Category Archives: Personal Narrative

Me, Albee and the Butterfly Effect: Scholars & Rogues Honors

An icon of the American theatre, Edward Albee, died this week. Scholars & Rogues honors him and notes the small ways that the influence of great artists can affect our lives for years to come.

The Zoo Story by Edward Albee, New Theatre Company, The Factory Theatre, Boston, 2/23/12-3/4/12
The Zoo Story by Edward Albee, New Theatre Company, The Factory Theatre, Boston, 2/23/12-3/4/12

We read The Zoo Story in one of my classes at Wake Forest – maybe freshman or sophomore year. I absolutely loved it. I think Jerry spoke to my teenage sense of who I was and what I didn’t want to be, and this dynamic was reinforced by the culture of the university. Wake was conservative and elite. I was conservative, but working class. Many of my fellow students were preparing themselves for sensible, practical, conventional lives. I wanted to be a poet. So while I don’t believe I necessarily understood that tension then the way I do now, I felt an immediacy in Peter and Jerry’s confrontation that, truth be told, still resonates for me today.  Continue reading Me, Albee and the Butterfly Effect: Scholars & Rogues Honors

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I'm not ready to make nice: an open letter to my condescending pro-Clinton friends

Hillary ClintonA number of people who are supposed to be friends have crossed a line and I don’t know if there’s a way back.

In recent months I have been called an idiot.

I’ve been called silly.

I’ve been called a child.

I’ve been called privileged.

I have also been called a sexist and a misogynist.

Not by Republicans, or trolls or anonymous blog commenters, though. No, I have been called these things by people whom I considered to be friends. Plural. As in, several people, some of whom might be reading this.

This isn’t all of it, either. In more Facebook shares and comments and stray tweets than I can readily recall I have had my intelligence, my character, my good faith, my commitment to my country and my family and my community questioned, often in pointed and patently insulting terms.

I’ve held my tongue for the most part, but the time has come to make something clear to those among you who have chosen the path of condescension: you have damaged our friendship badly, perhaps irreparably. Continue reading I'm not ready to make nice: an open letter to my condescending pro-Clinton friends

Of courier bags and man-purses: women have been right all along

I don’t care if you stuff your pockets until it looks like you’re smuggling carburetors. If you’re too macho to carry a bag, that’s your issue.

Timbuk2 Courier Bag

I can imagine how the conversation would go. My father is still alive and it’s Thanksgiving. We’re having dinner at his place. I walk in, say hello to everyone, and he draws a bead on my latest purchase.

“Nice purse,” he says. Continue reading Of courier bags and man-purses: women have been right all along

Muhammad Ali: The Champ for racial equality and social justice

Not everybody loved The Greatest: what Muhammad Ali meant to one racist Southern kid

That was always the difference between Muhammad Ali and the rest of us. He came, he saw, and if he didn’t entirely conquer – he came as close as anybody we are likely to see in the lifetime of this doomed generation. – Hunter S. Thompson

I grew up in the ’60s and ’70 in a rural Southern culture that was stereotypically:

  • racist
  • segregationist
  • sexist
  • homophobic
  • nationalistic
  • jingoistic

And, of course,

  • conservative Christian

As a kid, all you know is what you’re taught. Continue reading Muhammad Ali: The Champ for racial equality and social justice

Cerebellar ataxia and me: trying to live while the brain is dying

Spinocerebellar ataxia sucks the joy out of another day…

As I have mentioned before, I have a degenerative brain condition. It’s called spinocerebellar ataxia, and is essentially an atrophying of the portion of the brain that coordinates and regulates muscular activity. If you read the details at NIH you’ll probably understand pretty quickly just how nasty it really is. It has taken away a lot of what I love in life and is, for now, uncurable. For the most part, there is also no treatment for the symptoms.

My doctors at the University of Colorado Health Center are some of the best in the business, and we have had frank conversations about what this disease means for me. Continue reading Cerebellar ataxia and me: trying to live while the brain is dying

My Memoir: Dodgeball

It was the greatest moment of my life.

I attended a high school in rural North Carolina that was probably typical of rural high schools in every way, up to and including the sadistic coach/science teacher archetype. At our school it was Coach Kelly. He ran the wrestling program, was an assistant football coach, and, of course, an educator specializing in the lower division sciences. Side note: my high school has never produced a Nobel winner.

Anyhow, it was either my freshman or sophomore year and I had Mr. Kelly for PE. One day, when it was either too wet or too cold to go outside, the activity was Dodgeball. Continue reading My Memoir: Dodgeball

My Memoir: ice cream

Sam-Smith-MemoirWhen I was a kid my grandparents and I would sit on the couch and watch television in the evenings. We had all kinds of favorites. Beverly HillbilliesAndy GriffithAll in the FamilyHee-Haw, Happy DaysThe Brady BunchThe Rockford FilesThe Partridge FamilyLaverne & Shirley, you name it. Those were great times, even though we only had black and white. And over the air, so usually rabbit ears with enough tin foil hanging off them to wrap a decade’s worth of Thanksgiving leftovers.

Anyway, every once in awhile Grandmother would look over at me and say, “do you want some ice cream?” Continue reading My Memoir: ice cream

My memoir: Sam vs Peaches

I’m the Forrest Gump of apples.

My favorite desserts often involve apples. Apple pie, apple cobbler, apple crisp, apple tarts, baked apples, apple dumplings, stewed apples, apple danish, apple butter, apple kugel, applesauce, apple cake, apple cookies – especially those soft Archways… [sigh] I’m sort of the Forrest Gump of apples.

But my childhood was a frustrating one. My grandmother (I lived with my grandparents) was a great baker, and her pies and cobblers were delicious. Obviously I wanted apple pie and apple cobbler. Like, every meal.

But I had a problem: my grandfather preferred peaches. Continue reading My memoir: Sam vs Peaches

Love song: an open letter to Space Team Electra

They don’t even know what it is to be a fan. Y’know? To truly love some silly little piece of music, or some band, so much that it hurts. – Sapphire, Almost Famous

Photo by Heather Ramey
Photo by Heather Ramey

My Last.FM profile says I have played Space Team Electra tracks 1,093 times. But that’s misleading. For starters, Last.FM didn’t launch until three years after the band broke up. So that’s nearly a decade of playing The Vortex FlowerThe Intergalactic Torch SongKill Apollo and Space Apple Deluxe to death. That number doesn’t include the 30-35 times I saw them live. It doesn’t count all the miles I have logged listening to the CDs on the road. And it doesn’t reflect the times I have been listening on my computer but, for some reason, the scrobbler was turned off.

Gun to my head guess? Continue reading Love song: an open letter to Space Team Electra