March 15, 2013 / Posted by admin / COMMENTS (0)

Upscale Casual

A Piece of Earth

When you lose someone, where do they go? That is a question that stirs us as a species. It is the reason we pray and congregate. Sometimes it’s why we war with each other. It’s a crummy truth and the question we ache after, and the first one to ask God. Why do we have to lose people we love? It’s probably the most profound way to realize how much we loved someone, that in their loss and absence we are spun out of control. We may react with rage, sorrow, hysteria, or catatonia, but we react.

The most optimistic view of the after-life is that we meet each other again. I picture a warm house party, with everyone, but where else might people have to go, you know how hard it is for couples to navigate the holidays down here. How is that problem solved? Well, time and space are different, you hear people tell you, like a Trekkie trying explain the Vulcan Mind-Meld.

The pessimistic view is one I won’t delve into because I’m attempting to change my attitude and the recent attitude adjustment has proven useful and possible and I think the worm food imagery is cliche. But, the worm food reality actually does provide some comfort.

My grandmother was in her 80’s when I was born and made it to 102, she knitted all of her grandchildren an afghan. One winter night, years after her passing, in New York, I pulled the afghan over me and said out loud, “Thank you, Grandma.” Not spine tingling, but her hands made that blanket, that blanket was in my hands, her presence was felt and it was comforting.

I lost a dear friend years ago, he was too young, and it rocked my core. He was a spiritual guy, in way I had never known before. He was cremated and his wish was to have his ashes spread under the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. I had never been and the beauty of the landscape helped me understand him more. We followed his wife over a fence and down the coastline. I was wearing white linen pants, cursing about the terrain, laughing to myself at how much this would have amused my friend. There was no ceremony on the shore, his wife released his ashes, people stared off and had their moment. On the way back up the embankment I picked up a rock. I wanted to have something to hold onto.

I kept it in my pocket, now I keep it on my desk. It is a piece of Earth. A piece of matter. We are all made up of matter, molecules. We all matter, and when we return to the Earth we are joined again, that is the comfort I can hold onto. It’s why I wear my father’s sweater, it’s why I hold this stone, it’s how I know we’ll meet again.

February 16, 2013 / Posted by admin / COMMENTS (0)

Stamps and Philosophy

Today is my Father’s birthday. He’s no longer with us, and today I wish he was here more than most. That aside, it has dawned on me that he was born in February which is Black History Month. This was a later development and had nothing to do with my dad, but as I try and compose a post I bring it up.

I think Black History Month is misnamed, and I think it’s inadequate, and sad that we demarcate a mere month to the contributions of African Americans. It should be American Black History Month, and the history should be better known.

The other day I was at the Post Office, a place that comforts me for some reason, even if the line is long. I was there to send a registered letter, it was a letter to sever a business relationship and I was very anxious about the whole process.

As I waited, a tense exchange occurred between a white woman and a black man. The woman was a bit brusque about where the line ended. The gentleman informed her that he was at the end of the line, and she would need to wait like the rest of us. Perhaps, it was my discomfort to do what I was there to do, or my general lack of confrontational skills, but the situation was diffused both by humor and the man’s ability to stand his ground and to do it in a way that wasn’t personal. As the line moved, the two continued to talk, they opened up to one another, a micro-friendship bloomed. The man held the woman’s spot in line as she left to feed her parking meter.

The woman returned and they started talking about, of all things, anxiety. I was eavesdropping like a banshee and I heard a quote that sounded like it was spoken in my ear. “Anxiety robs you of joy.” I was wound up over a business decision and forgot to be happy about a better opportunity. A small thing, but those words stuck in my head and spoke directly to part of my soul. Worry has been a constant in my life and it seemed to be such a waste in that moment.

Later I told a friend about the quote and he said, “it wasn’t an accident, that you heard that conversation.” I don’t know where I stand on the whole universe speaking to you, or God whispering to you, but it would be dense of me to miss the wisdom of the moment.

What does this have to do with my dad’s birthday or Black History Month? I might have lost that thread, but I think I can bring it full circle. I made my way to the head of the line, playing that game of which of the three windows will open up for me. There was a an Asian woman and an Asian man, and the third window had an African American woman. The chime and number blinked on the screen telling me which window was ready to serve, I wound up at the black woman’s window. I had my forms and she processed my mail. She spoke the automatic up-sell line that all postal workers utter at the end of a transaction, “Do you need stamps?”

“Yes,” I said, and she pulled open her drawer. As I looked in the drawer, I saw the Liberty Bell Forever stamps and some other commemorative stamps, and then I saw a sheet and asked, “Can I have the Rosa Parks stamps?” There was a short pause and an unspoken shared smile, “You sure can,” she said perhaps surprised that a white guy would ask, or maybe just glad to sell an important stamp. I paid, told her to have a good day, and felt a certain peace wash over me. I had sent the letter, I had absorbed a nugget of wisdom, and I, and we, celebrated a brave woman who started a revolution, by standing her ground.

The Post Office is taking some hits lately, and maybe in some ways so has America, but our strength is in the people, the people who work at the Post Office, the people who need the Post Office, and the strength of one person like Rosa Parks, who remind us when we most need to be reminded, that our humanity must not be given to the powers that divide us. We have to stand up for each other and what’s right. And try to make each other proud as a people. That’s what those stamps are about, a man on the moon, a scientific breakthrough, and an African American woman getting her due in the history of her country.

I think my dad would appreciate such a sentiment. Happy Birthday, Dad.

February 5, 2013 / Posted by admin / COMMENTS (0)

Losing It

I meltdown, I lose it sometimes. I have anxiety and I explode over small things way too often. Hearing other people do it makes me laugh, which is the worst thing to do when a dude is losing his shit. It is a wave that I sometimes can’t stop, and when I think of other people laughing at me it might actually help me stop. Here are a couple beauties you might not have heard.

It’s embarrassing that I have approached this level of bugging out, I have empathy because I’ve been there, and I have sympathy because so far these meltdowns have been private. Who knows how I’d come off if there was a camera or a live microphone.

January 28, 2013 / Posted by admin / COMMENTS (0)

What’s In a Name?

I like my name. My Dad told me it means “Mankind”, which is weighty and cool. It’s also fairly unique. The only other Carl I knew growing up was on my Babe Ruth baseball team. It’s where I started referring to myself as Carl D.. Our team won the town series, with very little help from me or the other Carl, and we got jackets. Mine read Carl D., and his read Carl C., in cursive stitching and I wore that jacket everyday ’til about a year ago.

My mother was wary of names that could be shortened to a nickname, can you imagine being Dick for the rest of your life? Or Gordo? Carl is Carl and not much else can be done to it, other than adding a vowel at the end to try and mock me for being a girl — but even kids on a playground know that’s a hack insult.

Where my name takes a bad rap is in film and television. Carl is usually the name for a dullard, criminal, or a convenience store cashier. There are myriad examples, Sling Blade’s hero is Carl Childers, Bill Murray’s character in Caddyshack is named Carl. The guy who killed Patrick Swayze in Ghost is Carl, there’s a goofy Carl in an Adam Sandler film, and the list continues. There is also a recent sketch on SNL, that I haven’t seen, that causes people to warble my name loudly at the side of my head over and over again.

The only time you feel really bad is in a gift shop when you scan through the small license plates looking for your name. Carl is a 70% proposition, and it feels good when I see it, even to this day. We like seeing our names in print. I don’t know the number, but monograming must be a multi-thousand dollar industry. What does it say about us that we want to put our names on everything we can? Carl D. wonders.

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