Thursday, January 31, 2008

so i had a facebook account for about 4 hours.

i've decided i'm not that wild about having all my information out there. anyone i'd be "friends" with i'd either see in real life or already have some form of contact with them.

i had the same feeling with myspace when i had it for about a week a couple years ago, it was just too much time wasted seeing what people i went to high school with were up to. the potential for drama was just too high.

so it's gone. i doubt it will be coming back.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

reality check #1

i woke up at 4am this morning with the wind louder than i've heard it in a long time. my clock was blinking so i set my alarm on my phone and rolled back over to sleep. i don't get much heat in my room but i've got the covers piled up so it's warm.

but what i'm thinking of as the wind is howling outside is this woman i met on the bus who knows one of my coworkers. as we're heading home, she's telling me the brief version of her story about how she ended up homeless... twice.

the first time was after one of her kids died and her house burned down and she lost everything. being a single mom, she didn't have any support and soon found herself on the street. later on, she got things back together and found a good guy that she was with for twelve years but when he died, she found herself alone again and homeless for a second time. now she lives with her sister and works part time and is going to school so that she can work in a shelter and help other women and kids that were in her situation at one time.

she tells me it's impossible to understand what it's like to be in that place if you haven't been there. she says she believes that God exists but finds it hard to trust him about anything after all that's happened to her. she says that no one plans their life out like this, that people assume it's somehow your fault but sometimes things just collapse around you.

and i really don't have anything to say because i haven't been there. sure, i know people who've lived under bridges or slept in their cars or panhandled their way home, but i've never been there myself and felt that loneliness, loss, and helplessness.

so i just listen...

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

this is one of my favorite places on the west side.

it's a russian orthodox monastery that also serves as a house of hospitality to homeless men in the area.

not being as familiar with the orthodox tradition, i looked up st herman of alaska to see what his story was and learned that he entered the monastic life at the age of 16 and moved with several other monks to alaska where he lived an ascetic life among the aleuts and defended them against exploitation. he provided them with food (grown from his own garden) and clothing, nursed the sick, and helped educate the children.

it's literally a block down the street from my church and sometimes i'll go over there to wander in the garden because it's one of those special places.

and there's lots of random domes everywhere

Saturday, January 19, 2008


i hung out with kristy this afternoon before she went to work, and we made a trip to the west side market for lunch (black bean, cheese and tomatillo enchiladas from orale), and then out to take pictures. we drove along train avenue because she'd never been down there. we took a few pictures down there, and noticed some tagging on the bridge above us so we climbed up the side to get a better look.

we kept going up and there was all this amazing graffiti by the tracks (at this point the batteries in my camera died so i didn't get the really good shots).

we realized we were on the other side of the fence by the fun wall, so we got in the car and drove up to the gas station there to get double-a batteries and continue the venture.

i had heard all about this place from friends in high school who used to tag here but it was the first time i'd actually seen it for myself. and it was good.

Friday, January 18, 2008

c.s. lewis is the man...

this quote still rings true today...

"The greatest evil is not done in those sordid dens of evil that Dickens loved to paint ... but is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried and minuted) in clear, carpeted, warmed, well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voices."

Thursday, January 17, 2008

looking for elton/tom araya

although i bought my 'sexy saturn' (dubbed as such by the palestinian gas station clerk down the street from me) off of craigslist, the "musicians" section is not nearly so promising, full of aspiring van halen tribute bands and teenage metalheads.

but this one was a keeper as far as giggles go.

Tribute band looking for lead vocalist/stage manager. We are a professional touring tribute act that combines the 70's glitz and glamour of Elton John with the heavy, brutal, speed metal assault of Slayer all performed as a Broadway-like stage production borrowing heavily from Death of a Salesman, Cats, and the Lion King.

5 years as an operatic understudy required. Voice must be clear for Elton parts and harsh and evil for Tom Araya parts. If you play an instrument, be sure you've mastered it, and it's either piano or electric bass. Ideal person would also have professional ballet training, or interpretive dance experience. Ability to script and direct a stage production required. We are committed to only achieving EXCELLENCE with this project. We will be working above the stage at some points, so those afraid of heights need not apply.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

how to lose friends and irritate people...

i can't think of any person that knows how to take criticism well. i know that i don't, but i've gotten to the point where i do think it over more to see if it is legitimate, because so often others see things that are wrong faster than you see it yourself.

i see a lot of people in my life struggling right now. crippled by debt, depression, bad relationships, and in some cases heavy substance abuse, or just facing up to the fact that life isn't what we thought it would be when we were 18 and the world seemed more open to us.

i end up listening so much and when asked what my thoughts are i try to be as honest as possible while still trying to maintain a measure of tact.

i fail miserably at this, of course.

it's so hard when the solution is so glaringly obvious.

i really do believe that it's wrong to say "it'll all be ok," when it so obviously won't be, outside of some kind of divine intervention. yet when everything blows up in your face, it's somehow my fault? i don't think so. anyone who knows you could tell any or all of these things were going to happen and it was just a matter of time.

i feel like my life can often be summed up by these lines courtesy of michael stipe:

"oh no, i've said too much... i haven't said enough."

Saturday, January 12, 2008

life, and life abundantly....

tonight i drove out to oberlin to hang out with a good friend of mine. we've known each other since we were 16, and now she's married and expecting her first child. we've come a long way from our teenage days of doing snow angels in random yards, loitering around great northern mall (because that was the only place we could ever meet up) and staying up all night eating junk food and listening to the dead milkmen.

she is one of the most intensely peaceful and spiritual people i know, and when i was in school she would send me letters and verses written on tiny collages made of scraps of paper. one of those amazing people who means everything she says and backs it up with actions in a quiet and powerful way.

she made me dinner tonight, and we sat on the living room floor drinking strong coffee as she knitted an afghan for their baby girl, and i worked on a painting i'm contributing to an art show that my kent people are putting on.

she had a cd of spirituals that she got from the library and we listened to it two times through and just listening to the words and the acapella arrangements was just the most peaceful thing. we didn't even realize it was going on 11:30 until she got a phone call and we looked at the time.

i drove home tonight on the empty roads feeling so incredibly full of peace and life.

Friday, January 11, 2008

dengue fever

plans have changed,

but this is something i'm more than a bit excited about seeing:

this california band resurrects a hybrid of cambodian pop, 60s garage, with a dash of ethiopian jazz, that more or less got killed off when the khmer rouge murdered 3 million people. among the artists, musicians, and intellectuals that were especially singled out, was a thriving musical scene that created some absolutely wild stuff (listen here)

anyhow, they're playing in columbus on february 29, and i'm definitely going to roadtrip down there to check it out.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

thinking about checking out some local garage/indie rock out at pat's in the flats tomorrow night with frank to check out these guys from west virginia.

i love pat's because it couldn't exist in a lot of other places, being a "working-man bar by day, blue-collar rock-club at night." this is where the white stripes played before they got famous, and where you can see any combination of local acts and random bands from out of town.

i'm surprised at how many people i've met haven't even heard of the place, but it is hard to find, and even then, it looks like it could be abandoned from the outside.

but on the inside it reminds me of a really awesome basement or living room but i'm not sure why.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

the more you see the less you know...

i really don't have a whole lot of faith in politicians on either side, but i have been finding this election season a whole lot more interesting even if i'm a bit fatalistic about whatever we end up with. ideally i'm hoping for an obama-mccain matchup just because it'd be interesting but being from this neck of the woods i've learned not to expect too much.

one of the things that irritates the heck out of me though is when people use the whole poverty thing as a talking point, especially if they're ambulance chasing lawyers turned politicians (cough cough, john edwards, cough). come on now, what would you know about any of that? you go to work every day in one of the most desperate areas of the country and don't look any of these people in the eye and you have the nerve to act like you care. i could think of a whole lot of other things you could do with $400 instead of getting a haircut.

(then again being that scruffy kid, i cut my own hair all the way through college and that didn't always look too good).

one of the things that always struck me whenever i've visited dc is that you could be driving through the very worst part of town and you'll see the capitol dome rising up over all of it. there are homeless veterans and people on crack and people down on their luck like the unemployed migrant workers that becky and the rest of us ended up hanging out with who traveled across the country picking fruit and doing construction but weren't able to find any work so they were living on the steps of a lutheran church less than a mile from the white house.

i don't know how you could live with yourself walking past that every day as you go to work and make legislation or attend various talks and photo-ops and fundraisers.

but then again, i live in one of the poorest cities in the country and my bus goes by guys sleeping on heating vents on the superior avenue sidewalks in the shadow of the keybank tower.

i guess i try to do what i can, trying not to consume as much, trying to do what i can in the places where i find myself. i pass on job leads, old textbooks, any resources that come my way. i don't have time like i used to, but i still try to give it up, use it for something.

trying not to be so darn self-absorbed, which is hard given that my generation codes itself by "i" and "me" and "my."

it's not like compassion is relegated exclusively to the republicans or the democrats or conservatives or liberals. there are heartless and self-absorbed people on both sides and while it may make you feel good to talk about how great you are in comparison to "those other people," doesn't really do a whole lot of good.

i see anarchist friends who feed the homeless every sunday in public square, and the amazing people at nueva luz who come from a much more conservative nazarene background who distribute food and clothing in the neighborhood and have loads of resources for people with AIDS in the hispanic community.

this whole issue is never as cut-and-dried as it appears to be. so please, talking heads, everywhere, please stop acting like you have some kind of monopoly on it.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

diamonds and guns

there's a group of kids who live across the street from the church i go to, and they show up every sunday morning bringing an assortment of neighbors, cousins, and older siblings. what amazes me is that their parents are rarely there, but they show up nonetheless.

i've probably heard the bible stories we go over a million times, but they've never heard these stories before. they like playing the games, and don't always get into the craft activities so much. they draw me pictures and i make hot chocolate for the little ones, who want at least three scoops of swiss miss and two packs of sugar.

they range in age from 3-12, and i still haven't figured out how they're all related.

the one girl was freaking out because her cousin showed up wearing these earrings that looked a bit like this:

"you're not supposed to wear those to church!" tiasia says and he felt all embarrassed and asked me if he should go home because he did a bad thing and i said no. that it didn't matter to me and
i was just glad he was there.

we did a prayer walk through the neighborhood this afternoon and me and tiasia walk together on the one side of the street and pray for everyone who lives there. she prays for the kids on her street and the people who are in prison and the people who are on drugs. the boys are across the street alternating between showing off their favorite wrestling moves they saw on tv, quoting souljah boy, and praying that their families get back together and "heavenly father, please help the neighbors across the street who are smoking weed to not do it anymore because it's bad!"

at the end of the walk, they take us upstairs to meet her aunt and there is no furniture upstairs, just inflatable mattresses spread out on the floor, milk crates instead of chairs, and a pile of clothes in the corner. i've met her aunt a couple times and the guy that lives there, and little ones greet me with hugs and tell me they want to come along with the big kids next time too.

i see the older kids walking around the streets down there and wonder what the future of these small ones will be. i pray and hope against hope that it's something better.

i find myself choking up as i walk down the stairs and back to my car.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

mad props to the winston jazz...

the awesome kids from mansfield not only toured with david bazan earlier this year but also made it onto npr!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

i look pretty good but i'm just backdated, or, favorite albums of 2007

i don't know what 'the kids' are listening to anymore, but i can say that the new arcade fire was disappointing, the shins are boring, and i couldn't tell you anything about 85% of the stuff that made it onto the best-of lists this year. much of it seemed like fruity dance music, or boring lite-rock for the hipsters, so, in keeping with my ever-more geriatric tastes, here's the best of the year from yours truly.

soulsavers - it's not how far you fall, it's the way you land
because mark lanegan is the gen-x johnny cash

bedouin soundclash - street gospels
because these canadians bring the reggae

bad brains - build a nation
because these guys are righteous (and the only hardcore i listen to anymore)

dinosaur jr - beyond
because j mascis is j mascis

kristin hersh - learn to sing like a star
because i want to be kristin hersh when i grow up

beastie boys - the mix-up
because i couldn't stop listening to it.

so we're told this is the golden age...

celebrated new year's eve at a friend's house in ohio city. the chilled out holiday of conversation, board games, tv, swishing sparkling grape juice around in a goblet.

i found my writing from a year ago at this time and i was quoting jawbreaker lyrics and feeling extremely depressed, being lonely and hating my job and wondering how i'd screwed up so badly, why i couldn't connect with anyone. wondering why everyone else was messed up even more than i was.

this year at the same time i'm dogsitting on the west side, in the neighborhood of the photo below, walking the cold cleveland streets with a big black dog, continuing to seek ways to serve and love this place that i've made my home. like everything in life, you lose some things but then you get other things back.

and i'm so thankful. i've got a car so i can see more of friends who live outside of walking distance, i've met new brothers and sisters that have made me see the world in new ways, i have a place of employment i actually like waking up for in the morning. i've found a church up here where i'm actually a part of things again and share the same vision. i'm breaking open those guitar calluses on my hands again. i've got kids who draw me pictures and tell me about their lives. i realize yet again that there is a hope and a future here.