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Welcome to my site and thank you for reading. After many times thinking, if only I had a blog, well-- here we are. This blog will feature writings on a variety of topics from roadside food, to leadership in the fire service; politics; culture- gay, straight, and indifferent, my experiences in Ohio, New York and beyond; and much much more. It's my hope that you will find it interesting and that it stirs at least some thought and discussion. I am certain you wont always agree, but that is what its all about right? Oh and one more thing: The views expressed on this site are entirely my own. They do not reflect in anyway the views or positions of my employer.



Friday, December 30, 2011

The absolute best photo of 2011..

My Niece, Emma Lee Gaines, Born September 10, 2011

Photos from 2011


Lower Manhattan, Fall 2011
(c) Christopher Blake Carver

More New Year's Thoughts

 This a reprint of an essay from a few years ago.  Good words this time of year, or any time of the year.. Sadly, I have lost the author's name, but her words ring true..


This Year I Will Lose Weight

by Devilstower

Sun Jan 06, 2008 at 01:23:16 PM PST

This year, I'm going to lose weight.  I don't mean the kind revealed so unkindly when I pay a rare visit to the scale – though since my blood pressure is racing gasoline prices to quadruple digits, I should probably work on that one as well.  But I want to work first on weight in another sense.  I want to walk more lightly in the world.
This year, I will reduce my carbon footprint.  I will drive less, walk more, and turn the computer off when I'm not actively using it.  I will finally unroll those bundles of insulation that have been snoozing in my basement for three years.   I will not use the television to add a background mumble to the house when no one is around.  I will appreciate the silence.
This year, I will reduce the clutter in my life.  The extra clothes – especially the ones that I've been planning on wearing when I lose some of that other kind of weight – will go to people who can wear them now.  The old computers and electronics will go to a recycling program.  The junk will just go.   I will appreciate again the beauty of this old log house by removing the things that stand between me and contemplation of the whorls and knots and glow of yellow pine under layers of old shellac.
This year, I will  take things less seriously.  Everything. Including myself.  Including the wins and loses of candidates I favor.  I will lighten up in that Sheryl Crow sense, so that when opportunities arise, I don't just wish I could take them – I take them.
Here, let me tell you a story of someone I knew.  Someone who made her life so light that in comparison I might as well be living under a rock.
She worked with me a few years ago, at a time when our office was going through one of its regular interludes of pointless but frenetic activity.  In the midst of hundreds of people hurrying to "reform business processes" or "transform the supply chain," she was a Zen breeze.  She came, and she went, with remarkably little "stuff."  No house, no car, next to no furniture in her small apartment.  
While the rest of us fretted about where we would work when this company recovered from its bout of mania, she was pondering a question of another sort: what were the lives of women like around the world?  Not glamorous women in metropolitan hot spots, but ordinary women in ordinary lives.  What did they think?  What did they feel?  What did they hope for?  
So one day, she walked away from the job, reduced everything she owned to the contents of one small backpack, and  went to find out.
She went first to Haiti.  She shared a night in a hotel there with a woman from France who had won a ticket to anywhere in the world, and picked Port au Prince from a map because it was in the Caribbean and the name sounded pretty.   Then she spent six weeks living with a family in a ramshackle home on a muddy slope.  She helped with the chores, played with the children, attended a wedding, spent the long nights talking, and left with a larger family than she'd had when she arrived.
She repeated this experience In Macedonia at a time when eating dinner outside meant seeing the flash of bombs falling in the distance.   She crossed China on a train where her ticket didn't allow her to sit down, clutching a piece of paper that had an address she could neither read nor say.  She lived with families in Moscow, in Delhi, and Phenom Phen.  She greeted the new year at the temples of Angkor Wat.  My favorite picture of her is one in which she is defiantly removing her headscarf in front of a huge painting of the Ayatollah Khomeini on the streets of Tehran.    
If all this sounds like the indulgence of a wealthy American, let me hurry on to the end of the trip.  Eventually, she came to Africa and by train, and car, and on foot, found herself in Zimbabwe.  The arrangements she'd made to stay with a family there fell through, but at a time when the country was in turmoil and even diplomats were being removed for their safety, she didn't leave.  Instead, she took a job working at an orphanage.  There she worked with the older kids, the ones no longer babies, the ones who at two or three still could not walk because they'd never had a chance to try.
Most of the children she worked with were thought to have AIDS.  It was assumed that their short lives would involve only a crib and a coffin.  It was also thought that, after so long without contact, these children would never be able to love.  But when she looked at one young boy, she thought she saw a spark.  She thought he has suffering from hunger and neglect, but only from hunger and neglect.  She thought he was something special.  The more she worked with him, the more she thought he was an amazing survivor in a terrible place.  She took him from his crib and into the sunshine.  She taught him to walk, play, and love.  And she loved him in return.
She asked to adopt the child, but was refused.  Zimbabwean law was strict on allowing adoptions by foreigners.  So she stayed in Zimbabwe.  Stayed long enough to apply for citizenship.  Stayed long enough to badger the courts into agreement.  Stayed until she won her adoption and got her child.
Then, in the dark of night, she took her new child in her arms and like thousands of other refugees fleeing violence and starvation in Zimbabwe, she walked across the border.  
I've only seen the child once.  He was laughing as he ran around a park in St. Louis, deliriously excited by water tumbling from a fountain.   She looked just the same after all her journeys.  Slender and beautiful, with blue jeans and a backpack, a half smile on her face as she watched her son. Just the same as I remembered when I would see her sitting on a park bench at lunchtime, reading Walden, or a Kurt Vonnegut novel.  
They're in the United States now.  She has an ordinary job again and a child to raise, but I'd bet that her life is not heavier, not even by a gram. She went to discover something about the lives of women, and she found it.
My own plans don't involve world travel.  Quite the opposite.  I'm planning to put out some sweet potatoes, white corn, carrots, and peppers of every color.  I'm planning to pull those wood working tools out of the closet and tackle a project I've put off for a long time.  At the end of the year, I'm hoping that I will be sleeping on a bed that I made, and be eating more food from my own garden.  The scale may not agree, but I think I'll be lighter.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Thoughts at Christmas

First, allow me to thank everyone who has taken the time to read some or all of this journal during the year.  I am going to make a conscious effort to post far more frequently in 2012, and encourage more feedback from visitors.  So please, if you like something you read, or hate it, let me know.  There will be more photographs and more poems and definitely more essays, but making those more insightful- more significant for myself and for you requires a degree of feedback, and that is certainly welcomed.

Inherent within that comment is also my new years resolution for each of you.  I have come to believe that each of us is different for a reason, that we all have special gifts, insights, ideas, talents, and souls that are best utilized when they are shared with the world around us.  Much like a jigsaw puzzle of unimaginable size and scope,the world goes on each and every day.  Sadly, as people fall victim to all that can befall a person, people don't fill their role-- don't live up to the potential they have to positively impact their lives and the lives of those around them.  Its not about doing something grand or immense- its simply about being confident in yourself, about not letting the world beat you into submission to the point you just sit on the side line.  The puzzle needs all its pieces.  And it is when we try-- when we learn, grow, and love that we fill our role in that puzzle.  No matter what that talent is, or even if it is only one person we impact, then we have done something on the road to making things better.

I often wonder about all the time we waste today.  If everyone just took one of those wasted hours a week and did something to make themselves a better person-- or someone else a better person, just imagine.  Three hundred million hours a week in this country  spent tutoring a child, helping an elderly person clean their home; teaching an adult how to read.  I am so tired of hearing we don't have time, or I can't help or any of the myriad excuses we human beings find to not do what we should be doing. 

Too often the distractions are of our own creation, or, worse, our own laziness.  So, in the spirit of the Christmas Season and the coming year, allow me to suggest this Resolution.  Fewer Excuses in 2012.  Take some of the time that is there to pursue the dreams you have to be a better you.  And, along the way, take some time to help someone else do the same.   Do you really need to spend four hours a day surfing the web?  How about just two hours-- and take one hour for yourself, reading or taking a class or getting out in your community. The other hour- spend it making that same community a better place.  You and all of us will be better for it. 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.  May it bring you peace and love; wonder and joy.

Blackout

The couch swallowed both of us—nearly as enveloping    
as we were with our arms.  
The shadow of your smooth cheek was painted on the wall
by that annoying street light across the courtyard.
I didn’t really know what I was doing—
But I knew damn well what I wanted.
Isn’t that the case with a sweaty twenty-one year old?
It’s all about knowing where to go, but never knowing the way.
The clothes were one by one tossed to the floor, or the chair,
Or god knows where.
As things pick up speed—I lost my sense of awareness,
And most others.  
Young sex always smells and feels the same,
The bodies may be beautiful, but the action is jagged—lacking the smoothness of experience and practice.
Like those old cars who just haven’t quite died, and still somehow run.
Odd how two passionate young things
Can act like something so old and tired.
I gazed out beyond the window as I took a gasping breath and glanced at the clock on your well worn nightstand.
I knew it would happen soon but didn’t know when
As my eyes darted out passed the window sill and the one falling curtain,
I noticed the lights on the distant span go out—not all but half.
And then, from this perch high up on the hill
The progression of darkness could be seen-- slowly marching across the molten city.
Progressing until it reached our own hot place— but it really didn’t matter.
The lights were already out, we were plenty warm.
So we continued.
Until the wee hours of morning.. the sky like a desert—open and cobalt black.
Full of these things called stars that are mostly strangers to the urban night.
Finished and satisfied we piled outside, curious of the event, and the future, and of each other.
And shared the moments with the neighbors and the strangers.
Our night of embrace now a part of something bigger—no longer just our own.  
Sitting by the pool-- laughing, smiling, drinking slowly warming wine—
I smiled but then remembered to glance again at my watch.
It had no mercy-- it could still tell the time.
And it told a somber message.
That he would soon be home
That this night, like any other with you—all would be shared, or borrowed.
Borrowed from this hot city in darkness, or a stranger to me who was nearly everything to you.
I could have you no more than the city could tolerate this darkness—
So, as the watch passed three… and the neighbors laughed, and you gave me that one last faint smile.
I made my way back to the solitude of my own couch…
And as I made my way through the crowded pre-dawn streets
Filled with people sharing themselves, and this city, and their experience.
The lights began to slowly return.



by: Christopher Blake Carver (c) 2010

Sunday, December 18, 2011

An Evening at Church

Tonight marked my first trip to a church for other than a wedding or a funeral in a very long time.  I have been trying to make my way to a church for awhile now-- half uncertain why-- other than knowing that it was just something I needed to do.  Tonight's occasion and what finally did it; was theRiverside Church Candlelight Carol service, a major holiday tradition and a exceptional excuse to hear both good music and see what the church had to offer.  I have become a little familiar with them by listening to radio re-broadcasts of their sermons, which air on Sunday mornings on 106.7, and have more than once resulted in me staying in the car in front of work just to hear the message.

The church was, as I hoped it would be, beautiful.  The towering sanctuary and the angelic sounds of the music conveyed exactly the right emotion.  The incredibly touching and beautiful finale, in darkness, and to the entire congregation singing Silent Night; where each person turns to light the candle of the person beside them will remain in my memory as long as I have one. 

As one can imagine though, it can be hard to feel comfortable as a Gay Man in a Church, even one as famously inclusive as Riverside.  You just never know really.  So it was during an earlier carol that a far less choreographed moment sold me on visiting there again.  The gay couple I was sitting beside- not planned- softly and tenderly, held hands while singing together. Right there in row 333. 

I was probably the only one who noticed.  But I was definitely the one who needed to.  For the possibility of visiting that church again; for the feeling of inspiration it brought in me, and for that fact that it illustrated for a sometimes doubting mind that God's love and plan is present in us all.  

Inspired by this night I will return to the pews at Riverside.  And I will have but one new years resolution in the coming year: to be the shining light on the hill.  Whether that means by holding the hand of the man I will someday love no matter where I may be; by being as good a man to my family; friends, co-workers; and strangers as possible; or by simply being the man I was put on this earth to be.  And in that effort, I am yet again faced with the fact that all things happen for a reason; that there is forever beauty and glory where we choose to see it; and that a church may just be someplace for me to be more often. 

An early Merry Christmas to you all.

Riverside Church and Grant's Tomb- Fall 2010 from the Hudson River

Monday, November 21, 2011

Monday's Poem

June 26, 2008
 by: Christopher Blake Carver 

It was the greatest gift I gave
The sacrifice that I didn’t pause to make.
It was never a question of if
            But how much
Never a question of when
            But how often
Never did I batter you with the word no
Never did I force you to bear
            A single unwanted, undesired moment
There was no burden of yours that I did not happily carry
No cut that I did not make every effort to heal
I followed behind, walked in front, and paced alongside
Protecting, providing, reducing and easing.
At each and every dimmed moment
            I cast my light with every bit of energy I could summon.
After all the weight of you I chose to carry,
A weight you so happily transferred,
Is it any wonder, that in this solitary night,
When your head finds a different place to lie
I feel no emotion as strongly
            As exhaustion

Lessons in Letting Go and Thanksgiving

Some people can stay close friends with their ex's for long periods of time.  Sharing their lives with them, partners new and old, in much the way a glacier keeps with it what is passes over until, one fateful day, heat and exhaustion cause it to let go of one giant pile of stuff, creating fertile farmlands or valleys in the process-- where so much good may grow from all that was.  The other operative word for these people, other than glaciers, would be lesbians.

My relationship with my ex's is somewhat more complex.  Some are simply contacts on facebook, like so many old photos in an album.  Others, most in fact, are more like scars that are visible in just the right light, at just the right angle.  The source of a story that I find the need to share once in awhile, too often with just the wrong person. 

For this reason I do not try to be close friends with them.  Its just too hard.  I think.  It complicates things.  And my crazy analytical Virgo brain too often begs the question.. if we can be friends, then why the hell aren't we still together? Perhaps its a sign of some emotional immaturity on my part, but regardless, its just not me. 

This brings me to breakfast Saturday last.  I can still remember how this ex ended things.  as though it happened this morning at breakfast and not Pride Sunday, June, 2002.  We were supposed to meet for brunch.  He never called, never showed.  Im sure my OCD attempts to reach him (now we have an I-phone app to tell us that maybe we shouldn't dial for the 38th.. 39th... 40th... time.  Or at least we should have an app like that).  It culminated a bit after midnight when I finally saw him at the dance club.  He walked over to me without saying a word, handed me the spare key to my apartment, turned and walked away.  What happened next is too embarrassing to share.  But it became a game-- of chasing, begging, and pleading, and shedding my self respect on that dance floor and many others as I tried to understand, to accept, and, mostly to beg him to come back. 

That bizarre process would go on for over a year.  As I tried to win the love of someone who, never having known love themselves, had no idea what I had wanted or needed, and certainly no idea of what to give me then.  There was no closure.  The lava just cooled eventually, it created an ashen grey rock.  And I was left that way.  Over time I have moved on.  Thankfully.  But this even remains a big one for me.  For many good and bad reasons. 

"I Don't remember doing that".  That was his reply from across the table at breakfast.  After all these years I had finally mustered the courage to talk about it with him.  Address that pile of magma in my relationship history, trying to at least climb over and beyond it but including him in the event.  And he had no idea he had ever done it.  Took me three times of explaining.  I then just gave up.  And at that moment one of Dyer's lessons became crystal clear.  It never is about the other person.  Its about us.  Our reaction.  Our Memory.  Our tired fingers clinging to a hurt, or a memory, or a love that has long moved passed us.  The Glacier gives no thought to the items it drags a long.  Maybe we should be more of the same. 

This is the week of Thanksgiving.  Of saying to God and others and ourselves how happy we are with the good things in our lives.  But at this moment i want to give thanks for the bad ones.  Or at least the ones I thought were bad after they were good.  James; James; Jason; Anthony; Toby; Alex; Steven; Frans-- all of you offer that lesson to me now. Even though you are all mostly light years away.  I thank you for what you showed me, for the times that were magic and for the times that weren't.  And for the lesson I could have never learned otherwise. 

In the words of Julia Kasdorf from the poem First Gestures:

...Think how a particular ridge of hills
from a summer of your childhood grows
in significance, or one hour of light--
late afternoon, say, when thick sun flings
the shadow of Virginia creeper vines
across the wall of a tiny, white room
where a girl makes love for the first time.
Its leaves tremble like small hands
against the screen while she weeps
in the arms of her bewildered lover.
She's too young to see that as we gather
losses, we may also grow in love;
as in passion, the body shudders
and clutches what it must release.

It is the release part that is the hardest, but the most important. I see that now.  More every day.   

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thursday Poem

Thank You

It is said that a mother always knows her child.
One of those great truths of the animal kingdom.
I can't help but wonder if it's true--
for I can't imagine I have never passed you by.
A crowded street,
a Christmastime mall.
One of those countless faces has to have been yours.
Did you see me, did you feel me?
Would you have had the strength to say hello if you knew?
Would I have had the courage to say anything back?
Or would you just slip by,
like a playground memory.
Knowing that-- if given the chance--
I would only say-
Thank you.

Christopher Blake Carver- 2001

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Sharks, Twinks, and 70s Music

It started out with him like most of the others.  Younger, but he was blonde, blue eyed-- an early 20s raver boy who I would later see at the club complete with pacifier and glow stick gyrating on top of the boxes at the smoked out edges of the dance floor.  Whitney Houston, Madonna, early Mariah Carey and the like, rattling the walls and driving them all into a fury. There in the trendiest place between the Ohio River and Lake Erie.  I have often wondered what a Gordon Lightfoot song would sound like, this modern day wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, with the bell replaced by a siren and the lifeworn and knowing cook replaced by the shirtless, glitter covered guy selling jello shots off his tanned sculpted navel.

It was hell and I loved it.  Ex-boyfriend dancing and all.  It wasn't yet a pattern when he ended things with the line "I don't know what I want but I know it's not you.".  It still wasn't a pattern when I chased for an entire summer the man of my dreams who, for whom, I was only a footnote, or, worse a friend. Even then it was still fun, meeting people and "hanging out", mostly in my local bar.  Not quite ready for love yet, but somewhere along the way my intentions changed.  I remembered my parents were married at 19 and I started to feel I was missing out-- that my path was not complete without someone to share it with. The deadly combinations of lack of experience; being a dreamer; and being probably more than a bit desperate, impatient, and thinking I didn't deserve the best led the numbers to begin to pile up.  I made up for the lost years that most people called their late teens and early 20s, convinced that I could earn a person's love by my actions, my efforts, and my hope. Thinking in my control freak chief fire dispatcher A personality way that I could make it happen.  Mistaking too often single nights of fun for the first nights of something much bigger, when in truth, they were often simply crimes of opportunity. In the words of Jackson Browne, "What I was seeing wasn't what was happening at all
Although for a while, our path did seem to climb..."  For me that often referred to one night, not the several months or years that should be required in some sort of dating constitutional amendment before you being to think "those thoughts"  


Not wanting to be a quitter I tried and struggled-- convinced, like some sort of Gay Quaker Apprentice that It would only take effort-- trial-- chance-- intentions-- opportunity-- and he would come into my life.  Some sort of cosmic reward for putting up with the drama, smiling at getting stood up, and giving of myself so freely in so many ways as to prove to them and myself that I was a nice guy-- and worth it. 

Upon arrival in NY the pace quickened.  A faster and deeper river.  One that holds more fish-- and more sharks.  Some would last a month or two, one lasted four years; one broke my jaw; more than one exhausted my emotions-- and my bank account.  And all the while I got more angry at the sharks.  Hurt and stunned that they did exactly what they were supposed to do.  s each encountered confirmed not only my worst assumptions about the sharks- but about myself.  But it was all misdirected.  It may make you wince when watching those Nature shows.  You know, when the cute puppy seal becomes just one more triscuit for the Great White.  No cheese required thank you.  But even the most adamant seal lover knows that this isn't a hunter in search of the pieces of a Madison Avenue Fur Coat, no this is nature-- and the shark is doing its job.  It is surviving in the way it knows how. There is no more a reason to be angry at the shark than there is at the seal.  Or at us for watching.  This is the way of things-- all for a reason, all part of something bigger, and all there to teach us something, normally about ourselves. Including that swimming with sharks, once we can do so, is best avoided.  Whether you are a seal, or a guy from Ohio with the best of intentions who learned, finally, what was there all along.

 It has taken so very long too see that for so many days I had the wrong end of the stick.  I was angry at the shark for being a shark- and convinced that the way to overcome it was simply to try and find a better shark.  Rather than try and find a better me.  I held onto the scars from their bites, a few leftover teeth and prided myself, even while immersed in the bitter memories left behind, that I was so willing to move right into the jaws again.  Perfectly willing to forgive them, perhaps to show them I was the better person.  Probably more to prove it to myself.  I would show off the trophies to visitors, full of false pride that I had moved on, recovered-- when all my trophies showed was my failure to learn and appreciate the lesson. 

But now, as I look down at my arms, and legs a funny truth lies on the surface.  There are no marks there.  No outline of the Great White's nibble.  The pain, the reaction, the memory and the responsibility are all my own- and lie in a place that no shark, or boyfriend, or one-night stand can ever touch.  No matter how determined.  They were never in need of my understanding, my acceptance, or my forgiveness.  No, the only person who deserved these things-- who needed these things-- was me.  As I have grown to see that its not about them, it never was.  It is about me. 

Am I on the right path, doing what I feel to be true, answering my highest calling, not falling into the traps, and knowing that I deserve beauty and wonder and happiness, not because I surviveded the bites-- but just because I am human and I am here.  Part of this amazing thing that is life-- and love-- and God.

Oddly now I am thankful for them.  All that they showed me and taught me.  Each and every one.  For without them I would not now know the feeling of climbing out of the river where the sharks lie in wait.  I think for now I shall walk along the bank, pause in the autumn sun, gaze at the fall leaves, and forgive the only person who I really truly need to forgive-- myself. Knowing that this is all part of a plan-- that my thoughts create my realities, and that searching for sharks led me to more sharks.  Not surprising at all is it? 

But now, with the words of Emerson, Bach, and Dyer rattling around my head I am excited in the knowledge that better lies out there.  The bells of the Maritime Cathedral will not toll for my wrecked heart-- not any more.  I will give love and peace to those I encounter, moving quickly on if my instinct tells me too-- but, for most, stopping to give the best of me-- and likely getting the best in return.

I may even stop by the aquarium.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Brokeback FBI

Every once in awhile you see a movie that truly hits on all cylinders.  The combination of script, direction, acting, and score reminding you why you decided to give up a few hours and $13 hard earned dollars.  J. Edgar, sadly, is not one of those movies.  But it could have been.  And that's what makes is so very sad indeed. 

Its a noble feat to try and nail down such a larger than life figure as J. Edgar Hoover, while also in some significant way telling the story of the closest thing he had to a child- The Federal Bureau of Investigation.  Its also no small feat to try and tell a love story.  Particular a somewhat imagined love story between two men of questionable intimacy and connection who may or may not have been lovers while leading the aforementioned FBI. 

The same affliction affects both parts of the story arch.  First, any love story should contain at least some minor explanation of where the love comes from.  Perhaps it is a conversation, perhaps a chance meeting but there has to be some connection that weaves two souls together if the story of their multi-decade affair is to be believed.  This movie offers no explanation for the connection-- only that there was one.  It almost suggests they were together simply out of opportunity.  That would explain a hook-up, but not fifty years.  As a reult there is a failure to answer an obvious and fascinating question. If they were lovers, then what about this one man, in the face of a time, a mother, and a self that was not accepting of anything close to gay-- what about this one man was enough to bring this desire to the surface.  Where was the spark that lit this smoldering flame in a way that defied even Edgar's own mother's stated interested that she would prefer a dead son than a "Daffodil".

The other arch is equally left to whiter, half completed on its vine.  Did the FBI offer J. Edgar something to build his own imagine in to prove his independence from his mothers long and demanding shadow, or was it  a tribute to her faith in him.  Was at his core, J. Edgar the exact opposite of all he seemed to be--and was expected to be, or was his life a testament to it.  We are offered no glimpse of honor in his soul, only a wimpish naivete that is reflected in childish behavior at every turn-- and every age.  This is simply unrealistic for a man such as Hoover.

There had to be at least some ingratiating moment-- quality or action.  The loyalty is there--in his proposed lover, in his life long secretary-- from where does this come. No matter what his faults, no man remains at the helm of any entity (federal or private) for so long without doing some good.  In this way Hoover is like his contemporay-- Robert Moses, and this film could have used much of the total prosepctive found in Caro's Power Broker.  In the words of the theme to the Facts of Life-- "You take the good, you take the bad".. and you end up with any figure who is front and center in public life for an uncommonly long time.  Again,  we are left without clues as to the spark except in a negative blackmailing way--as though the only source of his power and longevity were the infmaous files in a way more reminenscent of the Lord of the Ring than a public servent passionate about the service of his agency. Instead, we are encouraged only to stare and gawk at an angry little man and wonder how in god's name he obtained any love or any power at all, much less held onto it.  

Certainly he was a contrast-- whether between the public and the private of himself, or of his agency, or both, but this contrast is best examined when we are given both sides.  Not just one and left to assume or guess or just take at face value the other.

Given the level of creative licence taken with the historical record in this film, it would certainly not be a stretch to ask the director and writer to fill in the greys with just a bit more color from both sides of the prospective.  Doing so would have made much stronger case--and left us with a more convincing portrait of a man who I understand even less today than I did before I saw the film-- and that is even sadder still.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

To those in Ohio.

I wanted to take some time out and congratulate my Ohio friends and family on their successful efforts to overturn the Ohio Law limiting collective bargaining.  Perhaps the best indication of what occurred is in that only six of Ohio's 88 counties voted in favor of the measure, a resounding defeat for Governor John Kasich-- a man who maybe know begins to understand that he was not voted into office because of a statewide embrace of his policies, but because of the fear of Ohio residents weathering an economic crisis most had never seen in their lives.  I take a great deal of pride in the fact that my home state is largely one of moderation, despite the best efforts of some to make it otherwise.  Maybe now, the Governor will focus on tasks that would help save Ohio money, improve services, and increase jobs.

http://vote.sos.state.oh.us/pls/enrpublic/f?p=130:15:0

To help get him started, here are some suggestions

1.  Partner with local governments and unions to develop a plan for reducing the number of Ohio Township's and island villages in urban areas.  These unnecessary layers of bureaucracy still exist in many places where they shouldn't.  Franklin and Hamilton county, for example, should long ago annexed all land into cities-- which are designed and intended to be the form of government for urban areas.

2. Partner with Ohio universities and colleges to match enterprising students who want to start businesses or engage in the creative arts with communities in need. By using available public and private space in these communities partnered with the creative and entrepreneurial spirit of those starting out-- poorer communities could become incubators of young talent and economic innovation.

3.  Partner with the existing top 500 employers in the state to determine what local and state governments can do to encourage these companies to expand their workforces.  Through job sharing, working from home, internship programs and similar programs, it is much easier to grow what already exists, at least in the short term, to improve economic opportunity.

4.  Focus on the State's educational system, in partnership with local communities and unions, to bring best practice's models of teaching to Ohio's schools at all levels.  Match the efforts of Vocational High Schools and two year colleges on the industries with demands for new employees and the skills that are required of a modern-workforce.  Companies such as Honda, Boeing, and other manufacturers need a specialized workforce-- one that many other states do not have-- in order to do 21st Century Manufacturing.

5.  Local communities must be supported in all efforts to reduce crime, blight, and other issues that are affecting Ohio's cities. People will not live in communities that they do not feel safe in. Partnerships between government, law enforcement, public safety unions, and community groups should develop an immediate action plan to decrease crime in all of Ohio, especially its urban core.

6. Develop legislation that allows the unemployed to be utilized for public works projects across the state for reduced wages in addition to unemployment benefits.  Even at 20 hours per week, getting people back to work on projects that benefit the community also benefits the worker.  Combined with twenty hours a week attending classes in a state university or an employment training program, the unemployed could obtain valuable skills and training while working in their local communities to address significant needs.

7.  With land and construction costs currently low, labor costs low, and the state in crisis-- now is the time for Ohio to invest in critical infrastructure needs-- even if it requires debt financing.  The long term borrowing costs will be incredibly low as will the outlays.  Therefore, a state needs bank, based on counties, should be developed.  By identifying the ten most outdated facilities or infrastructure items in each county, limited funds could be directed to fund these critical projects.  Public Safety; Education; and Bridges/Highways could be addressed at a starting amount of, for example, $5 million per area per county.  If communities are encouraged to use matching funds on a one for one basis, a total of $30 million per county could be put to use improving critical needs, increasing jobs, and saving money in the process.

8Ohio must again become a State of tolerance for all persons and a symbol of the moderation that used to be so common in the Midwest.  Efforts must be taken to remove the 2004 anti-gay marriage amendment from the state Constitution.  The young people of the state who graduate from its high schools and universities are not in favor of anti-gay measures. statistics show that these young people- those who will be the new innovators-- are leaving the state in droves.  This is not a recipe for long term success and does not encourage a climate of growth and new ideas.  This issue must be addressed- and soon.

9Ohio Law should be changed to encourage new development to be more dense and in-fill in nature wherever possible.  One of the most significant elements to the rising cost of services in Ohio is that so much growth has occurred in areas where services from sewers to waterlines to schools to firehouse had to be built from scratch.  Encouraging development in already developed areas rather than in a "sprawl" fashion, allows existing resources to be better utilized and costs and services to be more easily maintained.  This is reflected in lessened capital costs, less personnel costs, and, in the end, reduced taxes for local residents. 

10.  Immediately begin an effort to reduce costs in two critical areas: Health Care and the Prison population-- together these two areas are critical pieces of most states budget problems.  They are also, in many ways linked.  By getting all residents of Ohio access to affordable quality health care and focusing on juvenile crime prevention and rehabilitation-- the impacts on local and state budgets are lessened, crime is reduced and communities are safer.

11.  Listening.  The people of Ohio are a smart, creative, and pragmatic bunch.  They have the ideas about how to make better their local communities and how to involve their neighbors in a process of solving problems.  To solve any problem-- Ohio has to again become a state where the opinions of all are valued, and people of a different political stripe, or a different church, different age, or different orientation are looked to as part of the solution-- Not part of the problem. If this is where Ohio starts on it's newday, then all things will truly be possible.


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Friday, October 14, 2011

October Sky

As many of you may know, this is the time of year I live for. That wonderful combination of falling leaves,crisp mornings, and apple cider is tailor made for someone who was born in a pensive mood and has, at least partially, remained there for the better part of thirty-seven years. 

The highlights of this season have been the arrival of my new niece, Emma, who I was able to visit in Florida, and spending time with my family and friends-- in New York;  Florida; Las Vegas and New Orleans.  Next week will bring the finale--an autumn drive south, towards Roanoke Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley. A place that is simply one of the most beautiful on earth.  An autumn quilt of red, orange, yellow, and gold draped over sleepy mountains covered in dew. 

In all of this however, are the more important things-- reminders of where you have been and where you are in going.  I suppose the greatest reminder of this season has been related to Sin.  I am not so far gone from the East Livingston Baptist Church that sin is a foreign concept to me.  In truth, it has often been on my mind as I have grown older and learned about its true nature.  At least for me, sin is when we are moving away from our true selves and living out of purpose.  When we fail to listen or to help; when we fail to care-- about others or ourselves-- or when we leave our talents we are blessed with on a shelf to collect dust- those are all, in my heart-- the greatest sins. 

In the places of my recent travels I have found again this lesson. I have been to places that dragged me away from myself in nearly an instant.  I was pulled into the rocks and then under as though I had no control. But in others-- a bar stool in new Orleans; standing on the Venice Jetty-- I felt as peaceful and "in place" as I ever have. 

Its odd how, in many cases, the distance between Sin and Heaven is really truly only in your own heart and mind.  What you make of something and how you deal with it creates its not only your perception-- but your reality. 

The same drink you can hold as a part of spending quality time with friends can become the same drink that washes away your dreams and potential into a sea of self destructive behavior.  Loving to meet people and questing for a relationship can lead you to meet incredible souls with wonderful stories that enrich your book of life-- or you can find yourself "Throwing yourself after every open door"-- dazed, confused, and wondering where your heart ended up after all these years, all these heart felt attempts that were more like the last desperate arch of a basketball towards a distant net with .01 seconds to go, home team down by 2.

And that is where I now reside.  In a land of contrast-- of knowing that the same things that give us support, love, and life... are the very same that can take all that away.  Sin and love make strange yet eternal bedfellows, and that contrast is repeated in nearly all things.  I love my family dearly, but they blessed me with an environment that created some of my best-- and worst qualities. I love them no less- but rather more as part of the process of understanding just who I am today and why and that I too reflect these contrasts and paradoxical realities. 

It would appear that our whole world's conflict, whether political, or social or economic, come from this basic problem and reflect our inability to accept the possibility that something can be good and bad-- sin and love-- at precisely the same time.  In others and ourselves-- these dueling banjos-- both the halo and the horns-- constantly present. 

And in the face of that truth-- of loving those that sin against us, and sinning against those that love us-- we arrive at the most necessary understanding of all-- that of forgiveness.  For others and ourselves. 

In the fall, with the leaves falling from the branches, but also secure in the knowledge that they will appear again-- what better time to think on the need for this greatest of human actions.  For others, and for ourselves.

Friday, September 16, 2011

From New Orleans

I have to say, at first thought, its kind of like every place I have ever been and liked, merged into one compact space with more than a few drunken tourists thrown in for good measure.  Kind of like Buckeye Lake (ask someone from Ohio) meets Montreal.  I have even met more than my usual show of characters-- ranging from an elderly lady on a streetcar who I am certain put a curse on me (more about that later, but how the hell do I know where the hospital is?) to a creature of the night that was an amalgamation of nearly every troubled soul I have ever dated in one sinewy frame.  Don't worry kids, I am not moving him back to NYC to live with me.. I have learned something over these past few years. 

But I have to say its a great town place. More inspiration than should be possible in such a small geographic area.  Today I was not surprised when I gave birth to a fully formed poem somewhere near the french market, while having coffee at a sidewalk cafe watching this blend of tourists, and locals-- transients and thieves-- musicians and the deaf. 

I leave you with these prophetic words.. uttered in the midst of a male review the likes of which would make Caligula or Bruce Vilanch quite proud: 

"This is Rome"

You don't say..

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Eighty-One Ounces of Steak (Or.. Questions and Answers of Perspective)

These nights have been happening more and more frequently of late.  A random call;  an unexpected text or maybe just walking into the right place at the right time.  New York is finally living up to its potential or maybe I am living up to mine. 

Tuesday night it was a birthday event for a new friend.  One of those souls you have known forever but who resides in a body you have just met.  The person with whom the sentences are finished before they are started, the experiences of each other’s lives both similar and complimentary.  Even better, the whole group was this way. The singer; the incredibly intelligent guy sadly unemployed; the “younger one” and one of my best friends—who was my pathway to the group.  The conversation moved in huge gentle waves, lifting from topic to topic, maybe depositing one rider out for just a minute- but then, shortly after, lifting everyone back up into one fold of ex’s; drunken nights barely recalled; places we have all been; and places we dream of going.    

It continued-- long through the oysters and the cheese plate and the inevitable “Am I allergic to that?” concerns. Steaks that totaled 80 plus ounces were delivered and devoured in what I would imagine a medieval feast felt like, only we were missing the sword, the dragon, and a requisite number of paupers.  The Oatmeal stout, even with its bitterness, was liquid gold and the experience grew more rich by the moment, aided by bottles of wine and the revelations of unknown connections between us.

It was a miracle night.  

“So what’s the problem then?”

The right side of my face twitched in surprise, anger, frustration; and resentment at the question.  It came from the direction of the youngest member of the group.  Who really doesn't look as much like Jake Gyllenhaal as I first thought, but he's an impressive guy none-the-less. This person didn’t know me well enough to know that the look I returned is normally interpreted by the more knowing as ABORT—NOW.  Instead he explained himself.  The hunter having landed his arrow in the deer never bothers to explain himself.  I guess it’s a function only required when we mortally wound fellow members of the human species.

You’re a good looking guy………. You’re smart……..… You’re funny…. I like you… Why……then……are……you…………………………..………………………..single?

I checked myself for visible tumors first, then for some foul odor that I had not previously noticed.  My first reaction, of course, was to go inward.  Immediately consult that list I keep of my failures. Annotated, and stored in some Devil’s Card Catalog, run by a librarian of the damned.  Happy to explain exactly why St Peter hit "no sale" upon your arrival to the Pearly Gates.  Right back to day one I went in an instant—all those faces flooded my mind—the names like news in time square—an endless ticker tape of horrors that I would never believe had I not lived them.  Had my jaw not taken two years to heal.  Had my last New Year’s night featured one come to confession.  As though hearing of his trials in life after me would make me feel better or happy.  Focus Damn it.  Focus.  I searched for a way to explain all that they had taught me. I tried to present my side of the case—searched for the evidence that I could use to get this person to understand it wasn’t me.  It really wasn’t. But it was me.  I needed to learn those things.   
 Be in the same relationship… be true to myself…. Compromise often but not on the core things… love… trust… all things at some point fatal to one relationship because of their invisibility… but now as essential as air.  For myself and for who will be my next one.  The list was only 2/3 of the way done I was almost back to equilibrium when the follow up came..

You…..just……have…..to…put…….yourself…….out………………..there. 

I nearly choked on my tongue.  Put myself out there?  HUNDREDS of dates—relationships from DC to Toronto to Ohio to NYC.  And that was just one week! (Kidding…. Sort of….) The summary of failure and my truths ground to a halt.

For that moment beaten...I used my lifeline.  Across from me someone who has ridden nearly every wave.  Who has seen the successes and comforted the failures.  And as soon as I called out, and repeated my charge, I didn’t have to wait for a reply to know I was not guilty. I could see it in my friend’s face and I felt it in my soul.  The search for a romance to make me whole was revealed for what is always has been—more than it ever should have been.  That this evening with these friends-- even ones who don’t know me that well—are a sign of the good—not of the bad.  I will serve no jail time, and I don’t want anyone else too either.  I have learned from all of them, no matter how short, nor long.  Every tear was a chapter and now, just now, I am thankful.  For being single, for having friends who know the stories behind the scars, and for being ready for the one when he does arrive. But till then I will not hide my head in shame.  For where I am now is not a mark of failure in my thirty-seven years—but of hard earned, hard fought success at learning to understand just what is important—in my friends—in my partners—and in myself.

I simply smiled then.  Looked at my new friend and my old one. Then I took a nice long breath. The answer came from someplace I cannot know or see, but it is someplace I am fortunate to have…   

“What makes you think something is wrong?” 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A word about luck

.. It doesnt exist. Sorry.  It just doesnt.  You either bring good things into your life by your thoughts and actions, focusing on your instinct and intentions to create and build the life you desire, or you ignore those things. You shut off the inner voice, ignore history and all the other things that teach us that amazing phrase  "now I know better" and repeat mistakes only to be surprised when you have something happen to you that isnt quite what you desired. 

The final lasting permament revelation of this truth was provided, as all eternal truths are, by a status update on facebook the other day. It went something like this: 

 "During a torrential downpour I went outside to secure a loose downspout on my house and fell and broke my ankle-- I have the worst luck."  

To my friend who experienced this, I feel bad for you I really do and I hope you have a fast recovery.  If we lived closer I'd bring you food every day and help in anyway I could. 

But I have to say I think something other than luck is at work here.  The odd thing is how many of us do this-- paint luck as this great external force that controls our destiny-- more than God or ourselves.  More than a few souls I have encountered along the way lay the blame for everything good or bad that has ever happened at the feet of luck, apparently satisifed at what little role they have in the play of their own lives. 

Perhaps the words of Richard Bach offer a lesson here for all of us, who even occasionlly, fall into the luck trap:

"If it's never your fault, you can't take responsibility for it. If you can't take responsibility for it, you'll always be it's victim"  

From Messiah's Handbook- Reminders for the Advanced Soul  (c) 2004  

Sunday, September 4, 2011

A Great Night Out..

Just had to say a few words about a great night out last night that speaks to the beauty of this place I call home and the power of connections.  It was my great honor to show around a new friend, Laura, who is in town for the Police-Fire Games.  A firefighter from London, she met one of my coworkers through other friends and, when she asked about gay clubs, was immediately referred to me for guidance.  Can't possibly imagine why.  This led to use meeting at Chat and Chew Last night for dinner, along with another newer friend of mine (who is originally  from Colombia). 

Following a dinner of Roasted Turkey (me) and thirty-six pounds of fried chicken we stopped by Old Town for a pint or two.  Horror of Horrors- to find that my nice English girls favorite beer is.. well... Budweiser??!!  I was drinking Guinness of course.. Fernando had a Long Island Ice Tea.  After some exposure to the surly bartender, we made our way the Rodeo Bar.  (The NYC country music institution) for whoever happened to be there.  It was the exceptional rockabilly band The LoneSharks- a Long Island based act that should be performing in far larger venues, probably ones that charge a cover.  However, it was at the bar, having another Guinness, with the Colombian and the English Lesbian firefighter, that it struck me just how amazing things can truly be.  As the band belted out Cash's "get Rhythm" and I tapped with the beat, a large group came to the bar to get their drinks.  I assumed they were from India (based on the headgear and attire) and smiled even more broadly-- that at that precise moment I was in the midst of the most diverse possible place on the planet.  The only thing missing was a penguin and we would have had cultural overload. 

After Rodeo, as all good things must come to an end so you can find something better, we took off for the east village.  Sparked by the glee in Laura's eyes when I asked "What do you think about 80s Music" we made our way to the Pyramid-- to spend over an hour on the dance floor as a crowd ranging in age from 21 to well over 70 bounced and moved to Rick Astley, Blondie; and more.  The only missed element was Culture Club on the gay 80s dance checklist.

Exhausted from fun, we bounced out of the club and towards the car.  I dropped Laura off, then my other friend, and made my way home.  Across the Brooklyn Bridge, and past all the other symbols of what makes NYC such a place-- Statues, islands, and the like.  The things the kids in Missouri, or Kentucky or Oregon read about and plan their high school visits around.  But for me, what makes this place great, what makes my life great, is a pint of beer in an old old bar; some rockabilly music as summer fades into fall; a good meal and melt in your mouth red velvet cake; and the people who I have come to share this place with.  Some new, some old; some well known; some only passing in a bar- but all reflections of the miracle that life can be  is  when you just take some time to live it.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Happy Birthday Holly

I still remember it.. my mother and father calling me into their bedroom.  6323 Rygate Drive North, Reynoldsburg, Ohio 43068.  614-866-8735.  The limeish greenish siding, the white cinder block wall that held the front steps in place; the backyard with the dog kennels.  The Amish shed would come a little later, as would a new fence, different cars; and much later on- the different faces that would occupy this home. But at this point I was still preoccupied with my matchbox cars; reruns of Adam-12 and Emergency; new episodes of Chips, and trying to decide if I wanted to be an FBI agent when I grew up.  I was six years old, and I had everything a boy could ever want.  Most of all, I had my parents to myself. 

But that early spring morning they called me into their room to tell me some news.  Then, as now, I often assumed incorrectly.  I was convinced I was about to be told a trip to Sea World was in the offering for my spring break.  Giddy with entirely reasonable excitement I sat down on the bed, across from the mirrored dresser and they broke the news.  News that would alter my world-- as much as if my own personal globe took a leisurely tumble off the Empire State Building.  I was going to have a brother or sister. 

My parents were so thrilled.  You could see how happy they were.  Only later would I come to understand just how hard it had been for my Mom to have children.  Just how much pain she had endured in the quest for a child.  A path that led them first to Franklin County Children's services and the surprise acquisition of yours truly a few years hence; and a later, even more shocking surprise that my Mom was able to have a child the old fashioned way.   And on August 28, 1981- Little Holly Nicole Carver came into the world at the Old St. Ann's Hospital on Bryden Road in Columbus.  She was as beautiful as most.  And things went quite well until, only a few days in, I discovered what all siblings ultimately do.  Much like North and South Korea today, a subtle battle began-- never all out, just some occasional jabs here and there in an attempt to establish roles and dominance. Given that her favorite thing to do from about two on was to run behind me and tackle me to the floor; or run out the front door to hide in the front bushes while my mother organized search parties and chartered helicopters, I suppose you could say she was a challenge. 

But it was never a bad challenge.  I defended her honor at school when my class read "Sister for Sale" by Shell Silverstein and my seven year old self decried the horror of such a thought.  She returned the favor years later-- by calling out a fellow student in speech class who had decided to do a presentation on why gay people should never have the right to adopt children. My sister dismissed her bigoted speech directly and proceeded to speak of her real love-- manatees.  

We faced challenges together as well.  My mother's illness and passing at the age of 60 in 2005 being probably the most lasting, and most revealing.  My sister lost her best friend and her mother in the same instant-- but she gained a brother, even more than before.  And I listened to the stories of the bad boyfriends, and the frustration and pain at trying to find love in a world that does everything it can to kill it.  I offered advice (and more importantly an ear) as she pushed her way through college and EARNED her degree-- becoming the kind of teacher that children are lucky to have, and that, perhaps, our Mother should have been all along. 

Through every trial I cried silently with he.  And I cried in joy that April morning when I loaded her and her wedding dress into a rented mini-van for the short drive to a Spanish chapel and a beautiful wedding to a man that I still sometimes think doesn't realize how lucky he is. 

I almost didn't get to talk to my sister on her birthday this year.  Hurricanes have a way of doing that.  But the great thing about family is that no matter whether its the passing of a loved one, or the landfall of a storm; or the end of a love; or the celebration of one-- family is still family.  And I am very lucky to have been able to watch my sister from day one.  To be there for the smiles and the tears.  And to be able to be there, in one short month, when she will give birth to little Emma.   I cant help but hope that she is not an only child.  I am glad I wasn't. 

And by the way, Id still punch Shell Silverstein the mouth for that poem.

Holly Nicole Carver-- Ireland June 2010