Friday, March 28, 2008

moon over parma

on the eve of my relocating to live with old friends as new roommates, i can't help but think about the place i grew up and spent 15 of my 24 years.

out of my friends growing up, i lived the closest to the cleveland border, off the interstate, just a few blocks away from the area code change, in a city-sized suburb with a reputation for democrat voters, poor fashion sense, and a racist attitude.

this wasn't necessarily always directed at minorities either, like the time my croatian neighbor down the street had a fit because the serbian guy on the next street over was having a party and was playing old serbian songs, though the two of them had never met face-to-face. he told my dad to call the police, which was something he didn't do.

as the older generation has moved on, it's becoming less that way, and the street i grew up on now includes lebanese and vietnamese families, and the neighborhood has middle eastern grocery stores and indian restaurants, a mosque and a hindu temple along with the polish meat shops and onion domes of the orthodox churches.

ironically, when i went to college, even though demographically my campus was more diverse, it didn't seem that way because everyone mostly stuck with their own little enclaves, and i didn't hear three or four different languages spoken around me, there were no kids with tricked-out honda civics listening to euro-techno hanging out at the park or the coffee shop, no lebanese kids on motorized scooters, no indian grocery stores or strip-mall vietnamese restaurants.

but the stigma of the past forty years remains, and i'll still hear those attitudes espoused by people who also grew up in blue-collar families similar to my own, to the point where i've been around people from the east side and feel embarrassed to admit where i come from even if there really shouldn't be any shame at all. or people from the suburbs that tend to have more college professors than chevy plant workers who assume that you're unenlightened trash that probably watches nascar and wrestling and listens to ac/dc.

because a lot of people i know from here are good people, open-minded people, and humble people, who poke fun at where they've grown up but get offended if someone from cleveland heights does.

at least in the people i hung out with, who preferred various genres of metal and punk, everyone seems to know each other somehow, or know someone who knows someone, and when you're far from home you find a kinship with those people who grew up with unpronounceable last names and hybrid lineages: polish/irish, lebanese/slovak, ukrainian/hungarian, who grew up assuming that everyone knew what kielbasa and pierogies were, that our long ethnic last names weren't weird, or that everyone wore white tube socks (i remember being at a party at kent state and realizing that me and another guy from parma were the only ones rocking the things).

as i move out of there for the first time in two years, i wonder how it will continue to evolve and change, and how long it will take to shed its reputation as the previous generation passes on and others move in to take their place.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


i've never considered myself materialistic, but as i'm packing up my stuff into boxes last night talking to lindsey on the phone, i realize how much stuff i really do have, and as much as i'd like to believe it could all fit in the back of my sexy saturn, we all know it won't.

i live a relatively simple life in the sense that i don't feel like i need a whole lot to keep me content. but i have my indulgences also. i have two guitars, a violin that i haven't touched in two years, and two basses, one of which is on loan. one box is entirely cds, another is piled high with books, i threw out some of my clothes finally (that lookout records t-shirt from 1996 had to go sometime). i haven't even packed the paintings, the art supplies, or the record collection yet, though i think, with the exception of the bed and the bookcase, most of it will fit in the back of my car.

but still, i want to see how much i can get rid of. you never realize how much junk you have until you have to carry all of it.

Monday, March 24, 2008

signs and wonders

easter never seemed so bright and beautiful as this before. so cold, and snow on the ground, but sun streaming through the windows.

i was asked to play guitar for the service yesterday, something i haven't done in a long time (i've been a bass-playing gal for awhile now). i'm still more of a guitarist than a bassist and while i haven't picked up a guitar in months, it was back in my hands and felt so natural and good.

when we ended with 'oh happy day' while i pummeled my guitar until the strings dislocated while joe and tim laid down amazing basslines and tight drums as the voices of people from five continents and infinitely different backgrounds, cultures, and stories came together in song.

one lady on the street asked me one time as i was coming in, if that was the puerto rican church, and i said no, it's just a church. of course, it's a place that happens to include a smattering of everything on the west side. puerto rican? sure, and black and white, east african and caribbean, an ethiopian congregation that meets in the afternoon. people from every conceivable demographic and walk of life.

it's said how good and pleasant it is when we dwell together in unity, and i feel like i got a glimpse of that yesterday. that little glimmer of what heaven will be.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

to sing that resurrection song

i was catholic until the age of ten, when my parents decided that they wanted to go to another church where they felt like they got more out of it every sunday morning, and since then at different stages of my life i've passed through several different churches, and currently hang out at a place on the lower west side where that quote about sunday morning being the most segregated hour in america is beautifully contradicted.

some of the people i know talk a lot of trash about the catholic church, and there's probably reason for some of it. a friend of mine once joked that "former catholic" is the most common creed of our generation.

but i find myself loving the times of contemplation and the ideas associated with ash wednesday, lent, good friday, advent and the way that it reminds me of things that become so easy to take for granted. when i was in college i used to wander into st patrick's and just sit there in the quiet listening to the janitor sing. now i sometimes walk down to trinity cathedral downtown which is always open and read the prayers posted on the bulletin board and stare up at the stained-glass ceiling.

so tonight i am going with a friend to a seder celebration at her church, i'll be spending good friday night with people from mine.

the snow is melting outside and it's growing more beautiful by the day...

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

super bon bon...

st patrick's day parade on lunchbreak was fun. good people watching and such. i tried taking a picture of the 'retired irish policemen' because of the whole r.i.p. acronym but it didn't come out.

frank and i are going to see mike doughty (of soul coughing fame) at the beachland tonight. i was a little disappointed the plans for the gutter twins fell through but this will make up for it.

i hope he plays this song.

Friday, March 14, 2008


i started this as an email to some friends and then it just got too big, so it's going here.

those of you that i've talked to recently know that i'm a bit skeptical about a lot of the i guess what you'd call 'emergent' philosophies on the church's role in dealing with poverty and social problems. i'm not sure if i believe that 'another world is possible' unless this other world is the world to come.

i worry sometimes that we forget about the intense starvation of the soul lacking true connection with God and others, that often, but not always comes along with physical needs. i really do believe that we're all broken and inherently messed-up, and because of that, every society on this earth is just as broken.

i look at my kids on sunday morning and their broken families where mom is drunk and dad isn't there and the older brothers and the uncles are in prison. i look at their apartment where there's no furniture, just air mattresses and a tv. they don't have much, but what they're starving for is love and some kind of meaning and sense of connection, because for them, that doesn't exist.

so i try my best to do both. they learn about God and everything he's done for them, but i also make them lunch, hook them up with art supplies (they have playstations but no crayons), and just give them a safe place to hang out and talk about what's going on with them while i have the chance to. a lot of the time, kids in this neighborhood end up moving and disappearing and no one ever sees them again.

what i want them to look back on though, is not the crafts we did or the hot chocolate i made, the games of checkers. i want to be sure they know that they are loved by God and that they know how to love him back.

and this summer, with my loans being paid off by the end of the month, i'm praying about moving down there, living in this neighborhood instead of driving in every sunday morning. i'm already checking out apartments and seeing what the options are.

so with these rambling thoughts in mind, that's why this segment of a john piper talk really jumped out at me and hit me where i needed it.

the full part is here, but this is what really grabbed me:

Calls to Repentance

Now there are only a few branches that spring up out of the trunk of God's wrath, only a few calls to repentance. One we saw in 5:6, "Seek the Lord and live." So there is hope for the converted. But 5:14, 15 make it clear that conversion is more than just changing your mind about God. It means exchanging love of comfort for love of goodness and justice. Amos says,

Seek good, and not evil, that you may live, and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you, as you have said. Hate evil, and love good, and establish justice in the gate; it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.

O, to have a church full of people who don't care if they live in comfort, but who hate evil, love good, and who devote themselves to establish justice in the gate! People who feel grief and indignation not just when their right to get rich is threatened, but also when children die of starvation and anyone dies without salvation.

What does it mean to have justice established in the gate? I don't think it means to have a society without distinctions, but a society without oppression. No more exploitation; no more small print in the contracts; no more price-manipulating monopolies; no more Marie Antoinettes who say of the poor, "Let them eat cake." And no more Robin Hoods who steal from the rich. No more central socialist committees who hold a gun to your head and tell you how much of yours is really your neighbor's, and no more fat capitalistic cats who walk by Lazarus every day on their way to work off their latest five pounds of wine on the silver running machine. No more false advertising; no more slipshod workmanship at $30 an hour. When every wage is fair, every contract is plain, every agreement is kept, and everyone strives for the advancement of his fellow man and not just his own—and all to the glory of God, then justice will be established in the gate.

And how shall we do it? By striving to produce men and women whose hearts are aflame with the righteousness of God. And by struggling together to know what elements of righteousness should be enacted into civil law. When a slumlord gouges a Laotian family with exorbitant rent in the Phillips neighborhood, it is not necessarily because of bad laws; it's because of a bad man. Therefore, we must guard ourselves against the naïve idea that those who work for rent control at city hall are necessarily working harder to establish justice than those who work to convert evil men so that their hearts and business practices will ring with the righteousness of Christ.

If America stays free—which, by the way, is not the main goal of the church but, I pray, a happy byproduct—if America stays free, it will not be because Christian right-wingers push through a prayer amendment, or because Christian left-wingers push through bigger government subsidies for housing and health and jobs. It will be because the salt of the earth and the light of the world have exerted such a profound spiritual effect on the heart and soul of the nation that men and women feel pangs of conscience when contracts are broken, and refugees are gouged, and prices are inflated, and workmanship is shabby, and babies are intentionally aborted.

Constraining civil laws are necessary in a fallen world. But if violations of love are not treated at the spiritual spring, then the river of evil that flows out of man's heart will break through every legal dam and sweep the world away with injustice. One group on earth has this potential and this mission—the Church of Jesus Christ. If we are not wholeheartedly engaged in this indispensable spiritual work, no one else will do it, for no one else has the message of redemption. And justice will most assuredly, then, not be established in the gate. And then, who will stand when the Lord roars from Zion?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


depending on who i'm around, i'm perceived as the flaming bleeding liberal or the psychotic wingnut conservative, and maybe to some i probably embody a little bit of both, and these kind of situations make me realize how useless and irrelevant those labels are.

but here's the thing that often leads me on the more right-leaning side of the fence:
i'm pro-life.

but i believe that this is more than being for the rights of the unborn. i believe that this constitutes a deep respect and value for ALL human life, regardless of who someone is, regardless of beliefs religious or otherwise, mental/physical capability, orientation, socioeconomic status, nationality, etc.

i believe that we're all created by God and that it's a slap in the face to God himself when we abuse or denigrate his creation, when we treat people as less than who they are because they happen to be the wrong age or demographic, or shade of skin or we just don't agree with what they have to say, when we harm animals for kicks, when we mess up the earth just because we can.

i know that this is a tall order and a tough philosophy to live out. but i really do try to, even in the case of people who drive me crazy. i know that people will disagree with me but that's okay.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

airwaves dream

i've been a college radio junkie since my early teens, owed in part to my dad. this saved me from the morass that was an especially dark period of corporate rock radio at a time when limp bizkit, boy bands, and sum 41 ruled the airwaves. when 311 was about as good as it got.

so my dad and i would drive down to case to get my braces done and i would skip school for the day (my freshman year of high school was not kind to me) and we'd drive around cleveland listening to any combination of wcsb, wruw, wjcu, and a heavy dosage of classic rock thrown in for good measure. we'd listen to the conspiracy theories and black flag on 'domestic terrorism' and shows that played psychedelic mexican garage bands that no one's ever heard of, while driving around the east side exploring coventry, trying to find the home he grew up in off ansel road, taking the marginal roads along the lake.

when i couldn't sleep in high school i would listen to shows like 'music to break things by' 'secret ions' or 'sergio van lukenstein's unjustified power trip' on my headphones late at night, falling asleep to fugazi, the jam, burning airlines, mission of burma. my sister and i would dance to arabic pop music on saturday nights, i developed a taste for sounds i'd never been exposed to otherwise: african pop. early jamaican reggae and dub, vintage blues and soul cuts, garage punk from behind the iron curtain.

people ask me what i would play if i had a show, and the late great joe strummer sums it up pretty well, i think.

Ragga, Bhangra, two-step Tanga
Mini-cab radio, music on the go
Um, surfbeat, backbeat, frontbeat, backseat
There's a bunch of players and they're really letting go
We got, Brit pop, hip hop, rockabilly, Lindy hop
Gaelic heavy metal fans fighting in the road
Ah, Sunday boozers for chewing gum users
They got a crazy D.J. and she's really letting go

Sunday, March 9, 2008

win some lose some...

sometimes you realize that there's a lot of junk in your life that shouldn't be there.

and it's hard to get rid of. i wish that your own feelings and frustrations were as easy to throw away as material possessions.

i almost crashed my car at the end of the street today. snow is lame.

Friday, March 7, 2008

that english degree wasn't a waste

it's funny how every place you've been, even when you seem to hit dead ends or wonder "what on earth did i ever do that for?" you realize there's a reason for it. like my year when i thought i would be doing graphic design but then realized that i wasn't really cut out for it, and changed to a major in english lit instead.

when i moved home and finding a full-time job seemed improbable, i was kicking myself for doing this whole majoring in liberal arts thing because even with a psychology degree you could find more employment and i was stuck in sticksville working part-time at a place that made me feel like dirt every time i went in. i can look back now and laugh at how dismal it was, but that's because i'm not there anymore.

so i felt like my degree was useless because i'm not doing research for cancer (even though i'm awful at science or helping the poor or something.

but the past couple days have reaffirmed why i did this in the first place. one of the things that i really enjoyed doing when i was in school was editing and proofreading papers for my friends and coworkers. mostly this involved minor tweaking and a little editing, but it always made me feel good when people would come back to me and say "i was failing this class and i finished it now with a B-," or "i got a 100% on this paper."

now i don't do this quite as frequently. i'll look over my sisters' work, or sometimes people will come up to the desk and ask me how certain things are spelled. sometimes the papers i see are so incoherent and badly written that i can only refer them to someone who's better at this, and then i'm told i don't care or that i screwed it up. when you consider the source this is coming from, you really can't take it personally, but it's frustrating nonetheless.

and then... there are those other times when you just happen to be at the right place at the right time with a skill you didn't even think was all that useful and suddenly it means something and you can use it to help someone else grow...

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

i can't think of a better way to spend the night, than cruising around underneath the yellow lights...

a good friend of mine is moving back to the 216 from columbus at the end of this month.

when she would come up to visit, we'd end up doing these drives through cleveland, often late at night, soaking it in and exploring.

her friends in high school used to drive around the east side looking for where bone thugs grew up but we never did that.

this became a tradition, partly because everything else was closed and we wanted to catch up since we hadn't seen each other. for some reason, this has become one of my favorite things to do, and i know it will be one of my favorite memories when i look back on this time in my life.

since then, i've take others on what has become my 'grand tour of cleveland,' which usually involves taking the shoreway to the east side, driving through little italy, down through chinatown through downtown to the industrial part of the flats, and up through tremont.

these are the things i'll remember from these ventures...

the guy on detroit releasing a cage full of doves on christmas eve
wanting to join the kids climbing up the free stamp
dancing to elton john and bob dylan on the rock hall plaza
bats swarming around the national city bank tower,
all the candy-colored cars with the big rims on west 6th
driving over the lit-up bridges because they're beautiful
ending up on streets we didn't know existed
singing along to the clash
the christmas lights and snow blowing down detroit road
doing the "axl rose snakedance" at a gas station at 2am
the gorgeous solitude of cuyahoga valley national park
cops in riot gear and people running everywhere on st clair
the perfect view of downtown on the other side of the lorain-carnegie bridge
wondering who lives in those city-block sized mansions in bratenahl
getting lost on the east side all the time
singing 'this land is your land' while driving through the flats
finding van gogh's starry night rendered in spraypaint under a bridge.

i don't know why driving and music go together so well, it must be some weird american ingrained cultural thing. but there's something exhilarating about being out with a good friend and having good music on the stereo and the windows rolled down seeking small adventures that does it for me every time.