50,000

Dearest Readers,

My blog struck a milestone yesterday evening.

With Rodrigo at my side I checked the number of hits my blog has received since I started writing it back in 2008.

And there it was: 50,000+.

I turned to Rodrigo and smiled broadly.

“It’s at 50,000 isn’t it?” he asked.

“Yes, Rodrigo, it is, thanks to you?”

“Me,” he asked.

“You’ve inspired me like the others. Without inspiration I couldn’t write.

“And without readers I’d never be read. And that’s a writers lifeblood: readers reading.”

Thanks to each and everyone that collaborated to make this milestone a reality.

On to the next milestone, 75,000!

Loving Men-Snow

Sometimes you don’t realize you miss something until you see it again.

snowfall1It’s snowing in Charlotte this morning. While not a blizzard, Charlotte’s citizens treat it as one. For me it signifies the start of winter. Winter is the one season that I don’t miss. What I do miss is that first snowfall. Which fell this morning in Charlotte.

I think too many see snow as an encumbrance, an obstacle, something to avoid or get rid of or dislike.

Snow makes me remember: That one Thanksgiving day when I was ten and walking snowyardacross the schoolyard on my way to Weinlien’s to buy a gallon of milk, and it was snowing lightly, flurries is what we called them, and I ran freely catching these molted angel feathers on my tongue.

Snow makes me remember: Sledding in the schoolyard where a dusting of fluffy snow snow1landed atop frozen rain causing gross miscalculations of body weight plus snow gear plus sled divided by depth of ice and pitch of schoolyard, resulting in my one out-of-control run sending me speeding into a fence which opened at the bottom and out I flew like a nylon torpedo onto the sidewalk three feet below.

Snow makes me remember: My Wheatie puppy, Jenni, running and barreling into snow, then standing up, her face covered with that ivory white icing.

Snow makes me remember with tremendous fondness times long past. Rain or sun or fog or thunderstorms or humidity does not make me remember.

Perhaps on a snow day when you didn’t have to go in to work like Rodrigo, or when you were dismissed early like Calhoun and Vincent, you could stop regretting the snow, or hating it’s mischieviousness, and remember those times when this white miracle made you smile.

Loving Men-Curiosity (Pup Stories)

Curiosity is the child in us.

I entertain my curiosities daily. When I think of myself living my life, I picture myself sandboxsitting in a large sandbox with my lovers pretending we’re sailors or bulldozers or explorers. While we’re undressing, I imagine we’re adventurers, and the unclothing of our bodies is akin to typography, scanning the mountainous terrain of shoulders and abdomens and hips and buttocks.

And each time I’m with my lovers, whether we’re in Paris or Charlotte or Palm Springs or Buenos Aires, I’m wholly entertained by them.

As lovers love, we’re also very curious about life.

I love my life. I really do. I’m blessed to be in the company of my lovers: Jean-Baptiste, Marc, Pup, and Luciano. They’re my seasonings, my pepper, my flavor.

Last night Pup and I were dining al dente. When we sat down I immediately took my napkin from the place setting and placed it in my lap. But Pup didn’t.

“Don’t expect me to put the napkin in my lap,” Pup chortled, “the napkin goes on your lap when your first course is served.”

“Oh, really,” I responded.

“Listen, Harlan,” Pup added, “I have excellent table manners.”

And then out came our iPhones and off we went to the races. We were foolishly scouring the internet for proper table manners, followed by belly laughs and smiles.

Curiosity is fueled by a distinctive degree of humility.

A Child’s Meditation

Hello, everyone. My name is Harlan and I’m going to lead you in a meditation.

Meditation is simply a way to relax your mind. Your mind is always thinking, even if you’re not thinking of thinking. Your mind is never really at rest unless it is told to be at rest. So, what I’d like you to do is to follow me, because I want to put your mind at rest.

But don’t worry, just because your mind might not be thinking, there are things we cannot silence. We cannot silence our mind to stop telling our lungs to breathe or our heart to pound. But through meditation, we can ask our lungs and heart to slow, which provides us relaxation. Relaxation is something that benefits our bodies and our minds.

There’s nothing to fear in meditation. Meditation is like prayer. There’s nothing to see; nothing to hear; there’s no success; and, there’s no failure. Nothing will happen to you. I promise, nothing. The only thing that may happen is that you may feel calm. Calm like a pond; calm like sleep; calm like a windless wind.

If there are no questions, let’s begin.

I’d like you to close your eyes. If you’re frightened, then keep your eyes open, but bow your head to your lap. I want you to listen to my voice. Try your best to listen to my voice and my voice only. Try to let go of your own voice; that voice you hear all day long; that voice that tries to tell you what to do. Say to that voice: “Goodnight voice, I don’t need you now.” Try repeating it to yourself; it’s okay to say it aloud because sometimes that little voice doesn’t listen very well. Just repeat it to yourself or aloud quietly. Simply say, “Goodnight voice, I don’t need you now. Goodnight voice, I don’t need you now. Goodnight voice, I don’t need you now.”

Soon all you’ll hear are your own words, “Goodnight voice, I don’t need you now. Goodnight voice, I don’t need you now.”

I’ll give you a few more seconds to finish your conversation with your voice. Remember, there’s nothing to fear; there’s no right way or wrong way; no one’s looking at you; no one’s doing anything wrong. Whatever you’re thinking or hearing or feeling is the perfect place for you to be. Simply listen to my voice and say goodnight to your own voice. Simply listen to my voice. My voice. Listen to my voice.

If you feel sleepy, just listen to my voice. Sleepy is okay. But I’m not asking for sleep. Your voice is asking you to be sleepy. If you’re sleepy, simply say, “Goodnight voice, I don’t need you now.”

I want you to think of a place. It could be any place. But I’m thinking of a particular place. I’m thinking of a place that’s warm and sunny and quiet. Any place is okay to think about, but maybe when you tire of anyplace you can think of some place. I’d like you to think of some place. This place is warm and sunny and quiet. Maybe it’s filled with sand or water or mountains. Whichever place you see is exactly the place I want you to be. See that place. Feel that place. Smell that place. Do you see the water or the sand or the mountains? Just see some place, a place that you see is what’s important. It doesn’t have to be a place you’ve been. Just a place. Some place. Some place you can see. It’s a pretty place, a peaceful place, a place that you like.

Now that you see this place I want you to take a deep breath in and blow it out. Breathe in and blow out. Perfect. Now, while looking at your place, I want you to breathe in slowly through your nose and breathe out through your open mouth. Don’t worry, you won’t snore. Breathe in through your nose and breathe out through your mouth. Breathe in and breathe out. Breathe in and breathe out. Breathing this way helps us to bathe our lungs in oxygen. Oxygen helps our whole body. Breathing like this brings lots of air into our lungs and keeps it there which helps us to relax. Oxygen is food for your body.

Breathe in and breathe out. Breathe in and breathe out. In and out. In and out.

Now go back to your place. That’s right, the place that you saw before. Do you see that place? If not, simply see another place. It’s the place that’s important, it’s that you see it. Don’t try, just see. Do the same as you do when swimming: Open your imagination’s eyes and see beyond your eyes. Your imagination doesn’t wear glasses. Does it? That’s a little silly, isn’t? It’s okay to laugh. Your imagination loves to laugh. An imagination wearing glasses! That is funny, isn’t it?

Let’s stay in this place for awhile. I simply want you to see this place, its beauty, its peace. I want you to spend time there. This isn’t any place or even some place. This is your place. Any place you choose is your place. See it, feel it; breathe in and out; breathe in and out; slowly in through your nose and out through your mouth; in through your nose and out through your mouth.

Let’s stay here for a little while.

Now it’s time to go back. I want you to say goodbye to your place. Don’t be sad because your place is your place. It’s in your heart and in your imagination. No one else can see it, only you can see it. It’s your secret place. It’s a place you can go whenever you like. You can return every day and every night. I go to my place many times a day. My place is a place I honor. I go to my place whenever every other place upsets me. My place, like your place, is a place of calm. I sometimes think of it as a hiding place.

But it’s time to go back now. I want you to say goodbye to your place and slowly come back to this place. Just follow my voice as I lead you back. Please come back now. Once you’re back, you can open your eyes or lift your head.

Welcome back . . .

Creativity & The Running Back

“A true genius admits that he or she knows nothing.”
Albert Einstein

“It isn’t enough to think outside of the box. Thinking is passive. Get used to acting outside the box.”
— Tim Ferris

runningbackRecently I’ve been intrigued with the ideas of creativity and greatness. What most of us think of as creativity is limited to the arts like writing, painting, dancing, acting, and sculpting. What people don’t consider is athletics. But think of the greats like Michael Jordan, Johnny Orr, Alex Rodriguez, Mario Andretti, Richard Petty, Joe Montana, Brett Favre, Jean-Claude Killy, Apollo Ono, Evgeni Plushenko, and Michelle Kwan.

How did Jordan always make that last shot? Because he practiced? Maybe. Because he was the best in the game? Probably. But I think Jordan had the creative genius to calculate the correct degree of height, of the arch, and of power, all while being double-teamed by defenders to make that last game winning shot. But the calculation was a subconscious thought, similar to ballet dancers and actors.

Let me give you another example, the professional running back. For example: All at once the RB (running back) sees the offensive play unfolding; he sees the hole, the hole insidezonetriplehe’d practised hundreds of times before; creating the hole requires a pulling guard to double team the defensive tackle and the center to move the nose guard to the right causing a gap in the defensive line and subsequent hole; theoretically, in the gap normally covered by the middle linebacker reading a run, but who now reads a pass from the secondary, yelling “pass pass!” The safety bumps and runs with the wide receivers as the tight end drops back to move the defensive right tackle to protect the quarterbacks blind side, while the fullback picks up a nimble cornerback blitzing wide, but the fullback buries him in the backfield; the the handoff finally happens just as the hole appears like an apparition in a dense fog; a hole, first imagined by a coach on a sheet of paper, placed in a playbook as “off-tackle left on two”; practised hundreds of times butpackerback never recognized by the RB; but now, the hole has opened and he’s about to step through the paradigm and into a new future; what’s on the other side of the hole, what does the future hold; this is creativity at its rawest form; this is the result of imagination and practice; it’s a coach’s hypotheses, an offensive lines determination, and an RB’s commitment to his future; yet, he hesitates until he hears his conscience telling to run through the hole; then he runs headlong through the gap while realizing that the runningbackstraightarmhole isn’t the future, it’s simply a doorway, his future lies on the other side of the threshold.

You see, creativity happens throughout all walks of life. From the sciences to the arts to medicine and law and athletics. It happens to most of us even if we never realize it.

But if you’re lucky enough to have children, then I recommend you look them in the eyes because in them you will always find your greatest example of your own creativity.

 

 

Has Been’s, Could’ve Been’s, Once Was’s, and Children

Note: Like a sliver that’s penetrated the thick skin, it needs to be removed by a sterilized needle and constant squeezing. It will continue to ache until its presence causes you far more anguish than it’s extraction. The parallels are one reason why this post means so much to me.
Me (right) and my brother (left)

My brother got my dad’s physique; I got his mental illness.

Once I assumed the role of cook a couple of years ago, I planned my menu so that every other day I’d prepare a new meal.  The only cookbook I owned was a 1960’s copy of Betty Crocker’s Cookbook.  This cookbook was my mother’s, and if you saw it, you’d think Betty Crocker herself passed it along to my mother.  It was a solid first-step for me, my hesitation quieted by my mother’s obvious use of the cookbook, evidenced by the incredible number of batter-splattered pages; missing pages; half-pages; and an index at the rear which resembled the color palette of Crayola’s 64-Color box of crayons.  There were highlighted recipes; notations at the margins; and just a few, but oddly significant in an extreme way, an ad infinitum decree by way of thick, heavy lines, one or two eliminated altogether by a formidable, dense marker, applied as determined and repeated coats, forbidding any chance that these recipes might appear on our kitchen table.

My father was already a train wreck when my brain began recording his presence.  Failing at life (mainly due to his undiagnosed mental illness, bipolar), his appearance was infrequent: his social mask was one of humor: albeit acidic sarcasm and shearing, pointed wit composed in the key of tease and enacted before an unending column of untried yet promising second-shift ladies.  His role as a bullying, boorish big shot, whose sole domestic purpose was to reprise the 1963 verbal variety of water boarding. His peacocking drove us  closer and closer to suffocation, as though with each matinée he pressed another thick pillow of despair onto our faces and then, just when our desperation went quiet and we felt that first, foamy wave of disappearance, back we’d go into his second act and the shrill, ingenuous cackle of his subordinate’s callow laughter warned us that he was gaining adoration.  And the louder the laughter, the more lewd, raunchy, and viscous his anecdotes became, and our mention increased proportionally until, by the end, the three of us, his family, descended well past indecency, a good way beyond degenerate, and somewhere between contemptible and worthless.

And as the ladies stood and he, broadcasting his manners, helped them with their coats, those ladies whose saturating attention fueled my father’s mania sending him further and further afield, looked at the three of us, fodder of my father’s insanity, and delicately lifted the corners of their mouths in an effort to produce a symbol of empathy that my father couldn’t decode.

But what those lips produced was that sneer tossed at has been’s, could’ve beens, once was’s, and children who repeatedly witness their father falling apart.