Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Harry Was Right, One Really is the Loneliest Number

"Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared."
- Buddha

"Don't surround yourself with yourself/Move on back two squares"
- Yes (Jon Anderson), 'I've Seen All Good People'

I have a feeling this will be a shorter one today.

Today's blog was a tough one from the get-go. A tough one to conceptualize, a tough one to start, and I'm sure a tough one to stay focused on, partially because I am writing this at my office job and can't have any music playing. I'm currently in the thick of producing two shows, one that opens tomorrow and one that opens the following week, and this process has been a bit stressful, and I blame no one but myself. Procrastination hit me hard with these two shows and we started behind the 8-ball on all of it. Everything from casting to starting rehearsals and the marketing of the shows, it all has been incorporated too late into the process there's really no one to blame here but myself. And for a while I was really down on myself and sat on my couch in a paralyzing pout.

But then I remembered some advice I got from my dad and a band from the 70s and 80s: Don't surround yourself with yourself.

You are allowed to ask for help. And, in actuality, I believe one is a better leader and more responsible when he/she realizes that help is needed and asks for it.

The more you wallow and sulk and mope (which I could give masterclasses on), the more you get trapped in the hold of You, and when you are feeling that way that's an unbreakable hold.

Instead, take a step back, or two. Examine the situation. It doesn't matter whether it's producing a show, moving to a new home or apartment, planning a vacation, if you're fighting with a friend of loved one, etc etc etc, if you are feeling overwhelmed or out of your element, just reset yourself. Take a step and see what is actually going on and then ask for help. It doesn't matter if it's a lot of help or a little. It doesn't matter if it's hiring a friend to design three posters for you in 48 hours or just asking someone to get some coffee with you so you can vent and let it all out, ask for it. What's the worst that could happen? They say no and you move on to the next friend.

And don't limit yourself to just one friend or one outlet of relief. Do whatever you need to do to get a firm, controlled grip on the situation and back in control with a level head. Like Buddha said 'the life of the candle will not be shortened.' Your life will not be damaged or weakened the more you ask for help and take care of yourself. But like a single candle in a room lighting multiple, the room gets brighter, and so does your life by welcoming more charity and help into it. But the flame does not dwindle. It acts as a role model for the other candles to present themselves by.

So next time you are cuddled up on your couch, cradling Ben and Jerry under one arm, channel surfing with no intended destination, take a step back. See where you are and see what you need done and I guarantee not only is there someone out there that can help you, but would be nothing but happy to help you.

Spread your flame, let someone spread their flame to you, light up the room brighter than it was before, and know that other people are (sometimes) better company than you.

Ramble on

Thursday, April 30, 2015

You Can Run...But You Shouldn't

So it's been quite a while since my last post because, honestly, I just lost interest.  But a few weeks ago, a very good friend of mine asked me why I stopped writing.  I told him I didn't stop.  I'm currently working on three scripts (a screenplay, a musical, and a one-act) as well as doctoring an old script.  I told him that I am also submitting stories and poems and essays to online publications.

"What about your blog?" he asked.

"Oh, that." I quite eloquently retorted.  "I don't know.  I guess I just lost interest."

He said that he really enjoyed reading my posts and that he wished I'd start them back up again.  Honestly, I agreed with him.  I loved sitting down with a cup of coffee, my iTunes playing aimless DJ, and my phone (hopefully) in the other room.

Honestly I just stopped writing because I felt I had run out of things that I thought people wanted to hear.  Here I was, a 25 year old bartender and yet-to-be-discovered actor/writer/director/producer nestled comfortably two notches above the poverty line in New York doling out rambles and advice one might find in the inspirational section of their local Hallmark store.

But the bottom line is this....I still have things to say.  For those of you that know me well, you know I will always have something to say.  That's just the kind of guy that I am.   So how was I going to start this blog up again.  I knew I still had a lot to say, but I didn't know what on.  I didn't know what to start everything with.  Then it hit me.

For about a year now, I've been getting daily emails from people called Thoughtful Mind Daily Quotes.  I get an email every morning of an inspiring quote said by someone throughout history.  Sometimes they are also funny, poignant, ponderous, religious in tone, but they always elicit something from me: a commentary.  I delete most of them but about once or twice a week, I get one that really sticks with me and makes me say "Hunh" as I simultaneously sit back in whatever seat I find myself in when I open the e-mail....or stop in the middle of a New York street and get yelled at.  So I figured, why not do a ramble on a quote that I have found particularly interesting and ended up saving?  So I said to myself, I said, "Self.  Let's write.  Let's start each blog with the quote and the author and go from there."

So without further ado, I have my cup of coffee in my Charlie Brown 'Good Grief' mug to my left, my iTunes currently on shuffle, not knowing what will come next, be it a smoky ballad by Tom Waits or an eleven o'clock number by Sutton Foster or Norm Lewis, and my phone, well, somewhere.

This quote was mailed to me on October 22nd, 2014:

(REPRISE OF A DISCLAIMER: These blog posts are written straight through and published without going back over and fixing any syntax or grammar.  I want you to get the rawest thoughts from me and my grammar, when raw, usually sounds like it came from someone that just finished painting on a cave wall or walloping his family's dinner over the head with a club.)

   Running away from any problem only increases the distance from the solution. The easiest way to escape from the problem is to solve it.

― Unknown 

This quote really does mean a lot to me because this is a problem that I suffer from and always have.  As good as a leader as I am and refusal to back down from a challenge is about as strong as the smell coming from an Irish co-op building on St. Patty's Day, I do have the habit of avoiding the small problems or hiccups, especially the ones that I feel I have disappointed someone with or could possibly harm my imagine in someone's eye.  I am a people pleaser.  That's the truth about me.  That's the blessing and the curse about being Dave.  I like people to like me.  I don't know why, but I get a lot of anxiety when I know that I have ruffled someone's impression of me.  Call it vanity, call it arrogance, call it late for dinner, I don't really know, but it's something I don't like to know that has happened.  So instead of dealing with the problem head on and immediately, I put it on the back burner's back burner and deal with something else.  All the while, the problem stews in my head like the corned beef and cabbage stinking up that Irish co-op and I start playing mental games with myself.

This might help, an example.  When I was thirteen, or around there, I was on a Metro Baseball team based out of Howard County and we did a lot of traveling.  One particular tournament took my dad and I down to Faber, VA.  I was having a particularly rough tournament this time around and was rapidly loosing faith in myself and was feeling even worse cause I felt that, with every strike out or ground out, my team was losing faith in me.  After one particular game, the camel's back was broken.  I don't remember what caused this meltdown of mine.  It could've been another shoddy day at the plate.  It could've been a botched play in the field.  It could've been the mass amount of hormones currently swarming through my body like Braveheart and his lads as they stampeded down the hill.  Whatever it was, I melted down.  My dad tried everything he could to make me feel better, but at this point he knew it was best just to let me run the pity party out and a few buckets later, I'd be just fine.  So as we were on our way to the next field for the next game of the day, we realized that no one on the field was wearing the same color blue uniform that I was wearing.  And they were younger and smaller than me.  I went puberty at a young age but I definitely didn't have a growth spurt in those 20 minutes that I was in my dad's Toyota Avalon.  So dad consulted the schedule and we realized we were at the wrong field.  GREAT!  Not only did I either strike out, or make an error, or have uncontrollable Scottish hormones that was making my team lose faith in me, I led dad to the wrong baseball field and now I was late to the next ball game.

So we finally pull up to the right field and the game is well on it's way.  I was mortified and couldn't/didn't want to leave the car.  Dad then went into Dad mode:  Best Friend Setting (this is the best part of my dad).  For a while he tried to talk me down from the proverbial ledge I was on and honestly I can't remember one word that he said.  But then he said something to me that, to this day, I haven't forgot and have spread to many of my friends.  He said:

"Nothing ever turns out as bad as we perceive it will in our heads."

F**k he's a smart dude.  And was right.

I pulled myself out of his car, walked to the field, entered the dugout, fully expecting to be yelled at by my coach or told I was off the team and just head back to Baltimore.  But instead, my coach took me to the edge of the bench, sat down with me, and asked if I was ok.  He saw something wasn't right after the last game and got really concerned when I hadn't made it to the next game on time.  He thought I was half way back to Baltimore and was giving up on everything.

I wasn't anything special of a ballplayer.  I'll be honest.  I was a decent catcher, an infrequent hitter, and mostly a bench warmer.  But coach loved having me on that team because of my attitude.  He said I was never a quitter.  I always was trying to be better and that made my teammates want to be better.  He said the last thing he wanted to see was me to quit.

Two innings later I was subbed into the game.  I have no idea what I did that game.  I don't know if I struck out, grounded out, hit a double, walked, fielded a clean ground ball, made a diving catch, committed two errors, not a clue.  All that I know is that, at the end of that half inning when I came back to the field, and my teammates made the third out in the field and came back to the dugout, all of them greeted me like they hadn't seen me in years.  They all were worried that I had quit.  That was something I had no expected.

In my head, I expected them to ostracize me like that kid in school that had halitosis so bad that it could peel the varnish off the tetherball pole.  I thought they would've been glad that I left for good cause that meant one less strikeout in the lineup and one less player they had to pretend to like.  In my head, I thought my coaches would bench me for the rest of the tournament and then have a sit down with me once we got back to Baltimore to discuss whether I should stay on the team.

But none of that was the case.  I had made all that up in my head and what actually happened?...not that bad at all.  I had made it all up in my head.  And why?  Because I was running away from the problem.  I had put distance between myself and the solution, which, in this case, was having a short memory and knowing that a game was like a day.  They happen, they have their own beginning, middle, and end and the game I just played should have no bearing on what game I'm about to play or had played prior.  All that matters is what happens in that game currently and then you move on to the next.  I could go 0-4 in one game but as soon as the next game starts, I'm 0-0 again and have a new slate to carve into anything I want.

So if you are fearing anything, beset by some problem that is looming over you and you keep avoiding it or putting smaller, menial tasks in front of it because you may be afraid or anxious about what will happen once the problem is faced, I say don't.  Tackle it head first, guns blazing, chest up high, and with confidence, because the longer it bounces around your head like some glitched game of Pong, the crazier the outcome will seem and the more real you will think it to be.  Take on that problem and I promise, with everything in my being, that the outcome will never be as bad as you are making it up to be in your head.  Because the bottom line is problems will always spring up on you.  That's life.  It's a game of Whack-A-Mole.  Problems will always pop-up on you after you nix two problems out.  That's just how it works.  But deal with each one as they come about and keep your headspace free for positive thoughts, strategies to solve the problems, and feelings of adequacy.  Easier said than done, I know.  But we all have to start somewhere.

And we all know this to be true, once you can strike a problem off your list, how f**king good does that feel?  Bring it on!

Ramble on,

This ramble's playlist:
- 'Cortez the Killer' by Neil Young
- 'Never Tear Us Apart' by INXS
- 'Going to California (Live)' by Led Zeppelin
- 'In the Ghetto' by Elvis Presley
- 'Moon in the Gutter' by Jack Rose
- 'Whipping Post' by The Allman Brothers
- 'When the Earth Stopped Turning' sung by Carolee Carmello, by William Finn
- 'Louise' by Dean Martin
- 'Shine' by Collective Soul
- 'Have a Drink on Me' by AC/DC
- 'Margaritaville' by Jimmy Buffett

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

I Was Once a Son with Rage and Love

One of my major faults, I feel, is that I can hold onto a grudge longer than a statue can hold its pose.

In the past nearly two years, I have turned around a lot of my behavior and general outlook on life, and myself, due to the discovery of Taoism and it's messages.  I have, in general, become a more positive person in my everyday and have become much more of a fan of Dave.  I, still, am very hard of myself with the occasional slip into the world of self deprecation, more so recently than when I am getting regular nights of sleep, but there has definitely been an improvement.

So last night, I had a bit of an epiphany.  As many of you know, I have resurrected my dormant theatre company, MidCity Productions, and we are slated to make our New York City debut one week from tonight.  In the past few months, I have been on virtually no auditions, and for those of you that know me, that is very rare.

My two year anniversary in New York was February 19th, 2014, and by that time I had tallied over 180 auditions.  Truth be told, auditioning is something I really enjoy doing.  I don't get to perform as much as I want to, so those 45 seconds is my time to perform.  To get my kicks in.  To get it out of my system until the next time.

But the past few months have been filled with meetings, rehearsals, and hours upon hours of planning how to get this theatre company up and running.  I made the vow to myself and my staff that I would not audition for any summer stock because, if I were to book something, it would not be fair to them for the Artistic Director to leave town for three months, leaving them the burden of starting a company.  The first few weeks were difficult, truth be told, because I felt like I was neglecting the reason I was in New York.  But I wasn't.  Just because I wasn't actively seeking employment with another theatre production/company, doesn't mean I wasn't fulfilling my reason for being in this city.  I was starting my own theatre company.  And trust me, that is definitely doing something.

Ok, so that is the exposition.

Now we turn the clocks back to April 2012.  Or somewhere around that time.  Maybe it was August.  Either way it was over two years ago.  This was the day of the first open call for the National Tour of Green Day's 'American Idiot.'  I had auditioned for this show several times before, but it was for the Equity required six-month (or whatever they are) call when the show is on Broadway.  But this was actually the first time I had a chance to fill a role in the company.

I have been a die-hard Green Day fan since I was twelve when I bought their album 'Nimrod' before I went to Australia.  It stayed in my CD player for the entire two weeks and by the time I came back home, I knew every lyrics to every song on that CD...except for 'Last Ride In' which is an instrumental.

When I got the opportunity to see 'American Idiot' on Broadway, I was like a kid given carte blanche at Toys 'R Us.  The only thing to sweeten the deal was that, at the time, St. Jimmy was being played by Billie Joe Armstrong.  Now, I was dead.  I won't give you a review of the show here, so all I will say is that I wanted to go back the very next day.  I haven't stopped raving about it.

So when I saw the audition call for the National Tour, I knew nothing was going to stop me from going to that.  So for weeks and weeks, I practiced, tried out different songs, listened to Pandora non-stop for songs that would be a good fit for the audition.  I finally chose my song.

The day had arrived and I arrived at Chelsea studios at 4:30 am to stand in line for this audition.  For those of you not familiar with the audition scene, this is actually a completely normal time for a show as popular as American Idiot.  So I waited in line, got my number, was going to be seen before lunch, and was overall very confident.

Long story short.  It was the worst audition I ever gave.  Before entering the room, the headstock of my guitar smacked against the door frame, sending the guitar wickedly out of tune.  So the retuning had to happen in front of the auditor while trying to not look like a complete putz wasting her time.  After trudging through the song, which was on par for a rousing round of 'boos' from any karaoke bar, I slipped into a funk that I couldn't break for three days.  I was seriously ready to give everything up after the one audition.

My girlfriend at the time, try and try as she did, had every effort to cheer me up shoved right back in her face by me.  Real mature.  I still feel bad for the way I treated her that week, deflecting every attempt to raise my spirits as if it were some sort of malintentioned tennis ball.

That was over two years ago.  Remember how I said I hold a grudge for too long.

Last night was the first time since that audition that I listened to anything 'American Idiot' related, be it the 2004 studio album or the Broadway Cast Recording.  I have listened to plenty of Green Day since, but not a note of anything 'American Idiot.'

Last night, it was time to get over myself.  There is a (wonderful) documentary on Netflix called 'Broadway Idiot' which is about the journey the show took from workshop sessions to Billie Joe's Broadway debut as St. Jimmy.  And seeing all the actors in that documentary that were involved with the show, and seeing Billie Joe's revelation of what theatre and the comradery happens in a cast was exactly what I needed to tell myself,

'Dave...get the FUCK over yourself.  So what, you had a bad audition.  It happens.  Ease up on your self.  Enjoy yourself.  Know that you did it.  It's better than bombing a show in front of thousands of screaming fans, which, in 20+ years in the business, I am sure Green Day has done.'

DISCLAIMER:  This is not to insult Green Day, but bad shows happen.  I have had them and I'm no where as experienced in live performances or as famous as Billie Joe, Mike, or Tre.

So back to why I started rambling.  I know full well, and have accepted, that with my new role of Artistic Director of my company that is about to swan dive in New York, my ability to audition and perform elsewhere will be heavily limited.  This is completely ok with me.  This is what I signed up for.  For this, I have no regrets or hard feelings at all.

But I will be in American Idiot.

I am going to rededicate myself to my training and really make it focused on developing my guitar playing, my singing rock vocals, and expanding my rock repitoire.  There is nothing has ever beaten me that I haven't risen back up against and gave it another fight.

I've never really had a 'dream show' that I would drop everything to be in.  This is that show.  It's a goal.  And goals are set to be achieved.

And I will.

Abide and ramble on

ps - Listen to both albums if you haven't.  They are amazing.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

One Thousand One-Hundred Twenty-Five Feet per Second

That's the sound barrier.  One thousand one-hundred twenty-five feet per second.  Or three-hundred forty-three meters per second for those of you from the other side of the pond...and pretty much everywhere else in the world.

I was sitting in my folding chair at my usual Tuesday evening locale, The Shakespeare Forum, when we picked the night back up from our 'intermission'.  It was then brought to our attention that 67 years ago from this past Tuesday, on October 14th 1947, Chuck Yeager was the first person to break the sound barrier.  Pretty remarkable considering that only 44 years earlier, in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, the first airplane was successfully flown.

It was then that the AD of the Shakespeare Forum, Tyler Moss, laid down a challenge for all that sat before him on this particular Tuesday....and it is that same challenge that I give to all of you, whoever may be reading this.

Find a barrier that you have and break it.

What holds you back?

What keeps forcing back on the sidelines when all you want to do is jump in and play?

What pulls you away from where you want to be?

Is it fear of rejection or humiliation?  Self consciousness?  Anxiety?  The prospect of disappointing others?

Whatever it may be, break it down.  Shatter it.  Know that it is only ourselves that can break our limits because it is us who set them.

I used to always think that I'd have to go through life just settling for what came my way.  Whether I wanted more or saw something that was out there worth fighting for, I would normally settle with whatever I got because my barrier was standing up for myself and having my own voice.  I am slowly breaking down the barrier because I know what I want and, dammit, I'm going to do everything in my power to get whatever it may be.

Other people can help provide for us but we have to be honest with ourselves first.  No one will know until we know.  It's like you have to start loving yourself before others can love you.  Same thing.  You have to know what you want, know that you are worth it and deserve it, before you can get it.  Because even if whatever it is that you desire comes to you, if you don't think you are worth its reception, than there is no feasible way you are going to enjoy it upon it's arrival.  And this editorial 'thing' that I keep referring to can be anything.  Material, emotional, spiritual, behavioral, etc.

We all set limits and barriers for ourselves.  According to Merriam-Webster, a barrier is defined as:

something (such as a fence or natural obstacle) that prevents or blocks movement from one place to another

To me, the key word here is 'obstacle'.  Obstacles are meant to be overcome.  They beg to be overcome.  They don't exist to squelch dreams and shutter hopes.  The exist to encourage growth and promote maturation.

So find your barriers, find what blocks you, and do what Chuck did and break it.  Whether that's loudening your voice and standing up for yourself, saying hello to that guy or girl in your life that slows down a room, jumping off the bench of creativity and promoting what it is you've created or simply looking at yourself in the mirror and reassuring yourself that, yes, you are worth everything you desire in the world.

Do what Chuck did.

He had nothing to lose....and neither do you.

Be well and Ramble On,

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Pagliacci, Exit Stage Right

I fear that this ramble will turn into a bit of a rant at some point, but that tends to happen when what I'm writing about is so rooted in my being and morals that I can't help but get passionate about what it is I am writing.

I recognize that some people might not agree with what I am going to say.  Some people might even stop reading after the next paragraph or two.  Some people might change the way they think of me.  And I am ok with all of that.

I can't not sit by and let Robin Williams' death go unreflected upon.

For those that didn't know, Robin Williams was my personal hero.  He was why I became an actor.  He was my favorite actor.  He was who I wanted to embody every time I took the stage.  I remember watching Robin Williams movies when I was younger and completely loving the feeling that he left me with as the credits rolled.  It wasn't until later that I discovered that that feeling I was left with was the feeling that I wanted to leave others with.  So I consciously made the decision to be an actor for the rest of my life.  I wanted to be his warmth, his funny, his honesty, his truth, his smile (I am lucky enough to already have the blue eyes).  Would I have wanted to become an actor had I not had such a connection with Robin that I do today?  Maybe.  Who knows.  But I am one and it is because of him, so why speculate?  

When I got news about his death at 7:02 pm, Monday August 11th, 2014, I, along with many people around the world, felt my heart jump into my throat and beat a hysteric rhythm that would make any cardiologist see dollar signs.  My hands started shaking something fierce and I couldn't catch my breath.  It was like I was on a month long hunger strike and just ran a marathon.  I had no strength in me anywhere.  I even checked on four websites to confirm it.  But there it was.  Robin Williams, aged 63, found dead.  Suicide suspected.

And here we go.

Suicide is not a choice.

Suicide is not what killed Robin Williams.

That is my belief and I will argue that until the day that I die.  I honestly believe that suicide can be ingrained in your body just much as sexual orientation or whether you are a righty or a lefty.  You are not born with suicide in your nature, but rather it springs up like a nosy weed among your prized garden of life.  But this weed can't be pulled.  Once it's there, it is there.  Whether tendencies, thoughts, attempts, or the actual act itself.  I am disgusted that people have the audacity to say that anyone is selfish that chooses to take their own life.  That they are don't care about the people around them and what happens to them once they are gone.  That they had a choice to live or die, but they decided to continue the cut or cock the gun.  That they chose the 'coward's way out' and decided to end it all.  Running away from their problems.

These people that honestly believe that, and think that suicide is a choice, I envy them because they have obviously (and I hate using that word) fought the battle with suicide, or maybe even just severe depression.  I can't say that what I had was severe, but I battled with depression all of high school, through college, and even have lapses of it now.  When you fall into that 'funk' or 'blue state', it truly is numbing.  Nothing that you have in the world means anything to you; fame, fortune, friends, love, material goods.  Nothing.

So be fortunate. 

When you walk up to an elevator, what makes sense is to press the button to call it.  When you you sit down in your car, it makes sense to put the key in and start it.  When you are succumbed by depression, by the darkest, lonliest, most isolated feeling that mankind can ever feel, there are really few things that makes sense. 

Now, I am not condoning suicide.  Let me state that again.

I am not condoning suicide.

And those that know me, I am not someone to talk and 'preach' about what I don't have experience in.  I don't talk about politics or health care or German literature because am ignorant to those topics.  I find it very unattractive when people argue with the one-and-a-half points of knowledge they have on a topic and claim to be the experts.  But I am ranting about depression and suicide, so do the math.

Suicide is a real thing.  It shouldn't be this taboo subject that no one talks about because it is supposedly 'frowned upon' or looked at as something 'ordinary people' wouldn't do.  Bullshit.  The truth is, people dealing with it often times don't know that they are, actually, dealing with it, and won't talk about it.  Other times, they won't talk about it because they are ashamed and embarrassed and don't want to make others think different about them, so they leave on the face that everyone is familiar with.  But trust me when I say this, we really do want to talk about it.  We just don't know how.

But there's another battle I'm having.  It's with myself.  It's the battle of  do I even have the right to mourn and grieve?  This is a man I never met and I am a man that he didn't even knew existed. This is a man who had friends, family, colleagues, and people closer to him that he might have ever known. And I'm just a man in New York struggling to be half the performer that Robin ever was. So do I have the right to mourn him as if he were a family member? Because this certainly feels like the loss of one.

In ways I feel foolish and selfish for being so torn up about a man I never met before. It's like a sick case of "one ups". He never shook my hand. He never took time out of his day to talk to me. He never shared a story or anecdote with me. And I never did any of that for him. So can I mourn?

Monday wasn't so much about sadness as it was about shock. I shed one, maybe two tears, on Monday. Tuesday was different. Tuesday I couldn't concentrate. Tuesday I couldn't focus. Tuesday, all I cared about was when I got to go back to bed and pull the sheets up around my chin. At work, I had to excuse myself from the floor twice to lock myself in the bathroom and sob for 20 minutes. I had to make sure to wipe up the tears and snot that pooled on the ground by the toilet before I left and went back on the floor.  

So whether I have the right to mourn and grieve as a family member, I'm doing it. Because I looked up to Robin Williams as much as I look up to my own father. I lost someone that gave me guidance and direction without him even knowing it.

This was a man whose simple smile could lift anyone's spirit.  When he smiled at his kids in Mrs. Doubtfire you knew he loved them.  When he grinned at his students in Dead Poet's Society you knew he was proud of them.  When he laughed with his patients in Patch Adams you know he would give them the world.  It just proves that, no matter what face we wear in public, no one ever knows what is happening behind closed doors...unless we decide to open one of them.

So now I send out a plea. Don't feel like you have to go through life alone. No one should have to go through life alone. That's why you were graced with family members, friends, colleagues, teachers, coworkers, and mentors. They were put into your life more than to just be there. Here put there to be there for you. I made the decision to reach out and talk and find out what was going on inside my head. And, to this day, next to the first time I made a decision to watch a Robin Williams film, that was the best decision ever made. 

Learn from your heroes. Learn how they entered. Learn what they did while they were here. And take lessons from how they left.

I will never stop loving Robin Williams, as a person would professional. And I certainly, with all my heart and morals, will never ever judge him for what he chose to do.

Be your own catalyst of change.

Be well, take care of each other, and ramble on,

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Ira Lindberg Harris (1988-2012)

I enter this week, as many of my Shenandoah Alums do, with a heavy heart.  It was roughly two years ago to the day that our Ira Harris was involved in an altercation that left Ira in intensive care where he would succumb to his injuries two days later on February 27th.  When news first hit that Ira was badly injured and in serious condition, thoughts, prayers, and rallying words flooded Facebook so much that I bet if a regional survey was taken, the name Ira Harris would've been trending on Facebook in the DC/VA/MD area.  In fact, I guarantee it.  Why?  Because that is how many people Ira not only knew, but loved, touched, and inspired.  Ira was a man that knew just one thing: love.  He knew how to love, how to be loved, why we should be loved, and what he loved.  Not bad for what some would label as 'just a kid.'

Ira was the first person that ever said anything to me on my first day on the Shenandoah Campus.  I remember it quite vividly, and for those of you that know my short-term memory, this is quite an accomplishment for me.  It was a rainy, ugly day in August 2007 and it was freshman move-in day.  The entirely too small parking lots were filled with cars, parents, dolly carts, suitcases, cardboard boxes, and unattended younger brothers and sisters.  And it was only 8 am.  My family brought two cars; dad and I in his, mom and Eric (my brother) in mom's.  Dad dropped me off at the front door to Racey, my freshman dorm, and went to find a parking spot with mom's Volkswagen Passat puttering behind.  As I walked in, there was a table with five or six (maybe it wasn't that vivid after all) people helping misty-eyed parents and wide-eyed, quasi-nervous students.

But one person stood out.  It wasn't his mane of tight, spiraly hair, though it didn't help, but it was his energy.  He was bouncing back and forward, bobbing his head, helping anybody and everybody with energy that I had never seen before.  And I remind you it was 8 am and some change.  He then asked if I needed some help.  Uhh, hell yes.  I told him my name and he looked at his check-in list and smiled when he found it.  It wasn't because I knew him or he knew me.  I had never met this man before.  He was smiling because, as it would turn out, I would be living right across from him and he would be my RA for my freshman year.  By then, dad had parked the car and made his way to the lobby and met me at the table.  Dad introduced himself to Ira and you would've thought Ira was shaking hands with Michael Jackson himself.  He then escorted my dad and me to my room, asked if I needed anything else, and then went back to the lobby.  That was my first experience with Ira.

Now, I'm not going to recount my whole history with Ira, but I wanted to share that first one because that was what was so special about him.  Ira didn't know me from Adam, but he didn't care.  I was another new face for him, but what a new face meant to Ira was a new friend and a new person to love.  That's why he was so excited to meet me.

In 2009, another very dear friend of mine, Casey Spence, died.  When I moved to Ellicott City in 2001, I was paralyzingly shy, still am to an extent, but she was the one that reached out to me and brought me into the neighborhood.  There's no doubt that if it weren't for her, I never would have met my best friend to this day, Jon Kaufman.  Casey was the catalyst to what would be a very enjoyable middle and high school career.  All because of Casey.  At Casey's funeral, the priest made an interesting but profound point.  He said, 'While we celebrate and embrace the life that Casey led, we must also look at how she left us.'  I will never forget this.  I thought it was odd to talk about that at a funeral, but over the years it became clear to me why he said this.

Life is full of entrances and exits, and each much be treated with the same respect because it will make subsequent entrances and exits mean that much more.  We must never forget how we met our best friends just like we should never forget how people leave our lives. whether it be voluntarily or not.  Whether it be physically or spiritually.  So that is why I told you how Ira left us.  Because it shouldn't matter how he left.  That doesn't change the type of person he was and how he lived his life.  When Ira died, a reunion of SU alums was organized that night at a bar in Astoria, and I remember the toast I made.  I said that Ira lived a unique and special life and we were are blessed to have met him.  But now that he is gone, we have the awesome responsibility to carry on his legacy.  It is our job to love like Ira loved and spread his personality to people that will encounter throughout our lives that never met Ira.  Because everybody should have an Ira in their lives.  That is our job and I know we will all see it through.

I have certainly loved a lot more in my life since Ira and Casey's passing and will continue to love more and more.  Sometimes it is hard.  Sometimes it isn't.  But it is always necessary.

Abide and Ramble On

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Hello, My Name is Roses. Blue Roses.

Last week, I had the good fortune to see the latest Broadway revival of Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie.  Let me first state that this is not going to be a review.  I will simply say, about the production itself, that it was truly a wonderful piece of theatre and it did a wonderful job of breathing new life, as well as resurrecting the old, into this timeless tale.  What struck me, from my third-row mezzanine seat, was the dialogue and what it really said.  Most notably, the scene between the gentleman caller, or Jim, and the daughter, or Laura.  

Just some background...

Laura is a shy, timid, case-study introvert.  She is 'crippled' and has decided to let that physical handicap cripple her experience in life.  She is the kind of person that would apologize profusely to a brick wall if she ran into it...if she left the house.  Jim is an old classmate of Laura's and her brother, Tom, who was brought over for what was assumed to be an innocent dinner with Tom, now a co-worker, and his mom, Amanda.  Oh, don't let me forget that Laura has harbored some very strong, passionate feelings for Jim ever since their days in high school.  In the scene that the two characters share together, Jim is able to clue into Laura and why she is how she thinks she is.  She has spent her entire life focusing on her disability and what has made her different from her peers.  Then Jim says something that really hit me.  More so than it ever did in the past when I read this play.

JIM:  A little physical defect is what you have.  Hardly noticeable even!  Magnified thousands of times by imagination!  You know what my strong advice to you is?  Think of yourself as superior in some way!...Everybody excels in some one thing.

(cue major exhalation of breath)

Damn, that Tennessee is good.  

Often times, when certain lines or moments in plays or movies hit, it takes a minute for me to realize why they did.  But, with this instance, I knew exactly why.  As I have mentioned in previous ramblings, I have adopted a new life philosophy within the past year or so and the main focus of my new philosophy (sorry to my musical theatre mavens reading this and are now being plagued with Kristin Chenoweth's rendition of "My New Philosophy") is to accept what you have because what you have, no one else has.  And what you have is part of your nature, it is what is helping you on your path, or you way.  We all suffer from shortcomings that we think we have that no one else sees or even cares about because of how we blow it up in our heads.  Anything that we perceive to be wrong with us is always WAY blown up in our own heads and, when asked around, no one cares about it.  Most don't even notice it.  Just like Jim with Laura's physical defect, which is portrayed by a slight limp, he never even noticed it, and if he did, he never thought twice about it.  It is us, or Laura in this case, that think twice, three times, or more about where we think we fall short of our peers.  

But why waste time on that?  Why think about what others might not like about what they see in us, which they probably won't?  It's so much more fun to think about what is awesome about us.  And what we have that no one else does.  And so what if we have what could be considered a 'defect'?  Just like a scar on your thump affecting its print, that 'defect' is what makes us the individual we are.  No one else has two scars on their right calf like I do.  No one has a scar on his lower back like I do.  No one else's right eyebrow hangs lower than their left like mine does due to a wrestling injury.  No one else has humor as dry as the Sahara or as skewed as the Escherian Stairwell.  And I do that very well.

Which leads to part two...

Own what you have and what you can do.  No one is totally useless and incapable.  Everyone can do something better than anyone else.  Find it.  Embrace it.  Fall in love with it and let other people fall in love with you.  

In the past year, since adopting my new philosophy (sorry again) I have done something that I can honestly say is a first for me: I have started to really love the person that I am and what I bring to this world.  And let me tell you, it is awesome.  There's really no need to expound upon that.  It is pretty self-explanatory.  I have learned to love and I am loving it.  I am not perfect.  I don't do things perfectly.  And I never will be or do perfect.  But I can perfectly love what I do and I can make sure that what I do, I do it like no one else does or can.  I'm not the best singer, but no one sings like Dave Stishan.  I'm not the best dancer.  But no one clod-hops like Dave Stishan.


So remember what Jim said through Tennessee.  In so many words: 
- Be proud of what your nature has given you.  
- Nothing is ever as bad on our outside as we think it is on our inside.
- Be superior and know that it is ok to be able to do something well.

Abide and ramble on,