I don't know what it's going to take to resolve this problem, or if I'll see it in my lifetime, but this is unbearable. I describe myself not as an optimist, but rather as a prisoner of hope, and these events are making it a challenge for me see people as inherently good. They make me wonder what it's going to take to not be afraid for people I know and love.
As an educator, I am always forced to interact outside of my comfort zone. I am an introvert by nature, but my job has let me into the lives of some beautiful people, some of whom wear blue, some of whom wear no uniform at all. They come from from a variety of backgrounds, cultures, ethnicities, and I am certain they all deserve equal access to the same right to pursue happiness so long as it does not interfere with somebody else's right to do the same. I understand the anger expressed by the families of the victims and am frustrated that I have no idea what a solution looks like. Ideally, I do, but this is not an ideal world. In an ideal world I am at the front of the classroom, leading a rational discussion about what makes us the same genetically or culturally, and what makes us all beautiful as people. In my world students are forced to listen to stories that are different than their own and are encouraged to talk about what makes them happy and unique. Of course, everybody's in 9th grade in my world. But you know what 9th graders do that many adults don't? They listen. They want to be coached through challenging concepts and they want to understand. Ultimately, they want to be happy, and they don't want to be afraid, and in that way they are no different than anybody else.
I wrote a blog post during our school's lock-down as the events in Sandy Hook unfolded. I lost some Facebook 'friends' that day. I don't know if my opinion is just noise or if I should even care about alienating people with opinions that differ from mine. But a few of these images got me in a way I did not expect and I had to do something I had not done in a very long time. Soon enough my posts will be all cat pics and happy places because that's the bubble I'very created for myself. I have had four former students pass away since January, and life outside of that bubble doesn't get any easier.
Thankfully, a few of these images give me a glimmer of hope.
13 July 2016
13 May 2016
Come see our world!
The event is free and open to the public. No registration or RSVP necessary.
Venue is wheelchair accessible at 127 Brownsville Rd, Pittsburgh PA 15210.
Featured authors include:
Thank you to Diane Turnshek for coordinating this event!
06 April 2016
On March 30, I had the pleasure of joining the Lit and Libations Book Discussion Group for a little chat about THE DEVIL AND PRESTON BLACK, hosted by the Frostburg State University Center for the Literary Arts and the Allegany County Library System at Dante's Bar.
A few takeaways from the night:
- Most people don't know--nor do they care--about the subtle differences between a Martin D28 and D35.
- Twelve years in as a practicing Catholic scarred me more than a month in rehab.
- The bartender at Dante's makes a mean Negroni.
- The only thing worse than telling the guy sitting next to you on the plane that you're a writer is telling him you're a poet.
- Readers expect you to be able to answer questions about the things written in your book.
And many thanks to the Frostburg State University Center for the Literary Arts and the Allegany County Library System for hosting such a fine series of events and opportunities for writers.
And I also have to give a quick shout-out to Dante's for absolutely being the coolest joint between DC and Morgantown.
10 December 2015
15 November 2015
We ended up there by accident.
It was mid-July and we wanted to go somewhere. Anywhere. Berlin, Budapest, and Barcelona were on our short list. Paris was too obvious, and we ended there for the lamest of reasons—it was a direct flight from Pittsburgh. Besides, everybody knows you don’t go to Paris in August. Restaurants and cafes might be closed. Everybody’s on vacation. The admonishments stung, and I felt like we were making a huge mistake. Then I spotted a line in an article that made it okay. A waitress, or shop girl, or bookseller describing what she loved best about summer in the city. “August in Paris is like a month of Sundays.”
Odéon was the closest metro stop to our little Saint-Germain-des-Prés hotel. But I got confused at CDG, forgot about transferring from the RER to the metro once we got into the city, and popped up onto the street at Saint-Michel–Notre-Dame instead of transferring to the purple line. And there it was. Our Lady and her gargoyles. And on the walk to Rue de Buci it hit me.
I’ve been lucky to have experienced many, many amazing places in my life. But there are a few that fly above the rest because of the permanent impressions they’ve left on me. At 19, I trained to be a whitewater raft guide on the Cheat River in West Virginia and took some big first steps toward understanding what it meant to be a man. When Heidi and I got married and moved to Florida in 1998, a rapid-fire series of events helped me learn what it meant to be a husband, and when she sat down to write her first novel there at our little kitchen table, she inspired me to want to give it a go myself. In 2005, I followed her to Seton Hill—defying a personal vow to be done with school forever—and realized maybe it wasn’t silly to pursue a dream after all.
But when we started exploring Paris—first, small loops on the Left Bank and Saint-Germain-des-Prés, the bouquinistes along the Seine and museums, then an expedition via the Grands Boulevards up to Montmartre on the last day of our trip—I felt like I was a part of a much larger world that had somehow existed forever. And it had nothing to do with Hemingway. Paris felt like a door to something very special. A visceral river of thought and ideas. Where I grew up—a rural, blue collar area—expression and intellect made you an outcast. I'd been threatened and beaten up for being different. But in Paris I felt a sweeping validation of my life choices in the spirit of the city’s art, architecture, food, and people. I no longer felt so silly for having embraced love and creation because I’d finally experienced a place that embraced those ideals at its core. And when we left, my heart ached to go back.
We are not made better by the good things that happen to us. We grow when we push toward the light. But to be a city of light in a world half-covered in darkness, that is a different thing altogether.