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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 (s) and should not taken as official policy of ANY organization with which I am associated. Reading or sharing any post from this site shall be taken as an indication that you have read this disclaimer and understand it.

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.


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