Uncle Rich

I used to work at a Cancer non-profit, so when I heard my Uncle had been diagnosed, I wasn’t too scared. Few words inspire such fear and panic as the C word, but I’ve seen it so many times, and people do recover from cancer everyday. One of the closest, most important people in my whole life had cancer, and beat it, so I know how vincible it is. I was concerned, but very optimistic. Until a week later when I got The Call. I pulled over as my panic attack settled in. My heart charged as if going to war. I drove to the Hospice immediately, but couldn’t get there in time to say goodbye. I hadn’t said goodbye on previous hospital visits, cause we believed in the power and peace of positive thinking. That’s ok—it wasn’t my good-bye to curate. As I dared into the room, his daughter, grandson, and partner reflected the despair and love that was so palpable already. I broke down to my knees. Crying, praying, begging. Dumfounded, no matter how “prepared” the doctor made us. His granddaughter, 2 years old, came in on her mother’s arm; her mother instructed her to say goodbye… 2 years is not long enough to understand life, much less death. She waved by-bye with her whole arm, as instructed,… as she’s done a hundred times before, clearly not understanding that this time was different—this wasn’t “see you Later”, there was no hello on the other side of This goodbye. She didn’t know why he wasn’t responding, and I couldn’t help but weep even more as I saw this beautiful, loving child so clearly express the confusion and love we all felt. His partner then sat on the bed to talk to my uncle, god, and herself. She smooshed his face, twisting his flesh to make sure her hands memorized how every possible position felt, I imagine. She rubbed warmth back into his hands, crying—Bargaining, loving, and laughing loud enough for him to hear her from the wind outside he now lives in. She smashed his face with such love, stretching and feeling, squeezing his flesh like she was trying to climb in. It was at once heartbreaking and heartmending. And what a Great man. You wanna know what kind of man he was? As we divvied up his pictures, among many pictures of his family, including me, was a picture of my graduation cake; EYE Don’t even have a picture of that cake! He always moved to help people, no matter what, without thinking. He loved so profoundly and bravely. He never asked for much and appreciated every blessing and every person in his life. He showed you how much he loved you, didn’t just say the words. He was a Warrior—in every sense of the commitment. He showed us what it really meant to be human. To be Good.
I Love you Uncle Richard


Featured post

Fast Car (inspired by Tracy Chapman)

This is the first installment of a series of stories inspired by Great Songs! Some stories/plots/characters are directly taken from the song’s lyrics. Some are inspired by a general feeling the song gives me. I’ve already received many ideas for songs to “Cover”, But if you know a song that would make a Great Story, Comment below!

I would recommend listening to Fast Car by Tracy Chapman AFTER reading

Fast Car

Tracy is folding laundry as her father watches a World War II documentary on Channel 11. It is a very small apartment on the West Side of Chicago. Light jazz hums from the kitchen radio, which is always on, whether anyone is in the kitchen, not, or the apartment is completely empty. On the wall hangs a diploma from Triton College. It is Tracy’s Associate’s degree for Social Work—she really wanted to be a teacher, but she heard that the Social Work program was much easier and, being the first person in her family to try college, easier seemed smarter. The rest of the walls were exposed brick—accidently trendy, nothing to adorn them. Without air conditioning, the windows were all open, which let a saving breeze steal through their house.
Tracy is a black, Christian, hard-working women. She is also a democrat, convenience-store clerk, and heterosexual, but she didn’t have much input in identities so she didn’t wear them as pridefully. She wasn’t particularly attractive by today’s standards, but there was an undeniable magnetism to her face, with the roundness and sweetness of a batch of brioche.
Tracy’s Father, Troy, was hardly 50 years old, but his rusted, deflated frame made him look 80, if a day. He is on kidney Dialysis, so he never leaves his recliner in front of the TV, which he hoards and never strays from channel 11, WTTW Chicago, and Fox news.
Tracy’s children, Vanessa, lil D (DeAundray), and Tonee, were in 1st, 4th, and 8th grades, respectively. Since Tracy worked most hours of most days, the three of them were almost always together, Tonee helping with his younger siblings as much as possible.
Aundray has been in and out of the house for the past 13 years. Tracy and Aundray have kids together and are currently engaged—for the past two years. Aundray is a very large man and often struggles to manage rooms without looking clumsy. As a high-school football star, his tremendous size was a blessing, but now he often feels self-conscious of looking like an old bear, which was one of the reasons he bought the ’97 Ford Mustang.

Scene I
Tracy: I told you, I’m not gonna change the channel again. I just changed it 10 minutes ago and I ain’t got time to play your remote control…got too much to do around here anyway. If you’d stop throwing those damn remotes every time you get bothered, you could change the channel whenever you want.
Troy: Well, isn’t that what a daughter’s supposed to do, anyway? Serve thy father. I brought you into this world, gave you the precious gift of life…the least you could do is change the channel, time to time.
Tracy: Shoot; I’ve been serving you my whole life. I’m ‘bout ready to serve myself and get the hell out uh this God forsaken city.
Troy: Oh yeah? And where you gonna go—wit your black ass? California? Paris? You always dreamin’
Tracy: And who asked you?!
Troy: I used to make dreams too, you know. Before you was born. I had a clarinet, was gonna be a professional musician, until I met your mother and had you and your brother. Couldn’t go around playin’ my music anymore—had to get a job and stay ‘round and take care of you little niggas. Yeah, I woke up from dreamin’ real quick, and you will too someday.
Tracy: Please, I heard that story a thousand times and you know it ain’t true. You just makin’ excuses. I heard your band when I was a kid and I knew it wasn’t good, even as a child. And I’m serious… I already looked at schools for the kids; I just need to save up $2,300 and we gonna move to Des Plaines. It ain’t far, but they got good schools and we won’t get snapped awake by gunshots every damn night.
Troy: Oh, is that it? Just 23 hundred dollars, well here, I happen to have that in my pocket right now. Pshhh
Tracy: Oh shut your mouth. I already got six fifty saved and…
Troy: And where you gonna get 2 large? The devil? Why don’t you go on down to the liquor store—I think I saw him down there the other day. And pick me up some Canadian Club while you down there.
Tracy: No! I’m gonna make Aundray sell the Mustang. And you know you can’t have no alcohol, you old fool. You’ll kill ya’self.
Troy: Ha! Good luck! Aundray love that car more than anything in the whole world. He love it more than God.
Tracy: Now you stop talking like that—taking our Lord’s name in vain.
Troy: You know it’s true. And YOU love it too; Don’t bother pretending like you don’t. It’s about the only damn thing around here worth a raccoon’s shit.
Tracy: I never said I don’t like it. I said we got priorities, like the kids—not to mention there ain’t no Dialysis centers in Garfield Park—we need to get your broken-ass outta here too.
Troy: Don’t worry ‘bout my ass, just go down to the liquor store and talk to the devil about gettin’ your money and my whiskey, like I told you.
Tracy: Doctor Goldenberg said not to drink no alcohol. I ain’t got time to be taking old, stupid men to the hospital.
Troy: Ah shit. I ain’t scared of death! At least I wouldn’t be stuck in this chair, watchin’ this boring old show!
Tracy audibly exhales, puts down the shirt she’s folding, and walks over to the TV to change the channel. Just then, her children—Vanessa, lil D, and Tonee—get home from school.
Vanessa: Hey Mommy!
Tracy: Hey sweetie!
Tonee: What’s good mom? You got that 20 for school?
Tracy: I’m sorry baby; we can’t afford it this week. Ask your teacher if you can just go on the field trip and I’ll pay it later.
Troy: You just said you got 6-50 in the bank.
Tracy: Shut up, you old fool! That money is for something else. You know that!
Tonnee: Ma! What the fuck, I can’t go to school beggin’ again!
Tracy: Watch your mouth young man! Don’t make me smack some manners into you.
Tonnee: God! I hate this family! And I hate you, ma! Tonee runs to his room. Tracy watches him go, arms akimbo, with a firm face and clenched lips.
Vanessa: I don’t hate you mommy. I love you!
Tracy: Thank you sugar. I love you too, very much. {Tracy picks her up and kisses her head.} DeAundray, how was school today? Did you give miss Davis that letter I gave you to give her?
Lil D: Yes, momma
Tracy: Thank you, dear. {Tracy walks to the back of the room and pulls a plastic bag from her backpack} Guess what mommy got from work?!
Vanessa: a turtle!
Lil D: a puppy!
Troy: Hepatitis.
Tracy: No… All the ice-cream was out-of-date, so the manager said I could take ‘em home.
Lil D &Vanessa exclaim in excitement.
Troy: God, when you gonna quite that raggedy old convenience store? Get bossed around by a bunch of cheap Hindus! What a racket.
Tracy: Oh, hush! Mr. Patel is a very nice man. And he pays me enough to take care of your old black ass. So don’t be foul!
Vanessa: I want some ice-cream mommy. Can I have one? Vanessa tilts her head and designs her most pitifully adorable face.
Tracy: No sugar, you’re too sweet as it is and I don’t want you kids spoilin your dinner.
Lil D: Ahhh, mama! I won’t spoil my dinner! I’ll eat every bite, I promise. Even the plants!
Tracy: Yeeeaaah, right! You two finish every bite of dinner and THEN, I’ll give you some ice-cream.
Vanessa & lil D squeal in excitement.
Tracy goes back to folding laundry, while Vanessa and Lil D run out of the room. (Presumably to their bedroom). While Tracy greeted the kids, Troy fell asleep watching TV and is snoring. All is quiet; a soothing boredom cradles the moment. Soon, the peace is scattered by Aundray clumsily opening the front door, trying to use keys on an already unlocked door.
Aundray: Hey’ey! If it isn’t my beautiful wife!
Troy awakens with a gasp and turns the TV up, ignoring the ensuing discussion.
Tracy: Don’t you “Beautiful wife” me nothin’, Aundray. We ain’t married, and you’re drunk. Good Lord, I can smell it from here.
Aundray: I ain’t drunk! Cain’t I be happy to see my exquisite woman?!
Tracy: I ain’t your woman to own, Aundray. And where was you last night? Why you ain’t come home? I’d’ve been up worried sick all night, if I hadn’t done it too many times before to know better.
Aundray: C’mon. You’re the one who said you didn’t want me drinkin’ n drivin’ anymore. Me and the boys had a few and I didn’t want to drink and drive, so I spent the night at Donnie’s. Ain’t that what you said to do?
Tracy: I didn’t say to stay there till no damn 4 in the afternoon the next day! And y’all are too damn old to be boys. Y’all need to start ackin’ like men. You need to get a job, so we can get out of this place already.
Aundray: I will baby. You know how goddamn hard it is for a Black man to get a job wit a felony on his back.
Tracy: You wouldn’t of had a record at all if you wasn’t sellin’ drugs.
Aundray: If I wasn’t sellin drugs, I wouldn’t of had no money. I wouldn’t have had no car, no food. I wouldn’t uh had you! You know you never would’ve kicked it wit me if I wasn’t driving you around in the Mustang, takin’ you shopping and all that. So don’t get all high and mighty on me now. You weren’t singin’ that tune when I was givin’ you money to get yo hair done.
Tracy: Nigga, I wish you would give me money for rent, right now. That was years ago and I was too young and ignorant to know the difference between a wannabe player and a real man wit a real job.
Aundray: ughhh
Tracy: And that reminds me, we need to sell that wrachet ole Mustang so we can put the deposit on the duplex.
Aundray: Woman, you must be out of your mind! That’s my baby! I wouldn’t sell her if God himself came down and put a lightning bolt to my head.
Tracy: What about your real babies, Aundray? What about me? I thought I was your baby? C’mon Dre, you know we can’t have our kids growin’ up ‘round all this shit. Mr. Patel said he’d give me a raise at the end of the year. And out in the suburbs, there’s jobs. You could get a job out there, easy. Those white folk in the suburbs feel so guilty, they’ll hire you because you been to prison. Please, Aundray, ain’t nothing for us here. Now I need your help, Aundray. I need you to start takin some responsibility ‘round here.
Aundray: Ok. Fine! I’ll take some responsibility. I’m gonna go out and get a job right this instant! And I ain’t comin’ back till I got one! Aundray heads toward his jacket and puts it on.
Tracy: Nigga, you ain’t getting no job right now. You still drunk! Now get your black ass in the shower and get ready for dinner. It’s about time the kids got to have super with their father.
Aundray: Those kids don’t give a damn if I’m here or not. And DeAundray ain’t even mine. Just cause you named him after me don’t make him mine.
Tracy: Oh stop that nonsense and get the shower.
Aundray: No I’m serious! I’m gonna go out and get a job, right, now! And It’s gonna be better than yo job, so don’t bother axin’ me for no spendin’ money. Aundray leaves, still rambling angrily, and slams the door behind him. Tracy wants to cry, but holds it in and goes back to folding laundry.
Troy: Now why you gotta drive the boy away like that. You ain’t never gonna keep a man around, hounding him like that. You’re just like your mother.
Tracy: Oh, Please. Ma left You. Don’t pretend like she was the problem. If you wasn’t livin’ in a bottle, I wouldn’t have had to quit school to take her place takin’ care of you, and I could be a nurse by now, makin’ real money. So don’t you go blamin’ Ma for nothing!
Troy: I’m just sayin’, if you keep riding the boy’s back, it’s not gonna make him want to hang around here any more than he does.
Tracy: Well, I ain’t got no choice. I can’t keep bein’ the only one bringin’ a check anymore. And I ain’t gonna take the kids back to the shelter. I don’t know why he gotta be so selfish? We need the money. The kids need the money. If he’d just sell that ole stupid car and get a job, we’d be all-good, and wouldn’t have to worry about all this basic… stuff (mumbled).
Troy: You don’t understand. It ain’t just a car to the boy. It’s all he got! He ain’t got no job, and he’s right, with that record, he ain’t never gonna get one. He ain’t got no money…no home to call his own. A man’s gotta have his own home or he just don’t feel like a man. He don’t want to say he’s stayin in his woman’s house!
Tracy: He don’t need to say nothin’! He just needs to grow up and start pitchin’ in.
Troy: Ah, you wouldn’t understand… Women…
Tracy: Why don’t you watch your show and leave me to finish folding your laundry.
Troy waves his hand to declare his abandonment of the conversation and focuses on the TV. Things become quiet again as the lights slowly fade.


Tracy is sleeping in bed. Aundray enters the bedroom and slips into bed without turning on the lights.
Tracy: Dre? Is that you? {whispered}
Aundray: Yeah, baby. It’s me. How are you?
Tracy: Awake, now. You get a job?
Aundray: Nah. Ain’t no jobs out there for a strong Black man, specially an intelligent, powerful King like me.
Tracy: You lyin’; You was at the bar, you wasn’t lookin for no job.
Aundray: C’mon baby, can’t you let up for just 2 minutes?
Tracy: Aundray…I know I been hard on you lately, but that’s only because I’m trying to do right by our kids and I need your help. Don’t you wanna get out this trap? I’m not just being hard to be nasty. I want you to have a better life too—move somewhere you can actually get a job. You know I love you, Dre. That’s why it upsets me even more when I don’t see you helping me out here.
Aundray: I know, baby. I’m trying. I really am, I swear. It’s just depressing to go into interview after interview just to get rejected and told I ain’t good enough. Those fucking 20 year olds telling me I ain’t good enough to cook in a kitchen—I should be runnin’ those damn restaurants! I’m the only one who actually knows how to cook in this damn city. Then I get all stressed out and need a drink, and then the drinkin’ makes me think even harder on it, which makes me need another drink even more. It ain’t easy, baby. It ain’t.
Tracy: I know, sweetie. I know it ain’t. But that’s what I’m here for. I’ll do whatever you need. Can I sign you up for detox or an out-patient program? Alice told me about a place she went to get sobered up; she said it was real good, and inexpensive… Can I pour out the vodka you hide under the couch?
Aundray: No, no, no! I gotta do it myself! I don’t need no doctors or babysitters. Only person can get me sober is myself. I need to just buckle down and bite the bullet.
Tracy: But that hasn’t been workin’, baby. We need to get you help, and we will. Whatever it takes.
Aundray: God, I wish shit could just be simple again…I wish I could just grab a beer and chill sometimes, like you can, without getting all fucked up inside. All this kids-shit and house-shit, is just stressin’ me! It’s too much for me. I just wanna relax and chill and not give a fuck, like I used to.
Tracy: I know, Dre. It’s not fair. It’s not fair how you are and where we are and always being broke for no good reason, but it is what it is. We can’t keep pretending or crying about what is—we have to do the best we can with what we got. And at least we got each other, and three beautiful, sweet kids, and a crotchety old man to take care of and criticize everything we do. They both laugh.
Aundray: You right, baby. We ain’t kids no more, and getting so old isn’t all fun, but it’s better than the alternative… Remember when we first met?… I was drivin’ the Mustang down Pulaski, minding my own business, thinkin’ it was just another day, when I happened by the most gorgeous, stunning, perfect Angel in the whole world…
Tracy: Oh stop lying, you just thought you were big pimpin’. You thought I was just another little girl you could pick up with your ugly ass orange car.
Aundray: I was right, wasn’t I?! Here we are…
Tracy: whatever…
They continue to relive the story of how they met. It is clearly a story they have indulged in many times and a tradition they relish in.
Aundray: I said, “Hey sweet thang, it’s too hot for a pretty little thing like you to be walkin’ and getting those clothes all sweaty and stinky.”
Tracy: And I told you to get lost!
Aundray: But I wasn’t gonna give up on the woman of my dreams that easy…
Tracy: Please…
Aundray: I told you, “I’m serious girl. I’ll give you a ride. No need to torture yourself on a hot day like this. You know, I saw a dog chasin’ a cat a minute ago… they were both walkin. C’mon, I won’t hurt ya. I just want to talk to you—get to know ya.” And sure enough, you hopped in.
Tracy: Reluctantly. I still wasn’t sure you wasn’t crazy.
Aundray: You were impressed though—like you’d never been in a car before, least not a real man’s car.
Tracy: My god, I can still remember… you took me on Lake Shore Drive, Speeding like a maniac, scarin’ me half to death. We were flyin’ so fast, I felt like I was drunk. The city lights were rushing past in streaks. And I know what you were doin’… I was so scared, I didn’t notice you slippin’ your arm around my shoulder. I have to admit though; it did feel exciting to be cruising at the speed of light, like nothing could hold me back, like I had a ticket to anywhere… And though I was scared that you were out of your damn mind, it felt good to have your arm around me, like you got me. Something about that fast, powerful car, made me feel like… real, or something—like I could be someone.
Aundray: That’s right, I took you for a ride you’d never forget! And I knew you were mine forever… I love you, baby.
Tracy: I love you too, Dre. Even though you been actin’ like a fool since the day we met.
Aundray: I know, baby. I’m sorry I am the way I am. I’m really gonna change this time, I promise. I’m gonna stop drinkin’. I’m gonna get a job tomorrow, I don’t care if I have to be the fry guy at McDonald’s or clean shit from toilets, I’m gonna start contributing to the bills if it kills me.
Tracy: That sounds wonderful, Aundray, but you always say that. How can I have faith that you’re serious this time?
Aundray: I am serious baby. Tomorrow morning, I’m gonna put a sale sign on the Mustang and put it on Craigslist. I should be able to get at least 3, 4 thousand. Then we can get that place in Des Plaines you been talkin’ ‘bout. I swear, we really gonna do it this time, no matter what!
Tracy: Ah, Dre, you best not be playin’ wit me. This is really important to me and I don’t want you messin’ wit my emotions.
Aundray: Nah, baby. I swear on my life. We gone get it together. If I don’t have that car sold by tomorrow night, you can kick my ass to the curb and never talk to me again.
Tracy: That’s not what I want. I want you to be with us, bein’ a part of the family.
Aundray: I know, baby. I know… Aundray spoons Tracy and they fall asleep.

Scene III
As the whole family sleeps soundly, perhaps too soundly, there is a commotion in the neighborhood. It is 3:00 am when the tranquility of dreams is interrupted by a car-alarm. The alarm is coming from directly in front of the house and immediately awakens Tracy and Aundray.
Tracy: Dre! What is that?
Aundray: Oh shit, I think it’s the car! Aundray walks to the window to see what’s going on. The kids all run into the bedroom, scared.
Vanessa: Mommy, What’s going on?
Tracy: It’s ok, darling. Nothing—it’s fine.
Aundray: Trace, call the police, quick!
Tracy calls the police, while Aundray goes to the closet to grab a metal baseball bat. The alarm isn’t deterring the burglars from trying to get into the car.
Tracy: Hello? Yes. Someone is trying to steal our car. Yes. 4412 West Monroe.
Lil D: Ma, where’s Dad going?
Tracy: Never mind, darling. Everything’s fine. Tracy is apparently reassuring herself more than Lil D. Tonnee follows his father to the front door.
Aundray: Hey! Back the fuck up from my car! I’m finna knock your heads off!
Aundray and the two burglars face each other in a stand off, ready to fight for the car. One burglar rushes in as Aundray swings and misses. The other burglar grabs the wiffed bat and begins a tug-o-war with Aundray, when police sirens sound and the burglars run off. Tracy is now at the front door, where she puts her hands on Tonee’s shoulders as if to say ‘It’s alright. It’s over now.’ Vanessa and Lil D are cowering behind Tracy. Aundray inspects the car for any damages. As he opens the driver’s door, the police arrive.
Police officer 1: Police! Step away from the car! Now!
Police officer 2: Move it! Move it!
Aundray steps back with his hands in the air.
Tracy: What are you doing?! He’s not the robber! That’s our car!
Police officer 2: Shut the Fuck up! You, get on the ground! Now!
Aundray lays facedown on the cement with his hands spread out, as if making a snow-angel. The police officers approach Aundray with handcuffs ready.
Police: Put your hands behind your head! Slowly!
Aundray: Please, that’s my car, officer. I was just checking it for damages.
Police officer 1: Didn’t we tell you to shut the fuck up! I don’t want to hear one more word out of either of you!
Police officer 2 begins to cuff Aundray as Tracy approaches to intercede.
Tracy: What the hell are you doing?! We are the ones that called the cops! That’s our car! Get your hands off of him!
It is a very quiet night—a quite black night. The moon throws just enough light on the neighborhood to transmute most of it to shadows. There is no breeze and the air is so fresh and crisp that the explosion can be heard from miles away, when Tracy pushes the police officer off of Aundray and the other officer fires his 9mm directly into Tracy’s chest. One shot, two shots. Three shots and a barrage that seemed to never end, throwing the entire neighborhood, frightening its dogs and deafening Vanessa, Lil D, and Tonnee. The officer shot 16 bullets into Tracy. She was dead after the first. The family screams and hollers and all rush to hold Tracy’s dead body.
Vanessa: Mommy, mommy! Mommy!
Aundray: Baby! No! It’s ok, baby. You’re gonna be fine, baby doll. You’re gonna be fine.
Tonnee: Mama?! No, no, no, no, mama.
Police officer 1: Step back! Move away from the body!
Tonnee: That body is my mother! You mother fucking Pig!
Vanessa runs over to the police officer that shot her mother and starts punching his leg. The officer points his gun at the 6 year old, then thinks better of it and holsters his gun. Troy appears in the doorway and stares stoically. A few tears escape his eyes, though his face remains hard and still as he’s paralyzed by the sight of his daughter’s inside-out bulk. All the children continue to whale and cry by Tracy’s silhouette. The cops huddle in the background.
Aundray: Knowing better than to move from his face-down surrender, he continues to lay spread-eagle and yells across the crime scene to Tracy, It’s ok, baby! You’re gonna be fine! Don’t worry, baby. Let’s go for a ride! Let’s you and me and the kids hop in the car and drive down Lake Shore Drive at 100 miles an hour! It’s a beautiful night for a ride…We can go anywhere—anywhere in the world you want, baby… Let’s drive to that house in Des Plaines you been talking about! I bet it’s beautiful…C’mon baby, I’m sorry. I know I been a pain in the ass but, but I’m gonna be good now, I promise! C’mon, Trace! Please!!! You’re alright, baby. You’re alright. You’re alright, Trace! You’re alright…baby, you’re alright…

Featured post

#Love First

I asked a good friend on his deathbed, if there was anything I could do for him? He said. “Yes, let yourself love, unconditionally, without fear, as deeply as you can bare it. I wasted my whole life chasing money, and fun, and status, and if I could give all of that up right now to have one more day, to love my family properly, love (my wife) Sara without qualification or condition, to remember my neighbor’s name and care what his kids are up to, I would in a second. I was a shitty person—and not cause I was violent, or mean, or a jerk—but because I thought the people in my life were disposable, and I only used them when I saw benefit in it. I didn’t wake up every morning thanking God that I may have one more time to see a friend, look them in the eye, and genuinely open myself fully for their sake. Nothing I ever won, or bought, or took gives me any solace in this moment. The only things that provide me comfort now are the tiny memories of when I truly gave of myself all I could for others, and when I received such love—and since those moments were so brief and few, I have little of that comfort now.”
Death is scary, not just for me, knowing I’ll never see my friend again, but he was clearly scared—that he was leaving behind unfinished business, that he hadn’t given those he cared for most, all that he should have. I assured him that we would be alright, and hat he should not feel guilty for leaving. I wasn’t there at the moment of death, but I only hope that it was on as good of terms as a permanent goodbye can be.
I imagined how devastating a breakup can be—saying goodbye to someone you loved so much, no matter what the reason. And then imagined having to break up with every person in the world at the same time—your mother, and father, and children, and husband or wife, and every friend, every person you wanted to say sorry to, but didn’t have the time, everyone you meant to tell how proud you were of them, but forgot to. It must be a heartbreak I can’t come close to imagining. But if all that heartbreak was upon him and he only wished for one thing—to give even more of his heart, to be even more vulnerable, and risk even more of his love—then I have to believe him that selfless, unconditional love is the only thing we can bring with us everywhere we go, even death. And not lustful love, or romantic excitement of a new relationship. Not the half-assed love of a family member we know little about or only call during Christmas. Not the easy love, or fun love, but the love that lets the people you care about know—they are never alone, no matter how dismal things may be. We are all fighting painful wars in our lives, each and every one of us. The person you passed on the street this morning just found out her daughter died of a heroin overdose. Your coworker is in the middle of a violent divorce. Your friend just got cancer but hasn’t told anyone yet cause they are still in denial. Your partner can’t figure out how to open to you fully cause of deep-seated fears and pain and shame that have nothing to do with you. But when we muster the courage to let the vast rush of love swallow us whole and flow through us, we can touch those we care for in ways that touch back and light both souls up with the undeniable light of God. And when we lay in our own last bed, we will not regret the difficult times we labored to give another our love when they needed it, nor will we wish we had saved our love in a jar for later, nor will we leave behind an unfinished legacy we had begun with yearning—but a beautiful story that we told with love and ended with peace.
yuka yamaguchi

Featured post

Oversharing on Facebook 

A friend recently told me that I overshare on fb. While I don’t think it’s healthy to pretend we live perfect lives, I suppose I do go past balance into Oversharing. That’s just a personal decision I’ve made, to let my freak flag fly, just in case someone is dealing with something that they don’t think anyone they know would understand. I have sacrificed some privacy, but so many people have DM ed me in desperation, confusion, shame, suicidal, etc., that I know I’ve made the right choice (for me. I’m also a social worker so I don’t expect everyone to make that decision and self-care is most important when thinking of taking on other people’s difficulties). I have had people who are suicidal, who I don’t even know (a friend of a friend) reach out, and we still text to this day. And though I can’t solve anyone else’s problems, I know from experience, just feeling comfortable telling 1 person is a great start. I’ve had MANY suicidal people reach out for help. And that’s only because I overshared some of my more difficult personal experiences.

So y’all are right, I do overshare, but with purpose. And I don’t mind if normal people think I’m crazy–as long as crazy people think I’m normal😉

Black Panther Cries Too

Everybody talking about how nice it is to see #BlackPanther and friends shown so strong. What about how nice it was to see them so VULNERABLE?! Every Male main character in this movie cried–not for comedic relief–but because they were compassionate, and hurt, and sad, and strong, and loving, and real. Kilmonger cried. (great sentence btw). T’challa/Black Panther cried. T’chaka/BP’s Dad cried. Kilmonger’s dad cried. Forest Whitaker’s character cried. Perhaps more (I don’t have access to a DVD, it just came out!). Of all the myths and expectations #marvel ‘s Black Panther has scratched out–that a superhero flick can’t be a Vibranium spear through hyper-masculinity and toxic-masculinity, is certainly one I’m glad to see Wa-Gone-da!

Just read this post, it’s for EVERYONE. lol

I’ve heard that younger people tend to be more idealistic and cynical than older people. I have no idea what the numbers are, but my personal experience has been that when I was younger I couldn’t imagine that things were ever going to change–cause I had never known anything different. I was very impatient and confused why people were casually walking about like the world wasn’t on fire?
Well, the world is still on fire, unfortunately, but so many more people are aware of it than 20 years ago, when I started doing activism stuff, it’s unbelievable sometimes. If you would have asked a waiter which options are vegan, they would have asked you “what’s vegan?”. If you would have asked someone which pronouns you should use, they would have thought you were illiterate. If you would have told a date that you are an intersectional feminist, they would have thought you only believe in inequality while crossing the street! I’m being facetious, but seriously if you talk to teenagers today, they will blow your mind! How brilliant and advanced so many of them are! Obviously, we have a super duper long way to go, but we are on that yellow brick road. And there are flying monkey’s, and wicked witches and poppy fields on that road, but there are also friends, and learning experiences, and growth on that road. Ive been around long enough now, that I’ve seen the world change. I’ve seen institutions change, and seen acquaintances change. I’ve seen myself change and culture change. It’s more than possible, it’s inevitable.

The Chicago Bean

The Chicago Bean

is the most famous mirror in the world.
Legions cross continents to lay by the legendary legume.
Ancient peoples and future generations gather in swarms
to gaze adoringly at themselves

anew in the looking glass.

A German family concludes the funky solipsistic Hajj
to take a selfie with the talking mirror—
Incident light               Touches a face
Then a camera
Then a screen
Then a retina
Back to the screen, to the bean, to the city and again
Spiraling their lives in infinite regress.

As we gaze into the overflowing abyss
Do we see ourselves
or the camera?
Is this scene real or a movie?

From the west, Chicago grooms its skyline in the reflection.
From the east the rising sun peaks over Lake Michigan to beam the great bean,
becoming 3rd eye

From the Omphalos of the city, Kapoor dehisces the towering granite

steel shell of civilization

offering the fruit.

This invisible warp deconstructs Chicago’s Ego
As if all of reality lay on the chase

@ Escher & Freud

This Master of Painters reveals us.
This master of builders welds the earth to the sky,
pulls clouds down
to the center of our city
a zoo of the heavens.

This inverted kaleidoscope
Multiplying Chicago’s answers
To our most urgent questions
freshly reflected through fossilized fingerprints—
merely one square on the disco ball of earth
reflecting back the light
Of our dreams into outer space.

Is this Snow White’s Magic Mirror?
Revealing the unrivaled beauty of the Gold Coast


The two-way mirror
Behind which
Candyman waits?
–to give us a tour of the Wild 100s, Englewood, and Garfield Park.

From above, the bouldering testicular alien exhales the Avenues and bullets
While underneath, she inhales the lake effect, holding whatever may enter.

From the Omphalos of our imagination, Anish dehisces our selfness
Offering our soul.

Is the bean ready?
Is it generous?
Does it want us?
Is this jewel-in-the-eye merely an ornament of opulence or
Is this Gate of Clouds a reflection of God?

Turning space into sheets of time,

                    Time to silage

List/Challenge (diary of an unemployed dude [rough draft])

When, you have no income, it’s not just about finding a career. You also have to avoid spending money and find the little ways to get by without a paycheck. Here are some creative ideas I did and you can too!!!

  1. Suggest a Mexican restaurant, then tell your friends “I’m not really hungry, I had a huge lunch” when it’s time to order. Proceed to annihilate three basket of chips with salsa before smoking the “short” from your friend’s cigarette.
  2. Tell your friend that you miss them and would love to cook them dinner and catch up. Ask if they have ingredients for a pasta dish, which everyone does, and proceed to cook them and your self a filling carb fest that will fuel your non-working-ass lifestyle for days.
  3. Go to the library! Not only do they have tons of good books for smart people, they’ve got plenty of dross for the rest of us, too! My last three library items were MAGIC Mike XXL, Pitch Perfect, and origami for dummies. Go rent Orange is the New Black–just cause you don’t have food doesn’t mean you can’t binge on “The Kitchen”.
  4. When out at a bar with friends, tell everyone that you’re “very picky about beer” and taste everyone’s beer until you catch a buzz, then say, “I guess I’m just not feelin’ their selection”. When your friend responds, but you always drink PBR–It’s your favorite beer.”, just say, “Meh, I guess I just grew out of it. I’m developing a more refined palate.” When your friend points out that you just ate three packets of ketchup, just say you have a phosphorus deficiency.
  5. Take a few sugar packets from McDonald’s and a few crackers from Wendy’s, and shake them up with some creamer from Starbucks for a well balanced breakfast shake. I think that’s what Ensure is made of anyway.
  6. Move to Chicago. World class museums, music festivals, mega library, yoga in the park–All free!! Just don’t move in December, if you want to survive. Winter’s Coming!
  7. Get on a bus and tell the bus driver, “I forgot my wallet”. The bus driver will kick you off at the next stop. When she does, get on the next bus and repeat step one. You will eventually get to your destination, one stop at a time, with the side benefit of meeting a bunch of interesting, cool bus drivers!
  8. Be Awesome! I find that most people don’t much mind hanging out with a bum, if said bum is awesome.
  9. Go to events with suggested-donation entrance fees. They’re just suggestions…
  10. Use the money you made donating plasma to buy a six-pack of beer—you can return the bottles for nickels! That’s money in your pocket!
  11. Don’t self medicate with shopping! It’s so easy to buy delicious food or a tasty craft beer, just cause you’re bored, not hungry. Maybe you like to buy beautiful new clothes when you’re sad or a cup of joe from Starbucks when you get writer’s block. There are myriad stores I would frequent, in person or online, to distract myself from the excruciating pain of existence. I self medicated myself into bankruptcy going out every night for dinner and drinks, buying vinyl and books I never read, fashionable suits and shoes. I never knew what I truly couldn’t live without until I had no choice but to choose. When I was making $50,000 a year I was living paycheck to paycheck and felt more broke than I do now, unemployed, no savings account, making and spending about $20-$40 a week, depending on which little jobs I pick up. I am very blessed to have an amazing, loving family who I am living with and eating with, so you can factor those expenses in however you want, but I haven’t bought anything other than food in the past four months, a third of a year—no clothes, no books or movies (The Chicago public library has literally every book and movie and music I’ve ever looked for). The inability to buy alcohol, take woman on dates, shop for relief, distraction, has forced me to sit with my demons face to face, no escaping, and I honestly don’t know if I’d still be alive if I hadn’t. Some of the most beautiful sights in the world are in your imagination. Some of the most moving and heartbreaking dramas unfold solely in your mind. It isn’t easy to just be—sit in a park without entertainment or distraction. No food, no magazine, no phone– with nowhere to go but inward. But if you can, and you survive, I promise you will be stronger, wiser, and happier, for the highest, most treacherous mountain in the world is that of your own mind. I challenge you to go three days without buying anything—eat every last can of beans in your cupboard, ride your bike to work, live without caffeine. What is the hardest thing to not spend money on? How easy or hard is it? Can you keep going for a full week? Keep your wallet at home and see what it’s like to rely on the kindness of strangers and friends, how it feels to ask for help. It’s not just about saving money, but saving intention.


CHALLENGE: Don’t buy ANYTHING for three days

Comment below: Was going even 1 day harder than you imagined? Were you able to complete the three days? how did it feel?


Often, when things come to an end, we see them as failures—especially a marriage, a job, a friendship, college if we don’t graduate. But all things change, which means all things end, at least as we know them. And while those endings may carry the stench of sulfur and the weight of death, we can only loose the beauty of those brief adventures if we choose to. Maybe your marriage is ending because your spouse helped you become the person you always wanted to be, and now you are ready to move in a more specific direction—not better or worse. Maybe you got laid-off because it’s time for you to start a hardwood flooring business of your own, be your own boss. Maybe you couldn’t afford to finish college, but you learned what your true calling was while exploring yourself. Of course, not every ending leaves you with so much, but they rarely leave you with nothing, either. We don’t hate a great movie or book because it ends. Nor should we think we have failed, simply because we’ve completed a story in our lives.
For everyone reading this, whether an old college friend or an ex lover— though I may not see you, or speak with you, or sing with you like we used to, doesn’t mean the time wasn’t invaluable and cherished. I will always love you. That’s one thing that will not end.

#IveBeenThatGuy (after #metoo )

 [please share/reblog/#/etc]

In light of the current #meToo movement (and previously #yesallwomen), many amazing friends and survivors have reminded me that, while pointing out how shamefully prevalent sexism, sexual harassment, and sexual assault are, is terribly important, maybe survivors shouldn’t feel obligated to relive their trauma? Shouldn’t us men feel MORE obligated to take responsibility? The fact is, as both the beneficiaries of privilege and the vast, vast majority of the time—the perpetrators of rape culture—MEN MUST TAKE RESPONSIBILITY. We must bear the burden of the work if the problem will ever be fixed. Helping those heal who have been hurt is terribly important—the only thing that would be even better is if we stop patriarchy, sexual harassment, and sexual assault from happening in the first place—and that can only happen when those of us who are most responsible challenge ourselves to take responsibility.
So I would genuinely Love it if any and everyone who feels comfortable admitting that they have EVER been “that guy”, would share #iveBeenThatGuy
It doesn’t mean you are a predator and it doesn’t mean you are a bad person. It doesn’t mean you haven’t grown and changed since the last time you were “that guy”. It doesn’t even mean you acted out of malice or bad intentions—we live in an all pervasive culture that seeps into our minds and habits, which often makes us support systems of injustice, even when we don’t intend to. And that is really the point: patriarchy, sexism, heterosexism, etc., are not problems because a few bad apples hate all women and think rape is their right—rape culture is still a problem because it’s so pervasive, so insidious, so ingrained that it’s a part of ALL of our lives. Men who work in domestic violence shelters have objectified women, including myself. The best, most kind, woke men in the world have used misogynistic and homophobic language at some point in their lives. Men with strong values have sexually assaulted because they did not know what sexual assault really is, cause our culture teaches that many forms of sexual assault are just “boys being boys”.
The problem is not that women/trans/queer folk are assaulted. The problem is that Men keep assaulting. Of course anybody can be a perpetrator and anyone can be a survivor/victim. But the point of this post and hashtag is to address the specific problem of problematic masculinity that uses privilege and power to make cis-straight-men, not only feel entitled, but Obligated to take advantage of that power and privilege to dominate anyone who is not a heterosexual cis-male. If your friend, brother, boyfriend, father etc. may not be super down with this entire article, maybe copy and paste the middle. Because, while some may get defensive (and understandably so—after all the men I’d like to jump on board are not the monsters who we already know are shit, but all those good guys who have at some point been caught up in the momentum of culture), I think any any honest man can admit that they have at least 1 time in their life, treated a women in a way they wouldn’t want a stranger to treat their daughter.
And let’s not forget that ending problematic masculinity helps us men too; While the overwhelming majority of violence and dehumanization of women is perpetrated by men, the vast majority of violence and dehumanization of Men is also perpetrated by other men.
Let’s also pair our honesty with action:
Step 1: share #ivebeenthatguy
step 2: Share a specific instance of when you have been guilty. Perhaps the time you most regret, if you feel safe and comfortable doing so publicly.
step 3:When you see your friend post #ivebeenthatguy and STILL act/talk disrespectfully,  call them out and point out that pretending to be woke for the Facebook likes, and not backing it up with real world change, is lying and wont be ignored.
 step 4: Encourage the men in your life to share; it doesn’t mean they are bad people, it just means that, unfortunately, if we are honest, at some point in our lives (maybe years ago) we have ALL treated a women in a way we wouldn’t want a stranger to treat our daughters.
 Let’s stop treating Only symptoms. Lets treat the actual cause. Let’s start by admitting that just as pervasive as survivors of rape-culture, are us perpetrators, who, even if we are not aware or didn’t intend to, have participated, and therefore it is OUR responsibility to raise awareness of our own part in the problem.


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