Monday, August 30, 2010

summer coda

My weekend began with an unexpected dinner on the back porch, with my roommate's family and some other friends downing Ethiopian-spiced spaghetti, injera, and curry.

Since the nights are finally cool and the evening was already feeling festive, we got out the fire pit and roasted marshmallows, and invited the little punks who run around the neighborhood over where they proceeded to be hilarious in the way that only middle school kids can be, pretending to be older than they obviously are and trying to talk up my roommate's sister who responds, "what are you, like 12 or something?" which they are.

Saturday was a weird day with a lot of random errands, the general frustration of the earlier post, and existential spiritual questions being pondered by candlelight in my kitchen over cups of citrus tea, but Sunday was full of art-making and east side adventuring with the partner in crime.

We had originally planned on going in search of Jamaican food but every single place we drove by was closed, so we called Joe, the source of all knowledge of directions, interesting places, diners, and dives, and he sent us to "Everything and Then Some," a soul food spot in East Cleveland.

The sun was so perfect and golden and everything was chill, we were singing along to the Fugees and driving down Euclid past cheap motels, storefront churches, corner stores with handpainted signs and silver Cadillacs parked out front.

We finally found it, across from the I Have A Dream Cafe and the Superfly Barber Shop, and as promised, it was so good even if I did get the side-eye from every woman there.

"They think you're another girl stealing their men..." "Little do they know the ugly truth that we're just friends..."

(photo courtesy of ClevelandSGS)

Totally satisfied with our greens, sweet potatoes, and cornbread, we went to my new favorite lakefront spot at Villa Angela (thanks Bridget!) and lay on the rocks by the water listening to music, talking, drifting in and out of sleep as the lake breeze rustled the cottonwood trees above us. and then walked up the beach taking photos of the rocks, the sand, and the people before heading back to the west side.

I can't believe this summer has gone so quickly. It's been absolutely crazy and incredibly beautiful in so many unexpected ways. School's back in session and I'm wondering if I should bother with this creative writing class I'm signed up for because when it's nice out like this I just don't have the time to be inside watching plays or people read poetry, I want to be doing my own creating.

crying out in the wilderness

As I've mentioned before, I was Catholic until I was about ten years old, and since then I've been hurtling through various strains of what might be defined as the American evangelical movement. I started really believing around the time it seems that almost everyone around me stopped thinking it meant anything and I'd run into friends from way back when who say "you still believe in that organized religion stuff?"

And I do.

I'm thankful that I have the Nicene creed burned into my memory, that I grew up raised with the whole idea of loving God with one's heart, soul, mind, and strength, where it was okay to ask questions and deal with hard answers in a search for truth.

I hear people say "I stopped believing in God when I look at the people that believe in him" is like saying a band sucks because you don't like the fans. Yes, they might sometimes be losers, but that has nothing to do with it.

And thus I have no patience for bishops who say that congregants will be excommunicated for meeting on their own after a church has closed. Who is any mere mortal to say that when it is between God and each individual?

I don't have much patience with the culture warriors on either side and the dominionistic attitudes of both. If we revert back to the nonexistent past when everyone "had values," how good is that, and it's not realistic. People were just as bad then as they are now, it was just that certain things weren't talked about.

And even if we all "fought poverty," lived communally, and bought fair trade coffee, that would not end the power struggles and global conflict that have plagued this planet for thousands of years, only now instead of spears and knives, it's "smart bombs" and kalashnikovs.

I don't even want to talk about this whole "Ground Zero Mosque" thing. Yes, you can't build a church in Saudi Arabia and you can't go to Mecca if you're not Muslim. Whatever. I really don't care where people build their houses of worship and the thing isn't probably going to happen anyway.

Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin don't speak for me. I don't understand how so many people talk about this guy who's a Mormon who believes in all sorts of weird things and is raking in loads of cash by antagonizing and stoking the fires of fear and paranoia. But when I went to DC in '06 with some friends and ended up on the Mall, I saw the same arrogance in Brian Mclaren and Jim Wallis as a church service became a political statement saying "we care more than George Bush does" rather than a sacred act of communing with God in the presence of each other. So often we become like those we criticize and cannot see it.

I love that among the closest followers of Christ, there was Matthew, who worked for a corrupt and bloated government that made a fortune off of ripping off the powerless and Simon who had spent most of his time trying to overthrow that same government. Both of them left where they were in life to follow, though I'm sure they had arguments about "the system" too. But that ceased to matter because of the transcendence of who God is.

I can't stand all these other things we do that we say are "of God" and are justified by scriptures taken out of context that usually amount to social control and also the occasional session of something resembling group therapy with a religious veneer. This is such a waste of time, and I have no shame in saying that I have walked out when I've realized this more times than I could count.

I can't deal with leaders who talk mostly about themselves and their personal views on things that have nothing to do with their Creator but they claim that it does. And when I or someone else speaks up and says, "Hey! There's something wrong here!" we are ignored, shouted down, claimed to be unholy for questioning, claimed to be judgmental or critical, told we "don't care" about good American values or morals, or "don't care" about the poor. It's easy to end on that because it's so severe and so absurdly not true.

But we need critical thinking. God asks for us to trust Him, but He also tells us to be discerning of those who speak in His name.

I crave truth, and with that I crave love. Truth spoken without love can often be so cruel and unfeeling, but love without truth is lethal because it says everything is okay when it's not.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I'm a dying breed who still believes...

"How are you?"

"I'm ok."

Ok meaning, "I really don't want to tell you that I'm exhausted, frustrated, overwhelmed, discouraged, burned out, in need of a vacation but there's nowhere to go and no one to go with and because I feel like a bother to everyone."

"You're always smiling."

Smiling because despite the depths of despair I find myself in, I know that God is good. But it's easy and takes less face muscles to do and goes a lot further when dealing with others, especially feeling precarious in this unfriendly world. Don't look at my eyes which would show that I may or may not have been crying about 10 minutes ago. Thankful for glasses to hide that fact.

"Nothing seems to faze you. You're so chill."

Depends on what it is. But there are things that do keep me up at night.

It's easy to keep myself running and running so I can just fall asleep and not spend too much time getting tangled in my own thoughts and things that make me nervy, that my dad isn't doing as well as we thought, the stress of dealing with arrogant people who think they're better than you because they have letters after their names, the whole messiness that is writer's block when I need my creativity to thrive and survive.

Then there's the whole messiness of my own human frailty and that of others, which always generates friction, knowing that I'm going to have to go through the new roommate process all over again when my amazing current housemate finally gets to pursue what she truly loves to do in a country very far away. The concept of flying solo scares me, especially living in a first floor apartment in a sometimes sketchy neighborhood. I have options, that's not the thing, there are so many others in my position trying to get by. It's the always running, always moving, always feeling so vulnerable, learning not to cling to anything too tightly.

I know things always seem to work out, but everything all at once is too much.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Stone Temple Pilots / Scott Weiland Comedy and Laser Spectacular

I planned to get a crew together to relive our middle school musical years by going down to the usual spot to check out the Stone Temple Pilots, but it ended up just being me & Vanessa for the musical tailgating adventures. A terrible local band played before Cage the Elephant, and we watched various characters debate the best way to hop the fence, while a lot of people who looked like they were in their 30s filed in below us.

One guy gets in by wearing scrubs and saying he's part of the EMS crew but he got kicked out, and then a ghostly pale older metalhead guy in a black cutoff t-shirt started talking to us about "killer songs," Salvador Dali, Alice Cooper, "The Man,"("the cops are always hassling the hippies and the artists, the poets and the freaks. tryin' to keep us down maaan..." and so on.

People are serious about this tailgating thing. There were lawn chairs, minivans with the backs opened up, coolers of beer. The cops would drive by or perch on top the hill above with binoculars and while this wouldn't have bothered me before, the sight of the blue and white cars makes me jumpy but they didn't bother anyone.

Evidently there were hundreds of people down here for 311 ("They come through every year") and there was a great crew for Slayer earlier this summer and some of the guys are regulars and come down here for everything but were especially saddened that it rained during REO Speedwagon the night before. I'm thinking about coming down again for "Fake Sublime" in two weeks just for the people-watching awesomeness that could ensue.

I forgot how many of those songs were in constant rotation on the radio when I was in high school even though by then they were getting close to a decade old. They were one of those bands that really wasn't held in the same regard as others, but seemed to have some kind of universal appeal in the burbs. One of the girls in my English class in 7th grade explicated on "Lady Picture Show" and another friend of mine used to bellow "STONE TEMPLE ROCKS" at inopportune moments, and my dad was a big fan of "Interstate Love Song."

The light show alternated between being interesting and having that look of those Windows Media Player visualizations with names like "Vortex" or something someone's kid did in Photoshop and often made no sense whatsoever. Scott Weiland's weird white boy dancing and stage banter was absurd as only a recovering 90s junkie can be ("and, uh, this song, is like, off of Purple. I think you know it... Uh, yeah, we actually practiced our songs again before, uh, going out on the road... yeah Cleveland, like those were the best years of my life.." and they played all the hits and a few I didn't expect (though I would've loved a few more off "Tiny Music"), like their cover of "Dancing Days" that I've always loved.

And I enjoyed the crowd of bros and their lady friends watching the show with us, and the odd ones that showed up too, like the quiet guy in khakis and sperry topsiders who showed up by himself and knew all the words to "Dead and Bloated," and the couple slow dancing on the bed of a red pickup truck to "Plush."

It felt like such a Cleveland night, with the strange mix of characters hanging out in a barbed wire parking lot in the industrial part of town looking down across the valley to the stage singing all the songs and clapping and saying "no way in hell I'm paying $60 for that show" while singing lyrics that don't make a whole lot of sense in a totally unironic way.

Friday, August 20, 2010

bad music Friday

So along with the Best of the Blotter, this might become a new thing.

The previous DJ before me gets ahold of some pretty bad stuff in his "Make It or Break It" segment and I got to come in to the terrible terribleness that is 50 Tyson, who looks and sounds like if 50 Cent and Mike Tyson had a baby together. And, he's born to be a ballplayer evidently.

Also, for the metalheads and rock and/or rollers, we have possibly the worst Guns & Roses cover ever.

Also, we had a debate earlier this week at work over which song is worse: weigh in on this one please, dear readers...

things that don't mean much to me.

"Why aren't you married?"
"Don't you want to 'move up?''
"You could've been anything you wanted, and you chose to do this?"
"You've got this degree and you deserve more."
"You don't want to buy a house?"
"Don't you want to get another degree? You know, there's other fields out there where the money is."
"You should be hanging out with different people, ones that are going somewhere."

Everybody's got their own ideas about how one is supposed to live their life. Usually this corresponds to what they did, and what they value, and how they measure the worth of others.

Some of these life decisions are beyond my control. Others are things that don't mean much to me. To get married involves having someone around worth getting married to, buying a house means work and responsibility that I can't handle myself and the prospect of being stuck with crazy neighbors and not being able to get away from them.

If I was into making money and moving up, I wouldn't be living here. I would have gone to law school or med school or some prestigious place to get a PhD in something rather than going to library school at a state university. I would have moved to a bigger city with richer people and honestly that's not my bent.

I have friends who've left, who've looked down on those who stay as provincial and backward, who talk about how I need to expand my world and be somewhere that's more interesting and diverse. And I would love to see other places someday, but looking at what they do and who they hang out with, it's exclusively with other white upwardly mobile professional people who live in the same neighborhood who maybe like ethnic food or something.

I'd rather stay in my peon status because for me it means freedom. It means that I bring no work home with me, that I have enough to pay my rent and my bills and have a little fun once in awhile. It's given me time and opportunity to enroll in art classes without the pressure of grades or academic politics, to learn how to take pictures and play the drums and learn Swahili and hang out with people who inspire me and whose company I enjoy.

I don't pick my friends based on social class or what connections they have. The people I hang out with and make an effort to see are the ones I enjoy. My job is a means to these ends, I enjoy it and even find it meaningful, but it's not what I define myself by.

And until I can see some other parts of the world, the world has come to me. I can dance to bhangra, Lebanese pop, Americana, salsa, hip-hop, or Jamaican dancehall when I want to, share meals and drinks with neighbors from all over the world, hit up any number of street festivals, art openings or live music venues if I want my "culture," and hang out with my great crew of people that I've found since I moved back here.

I don't know what this weekend holds, if I'll hang out with my roommate and her people tonight or end up at Compound Fest or check out someplace new... it's so weird to have so many options.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I learned the hard way...

We met up for dinner and walked down to the Rock Hall to see Sharon Jones, and while the acoustics of the venue weren't exactly ideal, she puts on a great show and it sounded great, I had some of the best company I could ask for and was immensely entertained by the phenomenon of White People Who Think They're Groovy Dancers of which there were many. My friends' grandma came along also and she had a great time, even taking us up to the front of the stage with her for the encore, smiling at the security as they moved aside the velvet rope for us.

I had so much respect watching her and thinking of all of us who know that we've got some serious gifts and go through life being told we're not good enough that we're too short or too tall or don't have the "right look" and go on with daily life and then, after the longest time, someone finally gets it and those gifts are appreciated and shared with the world.

I love the song below because this has been the complaint of almost every girl I know who feels like less of herself because of the way that the eyes of her companion wander. One of my friends who went through a particularly nasty breakup said this song articulated everything she felt and made her feel somehow less alone. To hear a singer telling women they don't have to settle and for men to appreciate the good thing they've got is something so rare and it was just this awesome thing.

There was a spectacular fireworks show going on at the ballpark, so we drove over the bridge to Tremont singing along to the Police to watch the rest of it and did our usual late night pancakes and coffee having decided that we were too sleepy for meteor showers and afterparties.

The rest of the weekend was family from out of town and the usual suspects and my lack of sleep catching up with me. I took a nap between my show and work this morning in the breakroom and I'm hoping that the coffee is strong today, because I'm going to need it.

The rest of the weekend I took pretty slow, hanging out with the family in from out of town, the usual suspects, working on photos, not sleeping, and now I'm trying to figure out how to catch up on that when the summer's ending and I just want to stay up all night.

Friday, August 13, 2010

enter the man cave.

My partner in crime once explained to me his theory on the similarities of photography and martial arts in terms of discipline, since he does both. So he calls me yesterday and wants to know if I want to come down to where his fight team practices at and get some practice shooting portraits and action shots.

So we're going down to this karate studio in an unmarked building on Lorain, waiting outside for everyone else to show up and I'm trying to take in all sorts of information on shutter speeds, ISO, and panning before I go in.

I'm a shy kid who majored in English who knows nothing about martial arts except that it looks cool in action movies but I agree because, well, hey why not? It's not the first time I've ended up in a place I never thought I'd be. And honestly, I was more comfortable than I thought I would be, because for some reason testosterone weirds me out less than an overload of estrogen. I'm not expected to do anything except do my job.

I'm still learning how to use the camera, and I'm shy at first because I know none of these people but they're friendly and it's my job to make them look good and badass. They ask me if it weirds me out being in the "ManCave" or I've ever done any stuff like this, and I say no, and I'm encouraged to take up Krav Maga for self-defense, which I'd never even heard of until now.

One guy tells me "I think women are better at martial arts than men in some ways. We do it to impress the women, they do it to kick the shit out of the men."

I settle in, running along the periphery of the mat, trying to keep my shots in focus, apply what I've just learned, and not get accidentally kicked or punched as my memory card fills up and I'm switching between two cameras.

I'm so used to photographing things that don't move: buildings, graffiti, whatever so this was a huge change and a challenge, and being behind a camera meant that I wasn't wincing. By the end of the night, I was sweating too, but not nearly as much, and feeling satisfied with my work.

Tonight I get to enjoy the great sounds of Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings and hang out with good people. Summer's ending so quickly, but it's been such a good one.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

how the end always is...

This is the longest I've been in the same position ever in my life. It's been over two years of general stability even as all sorts of weird interludes have taken place. I have held down a job for three years and counting, I have had the same roommate for almost two, and I've found that the roots I've put down are becoming more firm, and spreading out.

I haven't been still long enough in the same place to get a feel for how things really are, to see the dynamics, the balances of power, the intricacies of human nature play out. I'll probably be working here for another decade or two if the bottom doesn't totally drop out and I wonder what will change as people retire, as others jockey for position, as the inevitable changes occur and I need to learn how to deal and interact with those who think so incredibly different from me.

And then there's the whole business of careening wildly towards the end of the 20s ever closer to the 30s feeling maybe a little older and wiser but not enough to really feel like anything's figured out.I am still more or less the way I've always been, uninterested in "moving up" or romantic games, more inclined to spend my cash on late night coffee and art supplies, still in college student mode, living on rice and beans, getting excited about free food and still using milk crates as chairs and storage.

I'm still preferring platonic friendships that ultimately go nowhere to dating, still liking small gatherings better than large crowds, still intimidated by the beautiful ones, by the ones who put a lot of energy into projecting a certain image. Too oddball for most, and too square for the rest, comfortable yet always wondering when the chair will get pulled out from underneath.

It used to be that when things got rough, I waited it out, because I knew it'd be all over in a few months, that it had a set date of termination. Awkward high school experiences? Crazy roommates? Temporary jobs? I could leave and start all over again and again.

And it gets harder to do that, and harder still to see how things change. How it gets so awkward when your friends fall out of love and want you to pick up the pieces, those who were once in my life want to start over and rebound and you know too much about how they are to do that, how familiarity may not breed contempt but occasionally bring out frustration and long-repressed feelings.

And I fear loss more and more because it seems more real. I know we're not all going to be around forever. In the meantime, I'm afraid of ruining the beauty that's been evident around me. Afraid I'll say the wrong thing, make some mistake that's unforgivable because the concept of forgiveness is still new to me. It's not something I'm used to, and sometimes I wonder what the limit is.

It's so easy to tear down in moments what years took to build up. Disintegration and entropy, order to disorder, and I become more and more conscious of how fragile we are, and how imminent mortality is, and how transient our lives and emotions are. I've never had my heart broken, but it's bled too many times to count.

"So it's all come back round to breaking apart again
Breaking apart like I'm made up of glass again
Making it up behind my back again
Holding my breath for the fear of sleep again
Holding it up behind my head again
Cut in deep to the heart of the bone again
Round and round and round
And it's coming apart again
Over and over and over..."

best of the blotter 26

FRAUD, KINGS ORCHARD TRAIL: A man received a fraudulent $10,500 check from Halliburton. He did not try to cash the check.

He was advised to shred it and check his credit reports.

PARKWAY: Four girls, ages 12 and 13, rode bicycles Sunday on the trail by Bagley Road. A elderly man in a maroon car pulled up near them and held a toy Scooby Doo out the window and began barking. The girls continued riding, but they encountered the man again at the crossover by Big Creek School. He held up the dog again and barked, then said “I’m going to follow you.” The girls rode to one of their homes, where a father called police. The man was not found.

THEFT, RICHMOND ROAD: On Saturday, a Sagamore Hills male, 52, was arrested for stealing a fire hydrant from the front of the Waterford of Richmond Heights.

The male said he and his friend stole the knocked over fire hydrant because he thought it would look good in his bar located in his basement.

The male apologized for his indiscretion and said he had never been in trouble before, which police confirmed.

Police smelled alcohol on the man and he said the smell was left over from the night before which probably prompted him to steal the fire hydrant.

The hydrant was returned.

NEIGHBOR DISPUTE, EAST COTTAGE STREET: Police responded to an Aug. 2 report of a 49-year-old woman yelling at her next-door neighbor’s landscaper about 8 a.m. as he was placing stones around a flower bed. The landscaper left after he told the neighbor to “shut her filthy mouth.“ The irate neighbor then got in her car and drove slowly down the street screaming, before spinning her tires in front of the neighbor’s house and driving off. The woman has been charged with disorderly conduct stemming from a June incident. This time, when police asked if the suspect had been yelling at her, the complainant replied, “no, but at one point, I think she was yelling at my flowers.“ Police planned to contact the suspect’s probation officer.

HARASSING COMMUNICATION, MAY COURT: An 11-year-old girl who may have been the victim of a wrong number got more than she bargained for Aug. 5 when she replied to a photo sent to her cell phone, asking “who is this?” and received a reply, “It’s the sandman, coming to get your soul because you haven’t been to church lately...” Police believe the originator in Texas may have mixed up cell phone numbers, leaving a series of messages that “were not necessarily threatening but certainly a little disturbing and bizarre in their content.”

DAMAGED PROPERTY: On Aug. 3, police received word of two incidents of graffiti vandalism.

A garage door in the 13000 block of Sun Crest Court was spray painted with the words “Strongsville Underground Thugs.”

A garage door in the 17000 block of Akita Court was also spray painted.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Spent the last few days drinking lemonade, taking care of cats, city wanderings, hitting up the Puerto Rican festival for carnival rides and people-watching, late night coffee, getting frustrated with the male species, Indian food with my sister, meeting my probation officer, walks to Edgewater, wondering why I can hear the Paramore concert from a back porch that is 2 miles away, and worrying about my dad. He's not getting any worse, but he's not getting better. They've given him 7 pints of blood already and are running test after test.

I used to donate blood when I was in high school even though I'm deathly terrified of needles and the last few times I've been anemic and such low blood pressure (because I don't stress myself much) I haven't been able to do it. I think I might try to do it again.

Friday, August 6, 2010

apologies to the neighbors

I'm doing a two-week stint of housesitting for some neighbors of mine, one has a sweet dog with big blue eyes who looks tough but is afraid of everything and the other has two cats. On the way out the door to go to work (and feed the cats at the other house), the dog got out and I had to chase him down the street with a leash looking for all the world like a deranged yuppie. "GET BACK HERE! I NEED TO GO TO WORK!"

He's sniffing everyone's garbage, running into people's fenced-in yards and I'm trying to block him in with their patio furniture and hoping they don't come outside yelling at me or waving a shotgun or something because I am in Cleveland, after all.

Then he finds the boarded up crackhouse around the corner totally interesting and dives under what used to be the back porch and I'm remembering that I left my purse, car keys, and phone on the steps of the house and finally I trap him behind an apartment building that's fenced in.

Two old ladies are sitting across the street on the front porch laughing at me as I haul him home.

Thankfully the cats should be pretty easy.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

shine your darkness on me.

On the same idea of laws...

This is one of my favorite T-Bone Burnett songs that sadly isn't accessible on Youtube.

You can listen to it here ... it's gloriously noisy and apocalyptic, especially coming from someone usually associated with "O Brother Where Art Thou?" and Bob Dylan's born-again years.

The laws of God and the laws of man
The laws of man, they don't carry
The same weight as the laws of God
Or the laws of nature in the nomenclature

Do we want to inject
The concept of sin into the constitution?
Is this really necessary?
Does this not make you somewhat wary?

Shouldn't sin be left to the laws of God
And to the laws of nature?
Can we trust this to the legislature?

And shall we trust sin to the wisdom
Of the criminal justice system
Which can't handle the criminals we have now?
Why create a whole new class of them?

Isn't crime dealt with by the laws of man?
Isn't sin dealt with by the laws of God?
Isn't crime dealt with by the laws of man?
Isn't sin dealt with by the laws of God?

If sin were dealt with by the laws of man
Everybody would be in jail for life
In solitary confinement with no one to go his bail
Or else would have gotten death, maybe I should save my breath
But this lunacy is bound to fail

But there would be no one to get the food
Or run the machines, mercy on us, dude

You shine your darkness on me
I am blinded by the darkness

forgive us our trespasses...

I was not so fortunate as my friend in court on Tuesday. The public defender did his best "This is crazy that she's even here. All she's trying to do is make beauty out of the blight!," but this judge could have cared less about anyone's circumstances that caused them to be there and despite the officers not showing up, evidently that didn't matter to her. She wasn't throwing anything out and was even making jokes about our "contributions to the City of Cleveland."


Me being an artist with no prior criminal history whatsoever didn't buy me anything either and I doubt it would have mattered if he was there too. I'm sitting outside with a couple friends who came along for the ride and people are coming up to me saying "This is totally crazy. I can't believe you're in trouble for this. All you were doing was taking pictures and making art, what's wrong with that?"

And I explain that my crime was not so much what I was doing as who I was with and what that appeared to be to an officer with certain ideas of who white girls should be hanging around with.

I'm thankful at least that he's off free, though he doesn't see it that way... "This isn't fair! How do you get in trouble and I don't? You're a white girl, you're supposed to get away with it. I'm a black man, they're looking for any chance to throw my ass in jail."

It is what it is I guess...

So I sat around an hour waiting to go to the probation office, and then I sat for another hour waiting there as ESPN droned on and on about Brett Favre and I was glad I had a volume of T.S. Eliot poetry in my bag to keep me company and texting him while getting hit on by men old enough to be my father. Sure, I'm going to give my phone number to chronic offenders I meet in the probation office who won't even tell me what they're in there for, that's really smart.

I can't lie, this song was in my head the whole time...

I got my photo taken, had to give up all sorts of personal information about any distinguishing marks, tattoos or piercings, what languages I speak, my income level, my education level, where I work, where I went to school, my religion, if my parents are still alive, if I live alone or with roommates, how much I pay in rent and so on. I thought of that page with all the sex offenders on it that live in my neighborhood and this is the same information that they have to volunteer as well.

I signed an agreement saying that I'll report to a probation officer once a month for the next 90 days, that I cannot leave the state of Ohio without permission, that I can only associate with "law abiding citizens."

And there's a part of me that is still laughing at the Kafka-meets-rust belt absurdity of all this, laughing because I am powerless to do anything else except call it as I see it and because laughter is always more healthy than bitterness. I may not go to certain places that I've gone to but that doesn't mean that I will bend under the weight of institutional racism and stop hanging out with who I hang out with because the powers that be don't care for it, and it doesn't mean that I will stop creating or loving this place.

And I think about those who've come before me who've been unjustly accused, who've done the right thing and lost decades of their lives, who've spent time in prison for crimes they didn't commit, who got on the bad side of powers far more ruthless than the ones that I exist under. I'm not Jesus or Joseph or Gandhi or Martin Luther King. I'm not Aung San Suu Kyi or Nelson Mandela. What I'm dealing with isn't quite so bad.

I am thankful that God is a God of not just justice, but also mercy, that He doesn't discriminate and that we are all equal in His sight and that while we're all guilty, if we confess what we've done, we're forgiven and it's like it never happened. That doesn't exist in this life. It's all until you screw up again and even then an expungement isn't quite erased.

To think of the embodiment of all that going into a political and religious system that was profoundly corrupt, bloated, and generally wrong humbles me. It's hard for me to feel superior when I see everyone as guilty of something... me for my indiscretion, those in power that take bribes and throw their weight around and harass those they are in theory supposed to protect and serve, the apathetic bureaucrats that create statistics, all of us who've screwed up somehow and gotten caught.

Monday, August 2, 2010

a new way of seeing

It's been a good few days, reconnecting with a childhood friend I haven't seen in eight years and finding that we picked up even better than we left off, hanging out with the radio people at Edgewater, chilling on front porches and balconies, drinking sangria with ice, dogsitting and conversating and playing with the new camera.

I finally sprung for a Canon Rebel with the funds I'd saved up towards an upright bass. I realized quickly that I really had no clue what I was doing with it, having been in point-and-shoot land for so long.

We went to Chinatown on Friday night, which I wish had more in it, but we saw the same officer who hassled him pulling people over and we decided to make ourselves scarce and went down to the factory buildings by Superior to shoot. I got a quick crash course on how to use the camera, but my night shots still need some work. We were both tired from long days of work so after hitting up the Flats too late to catch any good light, that was pretty much it for us.

I've gotten accustomed to the zoom lens, so it's an adjustment to have to move around to get the shots I want.

I finished out the weekend with dinner with one of my dear fellow artistically minded friends pondering and laughing and trying to solve all the world's problems over beans and rice, thankful that when I moved back here, I've been able to rebuild my life even better than when I left it.