Tag Archives: freedom

My Privilege

A friend of mine recently accused me of being privileged for my being white. Here is a list of things I am privileged for:

  • I am privileged for being forgiven in the eyes of Christ, because I do not deserve to be.
  • I am privileged for being born in the greatest country in history, because some are not.
  • I am privileged for being able to look beyond the color of skin, because some cannot.
  • I am privileged to have been raised in a family that loves, because some are raised hating.
  • I am privileged to have been an alcoholic, so I may appreciate sobriety.
  • I am privileged to have been homeless, so I may appreciate shelter.
  • I am privileged to have gone bankrupt, so I may appreciate money.
  • I am privileged to have known loneliness, so I may appreciate friendship.
  • I am privileged to have known heartache, so I may appreciate healing.
  • I am privileged to have been incarcerated, so I may appreciate freedom.
  • I am privileged to be single, so I may appreciate relationships.
  • I am privileged to know failure, so I may appreciate success.
  • I am privileged to have traveled the country, so I may appreciate liberty.
  • I am privileged to have been a dishwasher, so I may appreciate good jobs.
  • I am privileged to have been kicked out of school, so I may appreciate learning.
  • I am privileged to know how to read, so I may appreciate history.
  • I am privileged to know how to write, so I may appreciate the written word.
  • I am privileged to have health, so I may appreciate my body.
  • I am privileged to ride my bicycle, so I may appreciate my driver’s license.
  • I am privileged to know hard work, so I may appreciate a paycheck.
  • I am privileged to have gone hungry, so I may appreciate food.
  • I am privileged to have gone thirsty, so I may appreciate cold water.
  • I am privileged to have slept in subways, so I may appreciate warm beds.
  • I am privileged to have known mercy, so I may appreciate compassion.
  • I am privileged to have prayed with the hurting, so I may appreciate peace.
  • I am privileged to have known destitution, so I may appreciate my blessings.
  • I am privileged to have understood death, so I may appreciate life.
  • I am privileged to ride the public bus, so I may appreciate cars.
  • I am privileged for my meager possessions, so I may appreciate the less fortunate.
  • I am privileged for my talents, so I may appreciate my weaknesses.
  • I am privileged for being born, so I may appreciate the world around me.
  • I am privileged for understanding hard times, so I may appreciate victory.
  • I am privileged to have known brokenness, so I may appreciate wholeness.
  • I am privileged to be able to read my bible, so I may appreciate religious freedom.
  • I am privileged to be able to speak my mind, so I may appreciate free speech.
  • I am privileged to be mental, so I may appreciate sanity.
  • I am privileged to stop writing this post, so I may appreciate free will.
  • I am privileged after all.
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Here’s to the Greatest Speech.

Trifecta week eighty-nine: Write a 33-333 word story using weak as your prompt. Authors note: Please read my story before watching the video! I do believe this old clip is one of the most inspiring speeches I have ever heard…it’s worth watching. 

My friend Charlie brought hope to millions that day. I call him friend but in reality we never met. I happened to be sitting a few rows behind him when he stood nervously and gave the greatest speech my ears had ever heard. Sometimes when the burden of life and lust swarm the confines of my heart I will close my eyes and think back to those years long gone, years that are dissolving from my memory like ink on paper, slowly fading with age. I smile when I picture that little fella standing on trembling knees with the courage of a lion coursing through his bloodstream.

Before entering the arena I overheard pompous aristocrats call his arguments weak and his ideals outdated. They called him foolish as they smoked their cigars and drank their brandy. They mocked his stature and with forked tongues they poked fun at his appearance.

I watched him with hope. I had just returned from the front lines and my morale was desperately low. I was tired of witnessing hatred and listening to evil men spew wickedness from the depths of their rotted mouths. He was sitting patiently for his turn to speak. His head was bowed slightly and his eyes appeared closed, as if praying for the strength to declare to the world what he felt in his soul.

My friend took the stage and silenced the naysayers. My friend walked bravely up the platform and melted the crowd with his first sentence. His words echoed out of the speakers on that crisp afternoon and if I listen hard enough I can still hear them, I can still see tears falling from blank faces, and when my memory does not fail, I can smell victory over gunpowder.


Trifecta Challenge: Jonathan’s cane

Trifecta week eighty-six: Write a 33-333 word response using the third definition of the word “crack” as your prompt. *This story was nominated as the Second Place winner for the week! 🙂

Haunting echoes of plastic striking wooden floor beams reverberated throughout Jonathon’s humble abode. Each step was taken in doubt, every inch he progressed was a shot in the dark, it was the blind leading the proverbial blind.

Sofa on the left, chest on the right, move forward three yards and it should be there. He had to remind himself where everything was placed. His aide, a young woman with a soft angelic voice, explained the layout. The sight was gone, but the memory, that wickedly deceiving memory was sharp as the Nautilus. Three, two, one…bingo. The starched cuff on Jonathon’s flannel retreated from his wrist as he leaned forward to grab the window frame. Using his sense of touch he carefully searched for locks. When his arthritic fingers located the small mechanisms he unlatched them and opened the window. Fresh air hovered around his face and he inhaled the scent of wildflowers and pine needles. He inhaled deeply. Invigoration took control and memories swirled about his brain.

With a great sigh he bowed his head and imagined walking out of rehab and into the world below his room. Smells like urine around here. But out there, deep in the wilderness, smells like freedom. Go ahead, who’s going to stop you?

He couldn’t. He had made a promise to her.

Keeping his hands on the chilled glass he felt the crack in one of the panes. Have to stop losing your temper champ because it doesn’t do you any good to get upset. It was dull to the touch yet threatened to slice skin if one prodded too much. Jonathon ran a thumb over it hoping to feel something familiar. He was desperate for anything to remind him he was alive. He pressed down harder and waited for blood to flow.

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Road Trip: Jimmy Bojangles

Me as Jimmy Bojangles

When darkness creeps in and erases the sun from shining, the coyotes howl and the prairie winds pick up, it leaves me cold and vulnerable to the outside world. Sometimes, when all is quiet and clouds hang gently overhead, I take a moment to wonder how I came to be. How I went from living indoors and working forty hours a week, to sleeping in my Grand Van and camping under the stars in a forgotten part of the world with no money, no home and no employment. The Denver Post is yet to hire me.

I am sitting in a Starbucks in Golden, CO and taking a moment to rest. Over the past forty-eight hours, I have filled out and hand delivered over thirty applications for work. They range from cooking in sushi bars, cleaning toilets, gas station attendant, hotel janitor, barista, pizza maker and even a marijuana “packer” at one of the many Medical Marijuana stores here in Denver. I should join the circus, because most of my time on earth has been spent juggling one thing or the next.

I will pretty much do anything at this point to keep from losing my mind. Being free and unburdened by work is fun for a time, even relaxing. But I’m a man in need of something to fill in the hours between hiking and backpacking and dodging mountain lions and rock slides. Since I enjoy crap like this, I need more money to get to these places and since money doesn’t grow on trees, I need to find work.

Jimmy Bojangles is the wandering man inside of my soul. The guy who lets loose and sticks his thumb in the air when cars come flying down the highway, he smokes Pall Malls and wears funny looking hats. He walks proudly in torn jeans and hiking boots. The walking stick he carries has crossed many lands, has seen many places, and when the end of it juts into the dusty earth, it sends small plumes of visible smoke all around his feet. He’s a good man, a wise man, a sad man, this Jimmy Bo Jangles. Without a destination, he makes his own path for others to follow. Without a home, he lays his weary head on the grass and looks into the heavens for signs of life. He is a solo man, cursed to spend the rest of his days wandering the planet in search of something greater than himself. No one wants to be him. People shake their heads and shield their eyes and tell tales about him. None of it true. He is misunderstood, this nomad, this Jimmy Bo Jangles.

I think we all have a bit of this guy inside of us. Just waiting to be released and given the go ahead to take the controls for a while. Many people wiser than I keep him locked away, only to come out when life gets too burdensome, never to be taken seriously, they keep the adventure hidden inside. They know better because they are sane, or too afraid to step outside the circle of comfort.

I have nothing to lose. When you are trying to find a mate, this can be devastating to your case. Women want homes, and cars, and money and protection. All of which can be purchased from that thing which doesn’t grow on trees. When you spend your life making terrible choices, guess what happens? Bad shit happens.

All of these things can be rectified. Nothing is unfixable as long as you are still breathing and not six feet underground somewhere. I am trying harder than I ever have in my life, to become something worth looking at in the mirror, someone worth being proud of. I spent most of my life living vicariously through Jimmy, taking risk after risk and throwing caution to the wind without worrying about consequences. I am deeply saddened by this. But I’m trying and pressing forward and conquering the fear of failure which has haunted me for so many years.

I am watching a young, mentally challenged employee clean tables and sweep the floors. She has a smile on her face which could light up a dark room. What is my excuse?  What is your excuse? Who am I to whine and moan and cry unfair? Who am I to blame the Dealer for dealing me a crummy hand when some people cannot function normally? It’s all a mess, this world of ours. Where is the justice? Maybe the next life will be kinder, gentler, worth living.

My friends, my readers, I wish you all a great holiday weekend. There is nothing wrong with living adventurous, seeing new places, making new friends, leaving your mark on history. I am trying to accomplish all of these things. But I guess I have to grow up a little, fix a few things, and make smarter decisions. The outdoors are a wonderful place to find yourself and to discover the inner depths of who you can become with a little spirit. But man, I can really use a shower.


Road Trip: Eating Arby’s in Arkansas

Authors note: I am on a road trip across America! If you comment I will reply as soon as possible! My internet access is limited, also I had a hard time uploading pics to this particular blog so you will have to use your imagination! Enjoy!

I offer my sincerest apologies to the good people of Arkansas. While mapping out my itinerary several weeks ago, I decided to breeze through your state without looking back. Now I’m happy I stayed for a few days or else I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to hike Mt. Nebo, or catch a breathtaking sunset over Little Rock as I crossed the Broadway Bridge.

Overlooking the Arkansas River and surrounding valley, Mt. Nebo rises over one thousand feet in the air. To reach the summit, you have to drive up a dozen grueling switchbacks. I love my Grand Van and I believe she loves me back, but after all the twists and turns and huffing and puffing, she was not happy with me. When we reached the top I gave her some extra coolant and patted her hood lovingly. She seemed to let it go.

When you stand on the ‘Bench Overlook’ gazebo, you notice how the earth and sky come together to form a masterpiece of unspeakable beauty. The deep blue from above collides with green from below and somehow makes everything terrible in this world seem trite and silly. To just sit and stare at creation is probably the most underrated hobby of all time. Looking over America from the top of a mountain can change your life. Or at least calm your soul and make you think about your priorities.

I was just about finished with the curly fries I purchased at Arby’s when I noticed how grand life is. Well for one thing, Arby’s should be on every street corner in this world (who doesn’t love a good roast beef and cheddar sandwich with a side of curly fries?). I’m on the open road with nothing but the wind at my back, the sun setting before me and mountains to climb on each side. I have a few bucks in my pocket and some survival gear. My camera is strapped on my shoulder and my walking stick plunges into mother earth when I swing my arms. What else can a man really ask for?

The Bench Trail is a four mile loop around the mountain which I proudly conquered in just about an hour or so. I brought along my backpack filled with random gear I probably won’t ever have to use but made me feel safe nonetheless. I’m a huge fan of Les Stroud and I watch his show Survivorman every day of my life. I wanted to be sure that if he had come along with me, he would have been proud of my pack. I took my compass, fire starters, emergency poncho, rope, bug spray, whistle, energy bars, three bottles of water and purifying tablets (just in case), some duct tape, pocket knife, extra socks, first aid kit, needle and thread, snakebite kit, maps and my notebook and pencils. Seems like a lot for such a short hike but you never know what you can encounter.

Speaking of wild encounters, the day after hiking Mt. Nebo I drove for several hours and decided to pull over for some shut-eye. I made it to a Wal-Mart parking lot and tried to rest but the heat was unbearable. All of a sudden the wind picked up and World War II broke out in the sky above me. Lightning shattered the heavens and rain pummeled my van. I was awestruck by the performance.

The next day I was speaking to one of the locals and I mentioned the storm, apparently I had caught the tail end of a tornado and never knew about it. Sometimes ignorance really is bliss. Although I felt no fear, I would rather not be stuck in a massive tornado whilst sitting in a van. I laugh because I would have been out there with my camera lickety-split taking world-class photos and sending them to the guys and gals at National Geographic.

Once I was finished playing storm chaser, I continued my drive down I-40 into Oklahoma City where I was greeted with friendly faces and one hour parking limits. What a scam! While I am running around snapping photos and pretending to be a world traveler, I’m worried about getting a ticket. It’s the same in every major city I guess.

I thoroughly enjoyed Oklahoma. Between the friendly people and Native American museums, it was a city worth checking out. Plus I always wanted to visit the OKC Memorial. I am sure most of you remember the terrorist bombing which killed many innocent people, including children. It was a sad experience. I come from New York. I understand their sorrow.

Sometimes we need to drop our guards in order to relate to one another. We put on this macho ‘I’m ok, you’re ok’ façade when most of the time we’re not. Like I’ve said before, we are creatures in need of companionship. I don’t think there is anything wrong with asking for help. There are forces in this world that would have us believe this is a weak character trait. I think we are at our strongest when we come to the realization we need help. When we are down, the only place to look is up.

Walking along the reflecting pool, I took a moment to honor the dead and I promised God to help the living no matter what the cost. Funny isn’t it? How we say things like that. No matter what the cost…I think back on all the times I put my own comfort in front of the needs of others. This is a habit I am trying to break. We are supposed to love people. If you expect to feel love for strangers all the time you will be disappointed. This is the point I would like to make before I wrap this up; you don’t have to feel love, to show love….take it easy guys and until next time, chow.


Bombs bursting in air.

Long Island New York circa 2012
Photography by Gabriel

Next month I am leaving my home to journey across America. I am packing up my minivan and hitting the proverbial road. Words cannot fully describe the multitude of emotions I feel over this quest of mine. It’s hard to believe I’m finally doing it. With nothing but a few bucks in my pocket and some prayers floating around the stratosphere, I am leaving all which is dear to me. I am leaving all that is familiar. I hate to use the caterpillar analogy because it’s a little girly and I don’t want to mention snakes shedding skin because, well, I don’t want to compare myself to a slithering serpent, but I will come out of this trip a new person. Cloaked with vigor, I will make my mark on history. Like fireworks exploding on a warm Fourth of July night, I will break free from my former self and shine brightly among the stars.

I can give you my itinerary, I can point out the special places I want to visit, I can even give you names of the soup kitchens I plan on dining in, but I can only speculate as to where this uncharted road will lead me and how long it will take to write a book about it all. Unfortunately, life never dances to the beat of our drums. We just skip along to whatever track is being played and learn to deal with it. I will play the role of Columbus for a short while. With a pen behind my ear and a compass beside my stale coffee, I will draw squiggly lines to and fro like I know what I’m doing. I will drive in awe of my beautiful country and appreciate the wonderful freedom I usually take for granted.

I wonder what it will be like to stand in the center of Washington D.C and marvel at the architecture. I try to imagine what it will be like to drive through the bowels of the Shenandoah Valley. I can picture the rolling hills giving birth to mountain ranges, which spew forth hot desert sands. Miles of open road slice through the landscape like a tongue from some ancient beast. The monster opens wide his mouth and reveals a great mystery. One I will have to take on headfirst with all my strength, with all my heart. After checking in on Elvis and his Heartland, I will cruise along the open highway with my hand outstretched to catch the wind. I will sing-along with Fleetwood Mac and the ever lovely Stevie Nicks.  Once blood clots begin to form in my legs, I’ll pull over on some deserted highway to take pictures of cacti and the vultures above me.  They will lick their beaks and watch me closely. The birds will be disappointed. I will not fear because I have a slingshot and I’m not afraid to use it.

I wrote the first draft of this article last night around midnight. Now it is early morning on the Fourth of July. I love waking up at seven o’clock on my day off, nothing like sitting around for a few hours waiting for the rest of the world to arise from deep sleep. So, I make the best of it by consuming two bowls of Lucky Charms while walking around the house in my robe pretending to be some rich lord from Ireland fending off wicked little leprechaun’s from stealing my bowl of sugary goodness. Actually I am sitting here trying to come up with something funny, and engaging to keep you guys from leaving my page in search of something better. I wouldn’t blame you because searching is the fundamental nature of our lives. It’s what drives us to wake up each morning and seize the day with tenacity. I guess this is why I have decided to leave.

As I sit here and watch the rain slowly drip from the iron handrail outside, I contemplate the beauty of the Grand Canyon and everything I will discover along the way. People will laugh and call me foolish, and even now there are people standing beside me who have doubted this trip from the start. But I tell you this, we are not all called to do the same thing.  Some cuckoo birds weren’t meant to be caged. I hope all of you enjoy your Independence Day. Long live Liberty! Long live Freedom!

Long Island New York circa 2012
Photography by Gabriel


21 Gun Salute ~ Memorial Day observed.

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Old Glory ~ Long Island New York circa 2012

I lay the blame squarely on the shoulders of my bishop. If he had waited a few more minutes before heading in to enemy territory I could have sent my knight in to watch his back. The lone rook sat dumbly behind the king watching his fellow soldier sign his own death warrant. As for the lovely queen she flirted with her lowly pawns on my right flank, hopefully giving them a pep talk. My brother smirked on the opposite side of the table. His win streak is climbing and my frustration is not far behind. But I don’t mind so much. I looked to my right and watched my niece and nephews play innocently in their sandbox as a soft breeze carried mellow rock around the backyard. My step-dad flipped burgers rolled the dogs and kept one eye on the kids as Memorial Day weekend settled upon our little part of the country. It was a peaceful time brought to us by the good men and women of our military. Thanks to these protectors of freedom and guardians of liberty, we can enjoy moments like this with loved ones.

My fellow Americans, on this most sacred of holidays we celebrate heroes from the past, of the present and the inevitable future. We hang flags to honor the country and light candles to remember the fallen. The children started to run around the pool with no worries; concerned only with being children and doing kid stuff. I sat back in my chair and contemplated the beauty of freedom and how lucky I am to abide in its’ shadow. I hope and pray my flesh and blood will enjoy it when they turn thirty.

In the past, I have been privileged to work with veterans who like to tell war stories and share experiences. Luckily for me I enjoy this sort of thing. They transport me to worlds of bombs and bullets, of fear and loss, of bravery and companionship. I will never know the bond which binds the lives of soldiers. It’s a blurry picture my creative mind has a hard time focusing on. It’s a day in the life of someone’s shoes I simply cannot fill. These blessed creatures of all color, code and creed have been unified to one single absolute truth; they have all heeded the call of duty for this great nation and gone to war countless times over. Not just physically, but mentally as well. They took up their swords and walked in to battle with heads held high and hearts filled with determination. The earth shook beneath their feet; they fought the good fight and stood their ground. Many made it through unscathed but too many stayed behind in shallow graves. For those who returned, they lived their lives with a new sense of pride, a new hope for things unseen.

My heart is heavy though. I say this because our media has turned this holiday in to nothing more than a moneymaking enterprise. Everywhere I look there are ads for car sales, clothe sales and even airfare discounts. Granted all these things are nice, but for it to overshadow the true meaning of this day is almost sacrilegious. Some paid with their lives so others can hate without prejudice, discriminate without reason, burn our flag and mock our people. This particular blog is not about the haters and the radicals who seek to destroy this nation with words and deed, but in a sense rise above their pettiness and speak to those of us who love life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. When we see the red, white and blue parading over our neighborhoods this weekend let us all stop, bow our heads and take a minute to respect those colors and what they stand for. There is an inscription at a chapel in Normandy, France at the Normandy American cemetery which perfectly describes the people we are honoring this weekend: “These endured all and gave all that justice among nations might prevail and that mankind might enjoy freedom and inherit peace.”

To every veteran, M.I.A, P.O.W and deceased hero…thank you for our freedom. Thank you for liberty. I owe my life to you all. Salute and God bless.