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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.

Monday, December 31, 2012

What would my life look like if there were no boundaries on my success, on my potential, on my dreams?

[This year’s version of New Year’s Resolutions…]

·         I would own my own home.  Two stories, with a porch, a kitchen I could enjoy cooking in and space enough to have friends and family over and enjoy a holiday or just a random Sunday afternoon.

·         I would improve my physical health: 160 pounds; better numbers—and regular physical exercise.

·         I would have a dog or two, probably miniature schnauzers.

·         I would have gone back to get either my 2nd Masters or my PhD and be teaching on the side.  Perhaps social studies in a community college; or courses related to Public Safety Leadership.  Part of this would involve speaking at conferences and other events—sharing the experiences that I have had so far in my life and hopefully opening some hearts and minds in the process. 

·         I would have more interaction with friends and family—my community would be less individualistic, and, well, more of a community.  This includes finding a church were not only do I feel welcomed and inspired—but where the leaders of the church know me—and I can have a more significant impact on the church and its community. 

·         I would volunteer more of my time to help those in need, in whatever way I might be able.

·         I would pay off all of my debt to permit me greater freedom to travel; invest; and increase my financial security—as well as to be able to donate more. 

·         I would develop a relationship with someone who will value me for me—and I for them. Someone who can communicate, who isn’t afraid, and who supports my growth while allowing me to support theirs.  I don’t want someone I have to be careful what I say to—but rather someone to be honest with, in every since of the word.  A person I find attractive in every way—and who will make me better by knowing them.

·         I would use my God-Given talents more:  More writing; more photography; doing voice overs; serving as a volunteer counselor—sharing of myself those parts of me that are meant to be shared. 

·         I would be the director of a small or medium sized 911 Center; an EMA Director; or Public Safety Director.  The key is to work in place where I can put into practice what I have learned from education and experience—and I would be able to empower those I work with to do great things. 

·         And I would stop being afraid that these things will not come to pass.  I would let go of the doubt that sometimes creeps in on those dark and lonely nights when its seems as though everything is always such a battle such a struggle.  In those places—instead of clinging—I would learn to just let go.  To let things work out the way they always do—for the best. 

·         I would know faith.

 The simple question I must ask of every action I take in the New Year: 
 Does what I am doing bring me closer to the life I have just described—or further away. 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas Road Signs

There is a very interesting paradox found in one of those spots that people in American Geography like to visit.  On a banyan lined street, under an almost eternal sun, can be found the Island of Key West.  Mecca for alcohol craving Midwestern tourists and sexually compulsive gay men alike—Key West seems a monument to the polar opposites of our nature.  A few steps from Sloppy Joes Bar sits an amazingly beautiful Episcopal Church—in a city surrounded by water that had to rely (until 1942) on the rains to provide its drinking water—the drops filling the cisterns with freshwater just steps from an ocean  who’s salt makes it about as healthy to drink as gasoline. 
This penultimate expression of the yin and yang; the Roosevelt and Reagan; the Yankees and the Red Sox—well, it exists on a street sign.  Not just any street sign—but THE street sign.  The beginning of US 1—one of America’s greatest roads.  A strip of Seven-Eleven Hot-dogs; pawn shops; Sonic drive ins; cookie-cutter gas stations and traffic lights that snakes along two thousand miles of pavement from this very spot all the way to the Maine-Canada border. 

The idea is simple—NORTH.  Forever, permanent, towards something better.  A higher place.  NORTH.  Explore, Grow, Expand—NORTH.   In another time, the same idea was expressed by a different road—one that would lead settlers and Okies and dreamers through the middle west and the desert to the land of Southern California.  Route 66 and US-1 occupy a place in some distant dream of getting from where we are (not so good) to someplace different, and thereby better. 
The entire American premise was built on this concept.  Except there were no roadside petting zoos, or mini-golf, or Waffle Houses on the first version of this journey.  It was made on rickety ships, across an ocean of fierce waves—and towards the same place.  Even if it didn’t have exactly the same coordinates on a map.  Or even if that map was largely yet undrawn. 

Standing here, while the Conch Train tourists ride by and the sound of distant Jimmy Buffet Songs flows across humid breezes—you come to learn that North is really, well, it is SOUTH.  Quite clearly, where US 1 begins its journey, the street goes for several blocks in quite the opposite direction. 
I suppose this should come as no great shock.  That on this narrow hard-ground land of alcohol and sex and ticket takers willing to mock you for travelling alone everything is subject to revision upon further review.  And such is the same with our beloved highway—and our lives.  That in order to go North—in order to follow our history—our dreams—our destiny—we must first travel south, if not also east, west, up down and all spots in between.  No matter our love for Maps or the placid tones of our GPS, even their directions can only hint at the real journey.  At the real way forward.  The compass constantly spinning, we end up having to focus on the one place in all the travel that does not move—ourselves.

For generations we have sought out fertile fields, freedom, and countless other things—at the end of some road.  Or on the other side of an ocean.  In the arms of that one person who will give to us our missing piece; in the style of a new high-priced car; or the high-powered weapon that will provide the security you so desperately seek—but that still proves elusive. 
But in the end, we come back to the same place.  South is north, or north is south—or better is really just more of the same.  And any idea of success being—over there—or with that special thing—well, it is proved fleeting at best and, mostly, if not entirely, a myth.  At that moment we are at last forced to visit the place we were really trying to escape all along. 

In the quiet of this Christmas Season, I encourage you to follow along on your own map and see where it leads.  Possibly learn to trace the line back inside, into the places where things are better than you thought—were  you are loved more than you realized- and can love more than you have ever known.  After you have reflected on that, please take the time to share that part of you with those around you—provide to them what you have to offer.  Not judgment, or even well intentioned advice—but simply words of encouragement and acceptance—and love. 
For it seems to be that in this world of roads where even the famous signs don’t really point the right way—only to the confusion of our souls and purpose reflected by our highways—that we could all use just a little guidance and support for we are simply travelers and we do not know where will be our journey’s end.  But, while on our road, it is always good to help someone else on the road—even if we don’t know our south from our north.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Sick to my stomach

And the "fallout" from Hurricane Sandy Continues:

As someone who was there, I can tell you that no agency of any kind in this country can handle 20,000 calls per hour in their 911 center. It just cannot happen.  Could there have been better planning on the part of all agencies involved, of course.  Should all agencies involved have made certain that all seats were staffed at all times.  Of Course.  However, this type of blame, at this time, does nothing constructive except distract from the real problems and the real potential solutions and, more importantly, the issues from which there are no real solutions. 

Namely, that during periods of extreme disaster,  you can exceed the capacity of a 911 center to manage its calls.  Now, what can you do when that happens?

Should we establish a regional or national 911 rollover policy and system?  But if we do, how do we get that information back to where it needs to be?

Should we do a low tech change in the 911 Hold announcement?  Or, during periods of disaster, have all calls go into a hold pattern where the callers hear an automated message, informing them that 911 is overloaded and they should only remain on the line if they have a legitimate emergency, then list what those are and what they should dial 311 for?

Should we do a much better job on public education regarding these types of events, what they can really expect of 911 and what will happen whenever massive disasters impact high-population areas? 

These are the kinds of discussions that we need to be having.  UCT (NYPD 911 operators answering FDNY calls is not going away under the present administration.  There are, however, some big questions that need to be answered.  Not pettiness in an us versus them way of FDNY Fire Dispatchers blasting NYPD 911 calltakers for being unable to handle something that no one else could have handled. Especially when we, AT BEST would have 13 calltakers to handle the calls! In other words, we didn't have enough to answer our calls either.  So the blame game makes zero sense, especially when we are pointing out the splinter in our brother's eye but ignoring the log in our own (to paraphrase the Biblical admonition) .

What we need now are effective, informed, and common sense questions, ideas, and answers, about how 911 systems handle peak days in a world where there are not unlimited resources to answer the calls or respond to the emergencies. This is a problem that all 911 centers face, especially those dealing with Hurricanes or other massive disasters and lessons from Sandy that could easily apply to all.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Through the Storm

It has taken a couple of weeks to begin to process our recent Hurricane/Superstorm/Megastorm/Reminder of the fragile nature of mankind’s place on this earth/or whatever else you might like to call it. 

As many of you know, I was working for this event.  I almost always am for these types of things, but I think this was the first time I was keenly aware that I was supposed to be there.  This doesn’t mean I had some pre-ordained role to play as a hero—just that my inner-self knew that my physical self was supposed to be performing the role of my professional self during this disaster.  I knew what was coming.  Driving back from a wonderful conference in Roanoke where I made friends who have already earned the title “life-long”—I had a feeling.  I shared that feeling with some friends and co-workers.  I Sent text messages of storm prediction updates—including the 50% chance that Lower Manhattan would be inundated by water and the Subway system would flood.  I told some how this situation made me sick to my stomach.  Dread is not an emotion I am often filled with but in the days preceding this event it became my near constant companion. 

Not for what would happen to me.  But dread over what would happen to my community, in every way that the term applies. That feeling was, in the end, prescient. My colleagues were devastated in ways that many people still do not grasp.  Nearly 15% of my co-workers suffered major to significant or catastrophic damage.  Some lost everything—as though their lives were wiped clean off the face of the earth. 

This was, and is, a tragedy.  But the greater tragedy—the one I think that brought on the real dread—were the reactions and efforts of people who should have known better.  This storm was not a surprise.  We knew days in advance that the damage would be measured in historic terms.  Yet again, however, people that should know better did not undertake the actions demanded by their positions and responsibilities.  After the storm the reactions of those same people who “should know better” revealed to me in crystal detail just why I feel like a plant that has outgrown its pot.  As always, the lessons of the days before, during, and after the storm will serve me for the balance of my lifetime. 

For now, I would like to say how inspiring and heartening it is to see people brought together in this city.  It is beyond words how people work together to overcome obstacles and tragedies to make things better for those in need. I cannot help but feel that I haven’t done enough.  So many live and neighborhoods in New York and surrounding areas will never be the same again.  It is also humbling how many people across the United States and beyond want to help with the recovery from the storm. 

In the family that is “911”, so many people have reached out to offer support, physical donations or supplies, or donations of funds.  It is touching. These efforts serve as reminders that we here in New York are part of something much bigger that, too often, in our “New York way” we turn away from. As a result, there are things we do not know, resources we are not aware exist, and solutions that could be applied to the situation which are never engaged.  This is the price that all pay for the arrogance, ignorance, and isolation of some.  The lack of vision leads to a lack of options—the lack of foresight and planning and innovation lead to greater harm, not just for the ones—but for the many. 

That leads to the most important observation of all.  Although this place and those who live here will never be exactly the same again, it will survive and it can learn—can get better.  It can grow from the wrenching experience.  Anytime a community of millions is reminded that life is not permanent, neither a home, neighborhood, of feeling of security—then life is forever altered. It is in that darkness that people can begin to know what is truly valued—that new appreciation for life begins, dreams of learning how not to repeat mistakes of the past take hold and visions of change sprout from those broken branches.   For me, the same truth applies.  Given the gift of understanding and vision, I know that I too am forever changed.  Watching my employer and my community fail—being chastised for even suggesting common sense steps to address the needs of my brother and sister dispatchers—I just have to shake my head and know that, given the chance in the future, I will take these lessons and do better.  I know that I must move outside and beyond my too-small pot—and speak always to the need for people to do better—for communities to do better—and for the responsibility we all have to overcome and grow together—no matter how many well-intentioned but blind souls try to hold back the progress of time, imagination, and vision. During times like these, the dread may indeed be strong, but the resolve must be stronger.

Note: This post is dedicated in loving memory to all those who lost their lives in the Storm.  I also wish to express my extreme sympathy to all those impacted, many of whom are friends. To the women and men of FDNY Fire Dispatch Operations that worked, you showed the world just how capable you are and your efforts that night exceeded what anyone could have expected.  You truly are the Best Damn Dispatchers in the World

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Strolling Amongst the Impressionists

It happened while walking through the Impressionist exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts in Montreal.  A place where they proudly have no maps to guide you, just French speaking docents who scornfully point when asked about the locations of exhibits. Much of the work I had seen before in various museums, but new for me were the quotes from Renoir, adorning the walls in black letters about six inches tall, above the art work created by him and the other brilliant hands and minds from the Impressionist Era. 

Many were quotes or comments in regards to the critics, those who doubted the movement of this new art form from its inception-- scoffing at the colors or the subject or the style. These critics, from a conservative mindset, dismissed the new ideas, new ways of thinking and new ways of seeing the world as nonsense, less-than-art, or worse. 

Revealed in their words was not just contempt for the new, but reverence for the old—for the established.  But whom did history declare as the victor in that timeless argument between the old and new?  The visionary versus the skeptic clinging with all his or her might to the log jammed into the river of the past.  Afraid that the waters of progress would sweep them clear off the map of history and render their time on earth meaningless, or at least their opinions less significant than they ever though they would be.

The answer of “who won” is in the name on the walls, and in the brushstrokes, and in the books, and in every element of recorded history.  Whether in battle or art, music or science, love or hate—history and eternity belong to those who go outside themselves—push their world and the world of those around them into new places.  Often this growth happens not because of people saying it could—but because of people saying it couldn’t or shouldn’t.   

I have come to know the power of that clinging to the past, what was known, and of a man’s ability to link himself so strongly to a role or a position or a belief that he looses himself in it to such a depth that it drowns him.  So addicted to the process, he defends it as he would his family.  Fighting with all available passion and strength any idea—any person—that would dare offer a new way, a new direction, or a different way of holding the brush.

But what these people—from those that battled Jesus to those that fight against Gay Marriage fail to understand is that the natural progress of the human order is growth.  All things must grow, for else how do we define the difference between a chair and a plant?  The chair will always be a chair, but the plant (in the paraphrased words) of CS Lewis—MUST grow from its seed self, to it larger self—to its flowering self.  Or else it is not much of a plant at all.

I've known painters who never did any good work because instead of painting their models they seduced them. (Pierre-Auguste Renoir)

 Like all other living things, we as humans, or artists, can be distracted.  We can loose our way amongst the dinosaurs and be dragged back into the caverns of the normal—of the same—of the old proven ways.  Not everyone will overcome that darkness, whether internal or external—to become the glorious flower—paint the seminal work—write the Pulitzer prize winning book—or love so completely that it brings tears to their eyes.  However, everyone can.  The same seeds are sewn in the hearts and minds and DNA of all of us.  That so few of us reach it is a testament to the power that we bestow on those critics—on those that wish not to see us grow—succeed—love. 

Whatever their names may be, they have always been, always shall be.  But if you use them not as the stone to weigh you down, or the cloud to darken the sky—but rather the motivation—and the inspiration—then you will begin to know your way—your path of growth.  If you simply learn that “they” do not matter, whoever they shall be, then you will know the power that is contained within the soul of a person doing what she knows is the right thing to do. 

Not only will you benefit from it, but all of humankind will as well.  For the efforts of those who followed their way, whether by serving as light or leading the fight against darkness, are not recorded in only their own family stories—but in our stories.  Theirs are the names on statues, on buildings, on the pages of books, and of our collective conscious. 

Just imagine for one moment what we are capable of if just 10% more people followed their dreams—and did not become mired in the opinions of others, the fear of failing, or the noose of low self-esteem.  What lies out there in the minds and abilities of people too afraid to lead themselves away from their personal prison?  A cure for cancer?  An end to poverty and world hunger?  The solution for world peace?

Sadly, far too many profit from things as they are. They make money on the sale of weapons, or the sale of ideas that preach to closed minds tired old ideas.  They sell a way of being that flies in the face of the march of human history and the lessons of our past.  Even more people see these problems and so many others as unsolvable. Permanent—

ingrained in our nature.  How many people, told they have cancer, have simply resigned from life—long before the disease would have ever taken them.  How many more, with an attitude of resilience—have either beaten the disease entirely—or turned their final days into final months or years—often making amazing accomplishments in that added time.

I know that resignation to fear—to criticism, to adversity is not a version of our best selves.  Either as individuals or as a community.  Why have so many great people overcome adversity to lead amazing lives?  Why have the best days of a Nation so often followed its greatest challenge? For if a single artist can decide to follow his passion—paint the way he wants to—portray the world as he sees it—then that power can be found within us all.  And that beauty can be brought forth by a family—by a city—by a country—by a world.

But it remains our responsibility to use—to overcome.  No matter what the others may say. No matter what they may do.  The future demands it of us—if it is to be any more than a repeat of the past.  And our souls demand—if we are ever to meet the highest calling of ourselves—for us not to loose what makes us special, beautiful, and unique.  It is our role to play, our picture to paint, and as long as it is incomplete—so too is our story and that of the world in which we live.

You've got to be a fool to want to stop the march of time. (Pierre-Auguste Renoir)



Quotes Retrieved from:



Friday, September 7, 2012

"These are the days of Miracle and Wonder"

Graceland remains my favorite album that I have never purchased.  I love every song from it, can sing along with most, and each song connects with a different part of the inner me.  From the fun and catchy “You can Call Me All” all the way to the title tract: Graceland.  Most of all, that tract conveys a feeling that I can say I know. 

These have been amazing times of late.  Starting back on the fall colored cliff overlooking the Shenandoah Valley in Western Virginia, to a conference in Minneapolis, the birth of my niece, and many other things great and small I am amazed at what the world has brought to me over recent days. 

I am equally amazed; however, at the old me that still clings, riding my back, determined not to be thrown off into the garbage heap.  It hides there, just over my shoulder, unseen but always felt.  At the oddest moments it cries out for acknowledgement.  Perhaps in the form of too many drinks, time spent with a stranger that would be better used for sleep or reading or walking alone along the water, failure to make it to the gym—or the fear that lurks in unexpected places. It screams out that my efforts are in vain and that no matter what I do I will always be a prisoner to that me that I do not love, that I can not escape, and that I cannot overcome. It demands attention be paid to the pages of the calendar that are long past, but on which memories are etched in blood, sweat, tears and more tears.  It plays faces of dissapoint over and over in my rouges gallery of love thought right-- certain that the "successes" of the past are as good as it will get.

It seems that all my efforts to throw off my challengers, both those from the self and from outside, are futile.  That I will never escape the things I have done that I regret, the people I have known that have dragged from my pedestal into the wallow of the mud. 

Or perhaps it’s like the song.  A journey along a river, to a place of refuge, joined by that past… my proverbial “..child of my first marriage…”. For me the reminders and memories of all that came before haunt me. The person that never left, that is still there, and that always will be.  In the beautiful film A River Runs Through It, the voice of Robert Redford offers this: “I am haunted by rivers”—they represent for him the best and worst of himself and his life.  This is a feeling I know—for the inner me represents the best and worst of me. 

As my journey to Graceland—or my own imagined place of holy inspiration and divine connection to all knowing power—(not really Elvis for me, but for many he is) I am left to wonder about the reality of the metaphor.  That along this road we can never escape that which we were—and are.  For they are truly one person.  If the field of physics is to be believed, the past and the present and the future are all wrapped up into one tube.  Einstein and Faulkner and every spiritual guru who ever walked, coalesced into an oneness that spans time and dimensions.

I know this to be true, for that is what is revealed to me on the good days and the bad, which are often no more than a moment apart.  A memory, a future, a joy and a regret—all sharing one space—one time—one me. 

I know now, far better, how foolish it is to ever think that I have any chance of fighting away the parts of me that I don’t like or wish I could ignore.  I realize that the angels and the devils will both live on my shoulders as long as I will live.  For all of us the choice is a simple one.  To lean toward the angels as much as we can, but not roll away in shame when the part that we don’t love or like calls out for its time in the sun. We don’t have to embrace the darker nature, but by understanding it—and loving it—we control it in the only way we ever can.  To war against our own selves—it’s the height of foolish.  You might as well chop off your own arm after a paper cut.  But to embrace it, to understand it, grow from it—that is our challenge and, perhaps, the reason for both our competing influences in the first place. 

I have often wondered about the ability of people to act against their own best interest.  Whether in terms of choosing politicians to vote for, smoking, drinking to excess, or dropping out of school.  Why is it that some fall prey to the fear and the self defeating choice while others work around and through and above it?  The animals don’t do this.  They follow one course—instinctively—to do what is right for their situation. 

It comes down to this choice.  How to get beyond those competing natures?  How to live like the river, flowing with everything mixed in—shrinking and expanding, but moving despite what it’s made of.  A river challenged by a rock—given the chance— will always win.  It may take time, but the perseverance is pre-ordained.  That which focuses on its purpose can overcome the obstacles.  The river does not fight the rock. It does not attend therapy sessions, read self-help books, or cry to friends on Facebook.

It simply flows.  Perfectly content to have as part of it all that it passes by and absorbs.  Good.  Bad.  Indifferent.  The rest of the story is written in places like Niagara Falls or the Grand Canyon.  Beauty is created from the wearing down—from the persistent flow—and the rock becomes part of the river.  Carried on to someplace new, to form the foundation of something different than what was. A new place for life—a river delta—where once there was nothing but water. 

If the rock were to fight—what would become of that?  If the river were to fight?  Instead, as part of a natural order the resistance is slowly worn down—and all becomes one.  The same is true for us.  When we accept and learn and forgive—we grow.  And growth is the whole point isn’t it?  “Loosing love is like a window on your heart”—and so is how you choose to look at your own rivers path across the barriers in our lives—watched over by all the parts of us—good and bad, saint and sinner.  All part of one life—one soul—one universe—never to be fought or battled—only acknowledged, accepted, and loved.  That is the true growth, the true creation and the only way to move past those bumps in the night that so often distract us from our power and our potential.  

Friday, August 24, 2012

Back from the Gloom

Funny how sometimes things that you don't expect can lead you to a place you didn't know you were missing.  I was feeling a little lost again, wondering what it was I should be doing.  Last week I made my way to place where the answers seemed tofind me.  Minnesota.  Of all places.  I guess I should have known that there was a reason Prairie Home Companion and Target (two of my principle addictions) are headquartered in that state.  Why I had never been, I will never really know.  But I went.  Quality time was spent with people who are like me.  Who care about others and their careers-- who want to learn- to grow- and get better. 

Like the girl in the bee costume from the blind melon video I found my home.  Not so much because of the details of my public safety career, or even the careers of those I had met.  The home was found in people who you are friends with in the first moment you meet more so than you will be with an acquaintance in a thousand years (to paraphrase Richard Bach).  Home was found in opening up my heart and mind to new experiences and realizing that I have a long way to go.  In a way, for me at least, its reassuring to realize that the path is long.  That it will involve so many.  Growing and sharing and learning from each other. 

I suppose the best indication that it was a good time-- a needed time-- was that I returned to the place called PSAC with a smile on my face, a brisk step, and was not phased by the inevitable dramas.  Even the critiques of my writing, the insolence of those that do not care-- even those normally effective attempts to pry up the track did not work. I blazed over the gaps in the system and the reality and in the place I must be for a bit longer, certain that I know I am going strong, even if I may not know exactly where. 

My minister, and C.S. Lewis, and Richard Bach, and John Steinbeck, and my mother, and many other great philosopher souls I have encountered long proclaimed that out most important task is to be confident in ourselves- in our place at God's table- and our role we have to play in this long sweet mystery opera.  For some reason, in a few short days and some classes and in a few beers, a few more glasses of wine, I found that pace in a way I have rarely known.  What a joy and a gift and an honor. 

And what a mission I have to live.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Images from Manhattan

A Summer Evening along the East River

(c) 2012 Christopher Blake Carver

Monday, July 30, 2012

There was a Me

There Was A Me

© 2012 Christopher Blake Carver

Sitting nervously—fidgeting at the bar

Looking at each entering face

The way Einstein looked at an equation or that the leper looked at Jesus.

Convinced that my salvation lied inside the touch of their finger or the smell of their cologne

or them telling me that yes- I was desirable.

Yes- my bad qualities and weird qualities and my secret parts and the embarrassing parts- they would not matter.

For after all, we are still both lying here in this place. And your touch says you love me- right?

Even though your too quick departure will say something else entirely.

And even though the words may not come from your lips—

The truth is expressed by your actions.

And a drowning man

Sometimes only needs that hint.

Of a raft-

or only the idea of floating.

To give him just enough hope to survive the cold night and the hungry sharks

long enough for the search party to arrive.

But arrive it did not. No helicopter from beyond the horizon.

No tall dark haired Jake Gyllenhall look alike to drag me from the chat room

or the bar stool

or a midnight cold bed of someone worse than a stranger.

He did not come.

No matter how hard I tried to see his face on so many- he was my own Snuffleuppagus-  but just as imaginary for me as my neighbors.

And, in the end, the unreal selves could not save me.

How could they anymore save me than Santa Clause could bring me love down a chimney in exchange for cookies and milk and some carrots for Donner and Blitzen.

Rather than pull me from the waters they only pushed me deeper.

Till my lungs filled with the brackish water and I felt

Who I was—

Who I could be—

Who I was made to be—

begin to slip eternally beneath the surface.

Pulled toward the bottom by  not a monster of Jules Verne

But by the scariest creature of all— a demon of my creation.

A composite figure made of a job too long held—

A purpose denied—

Dreams too long ignored—

Love too long quested in the manner someone would try on a pair of shoes

and discard the nice fitting pair with the slight blemish by the toe.

At last, as my lungs filled completely with the water,

A part of me died

So that the biggest part could Live.

This familiar sensation. 

A rocky Ohio cliff in 1999 that was to be either my end or my beginning.

This time the choice to go away from what was isn’t quite as easy.

The old days and the old decisions and the old mindset cannot be quite so easily turned away.

The ghosts of those bad choices so many bad for me people- bad for me- me—

try to claw back and offer comfort in their lesser ways and in the acceptance of a lesser me. No greater sin exists than the temptation of the blinded and tuned out soul, full of contentment—and absent of any thing close to salvation.

And few things are as welcome to

A drowning soul as comfort.

But in the moonlight reflection bouncing off the water beside my sinking self

I can see just enough of the outline of my frame to remember the scars hidden by the darkness.

And the Molly Maid skill of a memory that whitewashes and sanitizes the

Crime scenes—

not even the chalk body outline remains so that the visual of that lost figure can  scratch inside your heart and mind a Mount Rushmore view of the lessons learned.

No, the only way past is through.

It is down on the bottom- fully under the black soup that consumes me

and forces out the memory and the air and the fantasy and the wistful memories that are so much better than their subjects were in real life.

The last vision of an easy future with no hard choices—no hard sacrifices—and no fear—collapses in a pile beside me—at least rendered to the pile of the life that may indeed be easy—but that holds no question, no challenge, no growth, and thereby no death. 

It therefore can not be mine—for it cannot be real.

As my final gasping panting falls victim to the new reality,

the new understanding,

the new peace,

The last glimmers of the old ways fade from sight.

The old ways- in an instant- just don’t fit anymore- just don’t make any sense-

And the brilliant glimpse of light and peace and Oneness come into view.

Not the comical bible images of the surface level Christians of departed family and friends welcoming me through gates of Gold handing me keys to a mansion.

But something deeper—more real—and more meaning. 

The feeling of connection with friends known—friends yet to be known—

 a world I am a part of—

 and a world I have a place in.

Welcoming me to an existence I had long forgotten and a peace I had long forsaken.

I was here before, when things were new.

When strangers were potential friends- and not keys to my own self doubt.

A land where I sensed my purpose- where I didn’t doubt what love was-

Or my place in this beautiful world. Taken from me by no one other than myself.

Now helped back there by Strangers, God, and everyone in between.

I fall silent in the still waters

And let myself silently pass back into

To the greatest home I have ever known

And the peace and love a stranger could never provide.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Birthday America!

Happy Birthday America!  Isn’t it odd how even the particular date is actually a bit of a myth.  The really important part of the Declaration was voted on July 2, 1776.  It should come as no surprise I guess, that this is another part of the American Fabric that, when pulled, reveals something a bit more complex than we expect.  In truth, that is one of the things that unites this nation—the enduring desire to simplify into little sound bites or YouTube Clips who we are, who we have been, and who we may be.

It is as simple as the “American Dream”—the house, the car, the kids.  If you look to your right driving from Niagara Falls to Toronto, you will see a billboard for the Canadian Dream—it looks a great deal like the American one. I suppose that’s more a testament to the geographic diversity of homebuilding associations and mortgage brokers and property developers than any particular American ideal.  In the face of the advertisements and the forgotten history it can be easy to dismiss all that has come before as just more examples of a wannabe imperial nation, or a country of ignorant—morally and spiritually bankrupt people. Easier still it would be to look at the state of our politics and come away convinced that we have strayed so far from anything good that it will be impossible to drag our system out of the cesspool and into something greater.  We look at those DC monuments and, in the shadow of the granite, think if only to ourselves—that no monuments shall be built to the people of our time.  That the American Dream is only about those cars and houses and little pink houses—straight from the playbook of John Cougar Mellencamp.

That is a false assumption.  And the fact that it is false is what makes this country special—magical and wondrous.  Still.  Despite the best efforts of talk-radio hosts and  vapid politicians who claim providence with sacred documents that they so obviously have never read, much less understood.  It is not the less than 1% of 1% of 300,000,000 people who serve in congress, or those that try to pass as journalists, or presumed religious leaders that form the real thread of  the fabric of this country today.  

Fortunately, in all the mix that makes up this nation—countless voices, countless hearts, countless ideas—there is always bursting forth new ways of looking a things—new ways of art, or science, of philosophy.  Ours is still a nation that ferments talent and dreams and hope—yes, even hopes.  Even in the face of such an economic downturn—even in the face of a poisoned political season.  Beyond the pages of the New York Times or websites of Fox News, people still carry on—in the best way they know how.  Still they start businesses, or paint pictures, or write essays.  Still they think about the problems that face us and come up with solutions. 

It is in some ways tragic that the faces of success—of thought—of progress—can rarely be found in the media today.  So many channels, so little inspiration.  That kind of thing doesn’t sell.  Politicians that try to think—be mature—examine problems—develop ways to overcome—they are crucified by a media and too many voters that want easy solutions—want to buy into the myths and the one liners about how and who this country is.  But, thankfully, they are not the majority.  Perhaps, in our two-hundred years plus, the country has evolved from sending its best and brightest to lead us in Washington or the fifty state capitals.  Perhaps we have allowed this to happen because, even though they often make for scary television sound-bites, in many ways they don’t matter.  True, they can pass frustrating laws, they can hold on hard to old ways of thinking or belief.  But they will not hold back American progress—no matter how hard they may try.  It is like trying to replace Hoover dam with a Kleenex box. In our age of information and technology and science there is just too much movement forward.  The laws of Einstein and so many others still apply and demand that we move forward.  Perhaps not easily, or as swiftly as some would like, but the trend is forward.  In many ways, I think the radical conservatives and narrow minded people know this—they sense this—and it explains their hatred of all things progressive. A simple desire to cling to a life-raft of long held beliefs and assumptions while the river of the universe rages on past where they cling to a tree on the bank.  For some this is a very scary time in history—in science, in sociology—in nearly every field long held tenets are being explained away like so much myth.   But in their fear—in their hiding—they fail in their duty to be a part of the process—and sit on their hands to complain about the results—without ever having shown a face in the kitchen while the meal was being made—content only to complain about the menu choices weeks, months or years later. 

The words of the founding fathers and the great American leaders show clearly that these challenges were around even at the beginning of this nation. Listen to Jefferson and Lincoln call on Americans to be one… “..with malice toward none.”  Those words are ever truer today—as this country accelerates towards a future that scares many of our fellow citizens to death.  Too frequently without honest leaders in the political arena—without religious leaders able to ask and answer tough questions—the road will continue to be rocky for many Americans.

But on this day of our Nation’s Birth (sort of) let us be reminded that we are all in this together.  That at times of crisis this nation has accomplished amazing things—with all of its people focused on working together—instead of trying so very hard to find fault with the other side of the street, the pew, the map, or the cable news.  Maybe our political leaders today aren’t Jefferson quality, or Lincoln, or even Martin VanBuren.  But maybe that doesn’t even matter anymore—for what have you done, on this day or any other, to make this nation a “more perfect union”—that is a challenge for all of us, not just the politicians we agree with—or the ones we don’t. And in order to move forward, as changes becomes even faster (compare the time for attitudes on Gay Marriage to change compared to the Civil Rights struggles of the 1950s and 1960s) we must all work harder to build bridges across to those in our midst who cling so hard to the branches of the false, dead trees of the past that they might miss the wonder and progress of this day and the days to come. 

The American Flag arrives at the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum, Hamilton ON,  June 2012
(Photo by: Christopher Blake Carver)

Monday, June 25, 2012

Back from Florida

Here are a few sights from my family visit in Florida.  Irony alert one: agreeing to take the convertible upgrade when the only sun seen on the trip was at the point of return back to Tampa International for departure.  Irony alert two: going to the applebee's across from my hotel and watching a newly minted teacher sitting at the bar get ossified to the point of tying his necktie around his head while watching the coverage of the Sandusky Verdict and getting quite irate about how people treat kids nowadays, role models, etc. 

Thankfully, any and all irony was more than matched by the joy of spending time with my family.  From scallop eating Lottie (still hanging on, approaching her 15th birthday) to celebrating my Dad's upcoming birthday, to hanging out with the still new Emma and getting to play the role of spoiling (and non-diaper changing uncle).  Good times all around!

Surf Crashing over the Venice Jetty During Tropical Storm Debby

Emma, Not yet tired of the photos.

My Dad and his granddaughter-- having a conversation

Scenes from the photo shoot-- Emma tries to make her escape!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

June 22, 2000

This week will mark an anniversary I can honestly say I never expected to commemorate.  Twelve years ago, on June 22, 2000, I relocated to New York City.  The sight of the Manhattan skyline and the Twin towers from the peak of a midnight Verrazano by eyes weary from hours in a U-Haul truck is something I will never forget. The city was something of a mystery and a magic and a wonder.  Christmas Gifts are always different on December 26th than they are on December 24th.  Anticipation and dreams melted into a soup that is enough to make you do crazy things—like move 500 miles away from home with no definite job, two friends from Ohio, and nowhere near as much money as should have been in savings. 

These last twelve years are now only memories—the only day that matters being the one I am now enjoying while typing away on the laptop. A ray of sun just now piercing down through the hallowed hall where I find my inspiration—or it finds me.  Twelve years doesn’t come out in an orderly way from the back of your mind.  Especially not twelve New York years.  I can remember so many things, people, events, places, experiences, successes and lessons.  Many along the way have been lost—some to death, some to indifference, most to the simple drift that happens in almost all relationships.  My Mother, Harry, Danny, John, Corrine, Three-Hundred-Forty-Three of my fellow members of the FDNY, and God knows how many others who were, in some way—minor or hugely significant— a part of my life then are now gone from this world. They are exceeded in quantity but not significance by so many dates or lovers or errors in judgment who now reveal a road-map of low self-esteem, desperate desires for warm strangers on cold summer nights, and a quest for love that I was not really ready for then, even though I was certain I was.  

Many new people came into to my world and, in a strangely fitting way, most of those have wandered out or away.  My dearest friends are largely the same as they were twelve years ago, with a few notable and happy exceptions.  Most of the other souls came into my orbit not like a Moon—sharing an eternal orbit around a goal or star—but rather as comets.  Streaking across the boundless night sky—within view for awhile, but then on their way to wherever hot rocks and gas go when you no longer serve their purposes.

It is not my intent here to put a negative light on my time in New York.  Far from it.  I have learned more here than I ever thought possible.  I have found more than I ever realized was missing.  And I have grown in a way that has taken me not away from Richard Scarry and Matchbox cars and playgrounds—but back towards it.  Into the places that an adult first feels they have to disown in order to grow, but the same places that a true adult must realize—at some beautiful moment—were really the point all along.

This applies to both my career and to my personal life.  The sad souls I have encountered here were just as much, in their way, excellent teachers as were the brightest humans I have touched or who have touched me. The days I felt the most defeated were required in order to have the days where I knew I was victorious.  And it was all part of a plan that led me here and that now, I know, is leading me away.  It might not happen today, or tomorrow, but there is a greater calling for me and a path down which I must travel.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Little Clues..

So often the little things are the best clues.  As I sit outside the place I work, watching the rats scurry about with an arrogance reserved for creatures with no fear or inept managers with tenure, my gaze falls upon the traffic lights.  They are among the brightest I have seen in New York.  The blubs gleam like a Macy’s Christmas.  The red and green and yellows—brilliant illumination—creating a safer intersection for the people and the rodents.  Even the WALK/DON’T WALK hands are piercing bright, easy to see from a far distance—surely a wonder of traffic engineering.

The only thing is this.  The intersection these lights guard—well, it no longer exists.  This portion of Brooklyn’s street grid fell victim long ago to the weapons of choice of urban planners.  Park benches, pavers, trash cans and a myriad other pedestrian plaza features that occupy the spaces were cars used to go.  As a result, the streets are little more than driveways and imagination and memory.  Whatever remained of the urban flow was removed in the name of security. $200,000 guard shacks, concrete barriers and some fencing help secure the scene from evil delivery trucks, wayward students attending the nearby schools and Chinese food delivery drivers on scooters that are more duct tape than anything else.  All manners of evil are halted from progressing onto our “campus”—never mind the busy streets on the other side of the building or the fact that our public safety communications facility is downwind by less than a mile from one of the nation’s most likely terror targets.  The gates and the dozing blue uniformed sentries will ensure our safety.

You have to wonder, as the light goes through its cycle—red to green and back again.  How many other things here do the same? Onward without learning?  Performing a function admirably that no longer needs to be performed.  It is as though an elevator operator pressed the button for you, even though you could do it yourself—or, worse, even though you were in a one story building. 

So much of this city seems to be this way.  Inertia is a powerful, powerful force.  It can drive organizations, people, places—stoplights and walk signs—well on past the moment they were useful or even necessary.  I think about this as I ponder my own future—where my own needs will take me and as I try to find inside—in the places that cannot be guided by an illuminated white or red hand—the map that will say where to go. 

My only certainty is that it is a different place.  Away from the humans that so brazenly walk amongst the rats and the people and things that so blindly continue on—never realizing how much has changed around them. And likely without the comforting light of a street light that has long ago lost its street.

You mean everyone isn't like me?

It wasn’t supposed to be this way.  The internet revolution and its prophets promised us a world of greater information—greater understanding—conference calls between students in Indiana and China while Cyndi Lauper sang “True Colors” and a mother in Kansas knitted a quilt made from Afghan fibers and the entire world learned to live along with concepts of interdependence and shared common good.  Somewhere in that dream resided visions of greater concern for the environment—and end to wars (at least unjust ones) and more fulfilling lives.  I remember those commercials?  Do you? 

Sadly, the stories of our “Modern times” have not born out all the words of the Lauper song just yet.  Along our yellow brick road we are having to deal with Assad’s gang of murderous thugs, Chinese currency manipulation, stop and frisk policies in the minority neighborhoods of New York City and a thousand other examples where the “old empire” will just not yield to all the progress—all the societal change—that were supposed to have been fully realized about 500 issues ago of PC Weekly.

If you are looking for evidence that things haven’t gotten much better it is not be hard to find—it’s out there every day.  But I would argue that we are seeing examples everyday, in these clinging old guard stories, of just how much progress has been made.  Unfortunately, the very tools that have brought us so far so fast—there is Black President for God’s sake!—have also permitted those afraid of change, of growth, of progression—to cling to the old and the familiar and the stable—with all their might.  The greatest of their tools are money and—the internet. 

Beyond encouraging people of the earth to connect and grow and share and learn, the internet has permitted, like any good tool, people to make of it what they will.  For those so inclined, it is a vast resource of curiosity, of knowledge, of answers and connectivity.  For others, however, it is a tool to reaffirm beliefs, suspicions and ideas that may have little basis in truth, or reality, but none-the-less can find validity in the simple quantity of those who share the same creed.  It is an often cited political theory that even an outright lie will be accepted as truth if you simply say it enough times—and there are many opportunities to hear (and read) the same lies on the internet—in countless forums, pages and sites that are subject to no arbitrator of truth.  That is a necessary element of freedom—people can say what they want—but when people put those believes into practices that invade the political sphere—a dangerous line is crossed. And some type of counteraction must occur.   

This is an understandable and inevitable side of effect of people insulating themselves from what they don’t know—or don’t care to experience.  I find it somewhat revealing that only 71% of Americans actually know a gay or lesbian person according to a recent survey—but equally amazing to match the increasing percentages of support for marriage equality with the equivalent increase in that “awareness number”.  What is shocking is the simplicity in the finding—as people come to see that LGBTQ people are more than the comic (will and grace) or the stylish (most shows on HGTV)—but that we are real people with real desires and that those are the same as anyone else—well how can the answer be anything other than encouraging the same rights for LGBTQ people as anyone else?

But the road goes both ways.  The same sharing of information of experience that can drive a growth in understanding or acceptance can facilitate a misperception or a lie.  Take for example the “Birthers”—those who just can not let go of their deeply held belief that president Obama was not born in the State of Hawaii.  Never mind that it doesn’t even matter—he’s already President for God’s sake.  Never mind the evidence.  Never mind the historical record.  Never mind the Birth Certificate.  Never mind the constitutional reality that, as long as his mother was a US citizen, which has never been in doubt, that Obama was automatically a citizen as well.  Ask John McCain about this as well—given that he was born in Panama.  

More on the point, it is the feedback loop of similar opinion—of always hearing from those who believe exactly like you—that permits this type of thing to continue.  And the desire of those who do know the truth to not offend potential political supporters (See again comments from John McCain in the 2008 campaign and compare those comments to more recent ones) that stops any chances of educating these false opinions out of the system.  Another example was the recent 60 Minutes interview where Eric Cantor’s (current house majority leader) aide came unhinged because Leslie Stahl asked about Ronald Reagan’s tax increases.  This simple-minded fool could not believe that Reagan had done so and called out Stahl for “lying”—despite mountains of historical records that can never be in doubt.  When even those in our elected political culture demonstrate this much disconnect—can it be any wonder of the atmosphere that our politics now reveal?

When the leaders and figures who do know better fail to do so, it must fall on the media to exercise some shred of polite instruction—however they too desire more not to offend with truth (or rightful scorn) than to set the record straight.  Leslie Stahl did try to set the record straight—but to even entertain this nonsense without laughter is to give more credibility than is ever deserved.  Further, the voter, the greatest stakeholder, seems to see nothing wrong with this—especially when falsehoods uttered by politicians only further their own incomplete or inaccurate views.  Comments permitted on websites after news stories are a wonderful example of allowing the public to have its cake and eat it too—as those who just don’t agree can offer their own assessment of reality—regardless of the reporters research, the comments of someone interviewed or the basic reality of the story.  

It didn’t used to be like this.  In a world of more limited media choices—otherwise known as the 1970s—before the days of cable news and websites—the reality required people to get their news from sources that were much different, and, in my opinion, much more robust.  Newspapers focused on traditional—more researched journalism, as did TV news.  There will likely never be an Edward R Murrow or Walter Cronkite on the news again—the price is just too high—and people wont invest the time to hear what someone has to say—especially when its something they might not want to hear.  So they turn the channel, or go to the website that agrees with them—and won’t challenge them—and no one grows at all.  No growth in their exposure, in their mind, or in their heart.

And, as a result, we all suffer.  Especially when these sheltered people gain prominence in the political sphere.  When unquestioned assumptions and beliefs become something that no one will challenge, least of all the media who are now encouraged to value all sides—we all begin to loose not just the truth but the touchstones of society.  The very basis of our history becomes a matter of debate or interpretation.  Any community must have some of these common points to build on—or else the whole package can disperse into three hundred million questions of perspective.  More importantly, we gradually loose the ability to learn from history—from our mistake and our successes—if history becomes not a question of fact but rather political prospective and uneducated opinion. For although you may analyze history from any number of prospectives—you can not change what actually happened.  

Until we learn, as part of our progression through this new age, to not take assumption as fact; to encourage people of all political persuasions to expand their horizons; reward and elect politicians with courage to think and offer even hard truths, return critical thought to the academic world at all levels, (and replace an academic culture of success revealed by test scores); then we will often fail to meet the promise of the new age of information. We will loose out on the successes that this age can bring to the whole host of problems that face the human condition—and we endanger the rich fabric of our nation as become isolated from the experience and the ideas and differences that made up our melting pot.  It is a horrible stew that has only one ingredient and as long as so many people use the internet simply to become modern members of the flat earth society—and until people are willing to call them out and refuse to entertain the ignorance—instead of the power of possibility, we will be constrained to the power of ignorance.  History is never kind to those who bathe in waters of close-mindedness—I just wish someone would tell that to the birthers. But they probably wouldn’t listen.