Month: October 2012

The Wedding Ring

Drawing a line in the sand

Shall I build a wall or a bridge?

Your walls are ancient and thick,

They cannot be crushed by strategy,

But time will turn them to dust.


Shall I rescue you then?

Should I build a wall that encloses us?

A new wall, a wall built with love that can hold all.

A wall built not to hold out, but to hold in.


A wall long enough and large enough

To surround the Earth.

A wall so large and so strong

That it doesn’t need to built at all.


There was a time when your wall was needed

To hold the Earth at bay.

Instead join me on the seashore.

We will draw a wall in the sand.


We will press into the shoreline a groove

That covers the Earth

And encloses us all until the tide and wind

Sweep our fortifications away.

In Another Country

The emptiness of the Hawk’s heart

Must allow it to soar higher.

A silhouette cut from grey sky

Glides above a

Murky parking lot

This cold morn.


A flock of gulls,

Weighed down by

The multitude,

Flail and squawk without grace.

The hawk floats above the noise.



In the distance black trees reach,

Strain their roots, and

Bend away from this cold earth.

Branches raised

In a vain optimism

That life will change.


The world of life has been

Left behind.

The hawk has had enough.

He lifts, beats the damp air,

And rises.


A Parent Guide for Rap Concerts

The view from the Loser Seats.

Now that I am a hip, trendsetting parent who takes their kids to rap concerts I thought I would toss out some parenting tips for those of you taking your kids to a rap concert.

  1. Leave the Kindle at home. I know you need to read the third book of Fifty Shades of Grey, but reading while at a rap concert is just wrong. Updating your Facebook page on your smart phone during the concert is okay. In fact, some people will get a real hoot from it if you post pictures or make snarky comments about your experiences while at the concert, but a Kindle? You might as well be wearing a cape and a wizard hat and carrying around a copy of one of the Harry Potter books. Nothing says “Nerd” like a Kindle at a rap concert.
  2. Do not try to dance at any point. Don’t do it. You might think you are moving in a fluid and striking way, but you are not. You are no longer able to move your hips in a fashion that will entice the opposite sex, and if you could, your kids would just think that is gross. So, stand if you must, but realize there are lots of people around you with smart phones who could record your gyrations and post them on YouTube. Nothing will lose you more cool points with your kids than showing up as the next viral video called, “Momma shakes her money-maker.” Clapping along with the song is just fine, but make sure you can keep a beat if you are going to clap.
  3. Once in the concert venue, don’t force your kids to hold your hand or sit next to you. If they want to do that fine, but let them go. They may get a little bruised or squashed if they decide to smash into the ball of human flesh in front of the stage, but most kids like this. Chaperone a high school dance and you will understand that being smashed into a big ball of human flesh is what kids do today. While we parents were mastering the finer dance moves like swinging your arms and hopping like a pogo stick, today’s kids are mastering the pressing of the flesh. Sure it turns them into a sweaty mess, but remember being a teenager? There are very few times when you are allowed to let loose the sweaty mess, so relax and let them get sweaty.
  4. Don’t be shocked if you hear a couple potty words. I saw one parent look like he was slapped in the face when one of the performers said a bad word. You are at a rap concert not at holy mass at the Vatican. Potty language and rap go together like peanut butter and jelly, like Starsky and Hutch, like the Northwest and Rain…you are going to hear some offensive language at a rap concert. Get over it and move on with your life. If you kid has ears and can breathe, he/she will have heard those words before and it won’t kill them. I would bet they even have said a few of those words.
  5. Don’t try to ask too many questions at the concert. Your kid is there to enjoy the concert not to play tour guide for you. I try to save all of my questions for the ride home. For example here were my questions on the ride home Friday night: 1. What was that DeeOne dude wearing on his head? From where I was sitting it looked like a gray traffic cone. 2.Can you be a one-man army if you have a DJ? Doesn’t that make you a two-man army? 3. Did you see how tall that lady was who sang that one song? Do you think she was seven feet tall?  I didn’t think she really sang that song? Isn’t she auto-tuned? 4. Do you think Macklemore has really read Outliers? 5. What was the deal with the little guy wearing the Where’s Waldo tank top? What was his name? Buffalo what?
  6. Don’t dress up for the concert. You are not going to see Itzhak Pearlman at Benaroya Hall. Leave the fancy clothing at home. Dress for comfort, you are not going to impress anyone anyway. If you are one of those people who worry about being dressed too informally then wear black. Black pants, black shirt, black shoes. Black covers many sins and it will make you look slimmer.
  7. Listen to a little of the music before going to the concert. You can even watch some videos on the Internets. You might actually find a few songs that you like. I can say that my attitude about rap music changed a great deal once I started to listen to it again. I had given up on rap once it turned into Big Pants MCHammer vs Gangster, but today’s hip-hop has a multitude of messages and styles. So even old folks like you and me can find someone out there that is pretty fly.
  8. Finally, sit in the Loser Seats. If the concert promoter provides seats way in the back, those seats are there for you. That’s right, you are no longer cool, or hip, or really very important. Once you bought those tickets your importance diminished a great deal. Accept it and realize that you can relax with the other losers away from the majority of the noise.

The poet as prophet: An evening with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis (There is no crying at a rap concert)

Macklemore returned home last night to begin a 50-city tour of his recently released album The Heist. The album is the number one album on iTunes and last night’s concert at the WAMU Theater was one of those moments in life when things just come together: The album rising to the top, Macklemore kicking off his tour in his hometown, and over 7,500 members of his Shark Face Gang attending the sold out concert.

I am certain that most of the attendees had a great night, but I must say that my evening ended up being more of an opportunity to reflect on the role of the artist in society. This might sound like an odd reaction to a concert that had all of the markings of a full-scale attack on my senses, but when it was over there was a moment in the concert that will stay with me forever, a moment when I was genuinely moved to tears. Every so often things conspire and come together in a way that is more powerful than simple fate, Thomas Hardy writes of this phenomenon is his poem The Convergence of the Twain. The waste and opulence of the Titanic and its meeting with the uncompromising forces of nature. These two opposing forces are brought together in the poem in an epic collision that accentuates our human weaknesses and flaws. The concert provided a moment like this last night.

Scientist, Paul Dirac once said, “In science one tries to tell people, in such a way as to be understood by everyone, something that no one ever knew before. But in the case of poetry, it’s the exact opposite!” In other words, poetry reveals a truth that is directly before us, one that all of us see, but just cannot express. For me Macklemore has done this with his song Same Love. The song relates a truth; marriage equality is a human right that can no longer be denied to couples of the same-sex. Bigotry and hatred can be masked in many ways, but a pointy white hood is a pointy white hood. Mask it in religion or mask it in tradition, either way the hood must come off and people must see the face of truth.

The concert had been roaring along for a good 45 minutes before Macklemore stopped, brought out a stool to sit on and then talked about what he called “the most important song I have ever written.” This was not hubris; it was the truth. He has written songs about several important social issues, but this one is situated perfectly in time and place. In Washington we will be voting very soon to see if marriage equality will be recognized in our state.

The song starts off with what can only be described as a church organ playing a sustained note, soon followed up with some plunking on a piano. Macklemore begins the lyrics to the song relating his earliest memories and fears of homosexuality and slowly begins to connect the opposing ideas of religious love and institutional bigotry and how these two forces can no longer control the debate about a human right that should be available to all people. When vocalist Mary Lambert blasted out her chorus and the crowd responded by singing in unison, Lambert was visibly moved. She paused, lowered her head, and tried to gain composure.  When Lambert could not draw the air into her lungs to sing the next note the crowd lifted her, sang her words, “I can’t change, even if I tried, even if I wanted to. My love…my love… my love. She keeps me warm, she keeps me warm.” The words that were probably written in a small notebook somewhere in Seattle had converged at this moment: The words of Macklemore, the voice of Mary Lambert, and the crowd of thousands singing along. It was in that moment when the beauty of the human heart was revealed. The simple truth, the power of language, the elevation of the spirit, all converged at that moment to lift all 7,500 of us. We floated above the casual concerns of the earth for several minutes, all of us joined together in the common bond of love. The bond we all seek and explore in our many different journeys held us together and brought the air into our lungs as we sang together. Heaven must be as lovely as that moment.  The crowd lifted the musician who had lifted them. It was a perfect moment. There is no other way to express it. When the human soul is raised to an expression of love and communion like it did Friday night, what can one say?

The role of the artist in society is to uncover a truth that has been sitting before us but has gone unnoticed before. The poet’s job in his/her artistic pursuit is to breathe life and emotion into this truth so that when the truth is laid bare before us it is undeniable.

The artist reveals himself unapologetically. Bearing his soul, his frailties, and his imperfections to the audience so that we can see those truths in our lives also. His role in society as a truth-teller cannot be overlooked. There is no more important job on the earth. The artist may not be as valued as those so-called “job creators” but holding a looking glass up to society is the artist’s responsibility. Most of us shrink from the thought of baring our souls honestly and completely. Red Smith said that writing was easy; you just sat down at a typewriter open a vein and bleed.  Macklemore’s gift is that he hasn’t just opened a vein; he has taken out a surgical knife and opened a hole from his neck to his bellybutton. His blackened secrets come out as purging, hot blood: His struggles with addiction, his relapse, his fight for artistic freedom, and his personal connection to the issue of marriage equality. He heaps his guts on the stage. He also plays court jester to the crowd, turning that mirror on the obsession of the hip-hop culture with shoes and clothing. His ability to point out our nation’s mania with consumer goods in a song like Thrift Store is brilliant, but in a venue where T-shirts are sold for $25-$45 Macklemore manages to strike the right playful tone.

I won’t be joining the Shark Face Gang anytime soon (the sweatshirts were already sold out), but I can say that this Macklemore fellow has what it takes to be called Artist.


The Kinetic Sculpture Parade

I didn’t travel to Port Townsend this weekend for a parade, in fact, I don’t like parades. I went to PT (Port Townsend for people living on the Olympic Peninsula) for a slice of pizza at Waterfront Pizza. Traveling 20 miles for a slice of pizza might seem a bit odd, but good pizza is not easily found in these parts, and there is always something to be seen in PT on the weekend: a super farmer’s market, movies at the Rose Theater, used books at William James, The Writer’s Workshop, and coffee in the Underground. So when my wife and I set out for PT we didn’t have a plan in mind other than grabbing a couple slices and wandering around the downtown. The drive to PT is beautiful, if you live in another part of the world, stay there. You can come to visit, but let’s keep my part of the world the way it is. The striking blue harbors, the colorful deciduous trees, and the evergreen covered mountainsides are just a few of the visual highlights of a trip to PT.

When we arrived in PT I knew something weird was going on, or something typically PT, I saw a man pedaling a canoe down the road. That’s right pedaling, not paddling.

A kinetic sculpture is a human-powered machine that can move on both land and water. I don’t know who invented the parade or if there are more kinetic sculpture parades in the world, all I know is that there is one in PT and I saw it this weekend.

My vantage point looking south on Water Street.

Not a beauty, but it worked.

There were about 10 people in this one.

I was a little worried about this little kid. That sculpture does not look like a floater.

Road Warrior fans will remember this one: Humongous.

The fluffy animals attached to the front were not injured in the process of taking these pictures.

The crew did not go bare buns, but it was warm enough if they had decided to let it all hang out.

The canoe with wheels. The US Navy might want to consider this mode of transportation for the Seals.

The first sign of the apocalypse: The aporkalypse breaks down during the parade.

Like a car show, but with old hippies.

The crowd waits for the sculptures to dance in the water. We decided this was the perfect time to get our slice of pizza. We did hear sirens later, so hopefully no one was hurt. The pizza was good.

The farmers market in the Uptown area of PT.

Two slices of pizza and a pie? Yep, blackberry and it was delicious. I did have to park at least two blocks away, so I got my exercise for the day done also.

PT on a Fall weekend is a pretty good place to visit and the Olympic Peninsula is a great place to live, but only move here if you fit in with the PT town motto: We’re all here, because we’re not all here.

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