I should have words to talk about the Nazi riots and terrorist acts in Charlottesville, Virginia like all my other friends, but I don’t. I don’t, not because I’m immune to the goings on (definitely not as a person of color) or because I don’t care about it (I do of course) or even because I’m inundated by too many negative news about racism (who isn’t these days?). I don’t because the day of the events in Charlottesville, I was sheltered by events at the Boston ComicCon.

While antifa groups were clashing with Nazi Klansmen, my daughter and I were trying to figure out how to go to two separate events simultaneously. When a car plowed into peaceful counterprotesters killing Heather Hayer and wounding 19 others, we were listening to Jim Cummings (voice of Winnie the Pooh) talk about his encounter with Mel Blanc. While friends were posting our “President’s” lack of concern/concern over the events, Sophia was talking to people easily about their love for particular anime. Where people were trying to reclaim their “greatness” in being white, we were watching female Aquamen, Black Batmem, and a few Rocky Horror Frank-n-Futters all wandering the expo center looking for Pop vinyl figures and T-shirts. I even ran into the comic artist Buzz, who is a friend from high school, and he gave my daughter an autographed copy of his Best of Art book. It was a perfect environment for my daughter to learn what was good in the world: love of art, music, culture, fun, games, costumes, and appreciation for the art and passion of others.

Yes it was a horrible day for our country, but my daughter and I, and all those others at the con were sheltered from almost all of it for a while. I say sheltered because I know geek culture isn’t immune to problems of race, misogyny, anti-LGBTQ sentiments, and other such problems (e.g GamerGate, diversity in movies/comics and the backlash, etc). But within geek culture the tendency is towards acceptance and openness that is sorely lacking in society in general. And yes we have our Nazi-Geek-Gatekeepers as well to contend with, and we hate them, too, but they are often more annoying than dangerous (also they are often in worse physical shape than most, so they are easy to fight or flee as the situation calls for). For the most part it is great to see groups from all races, ethnicities, countries, genders, sexual orientations come together around art and culture in a way that is positive and caring.

I am not trying to make light of what happened in Charlottesville and other such places, but I offer a way to counter those responsible. They are the cloistered and closed-minded that feel they are losing their society when it is actually growing around them. Education and experience of the new and unknown will always grow our sensibilities and empathy. And I don’t mean that the art of comic books or the culture of science fiction will save us, but consider this: societies are always defined by their art, music, and cultural similarities. Such is the same with geek culture. As such, it is art and culture that binds us together in large swaths of people and open-mindedness that will carry that hope into the future, and this is what will sustain us and our souls. It is when we nurture that fascination to discover new art and stories that expand our understanding of the world that we grow as people, thus growing as a community. This is what I see BLM, LGBTQ, women, antifas, and all marginalized groups fighting for: to grow the community to include—not exclude—everyone. We should always stand against racism and fascism in all its forms; but we must be open to culture to know what we are fighting for.

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Summer Fun

August 5, 2017

Yes, I’m really lost these days and not enjoying a lot of what my life is like today. But I can’t keep writing the same blog over and over again thinking it will do me any good. It helps to get it out, but that’s what therapy is for. I’ll probably blog about stuff like this again because, for better or worse, it is a part of my life I have to deal with. However, right now I feel like I’m dwelling on it too much, so for something different.

Sophia finished her summer Arabic Intensive last week. In late spring, she told e she didn’t want to go to the same camp as she did last year because she didn’t like all the activities she was doing (I think mostly the active physical stuff). That surprised me because she seemed to like it at the time and she said she had fun. Now I was suddenly scrounging for another place for her to go to for part of the summer. I told her we’d try to find something she’d have fun doing; the next day she brought me the application for the Arabic intensive. It’s si-days a week over almost all of July learning to read, write, and speak Arabic. I asked is this really your idea of having fun for the summer, and she said yes. So she signed up, she was accepted, and, the Tuesday after graduating middle school, started digging into Arabic.

Despite being quiet all the time about anything and everything, I always asked how she was doing in the sessions. She’d simply say fine and hop on her computer. If I pressed her for details, she was kind of vague about answers. So I let it go and it became a routine for July. The last Saturday session before the intensive ended, she burst into the house carrying three different plastic shopping bags, and yelled “I bought fruit!” The weekend before was their big field trip to the Islamic Center in Roxbury—which I was hoping to hear more about, but no such luck—but that Saturday they went to the farmer’s market is Haymarket in downtown Boston, which had a lot or Arabic and Middle Eastern sellers. They were given a dollar to spend on whatever, and buy and talk to the sellers in Arabic (I gave her allowance that morning so she was able to buy a lot). When she got home she couldn’t stop talking about buying fruit, talking in Arabic, telling me about different character usage in words, and a whole host of other things about the Arabic language that I didn’t understand at all, but she went on for about 45 minutes nonstop. It clicked with me about the farmer’s market because the marketplace is customary in Arabic and Islamic countries, so it made sense that they expose her to some of that directly—though she couldn’t haggle with these sellers as is fairly customary in Arabic markets. We talked about that too and she was pretty much on air the whole time.

The intensive was pretty good for her. She gets some language credit for high school, but she will be taking Japanese when she gets to Boston Latin Academy in the fall. Needless to say she had the right way for her to enjoy the summer.

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.

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.

Bookendings

June 4, 2013

I have a strange coincidental relationship with the circus. I love the circus, but it has served as an odd bookend to pivotal and painful moments in my life.

The first was when I was six or seven. My mom took me and my sister to see Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus at Madison Square Garden. It’s so hazy that it feels like it’s one of my earliest memories. I can see the three rings and the different acts in each, but they all seem to be going on at the same time. The elephants stood center ring with the circle of death high overhead, and the trapeze with tigers below in the other, a flying cannonball act flying above all of them. It’s a jumble, but I know I enjoyed myself and smiled a lot.

Then we came home. Across the street from our house, I could see a large moving truck in front of our house. When we got across to the other corner, I saw two uniformed movers carrying the couch in my living room out of my house into the truck. Same pattern, same liquid stain on the back support, it was my couch for sure. We got inside the house and there were boxes being taken out of the house by the same movers. My mom explained to me that dad had to move out of the house. Later I would understand this was the beginning of their separation followed by their divorce. I didn’t comprehend it then. I really don’t remember anything specific about that day or even the weeks that followed. The only images I have of that day and weeks are the circus acts and the couch in the moving van.

Since then I’ve continued to go to the circus, but these images were only recently bookended. My daughter won a school raffle to see the Big Apple Circus at the end of April. Since I’m the parent that takes Sophia places, I was her escort to the show. Her mom, Susan, gave her $10 to buy stuff at the show. It was the first tour I’ve seen of Big Apple since the departure of the Grandma character and it was still incredible. My favorite was Zhang Fan on the slack rope and Sophia loved Elayne Kramer the contortionist. It was a good time for all involved.

Then we came home. The light was on and music blaring from the computer room, so it seemed that, as usual, Susan hadn’t moved from her spot since we left a few hours earlier. At first glance into the room, it looked like she was still sitting in the backless leather seat that acted as her computer chair. Then I realized her legs were still on the seat but she was lying on her back on the floor. It didn’t register to me for a few seconds, and then it was all too real. I called 911, Sophia was screaming for her mom to get up. She kept asking if her mom was burned because her face and arms were discolored. 911 had me perform CPR until the paramedics got there to take over. The police moved Sophia into her mom’s room while the medics worked on Susan. Later they took her to the hospital where she was pronounced dead.

The last month has been kind of a blur of activities and getting used to being thrust into the role of a single parent unexpectedly. I’m not sure what Sophia will take away from these days and weeks or what she specifically will and won’t remember. I do hope she’ll still like the circus. It’s a great place to experience and be for a bit, a respite from reality if only for a while.