2.23: A Curious Tale

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: A person calls 911 and when cops arrive on scene an overzealous officer mistakes the caller for a perpetrator and kills the caller. The website copblock has dozens of these stories, with victims ranging from 7 to 70. This particular story doesn’t come from copblock.org. It comes from CNN and, apparently exclusively from CNN in terms of the major 3 American news outlets. However, this story is different than most and those differences might be why the story cannot gain traction.

The specifics of this Minnesota horror story remain a little murky, but here is what we know: Justine Ruszczyk, a 40 year old Australian-American woman, called 911 and reported a possible assault/rape in an alley. Cops arrived on scene quickly and quietly. They drove up to alley with the car lights, headlights, and sirens off. Officers heard a loud sound near the car window. Ruszczyk approached the window and officer Mohammed Noor, a Somali-American, shot her. She was in her pajamas. She was not armed. From what I can gather the officer was startled by her appearance at the window and reacted. He has refused to comment on the shooting.

If you want to break this down in racial terms, because ultimately people have begun to look at police shootings in this fashion, a black cop shot a white woman. Or in ‘Dateline and 20/20 terms’ a black cop from a predominantly muslim nation shot a pretty white woman engaged to be married. The adjectives (or circumstances) matter in many ways. I believe they are responsible for why the story isn’t gaining traction. I completely admit that I thought these conditions would be exactly why the story got a lot of attention. However, I understand completely why I was wrong. If you break this down in racial terms, it destroys the predominant ideological viewpoint of the story and makes the story about the one thing we aren’t actually willing to address.

The media is largely ignoring this story. A search of msnbc reveals no mention of the story, even using keywords. Fox doesn’t have any mention of the story either, and in fact their biggest Minnesota story is “Fish attack at Minnesota lake leaves girl, 11, with deep lacerations to her foot, leg” which makes all the sense in the world because their FoxTech page leads with the headline “BIRTH OF ‘DEMON GOAT’ TERRIFIES TOWN; POLICE ARE CALLED” Yeah, I’m adding the pic.

 ID:3564421 DYN98, SAN LUIS 19/07/2017, UN CABRITO NACIÓ EN UN CAMPO EN LA ZONA NORTE DE SAN LUIS CON UNA MALFORMACIÓN QUE HACÍA VER SU ROSTRO SIMILAR AL DE UN HUMANO, LO QUE GENERÓ CONMOCIÓN EN LA PROVINCIA TRAS LA DIFUSIÓN DE SU FOTO POR LAS REDES SOCIALES.FOTO:DYN/GENTILEZA.
I’m not going to spend any more time bashing Fox here right now. Rather I want to point out that local Minnesota newspapers, The Australian, and Essence magazine are closely following the Minnesota shooting, leading me to believe that it is not fake news but instead inconvenient news. It is inconvenient because it furthers a narrative that cops are in fact human and as such are prone to the mistakes of humans and, sadly, are being asked to behave beyond human expectation. We expect them to be trained not to react out of fear and anger–essentially to remove emotion from the equation. This is not a standard they can live up to. If we make it about race then we can either sweep the story under the rug or, more simply, distract audiences by talking about race. However, the racial makeup in this case means that it is likely not about race and more about an unfortunate human reaction that is supposedly trained out of our police force but cannot be. 
I have every ounce of respect for law enforcement. Many members of my small family have been on one side of the blue line or the other. I have written letters to help get family out of jail and stood proudly as the flag was folded for family members at police funerals. Both sides say the same thing. The badge on your chest gives you a responsibility, but it doesn’t change the blood running through your veins.
Some Thoughts:
  1. Why are sex terms so violent? Smash? Really?
  2. Why am I constantly thinking about sex? You betray me, Lizard brain!
  3. Why is thinking about sex a bad thing?

 

 

2.22: Beyblade, Old not Being Old, and School Decisions

I closed the door on the crazy gaggle of kids outside, aware of the power of 4th child. I didn’t have 4 children but often a 4th (and 5th, 6th, 7th, even 8th) shows up. The volume effectively doubles with each kid. After a while you can hear them down the block. After a while you can hear them in the afterlife. The thing that brings forth the most squeals of joy and disappointment is a game called BeyBlade. I enjoy playing it with them to a point. That point breaks off when the screams get out of control and or when it gets to the point where one kid is totally dominating every match over and again. We are at the point now where the kids are largely even. Mid kid has an advantage with one particular beyblade, but overall there is not a clear superstar. Well, maybe me. Of course last night I was utterly destroyed to the point where I was eliminated outright in the first round. New experience right there. It is all part of getting old or older. As they age and I age the sweet spot shifts away from me and towards them. Good for them. Not for me.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Check out James Harrison, a professional football player who is in one of the most physically demanding and thus youngest skewing positions in the league.

https://twitter.com/SInow/status/888078038021419008/video/1

Yep, that is an 1800 lb sled going backwards. Below he and his far younger group of teammates and friends are playing catch over a volleyball net. With a 100 lb medicine ball. 

http://www.nfl.com/videos/pittsburgh-steelers/0ap3000000820790/James-Harrison-s-IMPRESSIVE-medicine-ball-throw

Yeah, that happened. I’m planning on putting that game into play with my boys. Six pound variety though.

While I am on the subject of kids, I am in a strange place with the school situation. I realized recently that my eldest son has his heart set on a High School, but I don’t have any real desire to live within the boundary of that school. All three are in that district, leading me to recognize that I may be called upon to live in that district. Or drive.

Weak sauce.

 

Some Thoughts:

  1. Call. Coffee. Write.
  2. Funny how kids decide not to eat breakfast the moment you decide not to cook it. What ever happened to making cereal? Pop Tarts? Why does every morning require me to don the smile and apron of dear Aunt Jemima?

2.21: Spaces

I write from this odd little rectangular office that is partially painted and filled with the sort of bric-a-brac meant to inspire writers such as myself. Whether or not this is effective is highly debatable and largely irrelevant at this stage, because it is also filled with piles of mess of the sort that makes any form of concentration exceedingly difficult.

Still I write.

Yesterday I wrote at a slick bar/coffee shop called Grand Central, which was built out of a old train facility in downtown Phoenix. I don’t think slick is even right. It lives in that space between hipster and genuine cool. The people that were there spanned multiple generations. There were groups of white hairs and groups of 18 year olds and everything–including me–in between. I liked it. I liked the dim lights and the music and the ‘just out of the way’ big screens projecting landscapes. This place felt good to write in, and I want to feel that way whenever I sit down to write.

The place you write needs to help your mood and energy, not distract from it. If your focus is on dealing with the place you are at then you aren’t accessing the stream. You aren’t joining with the idea of story and pulling the truth and message from that. Last night I was watching ‘Her’ at an indie theater and the seat I sat in was just below the AC vent. By mid movie I was completely frozen and had to get up and walk out several times to warm myself. It hindered the experience. I didn’t want to look for another seat in the crowded theater. Where I was afforded an easier and less disruptive opportunity to just walk out. However, the spot did make it hard for me to be fully in the film. This is the same way in which a space that is less than ideal prevents you from being fully in the writer’s mindset. In order to truly achieve excellence you ought to be fully in the writer’s mindset. The place you write ought to allow for that.

 

Some Thoughts:

  1. Here is some insider info: This is my new teeshirt connect: www.teepublic.com

2.20: On Story and the Blank Page

I think the toughest and most dread-filled moment a writer has is the moment s/he stares at a blank page. In that moment is all the joy and possibility of being a writer but also all of the fear. We take this frightful step in the divided way people tear off a bandaid. For a time I was the hesitant one, anxious and frightened by that brief burst of pain sure to come at first tug, yet ignorant of the truth of the lasting pain of tearing it off slowly no matter how many times I completed the ritual.

Over time I came to rip it off quickly. I would sit without gathering my thoughts in full and write. What spilled from my imagination was more curdled milk than sweet milk, but the act was done and I could finally dig into the real of the story.

Over time that confidence (or was it lack of concern or fear) faded and the slow tear away rose in my mind. This is when writing resembled chore more than pleasurable work. Even then I would have occasional nights of sitting at the laptop and being tickled by a turn of phrase or excited to see the words of a conflict unfurl themselves in slow pecking succession.

My love for writing dimmed darkest at the height of my success. It isn’t that I told stories purely to be published but that I expected each story to top the last, and that is not a realistic goal. Each story is its own thing and not each will be superior to the former, the way each child will be different than yet not superior to the one birthed before him. I could not square that reality with my expectations and everything in me eroded.

That expectation isn’t gone entirely, but I am also not the carefree writer just excited to tell cool stories–not yet at least. What I am doing is falling back in love with cool stories and reading the truly shaping and meaningful ones with the person I pour my love into so that together we might find new understanding and renewed faith in what is possible in story.

And beyond.

Some Thoughts:

  1. I recently learned that it takes 6,693 reps (give or take) to form a muscle habit. I expect I’ll be testing that theory.
  2. My coffee maker is stuck on the clean cycle. No wonder they dropped the price. Folks knew it was messed up.
  3. There I go thinking the very worst of people. I often behave as though I am in the world of the walking dead or that of Roland the Gunslinger where I know the world is full of harriers and I and my ka-tet are the only ones I can trust to be reliable.
  4. My ka-tet is very small and doesn’t include most who would be called blood kin.

2.19: That Football Post

In my efforts to get a little more ‘loosey goosey’ with the way this blog works I’ve stayed away from formalized days for certain ideas. No Waiver Wednesday, in other words. No fantasy football at all, in fact. I started to feel like the fantasy aspect of the game was changing my relationship with the game. I recognized that I was routing for statistics and individual achievements, often to the detriment of the team I enjoyed watching. Imagine watching your favorite team and hoping beyond hope that someone scores on them. No, that sucks. However, that is the conundrum of fantasy, because you are pretending to be a GM and managing players outside of the actual context of their responsibility.

This is not a knock on fantasy football. I enjoyed it for many years. Now I am taking time off. Instead I am going to enjoy the game in the classic sense. For me that means watching two games at once while I play Madden on a 3rd monitor. Yeah, that’s happening. Happening August 18th, actually.

In the meanwhile I do love the hype and buildup of the preseason and the training camps. I treat these things as important to the sport as the game itself. Pre-season camp is where bonds are made and rookies show out and under performing vets have a chance to show that they still have what it takes to be in the show.  That kind of drama doesn’t often translate outside of football. There is no training camp for office work or even teaching. The ability to touch that tension gives me access to more story and a wider breadth of what I understand. Given my brief relationship with collegiate athletics I completely understand a great number of the tensions and storylines and needs and wants, etc. In the end, that understanding adds to my enjoyment and builds up more firewood for story.

Turns out everything in my life boils down to story. Even the characters in the Madden fantasy are more than just code. They too have imaginary lives and tensions and familial relationships and needs…

Basically what I’m revealing here is that I am a big weird nerd. Or maybe a geek. I took a quiz recently, and it said I am fairy normal which indicates being geek or nerd (or dork) is somehow abnormal. Fuck that quiz.

2.18: Reflections on a Monday Morning

A while back now, in that space when the blog died, I made a decision to limit my responsibilities to as little as I can possibly do and still be happy with the amount of ‘life’ in my life. I felt that the limitations allowed me to place more energy and time into the things that matter. I wouldn’t be scrambling for time to accomplish X,Y,Z, Z3, etc. One of the hardest choices I made was the choice to continue coaching for one last season. I felt I owed it to my eldest boy to be his tackle football coach at least once. He’s played multiple seasons of tackle–twice on championship teams and once on a team that couldn’t win a single game. This latest defeating season pushed him out of football for a while. It wasn’t the losing as much as it was the awareness that the coaches didn’t really have a plan or sense of cooperative spirit–basically anything going on that made the season feel like something worth participating in.

I don’t even think he took his trophy.

That season I coached the mid-kid and later I coached the ‘baby’. Now, despite understanding the workload, I decided to coach him. It is going to be a herculean task to coach a squad of 19+ 12 year olds, most of whom have no tackle experience. Somehow I need to turn that situation into success.

My role in the endeavor is as offensive coordinator. I teach the plays, mostly call the plays, and work with the HC on a system to get the plays on the field. This is my first time in that role and I decided to play it smart and use a pre-developed offensive system that has been ‘grass-tested’ enough to work for kids like the ones I am dealing with. It is going to be quite a challenge.

I hope I am ready.

Some Thoughts:

  1. I used to wonder how I would handle the blog once it got up into the high thousands. It is cumbersome to say 10,083. I can’t use the stardate-esque 1.634 anymore given the reboot. I may just go with the ‘k’ shorthand.
  2. At least I’m expecting the blog to get there. After last night I just appreciate the fact that I’m here to blog at all. I woke several times shaking with fear and convinced that someone was tugging on my blanket. Hard. Fortunately there was nobody there–not physically and it didn’t feel like there was anything else present in the space either. I’m going with ‘it was just a bad dream’
  3. I will not be able to make the solar eclipse. Next one is in 2024. I’m extremely hurt by this, especially given that the love of my life will be there.

2.16: On Character and Ka

Here is a truth: Game of Thrones matters because of the vast array of often compelling characters put in situations to respond to extreme violence and sexuality. In other words, it isn’t just the conditions that interrupted their lives (the plot) but the characters themselves and the programming that each of them are born into that codes their response to the obstacles placed in their path.

We are all set upon a path. It wide and roughhewn, pointing in every possible direction. The act of living creates obstacles that fall unto that path and trigger us into motion or drive us to end our own journey. The act of moving, or not is often called self-determinism. I don’t know that naming a thing here really matters. It gives it power, yes, and even a framework by which to discuss from a philosophical or psychological standpoint, but ultimately discussing the composition of our motivations isn’t what this is about.

It’s about the characters.

The beauty of a story is to recognize the soul of the indivdual(s) living in it and to root for them or to hate them or wish them harm or joy or pleasure or ka. In that way we become a sort of ka-tet with the characters. I’m using King’s terms here. We become linked with them–the well written ones–or we wear them like pants and live in their place in the story and thrill with the movements that are made as they are to our liking or they are not.

Characters populate worlds and words and for any writer to find their way back to the heart of story they must find their way back to character.

Some Thoughts:

  1. Everything in the Universe happens for a reason, even if that reason is the butt remainder of some great and distant equation. It remains within our power and ability to give ourselves reason beyond the hand that shaped us. This, I believe, is central to the idea of being conscious.
  2. A long time ago Stephen King tapped into something in that way that authors sometimes do–In the way that Game of Thrones did, but greater more fully and deeply and more connected to the idea of real and true people–the ones who are awake and the ones still asleep, drifting along the path of their perspective beams or adrift between them.

2.15: All Today’s Parties

Call. Coffee. Post.

Last month I took a look at my responsibilities and was pleasantly surprised at how little was on my plate. Not that there were no tasks to be accomplished but how little I chose to make an active part of my life left a ton of time to just be. Turns out I needed just a bit more to do. More specifically, I needed–need a better way to use that downtime.

What I’m getting at is… I watch a lot of bad TV. I suppose I could make an argument for watching bad TV as a way to understand good story, but that is just arguing for the sake of covering things up. No, I watch trash. In fact, I stayed up till two in the morning last night watching Popstar and I know this isn’t the first time I’ve seen it. I could’ve been reading Beacon 23, one of the latest releases from Hugh Howey. In truth, I could’ve been doing my own Howey–creating maverick stories in my bedroom and releasing them into the world on my terms.

What I’m getting at is… The infinite nature of time is an illusion. It is also a comfort. I put off to tomorrow the important work of today because there is going to be a tomorrow where I can actually buckle down and work. This allows me to slough off the burden of today in order to ‘recharge’ for tomorrow.

What I’m getting at is… Tomorrow is illusory. Today is the last moment you are guaranteed for anything, so each day ought to be optimized to make the best use of it. Patience is good, but don’t wait forever. Don’t wait so long that you wake up old, fat, and sad having not accomplished a single thing.

What I’m getting at is… Today is a gift. unwrap it with the joy you had as a kid on your birthday or christmas or the first time you went to the park.

2.12: In position for success

So you wanna be a winner? Stop being a loser!

It was that sort of early life advice that had me realizing that the answers to personal success were not going to be found anywhere near my zip code. I grew up in Harlem, NY where success was defined on two levels. To most, success was staying out of jail and off the smack. My success in that regard was preordained. I lived in an area where the village very much strove to raise the child. If I stepped out of line anywhere in a ten block radius my mother would not only know about it but would be told in a cheerful way by someone who wanted to quickly remind her that her shit did indeed stink.

I was that shit.

The other level of success in Harlem felt way out of reach to just about everyone. Those who made it still walked among us, but it was clear that you reached that level of success by having a unique talent or coming from old money. If that talent was not readily apparent then you were tracked into a mundane existence. My mother wanted me to be a garbage man. The kid who lived across the street and played his drumsticks nonstop on the top of a bucket, he was told to shut up and learn a skill. They told him that everyday. But Larry had a unique talent and it took him somewhere.

We had a place around the corner called Striver’s Row. It was all fancy looking brownstones down one narrow street. These houses–and they were houses–had small backyards and nice cars cluttering the narrow street. These were the doctors and lawyers and folks who were in many ways Harlem royalty. These were the ones who had something and took it to the top.

I grew up next to all of this, noticing what it was like to see success but not be it. It hurt me a little, I suppose, because when I finally tasted success I rested on that for a long time and lost all momentum. Now, I’m in a spot where success is almost invisible in the rear view. I’m living off the dying glow of work I did years ago and there is no new kindling of the imagination to strike a match to. Changing that will take time and effort.

Some Thoughts:

  1. I think the primary problem between me and the rest of the world–especially the love of my life–is communication. Namely, I have trouble really hearing and understanding what people are saying. I often spend that time interpreting what I think is being said and not said. Unlearning is taking a while.
  2. I miss Obama. I miss the cool collectedness of the one time leader of the free world. He didn’t create problems. He fixed them.
  3. I missed the obvious 211 reference yesterday.

2.11: On Male Relationships

Lately I’ve been searching for topics to write about. One that continues to swirl in my head is the idea of modern friendships. Ever since that stretch of bachelor party movies that started, probably in the 80’s, there has been the question in my mind of wha a friendship is supposed to look like. When I read novels that deal with friendship the topic is often treated with a lack of intimacy when it comes to male relationships as though the gender stereotypes supersede the ability to create interesting relationships. The same is generally true in real life. I have few male friends. Furthermore I have next to zero single male friends. This means the friendship dynamic there often involves a female who reinforces, in their particular way, the male stereotypes that put such limitations on male friendships.

I’m not really the go out for a beer kind of guy. I mean I’ll do it, and I’ll have a good time, but I don’t need an activity to create the necessity to hang out with a guy. My best male friend is like a brother to me and we call each other and talk about our lives and what is going on in them. I’m good with that type of bond. Lately I’ve been trying to recognize whether or not that singular situation is enough for me, or if I need more to be truly happy as a social creature.

I suspect the real answer to that lies in the idea of what I want to do with my time on this planet. Travel, see cool stuff, play video games. Notice I didn’t put ‘write’ there again. I guess I am still burnt out in that respect.

Some Thoughts:

  1. Loving someone often means putting yourself in a position to be hurt. When you love you open and you trust. Even the hurt then has value, because you learn what works and what doesn’t and you try.