My mother-in-law has as many active calendars as I have of active notebooks and journals, hell, maybe more. So last night we were over to help celebrate her 83rd birthday and one of her other daughters was helping consolidate those date keepers for her. It struck me that not only might there be reasons for me to do the same but there might be vast treasure in there for me.

Memories and stories that I’d noted and forgotten, threads to weave rich and textured tales of the adventures I’ve had and perhaps some guidance to the person I’m becoming, the who I’m to be.

Now if you know me, if you’ve ever been over to my house and been in the room called the Man Cave, you’ve a great picture of just how scattered and disorganized I am. My son Robert says there are times I’m like a squirrel on crack (gets a bit tiresome when the squirrel is in his mid seventies) so maybe it’s time to increase my quiet times and up those minutes I spend in meditation…

But more importantly it’s time for more self isolation, and isolation with an aim to be productive in those areas where I’d like to create something substantial. I just read some Mary Oliver on the subject in relation to writing:

“It is a silver morning like any other. I am at my desk. Then the phone rings, or someone raps at the door. I am deep in the machinery of my wits. Reluctantly I rise, I answer the phone or I open the door. And the thought which I had in hand, or almost in hand, is gone. Creative work needs solitude. It needs concentration, without interruptions. It needs the whole sky to fly in, and no eye watching until it comes to that certainty which it aspires to, but does not necessarily have at once. Privacy, then. A place apart — to pace, to chew pencils, to scribble and erase and scribble again.

But just as often, if not more often, the interruption comes not from another but from the self itself, or some other self within the self, that whistles and pounds upon the door panels and tosses itself, splashing, into the pond of meditation. And what does it have to say? That you must phone the dentist, that you are out of mustard, that your uncle Stanley’s birthday is two weeks hence. You react, of course. Then you return to your work, only to find that the imps of idea have fled back into the mist.”

There are times I can easily remember, and touch, where I have complete focus on a task, a goal I wanted achieved. Nothing and no one could interrupt and there was a pervasive ‘flow’ that took me over in those moments. I have the ability to invoke those moments again and I will.

All I need is to focus and create the discipline to achieve my visions.

Now about those notebooks. We’re going to try to get my mother-in-law down to two of those calendars. I’m going to gently ease myself down to three notebooks. Why three? One to carry with me for random thoughts (look, I know my iPhone has both a notes section and voice recording capacity and I’ll use the phone when necessary-except the notes section cause my thumbs be too big) and writing things down creates a visceral, embodied memory. One large notebook to use at home for more expansive thought, one with heavy weight paper so I can use my fountain pen. And one sketch book…Look, I am a terrible artist, but there’s something about drawing that unlocks a door to my creative being so kindergarten Chuck needs a place to breathe.

The imps that come visit need a warm welcoming place to sit while I give them my best attention, my focus.

Fear Comes to My Door

Like good homeowners we have a regularly scheduled inspection and treatment by a pest control company. Same guy’s been coming to our house for years. Very professional and thorough, follows up usually with a knock on the door and/or a text message to give us a report on his activity that day. Most time he’ll knock on the front door to let us know he’s here.

Today as he approached the house my wife, who’s working from home and has a home office which is next to the front door and walkway, looked up at him and waved.

He backed away, both hands up in the air.

He’s Black, my wife isn’t.

She told me later about the look of concern, fear, on his face. She immediately opened the window and spoke to him, asking how he was doing and how were his family members doing. Usually I’m the person he interacts with and I suspect he didn’t know my wife is white.

This is unacceptable to me and my wife. This is what this country has bred in men and women who provide a service to all of us. Specifically, this is the fear engendered by white supremacy, when a man, simply doing his work, fears for his life because a white woman looks up from her work and sees him.

It was easy enough for me to put myself in his place.

Can you?

This has to stop. It has to stop now, but it won’t, it can’t. Racial animus is bred into the soil and soul of America. It permeates the air we breathe and the food we eat.

I can hear some of you now…Not in my house, not in my family. We’re not like those people with hate screwed faces, spouting racial epithets at POC.

Maybe not. But when’s the last time you called out the bigoted comment in your workplace, the slighting of a fellow co-worker who raised the issue of a micro-aggression against her or another POC in your workplace. When’s the last time you actively explained to your young child that BIPOC in this country have never been given the same equal opportunity for ‘life and liberty’ or ‘the pursuit of happiness’ in this country. When’s the last time you told your child, or your family member that Black Lives Matter and until this country stops the extrajudicial murder of Black men and women you and they should march in the streets until it does.

Okay, maybe you’re doing all of that right now. Tell you what, it still isn’t enough.

My Terminix provider showed us today it isn’t enough.

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr Birthday.

Next Stop: Prince

Think of the best bittersweet taste you’ve ever had in your mouth. Was it chewy, with flakes of golden crust, flavored with butter and a hint of cinnamon and brown sugar? Did the fruit have crunchy seeds and round bubbles of flavor that reminded you of warm afternoons in a garden with sunlight dancing through the willow tree next to your swing? Did it take you time traveling to when people were always gracious and told you stories of faraway places and exciting adventures?

My grandmother would give us travel-size containers of cobbler for our train trips back to Washington, D.C. from a little hamlet named Prince in West Virginia. She lived in Beckley in a house the Baptist church gave her after her husband, the minister died. I remember the address, 212 Church Street, as seeming so appropriate. My grandmother was very strict, quoted her husband and the Bible a lot, and even though I was her oldest grandchild (and standing right in front of her), she’d call out the names of each of her other grandchildren before she got to my name when she wanted me to do something or was angry at me for some transgression.

“Go get me some switches.”

For punishment we’d have to go out and collect willow branches for her to use for spankings. If we came back with what she thought were insufficient branches she’d find a stronger one and increase our whacks.

But she’d make the best homemade food from scratch. Her kitchen always smelled great. Especially when she’d bake. Bread, pies, cakes, cobblers, especially the blackberry cobblers.

For the ride back on the train she’d scoop the blackberry ambrosia into half pint-sized containers with lids. If mom let us get to them early enough, they’d still be warm, like grandma’s kitchen.


Prince was just a train station, at least in my memory. I don’t remember seeing anything else of the place, maybe some scattered houses or cabins on the way in or on the drive in my uncle’s cars over the hills to Beckley. On one trip I remember a car with a trailer in front of us having a time of it staying in the center of the lane, swaying back and forth. The trailer seemed to want to go one way instead of where the car was going. Our family was like that. My sister and I were children of divorce and custody battles. Mom and dad were trains going in opposite directions.

But people on the trains we took were going in the same direction. Even though all of us started in different places and saw the world passing by so differently. When we first started our trips south from Philadelphia, we were handed over to the railroad’s special service for minors traveling without adults. It seemed strange, our father didn’t know these people, neither did our mother in Washington on the north bound leg. But they both seemed trusting about it and most of those trips went rather well and quickly, even back then.

DC to Prince was an overnight trip. And people on night trains are…different.

They actually want to listen to young people’s questions. They like telling kids who they are, where they live, and what they do.


Emmett Till was lynched in August, 1955. My family’s elders seemed to go out of their way to make sure I understood how America treated Black boys. If I saw a hundred pictures of his battered body that would have been an undercount.

We moved into a new neighborhood that summer. It was an old, established, mostly Irish and Italian one. It had been an area of mills on the banks of the Schuylkill River. Most of the uniforms the Union Army wore during the Civil War were made there. 

Grace Kelly, Princess Grace, grew up in East Falls. When I got to eighth grade at St. Bridget’s elementary school, I had the same nun she had when she was 13. Sister Helen Marie. We called her Bulldog. I wasn’t the quietest kid in class. According to her, my full name was Charles, you bold, brazen article…

I might have been called nigger once or twice before we moved into the public housing projects in East Falls. But after that summer, it seemed that was a part of my name as well. Seems I’d broken some sort of boundary by attending St. Bridget’s. All the other Black kids from the projects went to public school. I went to ‘the white school’.

The friends I made in those days are still in my life. Racist fires forge strong bonds. Those fires also taught me how to figure out people real quick. Street smarts are the best smarts when you’re ‘the only one’ at a very early age.

We moved after our summer trip south that year. Train travel in the south became a different experience after that year.


Beckley was a segregated town. Everything I experienced there was black. Being in Washington in the 1950s was also very divided. I remember standing on a traffic island in DC waiting for the light to change and asking my mother, “Where are all the white people?”

“West of the park, son, west of the park.”

I didn’t catch the full meaning of that expression until I was almost twenty and visiting her while on a trip from college.

The neighbors and others we interacted with in Beckley were stereotypically ‘down home friendly’. I can’t remember anyone in particular, but I do remember the only things I missed about being there were my friends and family I was close to ‘back home’. I learned how to separate out people back home because there was no ‘west of the park’. Some white folks were ok, or seemed to be, others I’d grow to avoid. Or, when necessary, fight.

My two West Virginia uncles spent time with my sister and me. My Uncle Jack spent a ton of his time teaching me how to get along with folks, how to ride on his motorcycle, how to do boy shit, country style. I loved him. I didn’t like country style…


The only separation on the train was if you had a sleeper compartment or if you only had a seat. At least in my mind there weren’t any separations. None that I noticed. Even after ’55.

I liked having a place to sleep, I loved talking to the strangers in the dining car or just randomly squatting by someone in a coach car and finding out who they were. Being little grants kids a sort of puppy immunity. Adults, for the most part, are nice to them.

After the summer of ’55 my trips to south took on a different tone. I was nine when I got the ‘west of the park’ response. I was ten when Central High School in Little Rock was integrated.

The older I got, the more it seemed my Catholic school classmates divided themselves into those who actually practiced Christian brotherhood and those who called me names.

So train trips took on a different character. Philly to DC was easy. It was time to catch up with my sister and to be on the lookout for scenes we appreciated along the way. Guideposts to visit our mother.

DC to Prince became sociological studies.

Who can we trust? Who’s a good person? Who doesn’t like us because we’re not white?

My favorite place on the night train became the vestibule between cars, especially when the large window was open and all I could hear was the train’s wheels on the tracks, the whistle, and the chugging engine. I still talked to people, but my best memories were talking to the conductors who always seemed to understand that I was just there for the night wind and the sounds of the trains. They always let me be.


Up until some years ago I’d take the train from DC to New York City. I’d go for two reasons, I love the city, and for poetry and spoken word.

I started performing years ago, after a poet called me out after I had shown her my first piece. I’d met her two years before at a writer’s workshop in San Francisco. The executive director had encouraged me to attend. He’d noted that my letters to friends after my asthma attack were more like memoir entries. So I took a memoir class. I met many incredible writers, incredible people, that session. 

The following year, I enrolled in a class that featured various forms of telling our stories, and my end product was a spoken word piece. I read it at the workshop. I came home and filed it.

I kept in touch with several of the writers I’d met over both sessions. One in particular fascinated me with both her content and delivery. Her newsletter said she was coming to DC that winter to feature at an open mike. I met her there, and we caught up. I proudly showed her my piece that I’d dug up out my filing cabinet. She said it was good.

The host noticed how friendly we were and asked me to introduce her and she said, “And do that AFTER you do your piece!”

Long story short, it was a hit, and applause is a drug that’s hard to kick. I kept writing and spitting my words to anyone who would listen.

Years later, I went back to California for another workshop and met a writer from New York who invited me to perform there. New York applause is highly addictive, so the train trips became my vehicle to the Big Apple.

Going north I always rode the quiet car, going over what pieces I’d read or perform. Poetry I read, spoken word I perform, becoming the person behind the voice of the character I’m portraying. I discovered that I did some really good rewriting on those trips north. Undergirding those re-writes was the rhythmic click-clack of the train.

I’d gotten back in touch with the child-like wonder about life and the people in it. Good, bad, happy, sad, thoughtful, playful, filled with a range of emotions that I’d been closing down in both myself and indiscriminately in others.

Sometimes I imagined the stories of those strangers in the quiet car, pretending I was eight again and sitting next to them listening to their stories on the night train. Sometimes new pieces were written right there on the train north.


I’m in lockdown now with this coronavirus. My life is narrowed to my house and yard and occasional walks around the neighborhood. And entirely too much time in front of screens (but God bless PBS! My wife and daughter call it nerd tv time!).

Our son is in central Pennsylvania and he calls every day, usually when he’s on his afternoon walk after his stint of remote working for the consulting firm where he’s employed.

The other day he called from the middle of a rail bridge. Ever since he was little, he’s loved trains. He sends me pictures of them from near his place and his office. His favorite childhood cartoon was Thomas the Tank Engine.

I guess it’s in his blood.


Left to Right: My grandmother, Esther King; my cousin Jack; my sister, Cynthia; my mother, Esther King Cuyjet; me; unknown woman; my Aunt Ellen; barely visible is my Uncle Philip King

Just a thought

Scrolling through my Facebook notifications I found a comment about the high school wrestler  made to cut his locks during a match last season. The thing that caught me was a poster in the thread repeatedly said, “He doesn’t look Black!”. Finally, to ward off the commentary calling his comment into question, he said, “He looks mixed race.”

Now. Hold. The. Hell. On…

According to my DNA test results (and a good look in the fucking mirror) I’m 55% European and 45% sub-Saharan African. But I am Black… My birth certificate says ‘Negro’ and in the fifties polite people called me colored. In elementary school the other boys found a good excuse to call me the ’N-word’.  After graduating from an all boys, Catholic high school (where 22 of us were Black out of a class of 308) I attended a HBCU.

 I could go on, but I don’t feel it at all necessary to prove my credentialing for my Black card.

If that young man identifies as Black who is anyone to deny him?

My question is based on the acceptance of my college mates, my fraternity brothers, and from the sideways looks of the surrounding white men who burned a cross on our campus during my time in Princess Anne. My question is based on the decades of being in professional environments where others treated me differently had they known of my racial identity or if they had not.

My Blackness is part of who I am. It’s not based of my appearance, it’s based on my lived experience.

Should I choose I know I can tell people I’m mixed race, but when asked I always respond “Black” or African American. My time in college, as well as my years growing up in Philadelphia with an extended family, taught me that we are people of all shades, attitudes, hair types, and experiences.

The referee that told that young brother he had to cut his locks or forfeit the match was suspended for two years. Sensitivity and inclusion training has been mandated for all the officials in the state in officiating high school wrestling. We’re well into the 21st century and ignorance, white supremacy, and policing of Black bodies is still an issue.

I can only hope that young man isn’t bitter. His hair can grow back. And a two year suspension might just wake that ref up to his latent racist impulses.

Just a thought…

I’m finding a need to explore this more deeply. More later!

Thank Goodness, Days Are Getting Longer


So I haven’t made good on my promise tell you about the depression I’ve been in. Aside from the seasonal depression (SAD) I’ve been dealing with a few physical issues. One is just because I’m getting older and not necessarily paying attention to scaling back some of my activities. My body has been reminding me and I’ve had two minor procedures to rectify those issues.

I also had a prostate biopsy and for two weeks I worried about having cancer. I don’t.

But for the time leading up to the biopsy and for the two weeks between it and having the results I was in a state of reflection, worry, and dark fear of what it would be like to face cancer. And the existential fear of death loomed, ever present in the background.

To be honest I still can’t completely talk about things, not just yet. But I can tell you that this Christmas is one of the most meaningful I’ve had, or will have. That’s because for the second time in the last twenty years or so I’ve had to deal with my mortality. While things aren’t necessarily clearer to me I do know that there are people in my life that love me. I do know that there are things I still have the desire to accomplish, and, thankfully, I still have the breath and energy to go after those things.

And there are people that I love, deeply and dearly. So many people…

If you’re reading these words, if you’ve met me in real life or just here in the ether and have felt anything for me (even disagreement) know that I love you.

The two biggest lessons I’m taking away from this darkness I’ve been in  is that I can increase my circle of compassion and I still have an irresistible urge to live creatively.

More later…there’s a family movie marathon going on. We’re doing all the Marvel flicks, in order chronologically…

My 9/11 Moment and Random Thoughts


Today (written on 9/11/17) I was mostly concerned with knocking shit off my to-do list and getting in a bike ride. I’m doing the Potomac Pedalers Backroads Century this coming weekend and even though I’ll most likely do the metric (100K or 64 miles) it’s still hilly AF. I need to feel psychologically assured I can do, even though I know I can physically do it.

I got a late start so I cut down the anticipated fifty or sixty miles I would have done today had I gotten out the door by 9:30 (If you know me you know it’s hard for me to have my first cup of coffee by then!). Regardless, I was on the Mount Vernon Trail, headed up to the Key Bridge climb up the Custis Trail when I glanced over the river and caught a glimpse of the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. The trail is a bit curvy there, so I stopped, got off the bike and just looked across the river at the scene.


I’ve got two degrees of separation from a man who died in the attack on the Pentagon. The connecting person is a friend of mine here and he went to day care/preschool/elementary/middle/high school with my son. I cannot imagine how profoundly his life, his whole family’s lives, have been altered by that day.


I watched the second plane hit and stood transfixed for almost four hours as that morning’s horror played out. The tableau in my living room was farcical, me and the cable repair man each staring at the set saying inanely useless words, him holding his two tool bags in his hands for hours and me with the remote having switched over from the upper tier channels that weren’t working correctly. My arm began to hurt from holding the remote in the position to change the channel, his hands seized around the handles. We had tuned in about twenty seconds before the second plane hit. We couldn’t move after that…

We stood there until we realized the ‘debris’ falling from the towers were people choosing another way to die…


The monuments and the river can create a sense of beauty, or pride even, regardless of any question I might have about how my fellow Americans feel about me and other people of color. This is my country and regardless of how fractured it is along many difficult fault lines I can remember how the deep seated goodness came out after 9/11.

There were reports of people that looked like they might be Muslim being attacked, fears of vandalism against mosques. I drove over to the nearest mosque and was surprised to find a rag tag group of people, many of them white, bearded, and ‘red neck’ looking standing guard with the few Muslim men there.

I remember hearing from New York friends tales of how they walked home from downtown, how some of them spoke of associates and friends lost.

I remember two days later at a meeting telling a group of leadership and executive coaches who were lambasting the politics of the day that the real issue was, in my exact words when asked what I thought about the attacks, “Now white people know what it feels like to be targeted.” After a few minutes the group quietly began expressing their own fears about what that meant to them personally. What were we going to do about the fear and anger that we felt?

I remember for the next few years, every 9/11 became an occasion to talk to my son about active love and compassion, about being a true citizen of not only this country but of the planet, a member of the human race. Telling him that so many people don’t realize that their actions have unintended consequences and that while we can easily identify ‘the other’ as ‘enemy’ we ourselves must always be exemplars of truth and justice. Don’t just be right, do right…


Today I wondered about how to soothe the heated exchanges that we see and hear and in contemplating this beautiful view, this patriotic vision, if we ever realize that those fissures that divide us from ourselves, those that divide us from the rest of the world, can ever be bridged. I’ve felt the ugly America my whole life. There have been times when I’ve felt America’s embrace as well. But I do know that there are two Americas and, having traveled and talked honestly with people in the countries I’ve visited, I know that the world sees the ugly America clearly.

The multi-hued coalition of mosque guards, the red necks, the white businessmen, the brothers that showed up…We were the America I’d like to see every day, without the trauma of being attacked, without the Charlottesvilles, without the bullshit lip service to America’s greatness.

We’re not okay, not by a long shot. And those bright buildings memorializing the Founding Fathers today reminded me that our greatness shows best under pressure. No one’s flying planes into buildings but the planet where we live is burning, literally and metaphorically.


I’m remembering how idealistic I used to be. That kid is still in me, hopeful as he was the first time he saw that view. I stood there today and felt both sad for the lives lost on 9/11 but remembering the bravery and teamwork shown on United 93. I remembered the men I met that morning at the local mosque. I remembered that whenever I felt hopeless about my country there was always something tangible about it that gave me hope that it was indeed, a great place to live and to struggle to always make it better.

Ennui/Folk Rock/Jazz

I just really don’t give a shit…about much of anything, except my family and several friends. I mean I’m tired, burned out, fucked up, and disgusted with my fellow human beings. For the longest time I thought it was because my fellow country people elected a…

Wait, fuck that. I just really don’t care about much these days. I’d like to just eat, sleep, and party with people I like, especially the ones with really good green. I suspect I’m like that guy in the tequila commercial that starts dancing as the world ends. And the world is collapsing according to Stephen Hawking. He says we’re facing mass extinction and that we need to colonize another planet within the next hundred years.

And if that’s not bad enough, even though I have children (and grandchildren AND a great grandchild) I don’t care! After all I’d have to live to be one hundred and sixty-nine to witness the apocalypse Hawking predicts!

Maybe my mental/spiritual malaise was the cause of my migraine last week. Or the wicked case of hives I got right after that.

Or was it the many thoughts I’ve had recently about dying? Those were compounded in my normal, occasional bleak thinking by that fucking migraine believe me!

But seriously, if we can take Hawking with any sense of an understanding that the dude doesn’t really have a non-scientific agenda to work from then WTF is going on with those motherfuckers we allow to make decisions that the rest of us have to live with? And why do we let them keep doing what they’ve been doing?


Last week when I was texting with…damn, I really don’t know what to call her…muse, former lover, friend…let’s just say someone I dearly miss having those wonderful moments sharing thoughts, feelings, etc. Anyway when I told her of how I really had nothing interesting to write about, nothing I cared to share with any who’d read my words she said,

“Write what you feel.”

I’ve heard that writers have a shit ton of people running around in their heads. Yeah, well, I’ve got a bunch of them running around in my heart too. Most of them I don’t know their fucking names, like the people in this commercial! But that joint brings a tear to my eye every damn time I see it.

I mean there are days I absolutely hate being at all empathic. There are days I hate being at all poetic or artistic, or at all intelligent.

(Shit, is this want you meant? Writing what I feel…)

The earth shakes me awake
its flood waters wash me clean
taking yesterday’s blues
and leaving the promise of today
I mourned my loss for I loved
my troubles
they comforted me and I only
saw grief ahead so I slept.

No hope lived within
until I moved, turned
and saw the light
in your eyes.
Now I gamble at life’s
roulette, knowing there’s
more than red or black…

You are a rainbow.

(Then you fucking left…Thanks!)

Not that I would ever blame just one ex for my ill tempered frame of mind. No, that shit’s totally on me and frankly, if I weren’t paying attention to what’s important in my life maybe I wouldn’t feel this way every once in a while. No, this one particular muse always bring a smile to my lips when I think of her. I think all former lovers, had they have been loved fully and with all the fire in your heart, would bring you smiles at the memories still residing within, no?


What I’m feeling is so disjointed. What do you call that shit, what’s the psychological term?

Who cares? I’m just reveling in being inside of it right now, feeling the manic power of my need to capture however much of the scattered thoughts and feelings I’m experiencing. Wondering if there’s some semi-epic poem in all of this, a sweeping song or anthem?

Hey did Leonard Cohen ever feel this way?

I remember once a good friend said he admired me for being so open to all the emotions I felt, the highs and the lows. He said that he’d rather just stay in the middle, the needle not moving that far over into happy or sad because he didn’t like the lows. Hanging out with this guy was always an adventure. He was smart and funny, always first to pull a prank. In fact I met him at work where on the end of my second day on the job, he and his brother were completely rearranging the director’s office. Yep, I jumped right in and helped out, definitely wanted to join the bad boys of the training department. Training department…I know, sounds boring as hell, right. Management development, leadership training…Naw, I actually had fun on that job!


Holy shit, the lights just went on!

Having fun is like stealing good times from life, almost like cheating death a little bit if the fun is delicious and perhaps dangerous enough. Come the fuck on, admit it. I don’t care how closely you might adhere to a religious dogma or what it allows you, when you break the rules having some unsanctioned fun it gives you a minute or two to release your inner child.

That precious part of you that still lives in spite of what you think the world requires of you to be…

Most obligations we take on and carry we do for love. And certainly fulfilling those obligations makes up a grand portion of life’s worthy moments. But sometimes it’s those stolen moments that make life smile worthy when you’re alone with your thoughts and memories. And maybe a stiff drink…pour yourself one. I’m going to and listen to that piece I just put on you.


As for those thoughts I had about dying.

Live as you will wish to have lived when you are dying.
Christian Furchtegott Gellert

Yeah…vamping out to some Lee Morgan. Wanna hear it?

Othello and Sophomore English

“So dad, we’re going to be reading Othello in English and I thought it would be a good idea if you wrote something for me about being married to mom.”

“Oh, let me see if I get ‘why’ you might think that’s a good idea…First did you get an assignment to write or say something about interracial marriages? Do you think I’m going to murder your mother…”

“Okay, thanks for the spoiler alert. Will you write something or not? We just got the assignment that we’re going to read it and discuss it. I think it might be a good thing to know what your thinking is, and was, about marrying a white woman since you’re so militantly black!”

“(Wordless expression to denote how impressed I can be by my daughter’s thinking processes…Meanwhile she just chuckles and rubs a bald spot on my head…)


That day’s Washington Post Style section has a book review of the latest Hogarth Shakespeare project, “New Boy” by Tracy Chevalier, which takes the Bard’s examination of race, envy, mind manipulation, and patriarchy onto a sixth grade playground. While I cannot remember how long it’s been since I last read Othello, and it has been over three decades since Sheila and I have started our journey together I do feel I have a perfect subject for my latest essay. At least one that will keep my attention long enough to finish a decent draft.

The book review looks somewhat compelling, however I’ve dug out my Norton Shakespeare so I can, should I choose, read the original.

Sigh…yet another tome in the wobbly pile of ‘to read later’ books, periodicals, and newspaper clippings…so little time…


The white girl I married came home from a week’s training session in Chicago with an interesting story. Sheila exercises every morning and one day while there after her morning workout she stopped in a store to buy some snacks and other sundries. The clerk, a young black woman was somewhat distracted from paying attention to full involvement with the transaction and forgot to offer a small plastic bag. As the clerk was ringing up the next customer my wife reached over for a bag and the clerk snapped at her that ‘there’s a charge for that bag!’

The customer being rung up, who had been in line behind Sheila then began to harshly address her as being a white, over privileged, person trying to steal a seven cent bag. She told me that she turned to fully face him and told him she was married to a black man and had two black children and that he had made some inaccurate assumptions about her based on the color of her skin. She pointed out that perhaps he should consider that just maybe he had no real idea who she was or what kind of person she was or what life experiences she has had.

He immediately apologized, after repeating the old cliche about what happens when you assume…

Sheila gave the clerk, who seemed to realize she might have perhaps fallen down a bit in her responsibility to provide complete customer service, a dime to cover the cost of the bag. She walked out the store, bagging her items. Even today as we talked about that experience and the list of indignities POC suffer in this society, I wonder how we; Sheila and I, our children, our friends (black and white/liberal and conservative), are ever going to have the dialogues we need to have in order to approach any sustainability in our society. Two steps forward, three steps back, same as it ever was.

The following is what I wrote for our daughter.



You asked me to write something about being married to a white woman…I suspect you might have anticipated a very long letter/email.

It’s not a new story, a white woman and a black man being married. But even today it still presents potential issues, and for some a bit more than social awkwardness. But when your mom and I started dating it was way more of a big deal. I’m old enough to remember when any inter-racial friendships caused real problems for people. Let’s start there, just white and black people hanging out, not dating.

You know my first real friend, your Uncle Thom, and I used to get into fights because a lot of other kids weren’t happy that we hung out every day. This was a really long time ago, in the 50’s. He once punched an older kid in the face because the older kid kept using the n-word in our presence…one of the fastest runs we ever had getting away from that angry, and bigger, kid.

I don’t think anyone has ever been called the n-word in anger more than me growing up because I was the only black boy in my elementary school. The other white friend I had actually used to call me that every day in seventh grade. We got to be friends in high school in spite of our separate groups of friends not liking the idea.

I can say that between school in Philadelphia and four years at a HBCU taught me a lot about the bad AND good sides of white people. I’ve talked to you before about the segregated county I went to college in, about the KKK burning a cross on our campus twice, about how the Eastern Shore white kids marched with us in the 60’s. I haven’t told you about the discrimination and racism I’ve faced as an adult but suffice to say here that I always gave any person, white or black, a fair shot to show me what kind of person they were.

When I met your mom, all I could see was one of the most special people I could ever hope to meet. I mean, yeah, I could see that she was white but that didn’t matter. All that mattered was making sure I wouldn’t say anything stupid when I introduced myself. Long story short, she and I clicked and soon enough we were living together and having all sorts of great adventures.

There have been many times it was clear that people in public didn’t like seeing us together. Most of the time they were moments that we just let slip by. There’s no account for the ugly in the world. A few times I wasn’t about to let anyone disrespect our relationship. One man got me so angry in the grocery store where we shopped that the manager was called. As soon as he saw it was me confronting the ’gentleman’ he told the other guy to leave the store. Sadly, I’ve had confrontations with black people about being with a white woman too.

Most people will not tell you if they have a problem with inter-racial relationships anymore. In my life I’ve seen laws that outlawed marriage between different races over turned (the Loving Case was decided the year I turned twenty) but I know for sure that there are places I would never want our family to live. There are scores of millions of our fellow country people who recently voted for a candidate who regularly gave voice to exceedingly racists views. Because of that, as well as other reasons, many people feel free to espouse blatantly racist views openly. The only good thing I can see about that is it lets us all know how far we have yet to go before we can say we have a just society.

It’s easier, in my view, for our family to live here, where we are now than it would have been a short time after the Loving case was decided. I don’t know if there are less or more people that are comfortable with white and black people marrying and having children. I do know that your mother has been my life since I met her and that she, and you and your brother, mean the world to me.

If any person, of any race, could look at us and have a problem all I know is it would be their issue, not ours. Racial bigotry hurts not only the people being biased against, but it hurts our society. It hurts the children of bigots deeply for they don’t grow up with a complete understanding of what the world is.

The best thing to ever happen to me was meeting your mom. I rarely ever think of us being in an inter-racial marriage. There are times I realize how profoundly different we are because of the conditioning this society allocates via race. But then mom and I have both individually and collectively worked against that social conditioning, for ourselves and for you and your brother.

Hmmm, maybe I should say that the best thing to happen to me was not only meeting your mom, but having a family with her. You and your brother are the results of this marriage. I’m so very proud of both of you and how you’ve both found a way to be unapologetically yourselves in a world that tries its best to shape you in the images it prefers.

Love you,



Esther’s had her face buried in her copy of Othello. She seems to read it more than the youtube viewing she engages in. I haven’t heard anything about a class discussion of the play yet.

But I’m betting it’ll get interesting.


Cuyjet 1




Writer’s Block?

Things I would rather do than write.

“Clean” my studio/office/Man Cave
Wash dishes
Dust/vacuum the house
Exercise/bike ride/lift weights
Day dream
Play on Facebook
Grocery shop

Things that I could do rather than write that would be beneficial to my writing

Talk to friends
Read some more
Really set up a creative space for myself
Deal with my fears


Deal with my fears…I just finished a coaching session when that phrase came up. And I gave voice to it not just for my client, but for myself as well. I have massive social anxiety (despite my seemingly overt extraversion) and I go though long periods where I do not wish to be seen. While I have talked about my traumas within some of the pieces for the essay challenge I hit a wall. Ergo the lateness of this installment and my reluctance to do any writing whatsoever about it. My fear of being seen is based on feeling that should someone really see me they would see a fraud, a fake, a bullshit artist.

Disclosing this now is not something new, I’ve done it before and I’ve started to do it with this essay challenge but it still felt unreal, incomplete, and not integral to my personhood. Just writing words is an easy thing to hide behind, even if I ‘d seem to be disclosing something that would make me feel truly vulnerable.


Good fucking question at this point. I know that if I pay attention I can see that I’ve done the work, not just professionally in therapy, but in my day to day dealings with significant others and myself. And realistically I know the work is ongoing, it doesn’t stop. But there are times I feel that it’s pointless. I don’t know if it’s despair or ennui or both.

I just feel like sitting still, alone, and quiet.

One of my (writer) friends has pointed out that at the end of our year of writing an essay a week we’d have fifty-two first drafts. I can’t help but think that I’m a first draft, incomplete and filled with grammatically formed incorrectness.. Maybe these spells are when I really self-edit. I dunno. I do know that my best shit comes out when I just open myself up to the thought or emotion I’m feeling at the moment (writing drunk?) and just let it flow.

Another of my (writer) friends actually called me a writer in one of her essays.

It frightened me…


Because there are too many times when I’ve read something I’ve written that prompts an almost out of body experience for me. I have a hard time believing I’ve written it, I wonder where the fuck it came from. Another (writer) friend of mine, in a Facebook post put it succinctly, “I speak one way, and I think and write, in another dimension.” (Thank you Terry Becerril) Being in that ‘dimension’ is like a drug, sometimes it’s absolutely thrilling and sometimes it’s absolutely frightening! I am truly afraid of being addicted to that feeling and what it can produce. But I see that it produces something very worthwhile and I wonder if this is the dance writers, artists are damned to dance.

And what more is there? What do I have to be honest about in uncovering myself further? What lies do I still tell myself? What lies would I tell you?

I don’t know, but what I do know is that when any potential answers come up…no, wait, when the hard questions come up I’ll not run from them, the bits and pieces of inspiration constantly flow. I’ve been either fearful or too lazy to dig for what they would lead me to discover/uncover about myself or my vision of the world. I’ll continue to do the work so that the fears I harbor don’t distort that vision. If I can recognize any biases then I can either dive into them to see what, if any use they may have or, alternatively step away from them.

What I do know right now, at this moment is that I don’t want to leave any potential I may have unused. I don’t want to waste anything of myself. As much as it may frighten me at any moment, I want to be seen.

Travel Journal Week 12


Coming out of the sky after an overnight flight you might have several layers of clouds to go through, forty-five thousand feet is the highest you remember ever being. Those spaces between layers are crystalline and pure, mist that reminds you of the stories of knights and fairies. The light reminds you why you like to photograph in natural light. You might find yourself getting up before the sun while you’re here. Gliding out of the sky down to the runway you see little islands in the Irish Sea. You can picture the skirmishes between the Romans and the Celts, the travels of Christian monks to bring their word to the ancient people of this isle. This Emerald Isle. Green. Really, really green. You might suspect that they treat the grass with a shade of the color you’ve never seen before. A very good friend warned you that you’ll see shades of green you’ve never seen before. You suspect she’s right.

Airports, at least the ones you’ve seen, are becoming very similar. You deplane, find your way to the bus or whichever convenience you’re to use to get you where you’re going. Today you’re taking the 747 which deposits you a block or so from the hotel. It’s a quick walk, but all you can do is look around and soak up the sights, smells, and feel of the place.

You look at the faces…

The first thing you notice about the faces in Dublin is that a lot of them fit the description “hard-scrabble”. Especially when you walk by the taxi stands. Cigarette stains more than their teeth, yellowish spots are on the fingers and staleness hangs in the air as you walk by. You know that thing that fight trainers do when working with their trainees, sparring with matted gloves while the pugilist throws hands at them? Two of them were doing it barehanded and from the looks of it, doing it pretty damn well. You want to stand and watch. You have no desire to challenge either of them.

You wish you could hang there for a couple of days, getting to know them so that when you asked to shoot their portraits it wouldn’t seem patronizing. You want to remember their faces, you want to honor their lives. You want them to feel that regardless of how far you have traveled away from the life you once led that was so much like theirs, you have respect for them. Your father wore his job driving a cab like a badge of anger. His face was rather hard scrabbled damn near every night. But every night you never wanted to take his picture, you wanted to avoid that face. Time passed and you learned that he too had his own version of honor, or pride, like these hard men, of doing what they do as well as they can, and taking some version of joy from it.

But here is seems different, maybe because you don’t have to live with these guys. Your hotel room is right across the street from the Cathedral where the bells have been ringing for about forty minutes now. Christ and his boys telling you not to sleep just yet, stay awake while longer and hear what Christ Church’s bells sound like every Friday night.


Today you walked around without the family. You stood on corners waiting for something to tell you which way to walk, which blowing wind to follow. Again watching faces and just listening to the many languages spoken here. The ethnic Chinese cab driver told you that his thirteen year old son speaks Gaelic. Since dad is from Macao you imagine the languages in that house can span from Cantonese/Mandarin to Gaelic to English in one short conversation.

Sometimes you were tempted to sit in a pub where you could listen to live Irish music. The biggest pull was to a run down place where a tenor voice was singing Gaelic, at least you imagined it Gaelic. It’s been written that it is the language of poets, of storytellers. You wish you could stay here for several months, maybe a year so you could learn it. Meanwhile you settle in at the lounge of your hotel, listening to the bells across the street at Christ Church Cathedral and the men from Manchester as they dissect the Manchester United team on the television. You interrupt to ask if they can tell you about Ryan Giggs because your son would be displeased were you to come home, tell the story of meeting these Red Devil fans and bring back no word of the twenty year veteran of the pitch wars for the Devils. They agree with you about Paul Pogba being way overvalued and compliment you on your knowledge and short history of the side (one of them lives a ten minute walk from Old Trafford and has been following them since the 60’s. You’ve been on board for about ten years).


Headed for Adare for lunch and Dingle for a couple of days then on to Galway! This ‘journal’ was interrupted tonight after the girls left me alone waiting for the check after dinner (they wanted to shower and pack for our early get-a-way in the AM) when the pretty faced waitress started asking me questions about me and my writing and was I going to do a travel journey about this trip….

There’s nothing more powerful that beauty in a wicked world.

Amos Lee

This child was so beautiful and innocent I wanted to send her to the North Pole so the wicked parts of the world would never touch her! Was that me being paternalistic or just reacting to my wish to prevent the pains of life’s experiences to someone fresh and just starting to know independence?

My last therapist said I get a bit hung up on the pathos of my life in my stories, not allowing for ‘happy endings’. I tend to disagree because I’m trying to uncover those parts of my life’s experiences that I’ve not examined how they affect my vision of both myself and the lessons I’ve either learned or not explored. I won’t disagree that I spend an inordinate amount of time looking at darker aspects of myself. I think I generally tend to gloss over them. This past year, and my advancing age as well I suppose, have been cause for much introspection.

Having those brief talks with this young girl reminded me that we all have journeys in life, and many ways to walk the paths that open before us. She stayed with me as long as she could between the calls to attend to her other customers. During those interruptions I got to reflect on what Pam, the therapist, had said and came to this conclusion.

I am my own happy ending. More later, time to drive across this beautiful green place to the Atlantic coast.