Monday, December 7, 2009

Dave Rawlings Machine (and Gillian Welch)

Eyes wide open, all watching him on stage smiling with his eyes closed. He dances and strums, sings, and smiles. A vision of happiness, unaware of the spectacular spell he has cast on the crowd. His knees buckle with each strum of the banjo and strain of his voice, unafraid of hitting the ground, his guitar neck holds him up, like a marionette he dances by the chords of the song.

Sunday gospel in a passionately beat-up club, beautiful wooden walls, a timeless stage draped in black velvet, denim shirts, red neck ties, banjos, violins and whiskey.

Monday, November 23, 2009

before the snow, autumnal grass. smile.

there has never been and will never be another human on this earth the same as you. you are absolutely, infinitely, unique.

Monday, November 16, 2009

As Children We Grow Like Trees

It's a hard argument to try and convince others, let alone yourself, that you are actually not yourself. At the moment, that is my challenge. It feels so enormous, it keeps me awake at night, crowding my bed and stealing my covers. I wish to help the disconnect between who I think I am, who I desire to be, and who I actually am, and make it hurt less... And sting more...

...With vibrant colors and sparks from fireworks.

This is a task that I have felt lurking inside me over many years now. Now I am ready for it. I want to capture the bees that inundate my day, and take them home to make honey. I want to find people and programs that will challenge every thing that I know. I want to climb trees and listen to what the wind tells me. I want to find you, and I want to find myself. I will wait for you at the Station Inn, I will be the one lying on the floor, in the grass, covered in flowers. I wonder if I will recognize myself.

Friday, October 9, 2009


I've begun work with Ada S. McKinley, at their Neighborhood House in the deep South, almost Indiana, of Chicago. It's a big house that incorporates all ages in study and activities throughout the day. Bingo in the morning for the seniors, tutoring in the afternoon for the kids, computer lab time in the evening for the teens, with soccer and foosball mixed in between. I hang around with the kids mostly. Their youth has taught me crazy things in the short time I've spent with them, and it brings me back to Rio and Two Brothers, whether I want to be there or not. That city taught me difficult lessons, but ones that have paved the path that I stumble along now. This city is round two, knock down and out. Get back up and swing again, miss, hit, miss. I hit, and look for round three, where will that take me?

The after school crowd comes around 3pm, and the other day one of the girls, Nina, asked me "are you black, white, or mexican?" I smiled inside, someone was actually not assuming I was white. She was barely over four feet, but she stood so tall. I said I was white, and asked her what she was. She said "I'm all three!", and then broke into a traveling song and dance.

So here's to the the youth of America and Brazil, all of the worlds' youth, for that matter, you teach me things I could never learn in books, on the internet, or from my peers.

Fucking Awesome.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

obsessive drive for self-discovery

The title and the subject have little to do with each other, but I love the words, the idea. Last night had the most eerie light, almost cinematic, but natural.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tonight's Sunset

Across the same wide sky that blankets us all, and sitting in my own small bed, I look for the words to move sideways, backways, shimmy forwards, and eventually next to where I want to be. And I ask where is that? And do I need an answer now? Do I let fate run it's seemingly haphazard course, do it's own lengthy work, or do I have to simultaneously push forward with my own scrawny might?

What do you think?

I hope that when we fall asleep under the stars that were once birds flying, that we remember the world, and the millions of tiny souls that make it up. I hope that we can love them as much as we love ourselves, and I hope that you love yourself.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

what the fuck, my legs are dancing, and my mind is tangled. it feels weird, and i find myself in these shadows, and these circles of light.

Monday, August 17, 2009


A local noise ordnance unplugged the Sunday night Lucero show early, so Ben Nichols and Rick Steff played guitar and accordion on a park bench to about thirty of us in eckhart park until late. We helped with the lyrics while the alcohol helped Ben to forget.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

let go what you don't like, or, hopeless, drunken, romantic, dancing

looking at yourself, i mean really deeply inside, is maybe one of the hardest things to do. to realize the mistakes you have made, however great they are. to see the other people around you hurting so badly. to realize the work you thought was moving you forward, was really just a shuffle sideways. in some ways, i feel like i have failed. i have failed myself, in that i was not true, and i was not loved. my heart, my stomach, my liver, kidneys, they float in a toxic fluid, leftover, spilled from a toxic year. how did it come to this? how was i so blind, when i didn't listen to what was said, sitting on the porch, in a restaurant, or on the beach? how stupid was i to continue to hold on? why not just let go that night. why not just jump off that turquoise balcony and see where i end up? maybe on the back of a motorcycle, maybe at a bar, maybe in a school, or maybe swimming far into the atlantic ocean. none of these places are far away.

i realize how right my situation is, how it will allow me to grow and to become the person that i want to be... so that the separation between who i actually am and who i identify with, believe i am, is much less. will i/i will walk with tired and bleeding feet, crying tears that won't stop, and look up in awe at the mountain i am at the foot of. i discover the mountains in my life and ask to climb them, and meet my spirits and friends on the top, and we dance for hours. maybe they will play 'backwards walk' but maybe they will play 'that much further west', or 'pieholden suite' and we will watch the stars at night when it gets hard, and then breathe in the sunrise the next morning. where is that day? i can't predict the future, but i know it loves me. because if you let life in, with a lot of fucking pain, there's nothing you can't do.

i just wish it wouldn't hurt so much now, because there are days, more often than not, that i would erase it all if i could.
the sky is black, it's about to thunderstorm something crazy right now.


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

untitled conversation

gallery, site

at an art gallery opening this weekend i discovered a small and quite powerful piece hanging in the first corner of the space. it spoke to me in a way i hadn't heard in some time. it made me important it is to share your jewels, the words that resonate and the pictures that feel, and not allow them to fall asleep in your mind, and then cease to exist in their magnitude. here is the artist statement:

Anthems of Empty

What happens when a memory ceases to be remembered? Does it no longer exist, or has it been corrupted into some form of the truth within the depths of consciousness. When memory fails the individual, what is left behind but a word, a partial thought, stories without text, songs without lyrics, anthems that are empty... like an old shack on the side of the road. The shell is mostly there, but the inside is gone and will never again be what it once was. My work is made up of these fragments of memory;
built up, pieces of a former whole, rearranged and layered together to make a new.

The action of writing on page leaves a mark, a scar, on the universe. Even if it is erased, it never is totally gone. It may change forms, but once made can not ever really be undone. Even time leaves a mark These scars left on people, on the universe, are not always visible. Sometimes they can only be seen when a portion remains and what was the whole is no more. Material deteriorates, paper yellows, an image fades unto a puff of smoke into the sky... to become some other memory in some other place. These pages from old books, some of which are so fragile it takes all the will in the universe to not have them crumble in my hands, they need something structural, because inherently they are on the verge of total ruin.

sarah e rehmer

Sunday, August 2, 2009

shocked by honesty

found this in the woods while i was riding my bicycle. i love finding notes, it feels like i just met a new friend.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

physical health, pain, emotional clutter

sifting through my carefully yet haphazardly packed boxes, my mom gets a phone call. my aunt is in the emergency room, she has had a mini-heart-attack. what a triage of words, and i wonder if they go together. the implied severity and the acuteness co-mingling in sentences. does that work? it doesn't matter, because we need to get there, and there is little time to think. and it is a welcome relief to focus on the needs of someone else right now.
when i see her she is in good spirits, because she is my aunt. i don't feel okay, but her faces reminds me that we are only human, and that laughter can be the best medicine. i try to smile with her, but it's overwhelming. she doesn't want a party so i kiss her and take my cousin home with me so he doesn't have to spend tonight alone.
i slowly return to sorting out some clutter in my personal earth attic, cutting through fog, dense trees, and thick water. we are not alone in this world, but when the boxes are stacked so high, it's hard to see the people standing on the other side sometimes.
this is the second time today i have been in a hospital. it's time to get some sleep.

Monday, July 27, 2009

dunk tank

right after this picture was taken i got clocked in the throat with a fast flying softball. i woke up on the ground with a circle of people standing over me.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

a bicycle, a beer, and a nativity scene

I've been riding my bike around, chasing the evening shadows every night after work. Yesterday I found a nativity scene in a garbage can so I brought it home with me, it makes me smile. The baby jesus has a busted knee cap.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


When are the the people, the values, the concrete and sandy paths, and the relationships in your life worth fighting for? How do you decide which battles can afford your energy and which are too taxing, leaving you exhausted? Can these change with time? And how many unanswered questions can you handle, rolling around in your mind, in your soul, your heart, before you can't stand it? And you make a decision, to go, and to follow what it is you want, unrestrained and with love. I wonder, and it turns me all around. Then I laugh, because that makes me wonder what the rest of the world is thinking. It's incredible sometimes.

Saturday, July 11, 2009


my throat is a mixture of desert and yuck. it's swollen and makes my eyes look tired. my lungs are filled with green and yellow. and seems brazil has stayed with me longer than i thought it would. i guess this isn't the type of thing you put on a blog, but well, i wanted to.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A Separate Piece, 1959

Driving down Highway 12 and listening to my grandparents talk about how they met and how they married, not necessarily how they fell in love, but how they chose to spend their lives together, I am calm. The talked as the miles passed. She said he was tall and quirky and he wasn’t like the other boys she had gone out with. He kissed her at the end of the night and apologized for it. She said it was different, charming. He said she hoped in his car and immediately slid over close next to him. My grandpa proudly told his story of leaving the army, going AWOL, not once, not twice but three times and being sent to military prison for each offense. It took him more than four years to get a discharge from the army. He seemed relieved to be back in life with women, work, and human pleasures. My grandma chuckled from deep, she didn’t know this before she married him. She was a junior in high school and he was 22, dating a chick from Oconomowoc, WI a while before he met her, as he describes it, when they decided that they wanted to intertwine their lives. She had some money saved up for college, and they spent it on a trailer to live in instead. They have been together ever since. Not without troubles, but always with understanding.

I sat there, concentrating on driving, and enjoying the quiet bliss that the road often cradles those looking for peace. Despite the chatter behind me, I couldn’t help but smile and listen with my ears, as my mind may have been somewhere else. They couldn’t tell me, or anyone, why they married, or even if they were in love, but they didn’t seem to mind. And you could call it a simpler time, with less worries or restraints. But I call it serene, and that is timeless. I call it something of a time lost not in love but in a concern for careers, for money, or for self-awareness. All of which are positive, can be good, but can alter where your heart sits. It was a time where life was chance and love was a catalyst for spiritual growth, for travel, for adventure, and for dancing freely. It may be what people still hope for, but that depends on your definition of love, of happiness. Either way, it made me smile.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Finding Heart and Leaving Brazil

Sometimes it's hard to tell your stories when someone asks...

We didn't see a single monkey, but we saw a ton of machine guns. It was crazy, to say the least, the first time we walked past a group of guys toting tall guns. But eventually we didn't think twice when they sat outside our doorstep nearly every day and night. Sometimes the guns were as tall as the boys that carried them. But that is not the whole story of my Brazil...
And it's true these narrow tools of destruction affected my psyche, my following experiences and my personal relationships. They made me afraid, and then annoyed, then educationally intrigued, judgmental, and finally understanding. It was my stages of grief, a departure from a sheltered world that many in my life, including myself, had come from. But I cannot say it was earth-shattering, or pious of me, no, I did not learn and come back one who can write poetically and carefully about the abject poverty I was privileged enough to live in. No, it made me care about myself and the world in an interesting way. It made me feel small, but not insignificant. The world began to look disheveled and unruly, a place of wild growth and equally wild change. And I asked could I please be a part of this? But in the space between, my life began to change, and my personal relationships suffered. Maybe because my body and mind were growing too fast, and I could see the stretch marks and scars.

Matthew and I had difficulties landing on the same level, on the same day and even month. And we came to love our trip at different times. He in the beginning, and I later on. Rocinha was our Rio de Janeiro. It was our home, and our life, and our noise was our own in our own heads. It was hard and often rough, but it was what life brought in our choices and our loves. It was what we had decided our life together needed. So I began to pick up the pieces of the black and white mosaic Brazilian sidewalks. We attempted to live, as harmoniously as possible in an organic and violent foreign country, as we could. Some mornings we drank coffee and read the paper, some we listened to the nearby shots and helicopters fly low overhead. We moved to Rocinha for an indefinite period of time. A spectacular adventure.

We saw the products of human consumption in it's rawest form. Burning mountains of garbage pushed the sidewalks to the streets. We walked exhausted in the streets, next to nerve-wracking perpetual motion. Passing once delicately prepared meals, served on humble glass plates, coveted and much loved clothing, kissed and forgotten about. Do you want to see my new outfit? How about my new CD? Just look at the streets. In Rocinha life was loud, it was fast, cheap and often armed to the teeth. People ask me, "were you scared?" and I think about it... I indeed was, at more than one point in the beginning. Wondering whose business it was to patrol my home, my community, and my body with guns. Wondering why I couldn't take a photo and why a rifle, a hunting rifle no less, couldn't take away those self-proclaimed robin hood's insecurities. My photo won't hurt you, but maybe someone before me ruined it. I was scared when our first bus ride shot us out of a tunnel and burning brakes stopped and let us off into a bustling, colorful raw state of being. But the frightened panic and pain I felt was so long ago, it's almost forgotten. Always learned, always educational, but not stored as fear. I have enough of that in other places, to last me til the next trip. So I answer, 'no, not really'. Briefly reminded of that first two weeks, but not allowing it to define me by what it implies.

Rocinha, and you expect people to ask questions but can only hope they understand the answers. But you sadly realize the sights, sounds, tastes and smells are pertinent and exclusive to a favela, and little more than a dream or nightmare to your audience at home. The sounds of motorcycles roaring past your aluminum and plastic sealed windows at 3am and the exclusive Sunday 5am Baile Funk bass that not only rattles your sleepy mind but also your bed. The smells of stale beer, vanilla, human wastes and aromatic drifts of marijuana nearly every hour. I will never forget. And these are not the negatives, because braided intricately with the vibrant threads of a natural community, were the positives. Fresh eggs, a dozen for a dollar, four dollars for a weeks worth of vegetables, dollar fifty for a double pint of beer...which although taste near water, was still a small delight in a stressful day.

Tattoos given cheaply out of fluorescent lit huts the size of an old, early outhouse with square windows in place of the traditional crescent moon shaped ones. Itau banks with early morning ATM lines, four dollar haircuts, always a customer and no matter what you ask for, always the same conservative-mohawk-like cut. Sex shops, clothing shops, dentists, produce, papers stores, mechanics and garages every-other storefront, pastry and beer counters. This is what surrounded the streets that comprised Rocinha. But the people are what made Rocinha. The temperament. The free-spirited, lack of worry, boisterous speech and flying street chatter, non-stop banter. Walk where you want, sit where you choose, buy what tastes good, and consume all. Leaving the waste for your community to compost and recycle. The people are the kids that make their toys out of PVC tubing and run naked in the streets. The people are my students, and they are the laughs, the arguments, and the choruses you could hear every day and night. They were the continuous wheels. They were why you come to Rocinha.

Is it possible to come back the same person?

Can the confidence that I had in myself, the confidence to make a difference, the confidence to take a chance on change to see if I have revealed a sliver of the path I am next to embark upon, remain? The confidence to love myself for who I am and not for what I think other people think of me. The confidence to see children on the street who need you, but not your money and tell them in Portuguese, no, I have no money, I can't help you like that....but I can give you food. The confidence to walk down the alley past the makeshift desks, manned by young men with a myriad of drugs in their bags and money in their pockets, and not be near tears nor violence. The confidence to pick where I want to go and when. The confidence to believe that Matthew loves me.

Beginning to find what will give me the resources to be selfless in the future, because that is what I have discovered is the most love I can feel. I may not have returned as a higher, better, more cultured American set out to help the needy and write beautiful research papers about her enlightened excursions. No, I came back as a fatter me. I found a half dozen or so new facets of personalities that were locked away in the dark and light places, and I hope they can come out and play this summer. I need some time to be a kid again, to tell my friends what I found out I want to do when I grow up. Maybe we can ride bikes together, inspire some new art, and think youthfully of ways to help those with less.

I hope that some of this makes sense, because right now, it makes little to me. It's why I often sit in silence, or with a book, and why I have no cell phone. I have not processed these things yet, and it needs more space than Tennessee has. My thoughts are strewn about, and probably in some pile of garbage. I have begun to collect them again. It's just a life process, and I often wonder what kind of other life processes my friends and friends of friends are going through.

I would love to hear what others have to say.

If you can't find anything else in your life that makes a damn bit of sense, look to your love. We've spanned hours, days, years, cities, states, and now countries and this journey has undoubtedly made our hearts stronger. This is what I know.

Friday, June 26, 2009

something of a farewell

with balloons, motortaxi rides, cultural parties, family, friends, caipirinhas, and eerie calm, we began to say goodbye.

Monday, June 22, 2009