Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Public Libraries Today

Give a helping hand to somebody less fortunate!

Most of the time when somebody says something like that to me, I get on my guard because I’m pretty sure I’m about to get asked for money. We have come to think that about the only thing we have that somebody else wants can be found tucked away inside our wallets. It’s a pretty sad modern state for most of us isn’t it?

I guess I believe that if we care enough, that is more important than any amount of money we could possibly throw at a problem. I suspect you’ve come to the same conclusion and if you still don’t believe me, you can go right now and lock your money up because I promise you I’m not going to ask you for a cent! In fact, I want to say thanks to you because you have bought my book and I’m really grateful to you for that. I believe that somebody who would buy Book of Aliases must be a nice, thoughtful person who likes art of the gentle persuasion such as is the nature of poetry. Maybe you have been reading my poetry for years already and have developed a fondness for it. If that’s the case, I’m even more grateful to you for caring enough to enjoy what I have given freely, hoping for someone just like you to come along.

So okay, you are a caring and intelligent person and that I already know. You have gone to the trouble to buy and read my book and hopefully enjoyed it, maybe even though it was pretty good. Maybe you’ve even given it as a gift to somebody you love or told a friend about it because you know that is the kind of reading they would enjoy. Thanks for that! It means more to me than you could imagine.

But what can you do for somebody else? I guess you are a pretty fortunate person, with a good education and a healthy bank account. In other words, not everybody is as fortunate as you are. Don’t get nervous now, I promised I wouldn’t ask for any money and I mean to keep that promise. What you can do is a lot simpler and much more caring than to pull out your credit card. This is a real act of love for somebody whom you will never meet and they probably will never guess somebody did this for them as an act of kindness and consideration.

Think of all the great books you have enjoyed over the years, many of which you got for free because you had a library card. You probably still have a library card and, if you don’t, that is the first thing you can do that won’t cost you a cent but might be a great boon for lots of people – so go get a library card.

You probably haven’t thought about it but in this modern, electronic age it is not only the big bookstores that are closing down … the public libraries are having problems too. It doesn’t matter so much to you because you’re all grown up and doing pretty well, not to mention the fact that you have your Kindle, Nook, iPad, Sony or some other e-reader plus a good home library as well. What about the people who really need the access to a library these days though, don’t they deserve a chance to get the advantage of free printed material, including all the new stuff that’s coming out electronically? Did you know that they can even check out e-books from the library these days? Shouldn’t libraries be there for them too just like they were for us when we were kids?

So here’s the deal! First, if you don’t already have one, get a library card. Second, call the library and ask them for a copy of Book of Aliases and some of the other wonderful books that have meant so much to you in your lifetime. They’ll probably put you on a waiting list to check them out but that’s okay, at least they will know that people that read are still out there and, more importantly, that will give them a reason to exist. Third, when it comes your turn, check them out. You don’t have to keep them long and, if they are e-books, you don’t even have to return them. What could be simpler?

We can’t let this wonderful institution called the library cease to be and, even if you don’t need one so much these days, somebody who isn’t as lucky as you sure as heck will. Think about it and make the decision to show you care. And, as I promised, it won’t cost you a cent.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

The question’s not what but who is your dad? Think about it!

So what are you going to get the big guy for Father’s Day? Life is more than a bucket of Super Bowl beer on ice. This is the guy who taught you everything you know about life, love and family!

You have come to understand he is more than a box of candy or matching socks, tie and hanky set. There is a soul in there that has made years of sacrifices so that you could become who you have grown up to be. You can’t just give him some back-of-the-bottom-drawer gift.

Maybe he’s the guy who held your hand and went with you from house to house all dressed up on Halloween. Maybe he watched you learn to dance ballet or taught you to play softball. It was undoubtedly him who was with you when you fell or failed and he gave you that helping hand when you most needed it.

Maybe he’s the guy who invariably let you down occasionally because he’s only human after all. I know there have been times when I have let my own kids down and I have regretted doing or not doing something just like he probably has. He probably has forgiven you for your childish mistakes even though some of them were probably pretty costly and you may have come to terms with his humanness also.

What would you be willing to do for this guy, the man who was by your side all through childhood? Love is an incredibly powerful force and there are probably few, if any, sacrifices you wouldn’t be willing to make for him. I’m sure the same has been true for him.

What I’m talking about here is this: you know pretty much who this guy is and you are wondering what you can do for him on Father’s Day that is going to be really special? We all know he’d be pleased with a funny card and knowing that you are thinking about him. That would probably be enough for him, wouldn’t it?

But we also know that this is when you want to show him some small measure of what he means to you. Yes, he’s your dad but that is just what he is. If you wanted to do the same as everybody else you would also be willing to go with the all the abundance of Father’s Day merchandise that is getting stocked on the shelves to give him as a gift and then sit down for dinner with him. That’s all about what he is but I believe the question you are starting to ask yourself is more about WHO is he? That’s the question that will make what you do when you spend time with him on June 17th be the kind of experience you are really looking for.

The unexamined life is not worth living.

Does he like to garden? Or would he rather have a fountain in the front of the house to make him feel like a king when he comes home? Does he like to read? Or would he like to spend a few hours in the afternoon telling fantastic stories to a bunch of neighborhood kids? Does he like to look at travel magazines? Maybe what he would really like is to learn French and spend a few weeks in Paris learning how to use Le Metro and finding out which Boulangerie in Montmartre makes the best croissants? He may have been so busy raising his kids that he really hasn’t considered doing some of the things he would really prefer. In fact, he might be approaching the age of retirement without knowing how to get on with some of the things he would really enjoy the experience of doing, being or having.

That’s one of the problems in life! We get so busy living that we don’t spend much time asking if what we’re settling for is what we really want. That’s why Socrates’ words make us uncomfortable. Most of us never even get to the point in our lives where we can speculate on whom, not what, we really are. We are like trains on a track; our course is in front of us just a little further ahead and, when we come to the end of the line, is that going to be somewhere we really want to be?

Of course that’s not something we can decide for another person, especially when he is our dad. The best we can do is follow his example and care enough to want the best for him and try to be there for him along the way. Tomorrow maybe too far away and today, God forbid may be the only option we have, which means we’ve got to start now! This June 17th has to be the day we really step out of that box of usual things and do something really loving for him.

Twenty-five years ago I got the opportunity to start finding out what I really wanted to do and had the good fortune to be able to start doing some of those things. I subsequently became a poet and changed my career to better suit the person I was discovering I really was. I was 42 when I began doing all this. That Father’s Day was pretty scary but, with the support of my wife and kids, it turned out to be something pretty wonderful. Recently I finished a book of poetry dealing with the self-discoveries, the knowledge of my many parts that were necessary for me to understand the nature of my real identity. I can’t guarantee your dad is like me but if this book opens any new door for him that would surely be wonderful.

Maybe you’ll give your dad that funny card and a copy of my book to read. It could be the start of something new and wonderful for the big guy! Here are some links you can use to find it:




Have the best Father’s Day!

Saturday, June 02, 2012

School is out pictures

School is out!

In Kazakhstan the kids were very excited on the 25th of May in 2012 because that is the day that this school year finished. You remember what that feels like – no more classes or homework – like a great weight has been lifted off of you and you can suddenly leap and run around again. Kids everywhere feel that way because the pressure to perform academically has been lifted. What started out to be the freedom of universal literacy where information is accessible to all has become a very pressing prison of you-better-do-well-or-you’ll-never-get-anywhere. It was a really generous idea that everybody should have access to the information found in print but it has turned into the nightmare before adulthood. That is why the yearly release from this drudgery was such a joyous and riotous celebration.

I just happened to be there this day at one of the places the kids picked to express their relief in a riot of activity they would not normally consider doing under any other circumstances. It is a normally fashionable fountain that has something to do with a calendar because it is divided in seven sections, one for each day of the week. On this day, some of them still wearing their sashes for academic achievement, the kids came in groups and many of them jumped in the water wearing their school uniforms. Most of the kids in the water, some with their shoes still on, didn’t come wearing sashes. The “sashes” group was more sedate and reserved seeming although some of them had bathing suits under their clothes, which they used when they got in the water with their classmates still in uniform. The “sashes” group didn’t seem inclined to abandon all decorum to celebrate as the rest of their classmates did.

I was intrigued by the social division because it was so visible and took some pictures with my phone to document the occasion. I hope you enjoy seeing what I saw.