This photo of a 98 year old veteran saluting and wearing his uniform one last time, has had an impact on me. It is not so much the swirl of patriotism, although that is impossible to put aside. It is about how the heart, mind , and the soul know no boundaries, other than the ones we place on them. The story as told to reporters doesn’t do justice to the power of the image for me. It’s the old adage of a picture being worth a thousand words that I’m applying .
The statement is obvious, “I left something behind in that war. I have never forgotten.” Maybe he lost friends, or a limb, but he most certainly came home a changed man. At the hour of his passing he wanted to make a statement and perhaps feel the fight or the pride of the uniform one last time.
We do an inadequate job of honoring our servicemen and women, and we do even worse in honoring our elders. This picture reminds us of both of those short-comings. To scold about our youth obsessed culture is as futile as getting someone with an iPhone to be part of a conversation. If another adage may be applied, it is, “Age is nothing but a number.” Put 40 years on some teen-idol-infant-terrible and you have no problem imagining him screaming at the neighborhood kids to get off his proverbial lawn.
Youth is a temporary state of being, so is being old. Life is temporary. But the effort to dress and salute the camera is an ageless impulse. That’s heart. That’s the soul. That’s something you had in your youth or you didn’t. Honor, duty, those are constants.
I am grateful that I never had to go to war. Yet I know that I will never know what it means to stand side by side with my brothers and sisters in arms, or what it means to stand for something bigger than me. Those in the service know that. And they never forget. It’s nice to say thank you and to have a concert once a year, and it fires me up to see the soldiers lip-synching along with the artist on stage. But, that gratitude fades for most of the year.
Why do we send our young to war? Obviously, it’s because of strength and agility and measurable physical attributes. But, mostly it’s the mind that can be molded and in some cases warped. So, while the internet is “broken” by the image of a posterior, we bury more soldiers and aging veterans, and make stars of children.
If you look at this soldier on his death bed and can’t see the fire in his soul that is housed in the temporary form of his physical being, you miss the point. I’m as shallow as the next guy, I like pretty things, but we need to start honoring character and youthful spirit which doesn’t have to fade when the body fades. The eyes, look into the eyes. Respect your elders, but remember that a shitty old person was a shitty young person. Respect heart, loyalty, honor, effort, things that will live on when we are gone. Man, that salute is something. That was a bad dude.
My buddy Matt Knudsen has a great podcast called Grabbing Lunch. The title, and the explanation are the same and brilliantly simple. You go to lunch with Matt and he records it. This episode was with another buddy Rawle D. Lewis and me. The link is below. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
While I might prefer the kind of roll-out that came with a Charlie Rose interview, I am thrilled and relieved to live in a day and age where I can independently publish my first book. The Drama King is now available for the Kindle and the Kindle App exclusively. Here’s the book description from the Amazon purchase page:
Publication Date: October 3, 2014
Before the inevitable struggle of an acting career, there is a period of time when the soul is stirred. Before a headshot photographer suggests a scarf, and a casting director answers the phone in the middle of an audition. A time when you are infused with the spark that started your artistic fire, and success is inevitable. There was a time to study, and submit, and work, and sweat, and wonder aloud, “Why am I wearing a scarf?”
From the shadows of Giants Stadium and the New York City skyline, to the privileged halls of Carnegie Mellon University a young man pursued a dream and got even more — an education.
Told with humor, THE DRAMA KING is an inside look at the high-pressure conservatory culture, and a struggle to find an identity transitioning from college to life in New York City. From the first blush of high school success and early romance, to the rigors of intensive theater training, from early career highs, to the personal lows that befall us all. THE DRAMA KING is for anyone who’s been through it, for the drama kings and queens eyeing a career in the theater, and for the people who have supported a loved one in the pursuit of an elusive dream.
It was a labor of love, mixed with insecurity and ambition, I think it’s honest and heartfelt, and I hope it resonates as relatable and perhaps a bit inspiring.
I am at a loss for words when it comes to presenting a 96,000 word tome, thanks in advance if you buy, read, review or recommend it.
Here’s the link:
In case you didn’t get a chance, I was back with my boys Jay Larson and Ryan Sickler, on their mega-funny podcast. Here’s the link:
I have tried to explain to myself and to others over the years what it means to be an artist and more specifically a performing artist. In my moments of despair and rantings I have said, “A performing artist has to be discovered in his time.” There is no Van Gogh in acting or singing, or stand-up. A great painting can be found in an attic and the artist gets his due posthumously, but not so for the performer. Yes there are recordings and videos, but to be in the same space and time as the performer has to be present tense.
As a Springsteen fan, who awaits a new tour, like some wait for the Pope, it dawns on me that Springsteen has never known the joy of being a fan at a Springsteen concert. He knows the joy of being the instrument of that celebration of life, but not what we get form the exchange.
Robin Williams was one such talent. He didn’t know the joy of seeing himself rock a stage with Herculean ability, across genres and media. Smarter people will discuss the less smart take that the burden of delivering joy to others can leave the performer empty. And maybe that is the main reason there is sorrow for the artist.
The uniquely human experience of watching or performing for others, is about as analogue as it gets. Technology can’t do what Robin Williams did. The random, human, manic and otherworldly energy are never to be duplicated, or pixelated or regurgitated; they can only be absorbed in a molecular way.
We can be entertained by a video of a cat struggling with a ball of yarn, but that doesn’t in and of itself constitute art. Seeing a true spirit cannot be condensed into little bits and bytes. This is not a technophobe rant mixed in with eulogy. It is a life affirming rant to remind us the power the human possesses. We created the machine (unless the Matrix is real) and we need to remember how connected we are.
We don’t mourn the loss of someone’s success or power, what they were able to amass — it wasn’t enough to keep that person happy. We mourn life. Because living means dying and we mourn a true genius because they made us feel special to be human. At least that’s the way it feels to me, at this moment, mourning someone I never met, who, personal tastes aside, was unquestionably gifted and in a rare percentile.
It’s tough to be human, tough to be alive sometimes, but I don’t know what else to do about it. I think it’s to try to be a communicator, to create, to connect, to.., I don’t know. I think I’m gonna call a friend.
It is hard not to jump on the bandwagon on a day that celebrates Jackie Robinson breaking the color line in Major League Baseball. I feel like it is overdone to comment, but then it dawns on me that it is more likely under stated, and more people need to see it as a major moment in our history.
Sports worship is way out of control, it is anesthesia, and over produced. It takes up more time than a part time job. Fandom is bordering on gangsterism and the live event has lost the joy that once was shared with children. That’s at the pro level. The tennis parent may have lost ground to the baseball parent, or to the grooming of a 12 year old quarterback, who now has more in common with a figure skating brat than an aspiring Joe Montana. It is hard to defend sports to the bullied alternative kids in high schools across the country, when the Friday Night Lighters are still ruling the roost. And, yet, I still can’t take the con side of the argument of the value of sports in our society, as it relates to race. It’s power to traverse hatred of generations is at a light speed compared to what a mumbling politician pokes at, or a battering ram to the staunch racist codger who ran on a platform of continued oppression.
Baseball put racism on blast seventeen years before it was the law of the land. While that is an appalling statistic it is why credence to the power of teamwork and the shared conditions of team sports, forces us to see each other’s humanity. Similar to the color lines being broken on factory lines with the Great Migration and union brothers forced to unite for common goals, sports and Jackie Robinson stepped first into the dawn that was too long in coming.
The nature of fandom also slid the scale, did you bleed Dodger Blue or only “all white” Dodger Blue, did you use a different color pencil to fill in a run scored by Jackie? Did you begin to see the smooth turn of a double play as good for your squad, or would you give the “out” back because the black guy got the assist? Putting these silly questions to the test illuminated the absurdity of racism and the notions of inferiority and superiority.
The edges have been taken off the story for Hollywood, it seems too long to wait for the story to go before the lens. Yet, the power of the story still moves. It’s the story of love. Love that was dormant for a nation, love that is, perhaps, ebbing in this society, and needs to be mentioned in both large and small print.
I played baseball as poorly as most and maybe a bit worse than that. As a kid, I injured my knee and missed a season that ended with a championship. I sat in the dugout in my knee brace and clapped and supported. We were given championship jackets and I got one. I commented to no one in particular that I didn’t really do anything to deserve the jacket. Our best player, an older, alpha dog, who wasn’t long on sensitivity overheard my lament. He said, “fuck that, you’re part of the team, you were here, you deserve that jacket.” I was and still am grateful for the sentiment. My teammate showed me love. That Jackie Robinson had to wait for that kind of minimal support from his teammates is heartbreaking. As the love began to take over, and humanity stepped in, mirroring itself over the rest of the team, they became champions.
People who carry love as their strength are seldom as vocal as those who carry hate. Days like these have to be force fed, not to sway the haters, but to wake up the lovers. Love isn’t soft, it’s tough and needs equal time with the foul wind that spit at Jackie, or threw at his head, or hurled slurs. Reasonable people need to get loud and start taking unreasonable amount of real estate in the national discourse. That’s what Jackie Robinson, Branch Rickey, the Dodgers, and the sport of baseball did on this day in 1947.
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