lyrical healing

As rampant as poor mental, physical and spiritual health is, there seem to be even more ways to heal a troubled condition. Playing but not watching sports, laughing our asses off, avoiding political discussions and music of all forms are some of the best. If I could play guitar, I would probably never leave my house, other than to go play tennis, eat sushi and listen to live music. But I’m musically challenged, which includes rather poor singing in the shower. So I have to resort to other forms of art therapy, notably writing poetry.

Sure a fair amount of existential angst inspires each poem I write but so what. My attitude is that anything that makes us feel, anything that pushes out of our digitally supercharged state of  numbness is probably a good thing. From the first time I wrote a sonnet for my 11th grade Shakespeare class, I was hooked. It was a better feeling than sex, in part because I hadn’t actually had sex yet but also because in retrospect, the good feeling lasted longer.

In college I didn’t write a lot of poems other than in the form of corny and usually futile attempts to impress women. I suppose a few of the cases worked but after all, it’s better to be lucky than good. Instead a read a lot of poems. So many, that I was perpetually intoxicated by both the verses themselves and the effects. My teachers were quick to remind that I didn’t really understand, or at least properly interpret most of the poems I had to read for class but looking back but it didn’t matter. I was reading them to learn the varieties of ways such visionaries manipulated language and for the overall poetic effect. Getting the meaning right wasn’t the purpose, at least for me. Besides, teachers like to think they have all the answers and so I was happy to let them feel right.

Many moons after my undergraduate experience ended, I think I love writing and often reading poems more than I did when I was in my 20’s. I think I have a greater sense of their aesthetic and therapeutic value. Can you imagine if T.S. Elliot, Robert Frost, Langston Hughes and Emily Dickinson kept all their poetic thoughts to themselves? The culture world would be a lot drier. There is something about good lyrics/verses/images that never gets old and they never seem to fail to enlighten.

So in the name of getting my poetic urges out, I am including two poems I recently wrote. The first I wrote because I was torn, as I often am. In this case, I was torn between retreating to my comfort zone and being willing to risk an assortment of possibilities. The resolution of the poem speaks for itself. the second poem I wrote on September 11th but hopefully the message endures. It could be applied to the day after the upcoming election. I hope you enjoy them but more importantly, I hope you write poetry too.

The Fire

Of all the things I have learned
which I certainly hope are enough,
at least for now.
Of all the things I have learned,
one applies quite brightly to the fire

It took me awhile
as most things do,
to realize that the best way not to get burnt
is to move closer to the fire.
Ironic as this may sound, this paradox seems true

Most times when I have been burnt
I was nowhere close to the fire.
Someone either snuck up and lit an unkind match,
or I was chased down by far flung flames

However when I approach the fire,
and closer and closer I go
the better part of instinct tells me
when it is time to go no further.

The fire teaches us limits
Limits of body, soul and mind
So if I ever tell you to walk closer to the fire,
trust me, I’m being kind

 

Sept. 12th

 

We will never forget
The images and flashbacks make it impossible to do so
But the enduring lesson of 9-11
Is what happened on September 12th.

Yes there were 3000 dead and millions more wounded.
Yes the carnage and cruel intentions were too grave for words.
Illusions shattered, innocent lives torn asunder
and delusional images of martyrdom dancing in the streets.

We will never forget
nor should we be allowed to.
Yet the assault and the ensuing grief was momentary
compared to the period of reconstruction
 
As a half-massacred flag was raised
so was our sense of who we really are.
On September 12th, a city rose again
as did a nation from its prolonged spiritual slumber.
 
If September 11th was the nightmare
Then 9-12 was the long overdue reawakening
As September 11th lasted a day
But 9-12 has continued for eleven years minus that one day
 
So today, 11 years ago from the attacks
We should appropriately mourn all forms of victimhood
But not as much as we should celebrate the enduring lessons
of the day we rose from the ashes, September 12th. 

 

 

 

 

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Sorry Grandpa

Grandparents were once young like us, right? Perhaps, but it’s always been hard for me to see any grandparent as the aging version of a once “cool” young person (I apologize Mom and Dad). Still I have come to realize that just because grandparents are old, doesn’t mean that they are boring. It’s just that kids are a little to young to appreciate the wisdom and good intentions of their AARP qualifying ancestors.

Lets face it, a 60 plus year age gap is a long ass time. Take my parents and my nieces and nephew for example. When my parents were in high school, back when the “greatest generation” was in its heyday, schools, restaurants, sports teams, buses and almost every major institution was segregated. Now, at least until January 21, an African-American is our president and our most beloved sports figures, particularly here in Miami, are black. When my mom was 10, the movies cost a nickel and records were the crowning achievement in music technology. Now my ten year old niece must shell out $15 for a bag of popcorn and an advertising soaked theatre-movie. Plus God only knows what parking costs in San Francisco. Music wise, it goes without saying how easily she accesses to the vast ocean of digitally available music.

This generation gap is infinitely wider than that of my generation and our parents’ parents.

But this blog isn’t really about generation gaps or how awkward it is to speak with someone at least six decades older than we are.

It’s about birthdays and how they relate to the most memorable conversation I ever had with my Grandfather Abdullah who passed away at age 84 in 1993.

Since I’m getting “old” and my childhood was at least 6 presidents and many gigabytes or technological advances ago, I can’t really remember too many specific conversations I had with my grandfather. I assume we spoke about simple things such as school, food, the weather and occasionally headline news. I’m sure I told him a lot about sports but I doubt he processed much of the trivia I offered. Still, whatever we spoke about seemed enough to make him smile, although I wish I had been a better listener.

The one conversation I will never forget was in the fall of either 1983 or 1984, and I’m almost positive it was during a weekend because I was home alone on a sunny afternoon.

It was long before the fortuitouscaller-ID and even answering machine days so when the phone kept ringing around 5:30, I eventually felt no choice but to answer.

“Hello, Hello” the voice on the caller’s end clumsily uttered.

There was a pause then I replied “Hello” somewhat out of breath.

“Is this Mark? Hello, it’s Grandpa”.

Again I hesitated because he was rarely the one to call.

“Yes Grandpa. Hello.” Then in some combination of an immature reaction and Freudian slippage, I continued with “Why are you calling?”

I think I meant to say “How are you?”.

And then came response to which this blog is dedicated, one which like my SAT score, the year the Red Sox finally broke the curse and my social security number, I expect to remember for at least another half century:

“I’m calling for you to wish me a happy birthday!”

I could end the blog here and feel confident I’ve conveyed a useful message.

But more detail is usually helpful.

I have always been quick on my feet so I deftly calculated my reply.

“Oh yes, happy birthday Grandpa. I’ve been wanting to call you all day but we were waiting until the family was all together so we could wish you a happy birthday all at once!”

For all I know, this could have been true but where were the blackberry birthday reminders when we needed them most?

The rest of the conversation was a blur. We probably spoke about school, food, the weather, maybe even something of greater consequence. I don’t think I asked him how old he was but by doing the math, I think it was his 74th or 75th birthday. All I know for sure is that I felt awful, though equally relieved to be a good bullshitter.

Since that day, almost 30 years ago, I have made it a point to remember and try to acknowledge birthdays. Having photographic memory helps me a lot as does Facebook. Sadly, I think the only really important birthday I can’t remember is that of my grandfather though I believe it is in mid-September sometime. In some instances, I deliberately don’t wish happy birthday to certain people who should know mine and have overlooked it one time too many, as I do like to prove a point once in awhile even if they are “silly”.

But grudges aren’t the issue here. If there’s one thing, one magnetic glue that narrows the most disparate generation gap conceivable, it’s birthdays. Birthdays may age us chronologically, but emotionally they are ageless. My six year old nephew and 74 year old father both feel deservedly special on their birthdays. I doubt that will ever change.

In retrospect, my grandfather taught me more in the 23 years I knew him than he ever realized. Some of those lessons were unintentional, two of which were not to be a prisoner of fear and to smoke cigarettes as a hobby. Smoking and fear probably go hand in hand, a lethal combination that took his life and perhaps his self-esteem long before it needed to end.

But now as I see it through the less opaque lens of an increasingly wiser grandson, son and friend to hundreds of people with birthdays, the greatest lesson my grandfather taught me was never to forget the important days, particularly a birthday, of someone you genuinely care about. Besides, we never know when it will that person’s last.

 

P.S: My birthday is August 5th

 

 

 

Ear cavities

There are many necessary evils in life. Flossing, avoiding too many sweets, listening to the good advice of our parents, having to talk on the phone to a girlfriend for more than 10 minutes ( a personal peeve), walking our dogs when we barely have enough energy to spit, and paying bills are just a few. Oh yea, working is one too. Ultimately though, these activities are good for us no matter how annoying they are..

Recently I experienced another one of those necessary evils and no it did not involve having to make annoying small talk or looking out for the needs of helpless dogs.

I simply went to the dentist to have a few fillings replaced.

I make this pilgrimage twice a year. Aside from the lack of parking, the usually inconvenient times of appointments and the combination of crappy magazines and hard to figure out soap operas in the waiting room, I’m usually in a pretty good mood before I’m called to take a spot on the dental chair.

Then it’s all downhill.

Ironically, the medieval-styled torture devices they use to clean, fill and realign my teeth and inner braces are the least of my problems. The anesthesia helps as does that fact that the dental hygenist who works on me is rather cute and flirtatious. My dentist is really cool too and does excellent, efficient work.

So what’s the problem you say? I’ll give you clue, it’s not the bill nor the fact that I’m the only gringo on either the provider or patient side.

I’ll cut to the chase. The dental office music gives me ear cavities. Irremovable ones.

I am not sure where the problem started but no matter where I go for dental help, the music sucks. My labeling as such deserves further elaboration.

I am under the impression that every single dentist in American went to dental school in the 70’s or they must sign a contract with the ADA and love-stricken radio stations requiring him/her to only play bad music from that period and equally sappy parts of the 80’s and 90’s. Perhaps my comments are starting to ring a familiar tune. In case not, I’ll describe in more detail.

Here’s the typical dental office playlist. There’s at least a song or two by Chicago. Then “The Wind Beneath My Wings”, “Afternoon Delight”, some lame offering from Foreigner, a tune from Bryan Adam’s non-rock ballad collection, an Air Supply and sad Elton John song, something from the Bee Gees, a sub-par Blondie piece, a Sheryl Crowe jingle and a bunch of other bad memory generating, ear-worm spreading songs that Delilah  plays on FM 97.3 on a rainy, depressing Tuesday night. I’m sure I’m leaving out a few other auditory annoyances but lets just say that on a really good day, I may get lucky and a hear a Hall and Oates tune or Billy Ocean’s “Carribean Queen”.

Every time I leave the dental chair, instead of leaving with new toothbrushes and a overpriced shot of fluoride, I feel I should take some Prozac with a cold beer.instead.

I guess one of the issues here is that every time I go to the dentist, the music brings me back at least 25 years. Usually more. In fact, I actually hear almost exactly the same order of songs that I did when I first got my braces in 1982. Thus I am reminded of that initially agonizing experience of getting braces, and the subsequent head-gears, retainers, tightened elastics and various other dental sponsored instruments of torture. Needless to say, these are not memories worth revisiting. I am really not sure why the dentists and their assistants want to be reminded of these days either.

My view on this topic is very simple. Bad music begets bad memories. But if I really do want to be reminded of the 70’s and early 80’s, I’ll watch Boogie Nights, The Summer of Sam, Hair or Austin Powers. Damn, I might even pull out a few of my remaining 45’s (those tiny one song on each side records).

I have a lot of friends who hardly go to the dentist. I think my sister Wendy is one of them. I used to think it is because they are afraid of what they will find out about the state of their teeth and gums and what the cure entails. Now I’m starting to believe otherwise.

They are very tired, perhaps subconsciously, of the “ear cavities” too.

Oh that free speech thing

The American political Superbowl, commonly known as the Presidential Election Day, is less than three weeks away. Even though political punditry and campaign advertising are on some mass media source at least 25 hours a day, the election build-up has seemed to go pretty quickly. It’s probably just as well. In 20 days or so, barring some repeat of the 2000 Election fiasco, we can actually get back to liking our friends again.

Every four years I feel a little more dumbfounded. At least this time, however, I am not dumbfounded by either of the two remaining presidential candidates nor their running mates.  All four of them seem like rather intelligent, somewhat charismatic fellows with high-functioning brains, though I do wish Biden was not so proud of his pearly whites. Still I can live with them, and kind of admire all in different ways.

Yet I remain perplexed. I’m perplexed by how little politics has to do with substance, the actual policy aspirations of each party and how much it has to do with money. Are political campaigns, and the politicians they support, publicly traded companies? If so, then I would understand why so much money is devoted to trying to win the presidency.

Sadly, I think both campaigns combined have raised over $2 billion. Even worse, I can’t believe how much money individuals donors give. One wealthy Floridian has donated over $50 million to the Romney campaign. Do you really think any politician is worth that much dough? Does the outcome of this election really hold a value of $50 million to you, money that could otherwise feed millions of children in Africa and build much needed schools in underdeveloped countries.

If a certain party’s control of the country really means that much to you, maybe you should run for political office yourself. I hardly see the point of even donating $500 and I’m a pretty damned generous, politically sensitive person.

But how much the Super-PAC loopholes allow rabid donors to give, and how astronomically absurd the cost of campaigning has become isn’t really what has mystified me the past few days. This is America after all, and most things in the good old U S of A (Thanks Borat) are taken to exaggerated proportions. What bothers me are the hordes of signs in front of shops, houses and public parks. Call me a cynic, but I really don’t see the point.

My neighbor to the left, ironically, has two Romney signposts, some other Romney banner, and Romney-Ryan bumper stickers on both of his black Camaros. I’m still figuring out why he needs two identical cars. My neighbor the right, meanwhile, has an Obama sign and a matching bumper sticker. I’m not sure if anyone was curious who they planned to vote for, but now the entire neighborhood knows. Do they feel better knowing they have advertised their preference? When I was getting my teeth cleaned on 8th and 55th Ave the other afternoon, my eyes couldn’t help but fixate on the 20 or so Romney-Ryan signs adorning The Lighting Paradise storefront. By the way, am I the only one who thinks the Romney-Ryan logo looks like it was “borrowed” from Carnival Cruises.

The last time I checked, all of us registered voters have the same number of presidential votes – 1. I could shout my preference all day long. I could cover my entire property with Obama or Romney or the Green party candidate’s name, but I will still only get one vote. So should it really matter to anyone other than myself whom I plan to vote for? If people really want to know for whom I plan on voting, they can always ask.  I don’t feel the need to advertise to every single bystander who I feel will do the better job over the next four years. Besides, unlike most people, whose loyalties to political parties are even more blind than their loyalty to their favorite sports teams, I don’t decide for whom I’m voting more or less until I get in the election booth. As a free-thinker, I believe it’s best to try to be as well informed and patient as possible before making such a big choice.

Perhaps I’m the one who is wrong here. Perhaps the beauty of American democracy and the purpose of the 1st Amendment is that we can and should parade our political sentiments for everyone to see. If so, then all I ask is one thing. If either Obama or Romney wants me to put a sign bearing their name on my front lawn, then they first have to put an “Elman” sign on theirs. In that case, I would almost certainly have to vote for Obama. For the next 20 days at least, I’d much rather see my name on the White House Lawn

It never fails

It’s 12:45 on a gorgeous Tuesday afternoon in Coconut Grove. I just returned home after playing 90 minutes of tennis. My mood couldn’t be better. Neither could my appreciation for the game I have played for over 30 years. I love it even more than I did when I first started to get a knack for the game.

Sometime around 1997,  I was watching an interview between Oprah and Michael Jordan. His “airness” was at the peak of his basketball and financial prowess. He had just won his 5th NBA championship and was earning 30 million a year on the court, with even more off it.  But he made a comment that was particularly worth remembering. He said “All my problems go away when I step on the basketball court”.

I wasn’t surprised that Michael Jordan loved basketball. What surprised me was that arguably the best basketball player in history and perhaps one of the world’s greatest athletes had problems. How could someone so talented, so accomplished, so beloved, so able to get anything he wanted out of life, have “problems”?

I guess in our idolatry like perception of superstars, we forget that they are human too. Everyone has problems. Everyone. They may be good problems to have but they are still problems.

This blog is not intended to focus on the nature of being human. It’s a predicament we are lucky to experience no matter how excruciating the problems may be sometime. This blog is an expression of my continued love for the game of tennis, without which I can’t imagine ever having the chance to really enjoy my life.

I am reminded of Michael Jordan’s comment every time I step on the tennis court. But the good vibes begin even before my feet touch the clay, cement or on a few lucky occasions, grass. It begins with the preparation. The choosing of my tennis clothes, the momentary letting go of all other concerns, the excitement of just getting my occasionally lethargic body to the courts. It’s all part of the healing sequence. It’s all part of the joy.

I could go on for pages about all the valuable lessons tennis has taught me. I will just mention a few that resonate with my heart and soul. Tennis has taught me that many of life’s greatest feats are accomplished alone. Tennis is a lonely sport, even in doubles, you are still out there trying to win points on your end and win the battle against yourself. It also reminds me that solitude can be really empowering.

Tennis has taught me to strike a balance between aggression and self-control. Some shots, some points call for all-out adrenaline charged attack. Others require patience, discipline and retreat. No tennis player gets the balance perfectly, but over time, we learn what strategy is most likely to generate a winning result. A match, as in life, constantly demands rethinking and adjusting our approach.

When you have played as long as I have, you will have lost your fair share of matches. I have actually lost over a thousand. But I have won much more than I have lost. Regardless, that’s really not the point of playing. Life isn’t measured by wins and losses. It’s measured by the effort we bring to each challenge we face. It’s measured by our ability to appreciate and savor our victories but even more importantly, learn from and bounce back from the defeats.

Richard Nixon once said “those who fail and not those who try and fail but those who fail to try”. I believe this motto really applies to the amazing game of tennis. Aside from all the fun that can be had on the tennis court, can we really ever fail in something to which we gave our best? If you are playing a big point, decide to attack the net and lose the point because your opponent hit a terrific passing shot, should you really consider that a mistake?

I now realize that the only matches I have ever regret in my tennis career were the ones I avoided playing when I should have. No match can be won unless I step on the court. But for that matter, no match has ever been lost either that I at least tried to win.

There’s the old saying that one can never get too much of a good thing. That’s the way I feel about tennis. I am already pumped for the next time I get to be on the courts. For one, I know problems will develop before then so I can’t wait for them to go away. Secondly, life is too short not to enjoy the things we love most!

 

 

Bienvenido a Miami

As I contemplated today’s post, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to write a humor piece or an ode. I knew I wanted to write about this crazy, sometimes almost holographic city of Miami but I was torn between writing a satirical piece lampooning Miami’s quirky personality or an ode to the city I love so much. I have decided to write both.

When people ask me if I love a person romantically, I kind of laugh. I laugh because number one I find it very hard to love any person that I am not related to (mainly because I am convinced they cannot really figure out who I am) and secondly because I am already in love with something else – the city of Miami.

Like any lover, my current love has drawbacks. She’s quite vapid at times, moody, a big tease, spoiled, prone to unpredictably violent outbreaks and often doesn’t speak the same language I do. She also constantly finds ways to try my patience and push my most sensitive buttons. But like that one woman we want to break up with over and over and over again, just when are ready to permanently push the “sayonara” button, she kisses you on the cheek.

That’s the city of Miami. That’s the city I love. I have lived in seven places during my lifetime. Miami is now tied with Hanover, New Hampshire as the places I have resided in the longest. I can’t think of two diametrically opposite places to live. But somehow, as much as I loved my time in New Hampshire and everything it still represents, there is no way I could break up with my current home.

As a Jew from New England who went to high school in the 80’s, I had two very different perspectives about this city. One was the perspective I got from visiting my relatives, who like every other Northern Jew’s relatives here in South Florida, were very old and a little too predictable. I therefore saw Miami, at least when I visited, as the world’s largest retirement home and a place where old people could eat of lot of buffet, hop on casino boats at a moment’s notice and wore much less clothing than was pleasing to the eye.

Then there were the images captured in the hit TV series Miami Vice. The opening theme song conveyed it all – Miami had rhythm, pink flamingos, fast cars, lots of drugs, was a fashion trendsetter, had beautiful women and everyone spoke in some type of slick code. Oh, And the party never ended.

As I got older, I started getting the feeling that the only thing better than watching Miami Vice on TV was seeing it in living color, though at least in my case, without the drugs. As for all the retirees, well, I was hoping they wouldn’t be in front of me on the golf course.

I can pinpoint the exact moment I decided to move to Miami. Everything in life happens for a reason, at least that’s what I would like to think. I hated my public school teaching job in Nashville and couldn’t wait for a change in scenery. Then I was invited to Miami in February of 2001 for a college friend’s wedding. The ceremony was at the Church of the Little Flower and the reception at some beautiful banquet hall right next door.

The wedding itself was awesome. There were beautiful women, great food, drinks and dancing until the early hours of the morning. Families had their kids up on the dance floor past midnight. I wasn’t “in Kansas any more”, that’s for sure. But the wedding alone wasn’t enough to seduce me.

I remember driving home from the wedding at about 4:00 AM with the convertible top open. The next day I went to the beach and played tennis at Flamingo Park. And I saw even more beautiful women.

Prior to that weekend, Miami had always been a tourist town to me, as well my ideal of the good life. I was single, in the early stages of my teaching career and a tennis and golf junkie. Why not be a full-time tourist in the place that fit my lifestyle ideal?

The choice was already made.

I have now lived in Miami for more than 11 years. Time has passed at blistering speed. I am still figuring out what this place is all about. There is nowhere like it in the US and perhaps on earth. Maybe that’s why I love it so much. Like that crazy but intoxicating lover, she is never the same person two days in a row.

There are memories from my time here that would have been absolutely impossible to match anywhere else. For the sake of avoiding a novel of “only in Miami” stories, I will only mention a few.

I will never forget my first visit to the Orange Bowl. I’m sorry to confess that I wasn’t much of a Canes fan at the time (for some reason I grew up liking FSU), but my immediate reaction was “man this place is the largest outdoor frat house I’ve ever been to”. This was just after parking right in the middle of someone’s well-cut lawn and getting some weird native sandwich from the same guy. As the game progressed, I realized two things – one the fans were nuts about the Canes and two, anyone who wore anything resembling a Noles or Gators shirt was likely to be attacked with verbal, liquid and other unpleasant forms of assault.

My brain is starting to tire but along those same lines, most of my weirdest/fondest memories also take place in Little Havana. One was my first trip to the Walgreens on Flagler and 27th Avenue. My sister had helped me move down to Miami and flew with a few of my bags. She was trying to get a prescription filled and everyone was speaking in Spanish. At one point she turned to me and said “Dude, do you realize no one here speaks a lick of English? I can see why they hired you so quickly.”

Another great memory was after the Marlins won the World Series in 2003. I was kind of hoping that the post-game celebration would involve beautiful Latina women running around half naked and all-night beach parties left and right. As it turns out, it was something better, a bumper to bumper stereo blaring, train horn sounding, pots and pans clanging cacophony of improvised authentic fun on 8th street.  It was the perfect Miami celebration.

The last image I will describe is the scene on ‘calle ocho” again just a few evenings before the Kerry-Bush 2004 election. Before I moved to Miami, I never really thought about the political dynamics here and that was probably just as well. As a lifelong Democrat, I didn’t realize that much of the city has a different political psyche than the old Jewish folks in Sunny Isles. There was a Kerry campaign headquarters right next to La Carreta. Right across the street from it, however, was Versailles.

The scene was surreal. Thank God I don’t speak a lot of Spanish because I couldn’t really understand what anyone was screaming. But whatever it was, it wasn’t a bunch of pleasantries. I have never seen such political fervor. The smaller, La Carreta Democratic side of the street was pissed off. The Republican, Versailles side of the street was even more pissed off. People would run towards the middle of the street and throw water balloons and mangoes at each other.

Ironically it was a beautiful scene. And “only in Miami”

Eleven plus years after moving to Miami, I still feel like a tourist. For some bizzare reason, I love that feeling. It means I can continue to enjoy my lover without having to get married. For some bizzare reason, I don’t think my lover is all that into the commitment thing either. She really likes playing the game too.

De-stigmatizing self-confidence

There was once a time, even during last season’s NBA playoffs, when I started disliking Dwayne Wade because I thought he was too confident. That may sound blasphemous to say here in Wade County but I have to make such a confession. I will also confess that I was wrong.

Dwayne Wade has been a cornerstone in both Miami Heat championships. He is very low key off the court and probably very humble as well. His on-court persona, however, is visibly confident, if not cocky. It works for him and it certainly works for the Heat. He has been one of the top 5 players in the NBA over the last decade.

Whether it’s on the basketball court, in the surgery room, behind a microphone or anything else contingent on performance, self-confidence is not only helpful, but also essential. Yet as a society, we seem to look down on those who possess an aura of self-confidence. Perhaps we prefer that they hang their heads rather than proudly display their talent. If anything, we should not only celebrate their talents and contributions, but the confidence that precedes it.

I can’t speak for others but I know that If I don’t display confidence, even if it is of the quiet variety, I won’t succeed. Only when I have believed in myself and actually portrayed that sense of assurance with a little bit of swagger, have I actually gone out in the world and done something worth remembering. I’m sure there are many different clinical terms for this such as self-actualization, ‘self-fufilling prophecies” or just “acting the part”. Whichever one makes sense to you, they all kind of suggest the same thing. Just believe in yourself and let that confidence act itself out.

I know what it’s like not to believe in myself, to be afraid to show off what I was good at. Those days sucked. I hid behind a veil of somewhat unfounded self-doubt and fear. I am glad those days are behind me. I did not get to use nearly as many of my talents as I would have liked. Since I got my college degree, I have gone out of my way to make up for the days of not believing in myself.

I could list hundreds of examples for whom self-confidence seems to be an asset. They are probably a little cocky too and you know what, more power to them. They deserve to be. I will simply say that Steven Speilberg, Steve Jobs, Michael Jordan, and J.K. Rowling didn’t get to where they are by burying their confidence. Neither do the people closer to our lives that we admire the most.

One does not have to be a superstar to be confident. We normal people are probably not meant to do spectacular things. But we are given a chance to make something of ourselves and to show off a little bit in so doing.

The people I look up to most are Bono, Andre Agassi and Woody Allen. They are all amazing at what they do, never seem to stop striving, and do so with a tremendous amount of pride. They may also be outliers but even outliers had to start on a normal playing field. I don’t know what it was like for them in the beginning of their careers but I can only assume it started with a good deal of confidence. Why else would anyone dare to be so great?

I am not sure if you agree with me. But thank God I am at a point in my life where I am confident enough to assume I’m right. That’s good enough for me!

Just Go For It!

For as long as I could take myself seriously (which as it turns out may not be as long as I thought), I have wanted to be a writer. I probably have a romanticized view of what the life of a writer entails, but isn’t that what all writers-at-heart do? They fictionalize and idealize.

I do know that when I taught literature, I was torn in between the thrill of presenting a well-written book to my students and the frustration of never having written one myself. The voice inside at least seemed to be nudging me to try.

I am currently reworking my first work full work of fiction. Who knows where the process will lead but I feel more confident than ever that I am on the right track. When my buddy David Fernandez and I pitched our respective story lines at a PitchSlam in NYC in January, I think we both felt that regardless how surreal the experience seemed, we had taken an essential first step.

Writing is fun for me. Agonizingly fun, usually the result of painful or at least confusing experiences that detour me from my pivot points, but it’s ultimately enjoyable to express them on paper. I can’t speak for other creative individuals but I have always seen creativity as less of a blessing than a curse. I guess most things that are ultimately good for us appear that way.

I have reached a crossroads, creative and otherwise. I have realized over the last few weeks that I’m sort of at a now or never point with my writing. Either I continue to be overprotective of my written work, which is the window into my thought process, or I begin to share what enlightens me. In regards to this conflict, the teacher in me says “Just Go For It . Stop being so controlled and controlling.” The often cautious student in me says “What if people don’t like it?”

For once, I need to follow the teacherly advice I so often give.

Maybe some artists really just do art for themselves but every time I say that, I feel like a bullshitter. I do hope for an audience, and I hope you enjoy this and many more blogs to come

Hello world!

Once upon a time I was young and foolish. Now I’m older, probably equally foolish but far better informed. Somewhere along the line I realized that I liked tennis, sushi, traveling, reading, writing and a bunch of other things with creative essences. I have an obsessive personality and writing, all forms of it, is what obsesses me most now. I can with equal confidence say that not writing often results in unbearable emotional constipation.

I like food and food for thought way too much to suffer from such a condition.

This first blog is not so much a blog as an exhortation. I have to keep following the path I’m on. Nothing in life happens by accident and so it seems to be no accident that I’m making a concerted effort to express my thoughts more publicly.

I sense that writing is really intended to connect us more to the world around us than to get lost in ourselves so i don’t want my writing to feel like it’s just about me. I’m just one person and kind of boring at that. But the world around me is pretty damned interesting!