The Unforgotten

I’ve been thinking of posting about this exhibit for some time now, but following the horrific event in Charleston South Carolina, I figured this was probably an appropriate time.

The Unforgotten is an amazing piece of art, that transcends what it actually is, into something much more. As I heard the news emerging out of Charleston, I knew 2 bits of information would be inevitable to cross the television.

1) The number of victims
2) The name of the murderer

And that is all people will really remember.  That is the train of thought behind the exhibit The Unforgotten.  In these events, we always remember the name(s) of the killer(s), and yet we reduce the victims to numbers, perhaps ages…but ultimately statistics.

So a group of people decided that they would attempt to change that.  They would make sure that the victims of gun violence would remain “Unforgotten,” by celebrating them as people.  The best way to make that impact…is to have them there, at least in spirit, and more poignantly, in a physical form.  It is that point that makes the Unforgotten so genius.

Now, I’ve had the occasion to see this exhibit twice.  It’s amazing striking…powerful.  I hate using that word “powerful”….it feels so cliche…but in this case it is so appropriate.  The first time I saw them, I immediately teared up.

The statues are, in most cases, wearing the actual clothes of the victims.  The statues were also built to scale, in terms of height and size of the victims.  I also had the occasion to be present when the families of the victims saw the statues for the first time.  Overwhelmingly, you heard the repeated refrain “That’s him.  That’s her”. The creators spent time to try and get the feel of the people, down to the way they stood, the character they would present if they were standing or sitting out in public.

Which is what makes this particular exhibit so very sad, because they aren’t sitting or standing out…and they never will again.  Most of the victims in this exhibit were teenagers, teens being the group most disproportionately affected by gun violence, although the oldest victim was one month away from retirement, and a police officer no less.

This exhibit will be on display yet again at the Annual Saint Sabina End of School Peace Rally and March tomorrow, June 19th.  If anyone has the opportunity to go see it,


I also encourage you to go the Unforgotten website and read the stories of the victims represented in the exhibit.  Spread the video, the site and information to others.  Then, sign the accompanying petition on the site.  It will help to combat illegal gun use and gun violence.

Finally…in the upcoming days, you’re going to hear a lot of news coming out of Charleston, concerning the shooting.  And you will hear the name of the shooter…over and over.  Make sure that you take some time to see and/or hear the names of the victims.  In this situation, they are the ones who are truly important.  They lost their lives to a senseless act of violence, and we owe it to them to remember them, and to make their deaths stand for something more than just a senseless, horrible act.  We need to make sure that they too, remain #Unforgotten.


A Video….And A Conversation On Race

A friend of mine posted the above video. She also posted the following.

I’m interested in the opinions of all races on this matter. Please let’s not start a negative debate or race war… I only wish to hear opinions as to what you feel the cause of this could be because it seriously hurts my heart to think children (of any race) would feel this way.
My question:
Would this be the response of any child from any race from how they are raised (what they see and hear from their parents/close circles either directed at them or towards others)?
Or is this the result of what society, the general population, television, magazines, etc. somehow imply (almost in the same way girls/women are “raised” by society feel they aren’t beautiful if they aren’t super models)?
Is it a mix of everything?
Other thoughts on it?
How can we fix it?

So, first, let me encourage you to go and watch the NBC special that this short segment is from. They have it on their website in four 20 minute segments.

NBC News: A Conversation About Race

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The Wide World of Teas

I am an avid tea drinker. I can’t quite remember exactly when I began drinking tea, or who introduced it to me for that matter….but now I’m a believer, and even more so, I’ve become a proselytizer. Give me 30 mins. and I will show you the world that can exist in a tea cup, in all its wonderment and subtlety.

Now, let me also say that if you’ve never had tea that didn’t come in a cardboard box, or sit in your cup in a little bag, you’ve never had tea. You’ve had s**t in a cup. And s**t is not tea.

That stuff…it isn’t tea. It’s not real tea. More accurately, it’s not good tea. Lipton, Celestial Seasonings, etc….those are the McDonald’s and Burger Kings of the tea world. They’re not toxic waste, but if the only hamburger you’ve ever eaten is a McDonald’s burger….oh my!!! You’ve never had a hamburger!!!

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A Simple Reminder

If you are a man, watch the video below immediately.  If you are a woman, wrangle up all the men around you, especially any that co-habitate with you, and make them watch this video immediately.

While women’s restrooms have long been dens of relaxation, fellowship, and camaraderie, the men’s restroom is a tightly run ship of efficiency and teamwork.  If one teammate doesn’t know the rules and his role to play, all hell could break loose.

While you ladies may have time to chit-chat, jib jab, and cackle at last night’s episode of whatever, we men have no time for that tomfoolery; you get in, do your business, and get out.  You certainly don’t  stare me in the eyes and strike up a conversation like the button-down psycho I encountered at work today.  I barely made it out with not only my life, but with civilization in tact. The men’s restroom, affectionately known as “the shitter” wields an unimaginable amount of power, that could topple society as we know it. Consider yourself warned.

Jennifer Whalen

I first heard about the story of Jennifer Whalen a week ago on The Savage Lovecast, which I’ve talked about before in this blog. Dan Savage mentioned the case, and much like him, I was dismayed that I hadn’t heard more about it in the media. I actually didn’t see a news article about it till almost a week later.

A Mother in Jail for Helping Her Daughter Have an Abortion

You can read the article above at the link, so I won’t rehash it here. But allow me to start by saying that I find this article to be such a sad situation of our misled legal system, and in my opinion, our broken society in general.

So, I don’t think I can dive into this topic without expressing my own personal opinion on this issue. I am pro-choice. I also don’t look at it as a moral issue. I think women should have the freedom and access to do with their own bodies a they see fit.

I personally don’t think that what this woman did was wrong, and I think her being jailed for it is nothing short of ridiculous. I also think this is the tip of the iceberg on the consequences of politicians making abortion a more difficult pathway to those who desire to walk it.

In addition, this woman got more time than people who are caught with guns, narcotics, or a list of “real” crimes. The woman appeared to be backed in a corner, and did what she felt to be the best thing for her daughter, who requested the medication. Not to mention that the woman has been incarcerated years after the actual “crime”.  This is a working class family. Taking 2-3 days off of work to drive 75 miles away to spend money just wasn’t in the cards. If there had been options more readily available, I’m sure she would have taken them. But, the access was not there.

History has taught us that if abortions are abolished, or made difficult to get,  people will go to whatever means necessary to get one.


Courtesy of

and as a former teacher, I can say from firsthand experience that the worst ting in the world is a person having a child that doesn’t want one. That s**t is f***ing ridonkulous…and in all seriousness, very sad.

The Ice Bucket Challenge

I intended to post this some time ago…and just never got around to it.  I feel myself saying that a lot nowadays.  There’s probably not anything I could tell you about ALS, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, aka Lou Gehrigs’s Disease that you haven’t already heard over the past few weeks.  If you’re a social media and Youtube savvy person, you’ve probably also seen tons of “Ice Bucket Challenge” videos.  However, here’s mine.  There’s probably nothing too special about it, other than I did it with people special to me in mind.  Enjoy!

The Nameless

Many years ago…what seems like a lifetime ago, I sang in a metal band. One of the last tunes we wrote was a song about homeless people. Very simple, and I called it The Nameless. I chose that title because homeless people often seem like nameless sentient beings, just floating through space. We often don’t recognize them, disregard them. We as a society get so caught up in the fast flow of life, that we don’t even bother to make eye contact with them, pass them by, and will sometimes label them as a nuisance, or a bother , rather than a person in need of help, in need of empathy. Please don’t misinterpret these words in a sense that I haven’t done these things. I have. I try not to, but I get caught up too. But, I’ve had times of sitting with homeless cats on a corner, and just rapping and shooting the shit, hearing their stories. Ultimately, I think that’s what many of us want; to have our story told. To have our voice heard, and to not be…nameless.

These thoughts all came into my head as the woman sat next to me. As I mentioned in my previous blog, Serendipity, my mind was already in a spin. Then the rain drove me to take cover at the bus stop, fearing the inclement weather would put me in a dangerous spot on my bicycle, with slick roads and impaired visibility to motorists.

The bus came by, and after exiting the bus, the woman ambled over to me and took a seat. The air around me immediately took on the scent of alcohol. She was a black woman, older , I’d put her in her 50’s perhaps. Well greyed hair, close cut and under a red baseball cap. Her clothes were dirty. She had a can in a brown paper bag that I later found to be an Icehouse.

She didn’t make eye contact. She just kind of turned her face towards me, but our gazes never met. She was clearly intoxicated. She leaned over and said, “Can I tell you something?”
“Of course” I said.

“I was in the Army.” “I saw things that no one should have to see.”

Her speech wasn’t clear at all times, but she told me how her experiences in the Army messed with her head. She recalled some instances…

“I always did my best…And we never left a man behind. We always brought them back.”

I never interrupted her. Only nodded and offered verbal agreements. She didn’t ‘t know this, but I understood perfectly everything she was saying.

As I looked at her face, listening to her story, tears began running down my cheeks. As I looked in her face, I just could see that her mind was gone. She wasn’t in the same time , or the same place that I was. That thought made my heart ache so badly.

This lady could be my mom. She could be someone’s mom. I looked down at the ground, not wanting her to see me cry. I couldn’t speak, I just listened, staring at her can of Icehouse.

When I was younger, I never could understand why homeless people would turn to vice…drugs and alcohol. I never could understand why you would make a bad situation worse.

I get it now. Not wanting to face life lucidly. Needing something to soften the edges of reality. I know that feeling all too well.

Many years ago, in what seems also, like a different lifetime, I attempted suicide. Very few people in my life know this. I’ve always guarded that secret . It’s something that I’ve always found shame in. But, I now know that it was a wake up call for me to change my life, which I did. I can relate so very well to the feeling of simply not feeling like you can face life. I tried vice too. For me, vice wasn’t even strong enough.

All of these thoughts swirled into my head as I looked into this woman’s face, and so many questions.
“Are you homeless?”
“How will you get out of the rain?”
“Do you have family? Where are they?”

But I didn’t ask. It was time for her to tell her story, as she chose to tell it.

Finally, I spoke up.
“I gotta get going ” was all I could muster, wiping the tears from my cheeks.

As I stood up, and waved goodbye meekly, she made eye contact with me for the first time.
“God Bless You Sister. Bye.

I wanted to do more. I should’ve said more.

And as I rode off, I thought about how appalling it is that we give billions of dollars to other countries, and yet I rode pass people under underpasses, awnings, and alleys trying to find a dry place to sleep. It’s not right. You’ll never be able to rationalize it to me . We could do better. We should do better. She should be enjoying her twilight years in a warm place, surrounded by love, not sitting on a cold bus stop in a rainstorm with me. It infuriates me now just thinking about it.

Also, as I rode home, I recognized how that experience served as a reminder. I was at a place today where I was beginning to feel bad for myself. At this point, I’m technically unemployed. Hustling up money to pay bills. Dealing with issues with my daughters…

…and I’ve been reminded that I’m ok. I have my mind, and my health. If I keep my head up, I’ll figure it out, and I’ll be ok. In the grand scheme of life, my problems are minuscule, and I feel ashamed for even being so self indulgent.

And so here I sit. I feel emotionally drained. I’m gonna go lie down, and I know that the sun will bring a brighter day. The woman will be on my mind. I hope she is ok.

Life is strange sometimes.

Guns, Guns, Guns

So, this 4th of July weekend here in Chicago, 82 people were shot. At least 14 of those were fatal. The lion’s share of those shootings were on Sunday, June 6th.

Let that sink in for a minute

82 people shot in 3 days, including minors.

That’s a lot of people.  Even in a city as large as Chicago, that’s a lot of people.

That’s such a significantly large amount of people, that both the mayor and the police superintendent had to address the situation. While I can’t find the police press conference on Youtube, the message was very clear from Supt. McCarthy:

“It all comes down to these guns: there’s too many guns coming in and too little punishment gong out.”

Gun Laws Blamed For Chicago’s Weekend Shooting Surge

It also can’t be lost  that a significant number of these shootings occurred in poor and disadvantaged neighborhoods, and that was actually brought up by a reporter. It was at least pleasant that the Superintendent acknowledged that these neighborhoods don’t have adequate employment, schools, programs, ad nauseum…

…however, this doesn’t change the sad fact that children are running around in the killing fields, killing and being killed.

So, what is the answer? How can this problem be fixed?

Unfortunately, I firmly feel that a lot of people in Chicago don’t care, because it doesn’t affect them. As long as the violence is isolated to the southside, who cares. This problem is a direct by-product of the deep racial and economic fissures in the city. And good sociology teaches us that the violence won’t stay there forever.

So, are stiffer penalties the solution?  I’d love to hear you all’s views on this.



Welcome back

Hey ladies and gents. Welcome back…to me I guess. It’s been quite a while since I posted anything, I know. It wasn’t a matter of time…I suppose I didn’t have anything to say. But now, I feel like my voice is back. Hell, I feel like my mind is back. So, what can I say?

Well, the school year is over. At this point, I am technically unemployed. I will not be returning to my current position next year. The parting is amicable, and I got stellar references from my administrators. It simply isn’t the perfect fit for me. I wasn’t happy there, as many of you who talk with me already know. So, on and ever upward. Not sure what the future will bring, but I look forward to finding out. If you know a school that needs a good social studies teacher, let me know.

Aside from that, taking each day as it comes. I have tons on my mind, which I will share in the near future. And of course, I’m wandering around this wonderful city of mine. Yeehaw.

Be thankful/Be humble

I’m a firm believer that a central purpose if life is to make connections with others. Scratch that…to make POSITIVE connections with others. We make many of them, but so many of them are negative.
However, stop and think for a minute…and answer this question honestly:
“Do you connect with those people who have nothing to offer you?”
In that question, I mean, we so readily connect with people who have something we want; connections, money, sexual appeal….but what about those people who don’t readily have something material to offer us?
Here in Chicago, we have a lot of homeless people. I don’t know exact numbers, but a lot. Now, I’m not rolling in dough, but when I can, I try to give some change, or a dollar here and there. Over the years, as you take time, actually take time to stop and talk with some of these people, you can hear some amazing stories. Often depressing, often shocking, but very telling of that other side of society that many of us don’t see. How people fall through the cracks.
I’ll never forgot one night I started chatting with a homeless guy down in the Loop on Wabash, about 1 in the morning. He asked me what I do, and I mentioned that I had just gotten back from my deployment and was trying to figure out where I fit in.
He went into his pocket, and pulled out a military ID. Told me how after getting back from Iraq, his life basically fell apart from PTSD…and so on.
But recently, I had two interactions that reminded me of some things.
The first was on a bus stop. I was heading downtown, and waiting for the bus, sitting on a bench. An older gentleman, with a suitcase, obviously homeless, came over and sat next to me. He then pulled out a bottle of Maddog 20/20, and after taking a swig, offered me some. I declined, and then he asked me about the magazine I had at my side.
It was a Graciemag, a Jiu jitsu magazine. Something on the cover caught his eye, and I handed it to him. He flipped through the pages, and seemed genuinely interested in what he saw.
He then looked over to me and said, “You know who was a bad man?”
“Who?” I said, genuinely interested in what was to come.
“Bruce Lee! Did you know that when they filmed the Green Hornet, they had to slow down the film because he was too fast!”
I laughed. “Yeah, he was amazing for sure.”
“There’ll never be another one like him.”

A few nights ago, a woman asked me out for drinks. I said sure. I got ready to head out, but hadn’t had dinner, so I decided to stop and get something on the way. I happened to come across Arturo’s a 24 hour Mexican drunk hut. I parked, and was heading in, when a man stopped me.
“I hate to bother you man, but do you have a few dollars, so I can get some good. I’m out of work currently.”
I don’t carry cash usually, so I said, “I don’t have any cash, but I’m gonna get some food. Come on in with me.”
“Really?” He asked.
“Yeah, c’mon.”
So I ordered some food for me, and he ordered what he wanted, and as we waited, we sat and talked.
He said his name was Casper. He’d been working as a painter and carpenter when his car was stolen, with his wallet and phone in it.
“I was paid in cash, so it really hurt, because I lost my rent money, and then I was replaced at work.”
He mentioned he’d been in the U.S. since 1987, born in Mexico.
” I learned English in Mexico, and then learned more here. I also have learned some polish, and I like learning that.”
“Polish?” I asked.
“Yeah, some of the guys I worked with were Polish, so they would teach me the language while we worked,” and he then exhibited some of his skills for me.
He then said something very interesting.
“Back in ’87 and the ’90’s, if you needed a job, you’d apply to a few, and boom, you could get one fast. It’s not like that anymore. You can, apply, and apply, and apply, and hear nothing.”
Wow…that says a lot right?
While at the time it didn’t ‘t occur to me, but I was having a shared moment with these gentlemen, exchanging thoughts and ideas…and I wonder how many people would never do that, simply because at first glance, they had nothing to offer, and even needed of us.
These moments reminded me to be thankful. I worry about so many things, but in reality, I have a roof over my head, food to put in my mouth, and people who care enough about me who would offer me either if I didn’t have them.
What have I to complain about?
And they reminded me to be humble, because in an instant, my situation could change, and I could be that person that people so readily will look past when I’m asking for a few bucks. Deep issues…deep thought…