazing eight nominations! Although, it seems the Emmy academy is a bit late to the show, but better late than never, right? Not only is the show nominated in various categories but Rupaul Charles is nominated individually as the show’s host. Whether you’re a fan of drag or not, this show is undeniably entertaining. Whether it’s the interpersonal dramas, the out-of-this-world costumes, the bitchy banter, or just because there’s nothing else good on on Monday nights, everybody can find a reason to like this show. There’s got to be at least a couple of awards coming their way at the ceremony and I am personally keeping my fingers crossed that one of these is for the visionary host herself!

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Finally, one note of disappointment that I’d like to express is that unfortunately, there was no mention at all of Netflix’s Penny Dreadful! While I realize the premise of bringing together a group of gothic characters, putting them in the setting of Victorian London, and having them interact with each other may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it was a very well executed show…well, most of the time. There were moments when storylines seemed to get lost, or become so divergent that it became difficult for viewers to follow, but on the whole, this was a bold premise and I commend Netflix for taking a chance on this show. Furthermore, the notion of mixing literary characters from the gothic/horror genre and the history of the city of London is something that I haven’t seen before, and I found it just too bad that Netflix couldn’t continue with the show.

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All in all, I’m going to try and catch the award show this year, if for no other reason than to root for Jackie Hoffman and Rupaul. I’m certainly keeping my fingers crossed for those two and I’m not going to let the fact that Penny Dreadful was overlooked bother me too much. I know that in their own way, both Feud and Drag Race are innovative, but in terms of narrative, Penny Dreadful was just something so fresh and new that I think it was either before its time, or maybe, TV isn’t the right format for this kind of narrative storytelling that is so intermingled and sometimes complex. Either way, it’s a pity that not only is the show no longer being produced, but that there won’t even be an awards show to remind us of just how good it was.

See you at the Emmys!