Sunday, August 15, 2010

New Blog Address

Hello everyone! Long time no post, I know, but I've been busy. Sorry. Just a quick update, I am now living in Phoenix, AZ! I arrived here from California a few days ago, and life has so far been a whirlwind of people-meeting and sweating. But I digress.

I just wanted to give the heads up that the events of this coming year will be documented on a new blog address, I've enjoyed my time on blogspot, but I just think wordpress looks cooler (I apologize if that offends any die-hard blogspot fans). So, just give me a few days to get settled and I will be writing up substantial posts on such topics as my final days in Baltimore, my first days in Phoenix, how hot I think it is, and my thoughts on jeggings. It's a big world out there, and if you have time to read about what I think of it, then I'll try not to let you down.

That's it for now! Remember, check out Redbird Rising! Peace!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Garfunkel's Given Name

Hmm, let me see, I know it’s here somewhere…let me click this thing right here…

Oh, here’s my blog!

Sorry for the utter neglect of this here blog page, I know you faithful reader have hardly been able to concentrate on even the most mundane daily tasks without the knowledge of what I have been up to the last month.

As much as I would love to get into that, we have no time! That’s right, I have about a week and half left here in Baltimore, and if you think the time has flown by, well, quite frankly, it has! The past month has brought a lot of heat, but that hasn’t stopped us from making the most of our ever-dwindling time here in Charm City.

This past weekend myself and the housemates moseyed on over to ArtScape- Baltimore’s own and the nation’s largest free arts festival. Let me pull your coat to something; it was large.

Of the many modicums of art that were on display, I managed to catch some musical acts on Saturday night. From a dead grass-covered hillside, I listened to such artists as Jackie Greene, the Cold War Kids, and Government Mule, all the while using a bendy-straw to sip some lemonade. Free music? Lemonade? Come on, you know better to wonder if I had a good time.

The following day, Sunday, I was in the mood to take in some art in a slightly cooler, less dead grass-covered environment. Enter, the Charles Theatre! The Maryland Film Festival was showing independent short films every hour on the hour in the Baltimore landmark theatre, so I figured, “Hey, this ain’t a bad way to spend a Sunday.”

I found some films hilarious, others confusing, and others weird, but I very much enjoyed all of them. Probably the best part was the air-conditioning! What a great world we live in.

So ArtScape was a hit, for me and for the thousands of Baltimoreans who attended. I’ll tell you, Phoenix has some pretty big shoes to fill in terms of cool, free things to do on weekends. I swear, it seems like Baltimore has never heard of charging admission the way it promulgates free events every weekend (which might explain why City Hall is crying broke.) Oh well.

The artists who participated in ArtScape this weekend probably don't, nor ever will, make any money. But they are doing what they want, and I think we need more festivals like ArtScape to give them their day in the sun.

And because everyone likes photos, here are some from the weekend!

This one probably didn't pass inspection.

Some festival action on Charles St.

This is me too lazy to stand up, so instead I took a photo of Jackie Greene through two handrails and in between passers-by.

Everyone likes photos of traffic signs.

Baltimore's Penn Station.

Night scene out front of the Charles Theatre.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Out of the Frying Pan and Back Into the Frying Pan (or, a Whole Lot of Heat)

It is HOT in Baltimore. Like, really hot. Like, sticky, sweaty, dehydrating-just-by-sitting-on-the-front-porch hot. Thankfully, we volunteers of the Arrupe House on Guilford Ave. have been saved from the lugubrious, energy-draining clutches of the Earth’s inevitable approach toward the Sun; our air-conditioning has been fixed! Now, as the sixth month of the year reaches its adulthood, we have a sense of empowerment as we leave our front door to adventure around town on weekends. For we know, now matter how high the temperature might get on the sidewalk, just one turn of the key inside our semi-rusted keyhole grants us access to the Freon-loaded atmosphere of peace, love and social justice (or, more commonly, our living room).

I rolled out of bed early (much like the nimblest of cats) on Saturday morning to get a nice, adult-like start to the weekend. I took on the noblest of missions and walked up to the Farmer’s Market in the Waverly neighborhood to obtain, quite literally, the fruits by means of which the housemates and I will be nourished this week. Twelve apples, some rhubarb, and some other leafy vegetable later, I returned home to enjoy a nice English muffin and cup of coffee on my front porch. No sugary cereal nor cartoons. I am getting old.

After briefly checking out a massive yard sale that Johns Hopkins was hosting, I decided that 11 a.m. was the perfect time to go for an eight-mile run with nary a glimpse of shade along my route. So there I was, plugging along on miles of Baltimore sidewalk, feigning a fourth harmony to the songs of Good Old War and wondering what shade of gray my shirt had actually been when I started idealistic crusade. Along the way I got lost; I think I may have stumbled upon Baltimore’s version of the fictional Philadelphia suburb that the Matthews lived in on Boy Meets World. How I had hoped to run into Cory and Topanga and that silly Eric! But nay,

The ultimate remedy for a physical adventure such as the one I had just completed is, needless to say, a freezing cold shower, so of course I almost spent the rest of the afternoon in that vein-numbing deluge. After eventually emerging from that liquid igloo, I ate some lunch and began preparing our television for the USA World Cup match at 2:30 p.m.

Yes, that’s right, I said prepare. Our little 20-inch GE boob tube can only be aptly described as a conundrum wrapped in an enigma coated in the most befuddling of riddles, and has been the cause of many inward- and outward- curses and attempted evil hexes this year. As relyingly-unreliable as it’s been this entire year, how could I honestly expect it work during the biggest month of my 4-year soccer-watching cycle? It’s times like these when I wish I was a sorcerer and could conjure up a crystal-clear image of Alexi Lalas telling me how the US has a legitimate chance. Ah, to dream…

With about 47 seconds until kickoff, the roommates and I made a mad dash to the local establishment, where air conditioning and HD and, most importantly, soccer! awaited us. We cheered an exciting match. This is going to be a great month. I love soccer.

Saturday night found us on the “Avenue,” in Hampden, a neighborhood I can only describe as…well…a lot of references come to mind but none I think that would make sense to any of my readers. We were there for “Hon Fest,” a real Baltimore delight. During this two-day festival, the fine citizens of “Bawlmer” put on their best feather boas, don their tightest leopard-print leggings, and slap on as much hair lacquer as is chemically possible, all in the hopes of recreating what Baltimore was apparently best known for in the 60’s (really, Baltimore? You couldn’t have offered anything more substantial?). That being, of course, the “Baltimore Hon.”

Picture a boisterous, slightly drunk Kathy Bates with the kind heart and good nature of your grandmother (or, picture any of the females from Hairspray. And John Travolta, too, I guess), and you’ve got the kind of person who was walking around Hon Fest. These Hons (pronounced huns) are famous for their endearingly-clashy outfits, the way they adorably butcher any hint of proper English that escapes from their overly-lipsticked smoochers, and for the full foot and a half height increase that their beehive hairdos give them. In a word they are Baltimore, and in two words, they are pretty hilarious.

We trekked back over to Hon Fest on Sunday to catch the crowning of Baltimore’s Best Hon 2010 (A lady from Loyola narrowly defeated a 98-year old who had to be wheeled out onto the stage. I would have thought it cute had I not been seriously worried for her health in this oppressive heat). After returning home and gaining entrance to our living room, we immediately fell onto the nearest piece of furniture that would catch us (luckily, I made it to the recliner. Others were not so lucky) and succumbed to the hazy stupor that only this type of heat can elicit. I spent the rest of the afternoon sleeping, reading, mopping the kitchen floor, and watching Grease (that Danny Zucko’s got some moves! And in an unrelated note, I am now looking for a leather jacket). I even capped off the weekend with a Reese’s McFlurry from McDonald’s!

Hey, I don’t mind the heat so much if there’s going to be a McFlurry in my hand. Just saying.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Final Bell

Charcoal grills. Hot diggity-dogs and hamburgers. Popcorn and chips. Peanut butter Oreos (yea buddy!). In terms of "healthy choices," this menu failed miserably. But in terms of contributing to the growing feeling that summer is upon us and that Alice Cooper was right in one of those songs he sang, a cook-out with all the classic ingredients was the only way we could properly bring an end to the After School Program.

Ah, the After School Program. That time of the day at 2:30pm when I brought the bin of sports equipment into the gym and welcomed the kids into the building. Some days I was Joe Flacco, throwing tight spirals to my kindergarten-receivers. Other days I was much like a lamp post that can swing a jump rope as all the girls tried to see how many consecutive jumps they could do. And still other days I acted as the King of the Dodgeball Court, inflicting faux-terror in all the kids as I over exaggerated a wind-up, only to muster enough force on the ball to lightly graze a leg or two (well, most of the time). But every day I enjoyed the heck out of being essentially a 22-year old at recess.

Ah, the After School Program. Where I relearned all the skills from elementary school, like multiplication tables and Venn diagrams and what a prepostion is (the jury's still out on that one). Where I had to get creative to get the kids to do their homework- nothing beats a room full of kids chanting HOMEWORK! HOMEWORK! while they actually complete their assignments. Where impromptu attempts at the Thriller dance always got kids' attentions. And where I was thoroughly impressed at a certain 1st grader's improvement in reading since the beginning of the year.

The After School Program, where I received a crash course in "How To Teach If You've Never Done It Before" (I'm still waiting for my final grade). Where I discovered I had the chance to bring music into the lives of 30 schoolchildren, and at the same time educate myself on some things. Where I planned and successfully executed a field trip! Where frustration and impatience loomed daily. Where the physicality of Musical Chairs increased conversely to the number of chairs remaining in the game (I don't know if that's completely clear. What I'm trying to say is, the kids got more physical as less chairs were still in play). Where I realized that good teachers are perhaps the most valuable resource our nation has, and that they should be compensated as such.

Ah, the After School Program. At 5:30pm, when I stand at the door and wave goodbye to all the kiddies. When I sometimes walk two brothers to their front step, and the younger one "helps" me push my bike by hanging onto the handlebar. Where, at the end of the day, I am totally drained. Where, at 2:30pm the next day, I am full of energy.

Bye kids, see you in two weeks for Peace Camp!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Hold Me Down

Upon this street I bind my feet
Past the station where the homeless sleep
And the cops, they walk a crooked beat
'Cause they don't care for me

On Eager Street I see my fate
It's an empty bottle on a sewer grate
And the man who tosses it away
Is the one who waits for me

He's a specter of another life
His pawnshop words cut like a knife
He says, "Hey kid, you wanna take a ride?"
But I ain't got the time

No! no! no! and you can't hold me down!
No, no, no, you can't hold me down

I saw the death of the human race
On the corner of Greenmount and Chase
Now all I'm asking is for your love
And a little bit of grace

It's the bait of complacency
That ensnares us all like a dream
And my father's sins have become
The burdens placed on me, and they wrap me in chains

No! no! no! they won't hold me down
No! no! no! you can't hold me down

Though my body's tied to the ground
My head resides up in the clouds
And every noise is a joyful sound
Of what has yet to be

No! no! no! and you can't hold me down
No! no! no! you can't hold me down

I bear this weight, like a crown,
And it won't hold me down

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Peace Movement

Why is it called the Peace Movement?
Why does peace need to move?
I think we need it here, so it should stay here.

All the things we need- like Peace, like Civil Rights, like Progression and Equality, like Social Justice- why do we call them movements?
It makes it sound like they arrived here a time ago, helped fix our situation, and in a short while, they'll head on down the road.

We need them- we've always needed them- shouldn't we ask them to stay?

I think that war, oppression, bigotry, and ignorance should all be called Movements...

...So then maybe they'd all just move away.


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

"Bring Your Jesus To Work" Day

I went on a JVC-sponsored silent retreat this past weekend, in Morristown, NJ. For three days, my fellow JVers and I were free to contemplate, relax, and reflect on our time in JVC thus far, and what the future may hold for each of us. Since I have a pretty good grasp on what the near future looks like for me, I used this time to work on effectively capturing my Baltimore experience through words. With the help of a Spiritual Director, I was enlightened to a different means by which I can speak for this experience on a more personal and hopefully transcendant level. I wrote a lot during the course of the retreat, and the following is an early attempt at writing in this new style. Tell me what you think!

"A story is a way to say something that can’t be said any other way, and it takes every word in the story to say what the meaning is."
~ Flannery O'Connor


Jesus came to work with me today. I rode my bike; he just floated beside me.

I introduced him to Mr. Moore, and Jesus looked at him differently than he looked at me. From their interaction it seemed that the two were old friends and that this was not the first time Jesus has been to Baltimore. I guess that living in Baltimore as a black man for 57 years, Mr. Moore probably invited Jesus to come to his "work" on more than one occasion. Ralph looked at him as if to say, "Good to see you again. Go easy on this one."

Jesus came to work with me today and pulled up a folding chair next to my computer. He didn't say much as I spent the morning working on a music lesson for the kids later that day; in fact, he was so quiet that at times I forgot he was there. But then an old lady from the neighborhood came in needing help looking for a job, and Jesus jumped right out of his chair and joined the conversation. Again, he seemed to know this woman very well, as if they had been together just last week when she was at the hospital visiting her son who had just suffered a brain aneurysm.

Anyway, the three of us sat around my computer and filled out online job applications. Jesus gave the woman a hug when she left, and with that she said to me, "I'll be back next week."

Jesus came with Mr. Moore and I as we watered the newly-planted flower garden across the street. He was silent as he paced the lot that had once held homes and families- his own children. As he grabbed a watering can and moved methodically about the garden, I swear I heard him address each flower by name, as if somehow, the memory of what had once made that empty lot a home was being re-installed into the earth. When his can was empty, I saw him use his own tears. Funny, I thought, I had assumed they were just flowers. I didn't know they had names. Next time I'll remember that.

Jesus was with me at 2:32PM when the kids came exploding through the door. Most of them had met him, but only once or twice before, so they were still a bit shy. Only a few, like the two adopted girls and the boy whose mother is in prison, felt totally comfortable around him. Still, no matter, Jesus jumped right in and immediately display more love, patience, and authority than I have been trying to muster these past nine months. Must be nice, Jesus.

He threw a football to a four year old and the kid caught. That kid never catches the balls I throw to him! He explained to a group of 4th-grade girls, without a single roll of the eyes or stomp of the foot, that "Even though you're 'just playing,' you should never hit or strike anyone, for any reason." And they all understood and accepted that.

The biggest help of all was when Jesus passed out the snacks so I could have more time to listen to this 1st grader read me his stories. He got through two stories because of that. Thanks, Jesus.

Jesus came to work with me today, and he and Ralph could not stop laughing as I conducted my music lesson. His smile was as wide as the parted sea as I demonstrated how to play a note on the recorder. Not one kid could play it correctly, but for some reason, every noise, buzz, and squeak sounded perfect. And when two seventh-graders asked me if I could teach them to play the guitar, I felt like I was made of gold. At the end of the lesson, I looked to the back of the classroom, and Jesus was still there. He had not once taken his eyes off me, and he was still smiling. This is the best part of my day.

Jesus could tell that I was tired, so he put the wind at my back as I rode my bike home. i didn't want him to go as we said goodbye on my front porch. I had much more to ask, show, and tell him about what I have seen and what I think about it. But I also wanted him to get back to his home, so he could tell his dad about this place, and about what he saw and what he thinks about it. Baltimore needs more people thinking about it. We all need more people thinking about us.

Jesus left me on my porch and floated up Guilford as the sun set. It was nice to have him here; I'll certainly have to invite him out to Phoenix once I get settled there.

Before he left, Jesus said, "Thank you, Scott, for being here when I cannot. I'll tell my Dad to give you more time, because it seems to me you have a lot more work to do."