04/28/15

City Lights

I grew up 20 minutes south of Baltimore. We used to chill at its Inner Harbor. The Constellation is docked there. I took some lady friends to a place called City Lights. Paddle boats. And the Aquarium.

I haven’t been there in 17 years, immediately after our wedding and honeymoon. We had a Ford Explorer full of personal belongings and music equipment. Two large speaker cabinets and amplifier/mixer head. A Dr. Boss sampler.

We improvidently parked deep in the city and the car was broken into and, ironically, the only thing stolen were are wedding photos. We scoured the nearby housing project for them only to find the empty boxes.

Two decades later its all broken out in riot. Baltimore and my life. We both need an inner harbor.

Written and performed by sintax.the.terrific. Produced by Dalama Jones.

Today’s blong here:

Inner Harbor

08/25/14

Taking One for the Team

My dad was a beat cop and career FBI.

ben

I was preached the perils and uncertainties of law enforcement my whole life. You just don’t know what you’re about to face in a car stop or home search or raid. And, so the justification follows that police should be accorded some measure of grace when they act preemptively or out of self preservation, in the chaos and melee of the arrest. I mean, I would. But, I’m also frightened of small dogs and that movie Cloverfield. I shouldn’t do any job that requires more courage than is necessary to use a public urinal or maybe ask politely for a refill at Chili’s. I’d never be a cop.

But, in the Michael Brown shooting and aftermath it has struck me that this rationalization of force seems wrong. The default is off.

In the ambiguity of a criminal altercation, especially where there is no apparent threat of deadly force, the safety and health of the suspect still remains paramount. They are a citizen. Due criminal process. The police officer’s own self defense and preservation cannot be the priority.

Officers have to be ready to have the crap beat out of them on occasion.

If you can’t resist an assailant with something less than your firearm, then either you take it like a man in the face or else change professions. You don’t get to open fire. I guess you could also baby cry, like I would. That’s another option.

There is great disagreement over the details in Ferguson. But, even assuming Brown is in the vehicle window punching officer Wilson in the face, as his defense would contend, well then maybe that’s the price we have to pay sometimes to live in free society fearless that our own paid law enforcement won’t shoot us unless absolutely necessary.

I’m not a Ferguson protestor. Don’t lump me in. There are reasonably two sides to this story almost for certain. I’m just saying government has to take the high road here.

And, for all my law enforcement buddies, I’d qualify further. These are instantaneous choices made under pressurized circumstances. But, our justice system will vindicate your sacrifice, whether it be partial or complete. And, the moral leverage in taking the a$$ whooping will do more to reinforce the rule of law than any disproportionate and questionable show of deadly force you could justify or explain after the fact.

Cops choose to do this perilous job. And, they talk a pretty tough game. I should know. They big willie me all the time. Wait. That didn’t sound right. But, either you’re big enough to take some physical punishment in the name of protecting all our citizens, even when they don’t deserve it, or maybe you’re just not that big.

Performed by theipoetlaureate. Music produced by dj transform. Lyrics here.

Today’s blong here:

Big

04/17/14

Freedom Trail Reprise

I’ll plagiarize myself from a year ago. I can’t say it any differently:

If you’ve ever been to Boston you’ve probably been forced to walk, likely by a mom or wife, some portion of the “Freedom Trail” against your will. You have to wonder why one must abandon so much self determination to walk a trail named “freedom” but, anyway. The Freedom Trail is, of course, a walking tour of Boston’s historic sites, where I’m proud to say I had a pair of Stan Smith’s re-cobbled only a few years ago. I also had a bracelet smithed out of a soup spoon.

Liberty is a type of collusion. An agreement among everyone to respect the rule of law in service of freedom. It’s completely voluntary.

Collusions, however, are easily broken. In fact, there is extraordinarily high incentive to do so. Our susceptibility to violence, therefore, is evidence of how well and complete the collusion of our liberty is working. We’re easy pickings. When an assailant from within or without violates the contract — the agreement not to fall into anarchy — they exact from us a cost. A toll for being so free, so open, so liberated. Our martyrs, whether at a marathon or in an elementary school or on a skyscraper, are a kind of penance paid to democracy and inalienable rights. Like a soldier or revolutionary, when we are murdered exercising our freedoms, even ones as routine as a road race, it is literally a kind of patriotic act. Every mundane act of our lives is a declaration that we would be free in spite of the ongoing danger to do so.

Pronation. It’s not just the roll of your foot when you run. It’s what we are when we run. Pro-Nation.

And, they’ll run again this weekend. A marathon and a freedom trail.

boston-marathon-map

Performed by ipoetlaureate. Music produced by juiceboxjackson.

Today’s blong here:

Pronation

01/27/14

Where I’m From

It’s sort of a joke among friends that I claim everywhere as my hometown.

So, I’m originally from Detroit. Well, actually I was born at the University of Michigan hospital in Ann Arbor. But, we lived in Pontiac. For four whole years. So, I’m really from Pontiac. But, I claim all three. And, I’ve seen 8 mile. And, I’m 1/16 Dodge Charger. On my mom’s side. So, all of Michigan. But, I’m pretty clearly Motor City.

But, I’m also from D.C. Actually, Northern Virginia. Or more specifically Burke, VA, in Fairfax County. But, I worked downtown two summers and went on a lot of field trips to see the triceratops on the mall. And, I vote fairly regularly. So, I’m pretty Georgetown. But, my grandparents retired to Harrisonburg, and I’ve been to the Luray Caverns. So, all of VA, basically.

I lived 8 weeks between the East Village and the Upper West Side. Plus, I saw Do the Right Thing. And, I love falafel. So, I’m NYC for sure. But, technically all white people are from NYC.

And, I’m from Charlotte.

And, Charleston.

My parents retired to Knoxville. Err, maybe not Tennessee.

But, my dad was born and raised in Alabama. So, Roll Tide. Or, I guess War Eagle. Or whatever.

And, my grandmother was born and raised in Greenville, SC. Where I live now. And, I eat boiled peanuts and cheer for something called a “gamecock.” So I’m basically deep south native.

When really pressed, I confess that I’m from the “Baltimore/Washington Metro area.” People know that place, right? Plus, it sounds way hip hop.

This gets the biggest eye roll from my wife and a quick, “You’re not from Baltimore or Washington.”

And, she’s right.

I’m from Columbia.

Maryland.

My last year of elementary school. Middle School. High School. First girlfriend. First Kiss. Learned to drive. Wore some rayon shirts. Played some ball. Made some friends. Wrote my first rap.

Columbia was part of the “New Town” movement of the seventies. It’s a planned community that prioritizes neighborhood autonomy and socio-economic integration through graduated housing and preservation of green space. And boredom. That’s not true. Columbia was amazing. In the belief of its founder, Jim Rouse, private developers “could plan and build an environment that nurtured the growth of people.” Pretty ambitious.

And, its neighborhoods sort of spoked around this hub called the Town Center, which featured a . . . get ready for it . . . mall.

But, don’t laugh. Malls were super cool in the eighties and all my best memories are from this one. It had giant glass pyramids coming out of the roof and a Spencers and Britches Great Outdoors and this hobby store upstairs that had one book of baseball cards that I checked every. single. week.

Unfortunately, this same mall was featured prominently this past weekend in national news when three individuals were fatally shot there. And, for better or worse this might be the last time my “hometown” makes any kind of significant news to cover here. And, so I’ve pretty unsympathetically bootstrapped my entire life’s story with it.

My deepest condolences to the families. I’ve tread the gun control issue before and won’t again. But, we clearly have a problem, whether or not it’s one that can ever be sensibly fixed.

Just like all hometowns, Columbia had its good and bad. In some ways it accomplished the diversity it promised and in other ways it was just more of the same.

But, Columbia reminds that for all our good intentions and smart design, you can’t demand community. Or good will. Or real understanding. You can’t make people like each other. Or promise never to shoot.

There are some things you just can’t plan.

Performed by theipoetlaureate. Music produced by Dalama Jones.

Today’s blong here:

09/19/13

PTA

Adam Carolla’s exhausting, howitzer-style commentary falls into one of three categories:

1. Wildly offensive, profane, vulgar, mysoginistic, borderline racist;

2. Non-lude/non-bigoted but still wrong; and

3. Pure-cane genius.

I was never into what I surmised about his type of comedy. The Man Show. Crank Yankers. Love Line.

More recently, Carolla has become a kind of political lightening rod and Hollywood pariah for his conservative politics, which I viewed dubiously, at best. I was confused why the inventor of “Girls on Trampolines,” had become such a darling of the socially conservative FOX News audience.

Of course, if you’re under about 35 you literally probably have never even heard of him. He has become culturally marginalized, except to his still quite large and insanely devoted fan base. Which he would rightly say is no kind of marginalization at all.

What was lost on me, and probably anyone else who had only viewed him through the crass, soundbite lens of these shows, is his world-class erudition, inexhaustible memory, impossibly fast improvisational wit, AND, believe it or not, deeply held moral sensibilities. Or maybe it’s just Aspergers. Regardless, the dude is crazy, crazy smart. Even when I don’t agree with him, which is probably well in excess of 60% of the time, I’m almost always impressed. And, laughing super hard.

But, the strangest, most stunning part of my experience with Carolla is inspiration. He has a LOT of opinions about behavior, responsibility, interpersonal etiquette, and human welfare. None of which he seems to personally practice, but who knew? Of course, like many modern conservatives, the value Carolla places on personal responsibility and self-reliance is too severe, taken to its logical and blanketed policy extremes. But, on an individual level, and for me specifically, I’ve been genuinely inspired by it.

Inspired to work harder.

To be a better dad and husband.

To expect more of myself.

To desire challenge and difficulty over leisure.

To laugh at third grade bathroom humor.

Things I already value and which are reinforced by other sources in my life but rarely so cleverly as Carolla’s unexpected take.

Weird, huh? He’s sort of ambushed my life with motivation.

And, potty talk.

As it turns out, Adam Carolla and my favorite sports commentator, Bill Simmons, The Sports Guy, are fast friends and through the years Carolla has made appearances on Simmons’ critically acclaimed podcast, The BS Report, which is how I came to be reintroduced to him, in the first place. But, the real king of podcasting is actually Carolla, himself, who now has the number one downloaded podcast in the world after his decision to leave radio four or five years ago. Which may be comparable to declaring yourself World Champion in Electric Football or War Hammer. Anyway, for his hilarious appearances on the BS Report, I found myself tempted to listen to the podcast of a man, I rejected as gratuitously profane (he is) and with whom I assumed I shared no intersecting cross-street (but, I apparently do).

Oh, and one other thing . . .

You should NEVER, EVER, EVER listen to him.

The aforementioned lavish praise should not be construed as any endorsement or recommendation of mine.
(Which, I know, is sort of like saying to your kids, “Whatever you do, don’t play with this bowie knife.”)

I say all of this by way of simple qualification as to why I am about to reference a podcast I wouldn’t recommend to a porn star fearing her lost innocence.

So, anyway, on today’s podcast, Carolla was discussing an open letter, written by the CEO of Starbucks, directed to certain legally armed and licensed gun owners recently patronizing his stores. Apparently, pro-gun advocates have been enjoying a cake pop, ready to pop off so to speak, as a kind of protest against anti-gun sentiment. Starbucks has kindly asked them to stop.

Oh, and, to pick up their iced mocha, which is ready.

Carolla off-handedly quipped that the presence of firearm carrying patrons would at least disincentivize madmen, bent on public massacre, from selecting Starbucks as a future target for the presence of armed patrons. This is a common motif on the pro-gun side: If citizens are armed, bad guys will either stop or be neutralized. Like in Wild West times, I guess. The conversation then turned to the Navy Yard shooting. Without noticing the irony, there was no acknowledgment that the Navy Yard shooter was not only not deterred by, but actually successful in murdering 12 at, a location which literally specializes in armed security – a Navy Yard.

And, this made me think about the argument for guns in schools. Or, what I’ve decided to call, the PTA (Pistol/Teachers Association). If the security at a Navy Yard fails to either deter or foil, before the death of 12, a gunman bent on violence, why would a pistol in the palm of Miss Pomegranate? (That’s some cheap alliteration, while we’re on the subject of education.)

I don’t think too many are taking seriously the suggestion that teachers carry guns. But, the bigger policy debate remains. Are we really safer with more guns in the public domain or less?

If the tragedy of the most recent shooting at the Navy Yard is any indication, however, don’t get too comfortable sipping your Dirty Chai. No matter how many baristas are strapped.

Written and performed by theipoetlaureate. Music produced Fab da Eclectic.

Today’s blong here:

Star Buck-Bucks!

08/1/13

The Girls

I normally stretch to remember the humanbeingness of serial killers, rapists, and sexual predators. The easiest take is to call them Monsters.

In just a few weeks’ time, we’ve seen the Ariel Castro plea and sentencing; heard additional allegations of another Ohio man holding three women; and, just the other day, learned news that a 15-year old was restrained in a box for hours at a time on a pot farm, in Northern California.

I assume it’s like autism or ADHD. Or planter fasciitis among athletes. Always been around but just now really diagnosing it. So it looks like a new problem, when it’s not.

If, in 2013, people can hide humans, unbeknownst to neighbors and family, for a decade, without discovery, then how often was this occurring let’s say 100 years ago, without equivalent law enforcement, abduction awareness, telecommunications, social media, and unrelenting news coverage?

100% more? 200%?

Or, maybe, it’s precisely for the privacy and busyness of modern life and the availability of technology and resources to carry out such horror in relative anonymity that the incidence of human hoarding is increased.

I ask myself:

Would I want my loved one victimized but left for dead or, eventually returned, but only after an unspeakable duration of imprisonment and irreversible physical and psychological torture?

That they would die.

But, the rate, now or historically, really doesn’t matter. The thought of just one. One woman. One child. One friend. Locked. Chained. Boxed?

I believe in a God that has specific, personal concern for people created. But, the very immediate cosmic inattention to our very bad behavior is a persistent and ruthless siege upon that belief. Eternity promises to make it all whole.

There really isn’t any other angle on these stories. Just their pain.

Missing Teens Found Alive In Cleveland Home

Written and performed by theipoetlaureate. Music produced Dalama Jones.

Today’s blong here:

The Box