Things in my life seem to be slipping away. Things that were at the core of my identity, things I could look to and say “this is who I am,” are becoming lost to me over the years. I had creative life goals to work for; now making it through the day is the only goal I hope to achieve. I was a nice guy for so long that it was evident; these days even saying “I’m a nice guy” rings false to my ears. I feel bitter and empty, and it’s showing more and more. I’ve been on a slow downward spiral for close to a decade, even with some financial stability I feel lost. Even though I’ve hit bottom, every time I start to climb out of it, falling back makes the hole deeper.

What’s hardest is I’ve shut a lot of people out. I don’t talk to anyone on the phone anymore, except my parents. Facebook comments to friends are common, but not always updating my status is not so much and vague.Trying to bridge that gap is a major challenge for me. I’ve abandonned them, but I’ve twisted it in my head so they’ve abandonned me. Since reaching out has never been my strongest point, I wind up stuck and alone.

My blog posts are non-existent as of late, I know that. I barely write anymore. I have so much unfinished work at various stages and they are laying dormant. And much like reaching out, it’s not that I’ve lost a gift as that I’ve abandonned those gifts. Instead of the passion I felt to start writing a project, I feel ashamed to try and start where I left off.

Things are a jumble in my hear. It’s all an endless void of suck. Thoughts and emotions get mixed up and I’m lost. I feel bad not that I’m letting myself down, but that I’m letting everyone else down. I always put myself last, so it’s okay, even though it’s not. I’m not in complete despair but, I can recognize the look and details of it as it appears closer. I knew it before sometime ago so I know what it looks like. A blog post won’t flip everything around, but it’s something.

Poem: Saliva

May 1, 2017

As Chuck D. once said, “I don’t freestyle much/but I write ’em like such.” A poem I wrote a while back about the written and spoken word. I read it at church for a poetry service on Sunday.

SALIVA

I wish I could spit.
I wish I could throw
Verses and verbs
Masses of words
Heavy hitting or honey soaked
Making their way from
Throat to mind
In slow trickles or flash floods
Cleansing thoughts
Eroding emotions
Clearing sediment and sentiment
Caught in its wake
Polishing rough ideas
Into smooth, oblong and rounded
Philosophies.
I wish I could flow
A constant stream of
Running tributes and tributaries
Interconnecting rapids
And rapid fire monologues
Faster and faster
In waves of crashing consonants
Constantly streaming sentences
Flowing down streams of consciousness
Flooding the banks and barriers
And other internal censors
As a torrential downpour of ideas
Runs into the sea.
I wish off the top of my head
I could spew forth
Rhymes like Vesuvius
Stopping people and cities
Dead in their tracks
Or smack like Krakatoa
A pop heard ’round the world
Making my presence known
Metaphors harden when
They hit the water
Bedrock expanding outwards
From the sound of my voice.
But I don’t spit.
My words sink slowly
Into the sheet
Filling in the veins of
Pierced wounds on a page
Fangs put to parchment
Ink of mixed blood and venom
Deadly to the glance
Waiting to strike
And with a touch
Seeps into the skin
Disrupts the system
Coursing through your mind
One word at a time.

Dear M,

Hi. I know it’s been a while since we’ve talked/texted/emailed/communicated at all, and I wanted to apologize for that. Actually I want to apologize for a lot of things, the biggest is being a lousy friend. That didn’t start immediately after we broke up, but soon enough.

I know we weren’t together for all that long, but the break up stunned me. Even after talking to death about it–how you weren’t ready for a relationship, how we both wanted different things, how we were better of as friends–it’s not something I wanted. But if I pushed harder I’d lose you as a friend. So I talked myself into staying a friend even though I wanted to be more. But even that was, to be brutally honest, cynical on my part, because somewhere in the back of my mind (the reptilian part I pretend I don’t have), I was hoping you’d “change your mind” and take me back. There was a flicker of hope that kept me going and kept up a “friendship.”

I think I was angry that you got over thing so quickly and I was stuck. You lived your life, and I couldn’t go forward. You got married, had kids, look even better now than you did 15 years ago, and I only grew bitter. That wasn’t your fault, but I resented you like it was. Still, to be your “friend” meant ignoring my feelings; so I did and blamed you for it. I became the jerk I was trying not to be.

That changed recently. I was driving a delivery when a song I never heard before came on the indie station. It was “If I Loved You” by Delta Rae. Great song and the final chorus got me bad:

“But I don’t love you much as I want to
I don’t love you, no it would be a lie
And you deserve love, you’re better than a good day
And you’ll find it but just not in my eyes
‘Cause it ain’t here love…”

It’s simple, powerful and everything you were saying to me 15 years ago but I didn’t want to hear.  It finally sunk in and yeah I get it. I was angry for stupid reasons fueled only by my own ego, and held you responsible for nothing that you did. I’m sorry I’ve been such an asshole and sullen and resentful and not considering your feelings. You deserve better that my attitude and I’m truly sorry for that.

I hope you can forgive me for all this, but (I finally realize) that is your decision.

David

It’s hard to say which I’ve been losing more of: my courage to write or my will to write. I can’t say it’s a lack of ideas, although writer’s block doesn’t necessarily mean a loss of ideas. In all my life, I’ve never been unable to generate ideas; my head is constantly filled with them. While overload of ideas might be a problem, I’m not sure that the case with me at this time. Thinking it over, I’ve narrowed it down to lack of courage and lack of willpower. They are subtle, but there are differences.

Courage is easier to define. It’s having the balls not just to write whatever comes to mind, damn the critics—both inner and outer—but also the balls to do it regularly. It’s not the same courage that it takes to put on a uniform, pick up a gun, and fight for your country; it’s the courage to put thoughts to paper or posts to prevent countries from going to war. That and every bit of sentiment and emotion from there on down. Willpower is the practice itself. It’s the daily effort to stare down a blank page or screen until your eyes bleed or you start writing, whichever comes first. The more often you do it the easier it gets and the more reflexive it becomes.

Mine has always been a struggle between courage and will. There are days I have the time and abililty to write, but my inner voices have me silenced. Other days I know exactly what to say, but get swamped, exhausted, distracted, or all three at once. The end result is the same: months without any writing output and occasionally forced to produce on a deadline. And all that while writing becomes fearful, less instinctive, and less productive.

It’s not effortless to write this, but it’s not easy. This isn’t what I should be writing now, but it’s what I can put out now. I’ve been underusing muscles, not only in the gym, but in my mind. My knees are bothering me, but that can be healed with rest and physical therapy. My stagnation is bothering, but the only way to fix that is to write a little bit at a time. Hopefully I can heal myself, body and mind, eventually.

The scars of the 2016 presidential election will take a while to feel less tender and fade; right now they still hurt. During the summer, there was a lot of animosity on both sides leading up to the general, as well as a lot of backlash to anyone who wanted to vote third party. Or at least for anyone not one of the major two party candidates. Social media of all types was not a friendly place for a good 6 months. You post one meme or a photo and suddenly the comments become the Delta House food fight via the Algonquin Round Table. One meme I posted I actually didn’t get a lot of flack for, but it helped me talk to my now 14 year old daughter about the election.

This was one of those Harry Potter based memes saying “this is what our election is like” and displaying two of the Potter world characters. Usually it was Dolores Umbridge as a stand in for Clinton, and Voldemort for Trump; however this time it was Umbridge and Gilderoy Lockhart. I thought it was cute, but I knew my daughter would love it. She’s read all the Potter books and she can explain all the differences between the books and the movies to me (I never got into the books, but I like the movies). I showed the meme to here and broke out laughing, even more so than me.

“That’s so perfect,” she said. “Lockhart is kind of a blowhard who only thinks of himself, so that’s perfect for Trump.” Then she looked at me a bit quizically, and asked “How Clinton is like Umbridge again?”

I had to think about this for a minute. I know that Umbridge is hated in the Potterverse for good reason, and there are enough parallels to Clinton to make it awkward for me to watch “Order of the Phoenix” any time it came on. Translating what I knew about Clinton to the Potterverse is ticky, but I knew enough to try and explain it via the films.

“Remember how Umbridge was completely unwavering in her belief in what she was doing was right, even though the students and us viewers knew she was completely wrong? Well that’s how she’s like Clinton. They are very forceful advocates of what they think is right, even when it is wrong, and even to the point of being unable to admit it’s wrong.” She totally understood that when I explained it.

The main attack by Hillary supporters about why us progressives don’t support Hillary was sexism. Unfortunately this ignores the fact that many of us were hoping for a Elizabeth Warren run and after Bernie bowed out, many switched to Jill Stein. My issues wit Hillary Clinton, while often about political leanings (third-way democrats have always been far too conservative for my sensibilities), have always been policy based. Using Umbridge to explain Clinton makes it easier to explain. Hillary has always been a smart and fierce advocate for what she believes and champions, which is good if she’s on the right side of an issue; but when she is on the wrong side of an issue—like the Iraq war, the toppling of Libya’s government, the various trade agreements including the TPP, and not speaking out on behalf of activists like Black Lives Matter or the DAPL water protectors—she is a tough opponent, a great asset to the opposition, and makes the activist’s job twice as hard. And much like how Umbridge can do it with a smile makes that all the more frustrating.

Earlier in the year, a friend of mine wrote two very heartfelt essays about her daughter and Hillary Clinton. One was how she wanted her daughter to hear the words “Madam President” and now was the time; the other was a plead asking how can she explain to her daughter what would it mean for her if Trump won the presidency. I don’t have an answer for her daughter except offering up what I told my daughter at different times in the year. I told my daughter I wouldn’t be voting for Hillary, even after Bernie Sanders lost the primaries, because as much as it is important to have a woman in the office of President, it is equally important to have a woman who has the history to back up her own convictions, and is on the right side of an issue more often than not. Yes I voted for Jill Stein in 2016. I am not ashamed of that vote, but I am sorry more people didn’t follow that example. And no, I’m not the reason Hillary Clinton lost the election to Donald Trump: I’m not one of the 46% or voters who left the presidential candidate blank; they cost the election for her. I am almost 48, work part-time, am still using food stamps to survive with my daughter, and the only thing I have to leave her if ever I should go are my values. That’s the only thing I currency I have in my life to fall back on and I’ll be damned if I can’t give that to my only child. If I give up my values I have nothing else. I’m sure I will feel the wrath of friends and trolls alike for this, but I will vote my values whenever given that choice.

When Trump won in the late morning hours of the day after the election, I told my daughter that no we won’t need to move to Canada, we’ll be fine and we’ll do our best to fight. Oddly, I still take comfort in words Dumbledore said at the end of another movie—“Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”: “There will be a time when we must choose between what is right and what is easy.” I know I chose right for both me and my daughter.

Gifts to the Stranger

December 1, 2016

Sorry. I didn’t realize “Giving Tuesday” had become an actual thing. Maybe it’s because it’s tacked onto the end of a long weekend—Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday—of hyped consumerism run amok in different forms that it gets lost. Strangely that seems to be the only way to attract attention to philanthropy; we should always be giving of ourselves. But that’s a rant for a different blog. This one’s about Christmas giving.

A few years ago, I was near rock bottom. I had no money, some part-time work, some unemployment checks, was spending all the rest of my time looking for work, while still being a weekend father, and fending off attacks from my daughter’s mom to make this Christmas bigger and better than the last one as it has to be every year and expects me to pay for it all. At the time, I used to make slide productions of my daughter over the previous year in photographs set to music. But with all that was happening, I had no energy, time, or working equipment to do it. What I did was this: I wrote everyone to say that I had no money for myself much less for gifts to buy and/or mail to everyone, and because I couldn’t give anything I wanted nothing in return. Instead I took a page from my friend Reverend Hank Peirce (who got it from another minister) and asked my friends to please donate some money to their choice of a number of worthy causes (e.g. Doctors Without Borders, ACLU, Oxfam, etc). They could do it in my name or their own, but they should give to help others as more befitting the season. Do something nice instead of scrounging for perfect gifts.

This year I have a better part-time job, am a full time single father, have a decent cushion of funds (barring any serious emergencies) and am less panicked about the holiday. However with the way this year has gone and how events are turning out that are beyond our control, there are many who feel as scared as I was then (if for different reasons). So this year, I’m reaching back to that time to do something good. The gift I will be giving out are donations to charitable organizations—here and abroad—that help make life safer and possible for those who need it. I ask that if you wish to give a gift to me, donate to one of the groups listed below. It can be as little or as much as you want, but give to help others.

I was very proud of Sophia when she asked, quite sincerely, “it it’s Jesus’ birthday, why are we getting gifts?” It showed me that a lot of what I taught her had sunk in. With that in mind, remember that this season is about generosity to others and sharing with those in need. There are a lot of needy people out there, but the people generous spirit outnumber the needy. So give freely and make this a great holiday for you and yours, as well as the stranger whomever they are.

Click the name to go to their website:

ACLU

Standing Rock Sioux/NoDAPL

Southern Poverty Law Center

Planned Parenthood

Doctors Without Borders

Black and Pink

Heifer International

Oxfam

Amnesty International

While visiting my mom last weekend, she was on the phone with her friend Gil. My mom is voting for Clinton as she’s afraid of a Turnip presidency–which I get to a point–and Gil is too. They were both trying to get me to do the same, but I was for Bernie before (my mom was too) and now that he’s out I’m voting for Stein.

All weekend, my mom is watching Turnip drown in his own filth on numerous news channels; I’m avoiding it to maintain my sanity. As I now hear her talking to Gil on the phone, I decide to say hi.

Me: Tell Gil I said hi and I’m still voting for Stein.
Mom: David says hi.

That’s pretty much this whole election run-up in a nutshell.

My friend, Adam Dickstein, is an old friend from high school as well as one of my RPG GMs. He wanted to do a profile on some of his favorite players and I had the honor of going first. I love the guy, but a couple of his stories of me are a little exaggerated (when we met in the city a few weeks ago, he told my daughter a great story involving a spy game he said I was running, but when he told me the same story when we were in tenth grade, it involved completely different people), but I’ve learned never let that get in the way of a good story. He’s a great guy and I was glad to be a part of his blog. Check out the profile at the link below.

http://barkingalien.blogspot.com/2016/07/player-profiles-david-concepcion.html

As a progressive in a few Bernie Sanders Facebook groups, I realize some people in those groups really need to chill out! Not about Bernie, but about other progressives. Yeah I know I joined the group back in March when it was hard to take the media blackout, the gaslighting attacks, and the aggressive supporters, so it was good to find a community of like-minded Berners to help buoy me through the tough primaries. But now it seems like we’re becoming the bots that we all hate (you know of whom I speak).

We are progressives. Whether we are Berniecrats or democratic socialists or Greens or old school hippies, we are progressive in our politics. We are mature enough to be able to talk about our politics openly with everyone here and without fear. The Green Party has been an option for Bernie as well as fellow progressives in the fight against the oligarchy. In a revolution like this with who we are up against, we need all hands on deck. As such we should never try to shut down conversations about the Green Party just because Bernie is not specifically mentioned. As Bernie himself said at a rally in North Dakota, “The truth is you, not me. If there is any person here, any person here that thinks I’m coming to you as some kind of savior, that I’m going to do it all — all myself, you’re wrong. No president, not Bernie Sanders or anybody else, can do it alone. We don’t need a savior. We need a political movement.”

As a movement we need to stand together, not blindly but as the big tent party that the DNC elites don’t want us to be. The Greens are natural allies, and they’ve offered Bernie the top of the ticket if he wants it, but they also need help getting on all the state ballots. As I’ve said in many other posts and comments in this group, we are able to walk and chew gum at the same time. You can donate to Bernie and travel to Philadelphia to help him out, but before you go sign a petition to get the Green Party on the ballots if you live in one of the 29 states they still need to get on to. Bernie told a packed town hall that “when we say that child who is hungry is my child, I think we are more human when we do that than when we say ‘hey this whole world is me, I need more and more. I don’t care about anybody else.’ That’s my religion, that’s what I believe in.” He talking the Golden Rule of do unto others as you would have done unto you. We should be treating debates AMONG progressives of different stripes the same way, not reporting any post that doesn’t explicitly say “Bernie or Bust.”

We can and should be able to talk about progressive politics. All of it—Berniecrat, Green or straight independent. If we can’t do this here, we are no better than the shills and trolls we struggle against. I say this not as one who has given up on Bernie and pushing people to unite the party—the party is dead and needs to be replaced; but as someone who wants to see the next steps of the revolution happen now. This can be a lasting revolution if we are able to keep unity among us; but unity doesn’t mean lockstep. We need room to differ and present options. Options and differing opinions aren’t bad, they just are a different perspective for a solution. If we have to offer fealty to Bernie in every discussion we have, we won’t get anywhere. The reason Bernie has such a high favorable rating among fellow Senators is because he knows how to build bridges without betraying his values. We can and should do the same in this group.

If part of what is said among us Berners is true—what would Bernie do—he wouldn’t stifle different opinions or debates; he welcomes it. We should too.

Human Kindness

June 16, 2016

Today, out of the blue, my daughter asks what I write on my blog. I give her the rundown of stuff, and she says she has something for it. So without much of a major intro, my daughter’s online debut as a writer and guest blogger. It’s pretty good. 🙂 

So I was on the subway coming back home after-school. To clarify, I take the train to and from school. Getting to school is like this: Airport Station (blue line) to State Street for the Orange line. The Orange Line to Ruggles, then I take a bus by the school, and from school is this order reversed.

The event was on the Orange Line towards State Street. The train was at Tufts Medical Station when a man got on the train. From looking at him- the way he was dressed and the way his hair was unkempt- I could tell he wasn’t in the best condition. It turned out I was right.

This man started talking about his situation and what was happening to him. He felt bad for begging people for help, and that was the first thing he said.

“I don’t mean to be annoying on the train, and I feel bad for begging you all for stuff.”

The man said he’d been homeless for 26 months (over two years). He then told the people on the train that someone had offered him a place to live, but he needed an ID to get the offer. An ID costs $30, and that’s why the man needed money. He needed all the help he could get.

“I’ve been waiting over two years for this opportunity, and I need help. I hate begging like this and looking like a moron, but please, can somebody help? Anything will help”. Nobody helped him.

I was looking around the car, and some people weren’t even listening to his story. And the people who were listening just looked at him with a blank expression. I wanted to help him, but at the time, I had no money on me.

The man looked desperately around the car, hoping someone would help him. But as the train stopped at Chinatown, the man walked past me to the door, muttering angrily and disappointed.“Not one person. Not even one person.”

I felt crushed. I wanted to help him, I really did, but I had nothing to help him. Also, only one 13.5-year-old girl couldn’t possibly give this man all the help he obviously needed. I kept glancing at the poor man sadly, then looked over to everyone else in my car. They looked like they didn’t even care.

This made me really mad, even though I didn’t show it. What’s worse, the man had an infection in his right leg, so he was LIMPING  around the car, looking pleadingly for help he never got.

“And I have this infection in my leg”, he pulled his jeans cuff up to show a huge, rotten, black scab on his caff. “It won’t go away because I have to keep walking around everywhere.”

This type of stuff isn’t new to me. My dad and I take the train everywhere (except for certain occasions, where we use Zipcar), so we see homeless people asking for money all the time. This isn’t a good thing. We always try to give them change if we have it while we see other people walk right past them like the homeless are invisible.

Those people always made me sick. Why? Why don’t you guys care? There’s someone in need right beside you. I don’t understand how people can be so cruel. The worst part is that I can tell they can see them. But those people will look straight ahead like there isn’t a poor injured old man begging for money right there. It takes less than five seconds to give a homeless person- or any person in need- care and attention. I know they might need the money for something incredibly important, but homelessness rates are high because we don’t give them the necessary help and attention- what they need most of all.

In some scenarios, a valid excuse is that they have nothing on them- which was why I couldn’t help even when I wanted to. But the majority of the people in the car were adults, and I could TELL by the way they looked at him- the way their hands kept moving like they were trying to keep a secret- that they had money. They COULD’VE helped. But the chose not to. And I bet the man could tell too- the reason he was muttering when he got off the train with nothing.

Homelessness is a serious problem in our country, especially today. It’s a terrible problem. In my opinion, it’s one of the worst world problems. Why? It could be prevented. It could be made right if we give the necessities. If everyone could show some kindness to these poor folk who need our help and affection, our country- our world- could be a happier and better place.