Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Eight ... er ...Ten Random Facts About Me

Catherine, that fiend (said with affection) over at Poverty Barn, has tagged me (and now I've been tagged by Kat at Poetikat's Invisible Keepsakes), so I will share eight random facts about me. As I told Catherine in her comments section, I won't tag anyone else as I have been a pest lately, E Mailing poems and other things to too many people. I don't know if I will get hit by blogosphere lightening or something now, but here are my eight:

1. I love coffee ice cream, preferably Days in Ocean Grove, New Jersey.
2. I love to read, but I am a slower reader who tends to get distracted and reads in short bursts several times a day.
3. I love acoustic singer-songwriters who play in coffeehouses. They bring me peace and inspire my poetry.
4. My cat, Boo, has me completely wrapped around his fing ... er paws.
5. I never set my alarm or microwave for a multiple of five.
6. My favorite spot is the lower walking path of Raymondskill Falls in northeast PA. It is hard to reach this path and few know it is there. I find it to be a sanctuary and will visit it next week.
7. I have written over 570 poems to date. (As of January 2008)
8. I consistently notice when it is 11:11, especially in the morning.
9. I do not like cheese or tomatoes, but love thin crust pizza.
10. I am afraid of big dogs. Ever since my best friend's German Shepherd almost tore me apart, this has been true.

There you go.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Father's Day

My father died July 8, 1992. I was twenty-eight at the time. He often comes back to me in dreams, times when my mind wanders and in reflections in the mirror; where I realize how much of his son that I am.

My father died far too young. He had worked too hard at a job that he enjoyed, but that had left him overwhelmed by too much stress and a "partner" who had bled the company dry. I remember racing to his office that day in 1992 when a call came into my parent's house that he had suffered a "heart attack," hoping he was alive still and being angry at him for not quitting that job and joining forces with me to maybe open up a small shop selling baseball cards. I figured we could marvel over stats of players we loved while Springsteen music came from some radio behind the counter. He, of course, would be singing off-key, muffing the words.

None of that was to be, because dad died that day, probably the instant he fell from his chair. But did he really leave? Sure, I miss the physical contact and the daily phone calls. We always spoke about politics, sports ... whatever ... and I treasured that, even when I did not. We were not embarrassed to kiss each other hello and goodbye in public. He taught me the secret family hand-hold; three squeezes signifying "I LOVE YOU." And he did; like no other dad possibly could.

The night before he died, I stayed at my parent's house and as he rested on the couch, I lay beside him with my head on his chest. That was the bond we shared.

We coached a baseball and basketball team together, had season's tickets to Rutgers' games and spent more hours having catches (like the scene in "Field of Dreams") then most people spend even talking to one another. We always spoke while playing catch; as he broke off curve balls that dropped to the floor and knucklers that literally stopped in mid air.

The nickname my dad gave me as a child was "Bookee." It was something I hid from friends as a kid so I would not be teased. As an adult, I paid tribute to it, naming my cats Boo and Kee. What I wouldn't give to have him call me that stupid nickname again.

I admire many great men and women of history, but none top my father. He spent countless hours teaching children life's lessons. When a kid could not afford to play Little League, he secretly funded them. He gave away sets of baseball cards to neighborhood children. Often, he joined my friends and me in the street to take a turn at bat. No one could hit like my father (he was offered major leagues contracts in his youth).

He cared about politics and was a progressive on most issues. He worked hard behind the scenes to elect people he believed in and spent countless hours going door to door for causes that merited his devotion.

Devotion. That was my father. He was devoted; flat out devoted. He was devoted to his family, to those in need, to friends, to children, to causes big and small, and to any person who wished to talk to him for hours on end. He would disappear on a "quick trip" around the corner or at the local diner, inevitably engaged in a dialogue with someone.

I miss him. But do I? Really, he remains here full and strong, for he is in me. I am my own man, but I am also much my father's son. Sure, there are physical similarities, but my dedication to making the world better, my love of the written word, my work with children, my being a big mush - they are all products of my father. For that, he lives on and always will. I won't let those who knew him forget. Nor will I allow those who did not meet him to not know him in some form.

Happy Father's Day, dad. Your were among the greatest to walk this earth.

Poems on my blog about my father are:

Games Of Toss
My Father's Son
Role Model
To Be Continued

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Slavery and Homosexuality?

I am currently reading a biography of Jefferson Davis. What strikes me each time I read the southern perspective of slavery from the 1770's leading up to the Civil War, is how the people who supported slavery come off sounding today. Their arguments for state's rights, inferiority questions, fear of financial loss, etc...., all ring hollow, of course. Ultimately, what I come away with is how unenlightened, small-minded, foolish, and often hateful people could be during those times.

Then I watch the news, read a magazine or surf the internet, and I find arguments against homosexuality, on issues ranging from "curing an illness," to marriage, to even associating with "those icky fags." My thoughts drift off again, and I wonder, will it take our country as long this time to reduce the lack of enlightment, small-mindedness, foolish thought, and hate?

Footnote: That includes Democrats who state they are for civil unions because they are too frightened to support gay marriage.

Poem: Native

On my recent trip to the Grand Canyon, we ventured into the Navajo Nation. What I saw was desolation and destitution. A people that had once flourished throughout North America in harmony with the land are now greatly reduced to small boxes of dead earth. I have done my share of reading on the plight of the American Indian and understand it is necessary to avoid the caricatures of the Indians as wholesome and pure, and the white man as fully decadent and evil. However, by and large there is an element of truth to these representations in looking at how Native Americans lived on these lands before Europeans invaded and recklessly overwhelmed the local inhabitants and a great deal of nature, too, in their pursuit of Manifest Destiny.

The ring purchase is a reference to the small stand I stopped at to buy a piece of jewelry from an old man inside the Navajo Nation. It is meant as a statement, but I will leave that to you to come to conclusion on.


Lands were fertile far and wide
Took their fill as life provides
Green grass meadows to skies of cloud
One with country their God endowed
Bound to earth as mother’s womb
Only take what they’d consume

Plague came forth in wrathful flight
Reckless force of scorching white
Paths were trodden by mindless ruin
Death came quick from whence they’d swoon
Mark’s been left with disregard
Land once blessed now cold and hard

Man sits old in wrinkled skin
Nation’s lost but not within
Pride remains as time-spilled lore
Imagines all might thought restore

Pain will yield when hearts still sing
Man lives on; I buy a ring

Copyright SGW 2007

Sunday, June 3, 2007

"Fallen Founder - The Life of Aaron Burr"

While hardly a scholar of the Revolutionary Era, I am well read in that time-frame. My small library includes biographies of Washington, Adams, Franklin, Madison, Monroe, Marshall, and several of Jefferson. Jefferson, despite his flaws, remains one of my chief historical heroes, and I have been to Monticello twice as a result.

In most portraits of the Revolutionary Era, Aaron Burr comes off as a villain. He is the conniver in the Election of 1800, the murderer of Alexander Hamilton and the treasonous adventurer of the western lands. None of these portrayals are accurate, and Nancy Isenberg does a marvelous job of correcting the record in her "Fallen Founder - The Life of Aaron Burr."

Burr had his faults; he was sexually active, he was a politician in all its definitions, he did duel with Hamilton, and he did connive to take actions in the west. However, he was also a brilliant legal and political mind, who was ahead of his time on women's, voting and middle class rights. He often was a voice of moderation. In 1800, Isenberg shows a man who did not attempt to steal the presidency, but instead remained true to Jefferson throughout the ordeal.

While Burr was sexually active, he was no more so than many others of his time. While he did kill Hamilton in a duel the record shows Hamilton unwilling to apologize for defaming Burr's character and Burr giving him ample opportunity to retract the remarks.

Much written about Burr in that time was slanderous; the product of fear by his rivals for control over the New York power base and, nationally, control between Virginia and New York.

Even his western adventures are inaccurately portrayed. He never seemed to have any intentions to split the nation or scheme against the government. In fact, his goals centered on conquering Spanish lands held in the west on behalf of the United States; a not uncommon goal of many, as later history would show.

Lastly, Burr was a brilliant legal mind. Isenberg clearly displays this in her book.

All in all, Burr had faults, as did all of the founders. And yet, he was a man of many virtues and strengths, too; often missing from history's telling. I highly recommend Nancy Isenberg's "Fallen Founder - The Life of Aaron Burr," if you wish to get the fuller picture of the man.