Autumn’s Bounce

3 11 2017

Biscayne Bay NP

The cool breezes have arrived at long last in the southern reaches of the United States.

Battered by hurricanes, Floridians are picking up the pieces of a life that seems to consist of at least one dangerous weather pattern a year. The Governor is well versed in crisis management. The Winter White House must be protected, after all.

And at any cost.

Looking inward, a self assessment seems in order. Why is America here? Who decided it would be such a great thing to settle 20 million people in a swamp?

If there are advantages to such stressed living conditons it must be an enduring ecosystem immune to certain invasive species. People do want to come here — for a variety of reasons. I’d prefer to push into South America and learn why that is.

Meanwhile, David says to trust God. He does his morning yoga poses and goes off into the community eager to serve. Working two jobs at the age of 70 while volunteering countless hours to the democratic party. He continually amazes me and I am eternally grateful for him coming into my life — and staying.

I am giving more time to friends who care about our shared health and well being and less to those who do not. That should be automatic but is much harder to practice in reality. I do not think I can make a difference, I know I can. Thus comes responsible action and deeper understanding.

Ah maturity.

Having recently celebrated my 45th birthday, I am aware of how satisfied I should be at this stage of life.

“You are still here,” our couples’ therapist said to me.

Yes, I am still here and it is quite remarkable considering all of the adventures. Coming to South Florida was an assignment in learing how to rebuild and make a way beyond familiar ground. I have learned a great deal about politics, the environment, minority communities, recovery, celebrity culture and the list goes on. I am beginning to learn what marriage means. Raising children is next.

I am by no means broken but very aware that no one goes through life unblemished. The perfect image Americans insist their leaders have was destroyed during the last presidential election. In the world of geeks, it’s Kingpins over Spidermen. Superman is truly a myth and the Jedi have been driven into exile.

Spooks own the hour now. The news still carries at least one mass terrorist attack story a week. But we forget about it after a few weeks and the dead become linked to a city or a school or a nightclub. It will depress you if you let it.

I choose not to. I am also choosing my media, information and entertainment outlets very carefully.

It has been a tough year. For a lot of us. I am thankful the holiday season is approaching and I can decorate the apartment. Maturity brings awareness of how precious life is. Now is the time to cherish our loves.

 

 

 

 

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Thorough Clean-sing

11 08 2017

Osceola slept here.

Cristina asked that we all give up an addiction. She said we should grab a twig and toss it into the fire to symbolize the release of this addiction.

Moving around was quite challenging. The medicine was taking effect. I grabbed a branch and tossed it in. Carlos followed and did the same. Geraldo grabbed a whole stack and tossed it on the fire. The smoke funnelled up through the trees and Cristina began to sing again.

Some of the words I could make out. “Barricuda” “Santa Maria” and “Doma” I remember. I probably should not reveal too much as this was an exclusive gathering. Geraldo was pleased. He told Cristina he wished he had brought more of his family with him. There were times when I could not help but stare at him in silence. It was a display of respect.

Listening to the night and nature was fascinating. Cristina, with tears in her eyes, remarked how great it was to be moonbathing.

My bones began to crack like the flames shooting from our campfire as we each took turns drinking the Ayahuasca. Standing up and grabbing the branch to toss in was not easy. The terrain was rough. Although this area was populated by large neatly maintained farms, we were in “the woods.” During the ceremony some of the horses came near. In the dark I could only hear their musking noises — a sort of sneezing sound.

I sang some too.

Mostly humming to what reminded me of the Seminole war chant. My father took us to many Florida State University football games when we were young. Carlos seemed to know the chant too. If you know the legend of Chief Osceloa it helps. The brave native has become a recognizable symbol for the Tallahassee headquartered school.

I also had a tearful moment singing the biblical hymn, “When You Believe,” from The Prince of Egypt. The tears were more of a joyful confession than one of true sadness or sorrow. We were to let it all out, Geraldo had said. Release the past into the air.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, Cristiana asked that we all embrace each other. She hugged me tight and gave me a kiss on the cheek. Carlos was warm as well.

“Come here,” he said as he pulled me in for a hug.

Cristiana then directed Geraldo and I to hug each other and we did and it was like the kind brothers give after making up from a fight. Quick, back slaps and all.

As the full moon continued to rise I found myself tranqulized by its beauty and that of the southern sky. I would have preferred to sleep outside by the fire but the bugs were too much. The next day Geraldo and I drove back to Miami. We were happy and inspired and listened to music and laughed all the way home.

The past was gone. A new day had dawned. It was good to be alive.

“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.” — Ernest Hemingway.

 

 

 





Ocala Can You Hear Me?

10 07 2017

OcalaFarm

In search of healing we were introduced to Ayahuasca by a Brazilian shaman. Geraldo arranged it. We drove north into horse country to find it.

I was surprised to get the last minute invitation. It came via a text late Friday night after I had deactivated my Facebook and realized I had no clue where my next paycheck would come from. Before I could wallow in self pity Geraldo rode to the rescue.

His best friend from South America was here.

Cristina was her name. She was powerful and wise. A mother of two children. Girlfriend to Carlos. Healer of many.

Before Geraldo and I found Cristina’s campground we drove through the rolling hillside farm country. Some of the farms were quite immaculate with freshly cut lawns and thoroughbred horses grazing the fields. The oak trees in this part of the country were large with thick clumps of moss hanging from their branches. They were an oasis for cattle herds from the sun’s mighty rays.

Geraldo had been in Ecuador. He was a heavy man now. He said our trek into the North Florida farmlands would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. He described it as an circle of healing — spiritual not sexual. That was good enough for me.

David gave his blessing and we left Pompano Beach in a brand new volkeswagen jetta. Early July and the heat in full effect. We made good time on the turnpike pushing into Ocala around the four-hour mark.

“You’re going to drink with us, John?” she asked as we approached the campfire.

“Yes,” I said.

Geraldo warned it could get ugly. Vomiting, diarreha of the worst. He advised I fast the night before and refrain from drugs and eating meat. This was a cleasening, he said…to decide who I wanted to be and to release the demons of the past.

Cristina helped with that. She wore a yellow feather in her hair. At the ceremony she dressed in a beautifully beaded long red dress. Carlos was ever at her side. He was standoffish at first but when we spoke was assured the cleansing from this Amazon vine was what we all needed.

Carlos, Geraldo and I gathered wood for the fire. For the ceremony, I laid on my wolf blanket from Yellowstone. The one Anne gave me. Four candles were placed around the fire pit. After lighting the fire, Cristinia offered the Ayahuasca. It was bitter and hard to swallow. I took one sip and gave the cup back. She encouraged me to finish the cup and I did.

Once the drink had been passed around the circle, Cristina began to sing her native songs with accompaniment on the drums and guitar by Carlos. Her chants were passionate and in dialects I had never heard before. She moved around the fire, always stablizing herself in a yoga-like pose before another cry into the night. The Ayahuasca began to take its effect and soon my ears felt unclogged from years of swimming in cholrine dosed pools.

My senses began to peak. I could hear other sounds from the wild near and far. I could hear my heart beating again. It was a full moon rising….

TO BE CONTINUED

 

 

 





Bottoms Up

26 05 2017

Here we are starting over again. Looking for work after a brief flirtation with politics. In the gutter looking up at the stars, wrote Oscar Wilde.

The summer approaches again in Florida. I have become numb to the lasting heatrays and all of the complexities of urban dwelling. I rarely go to Miami anymore. I don’t have enough money to go many places.

David and some friends have encouraged me to get back in the gym. I’ve been playing golf and basketball again and swimming regularly. I’m surprised how well my body has held up.

I considered running again for the state house but after two months on the trial determined it was the wrong district and wrong role. I remain in contact with friends from the park service and maintain hope a position will open up. It would be nice to breathe fresh mountain air again.

Last week, David and I attended a presentation from the Sierra Club. Members of the executive committee discussed pollution of Florida’s waterways and various other environmental concerns. I asked one of the speakers if she felt South Florida had an overpopulation problem.

“The world does,” was her response.

The arrival of more and more people in Florida means draining the swamp to house them. There is another way, however, but it would take acts of kindness, sacrifice and generousity to get there. Not exactly known traits a keen political observer would recognize from current Republican leadership.

In many parts of the South Florida shoreline sit towering condominums and apartment buildings. For half of the year they operate at significantly less capacity due to retreating Canadians. There are quite a few old buildings on the east side of Interstate 95 in South Florida. Old properties, in some cases. In dire need of rehabilitation.

And condemnation.

After recognizing a problem, it takes a community — or village, if you prefer, — to improve a habitat fit for all humanity. Good deeds, Pat from Palm Beach tells me.

“You can only resist and be against everything for so long before it wears you out,” Pat said during our recent phone conversation.

Living positively with a can do spirit while avoiding the pitfalls negativity produces is the plan. This my inner call to action.

It won’t be easy. Florida is such a weird state. It’s diverse melting pot is, at times, exhausting.

I take comfort in the fact that periods of hardships strengthen resolve and make families better when they emerge from a struggle. My friend Geraldo is doing so much better. His recovery brings tears to my eyes. My brother is settling into life as a divorced father. I wish him patience and compassion to continue giving the girls a healthy upbringing.

And now I look to David, my loyal husband, an offer a humble plea. After rehabbing our reps in Florida, I hope we can visit your family on the West Coast. Our eight years together has not been equitable in meeting the in-laws. I’d like to change that.

For the better, of course.

Koreshan State Historic Site

 

 

 





Ready To Run

30 03 2017

Pat, Sen. Clemens and Daniel

Spring break in Tallahassee makes Florida’s Capital City seem like a ghost town.

The kids are gone, but the adults are in session. I rode up with Daniel looking for a story. Daniel knows quite a few stories.

“How do you know Daniel’s lying,” a fellow journalist asked. “His lips are moving,” they answered.

We picked up Pat in West Palm Beach. I was intrigued instantly. Of the three of us, Pat was the most recent winner. She now sits on the soil and water conservation board. Originally from New York by way of Virginia, Pat, a seasoned political operative, was disgusted with the election of Donald Trump.

We rode in a SUV Daniel called “Aggie.” It was a used car, probably about 15 years old, but it ran smooth and got us up to Tallahassee and back without breaking down.

Daniel and I split driving duties. Pat sat up front, chain-smoked and cursed Republicans. We solved the dreaded bathroom bill before entering Tallahassee city limits. At a truck stop off I-10, folks breezed into the gas station men’s room without wait, while the line for the women’s room was backed up and flowing into the adjoining McDonald’s.

“That’s how it is in the clubs too,” Daniel remarked.

So much for equality. When it comes to time spent in the powder room, on an average, ladies take longer, we observed.

Daniel had worked security at a Fort Lauderdale nightclub. It was one of his many jobs. It seemed as if he was perpetually running for some public office. He is always eager and full of energy. We had been planning this trip for a while. Daniel comes to Tallahassee ever year in some capacity or form. He started his career at Florida’s Capitol as an aide serving in offices of many South Florida lawmakers.

“This is the young man we’ve been mentoring,” said the legislative assistant as she introduced Daniel to the representatives from Lauderhill.

Daniel holds his own well in conversations, but tends to get over confidant at times. At the Democratic Women’s Club of Florida’s annual “Tally Days” conference, he was a principle organizer. He presented tips – via powerpoint – on how to effectively lobby lawmakers.

“Always be nice to staff and aides,” Daniel urged a room full of energized women at Tallahassee’s Sheraton Four Points Hotel.

While Daniel grabbed the microphone at nearly every opportunity, Pat stayed in the background. She dressed immaculately. Her hair, dress and makeup flawless. She was representing Palm Beach County after all. No small task.

Pat is a senior no doubt, but I would never ask her age. In group meetings with lawmakers, Pat demonstrated a keen understanding of the issues concerning our environment.

But more importantly, Pat is tough. She is battle tested. She’s a winner.

I also found her at times a bit angry.

She did not like the way Hillary Clinton went down and there was a sense Pat was fighting to avenge Hillary’s dignity.

Pat’s most intriguing text to me during our visit to Tallahassee was this:

Consider very carefully what is gossip, what is self serving and what’s in it for them.

Sage advice, indeed.





Turning The Corner

15 08 2016

It’s a long, hard slough these summer months in Florida.

The heat is almost suffocating and yet I am aware not to complain, much. David and I are doing our best to provide for one another in the complexity of our current situations. I continue to pursue a career as a reporter, following the local political scene and dreaming of vacations abroad. David splits his time between the church and funeral home, receiving a small supplement from each.

We have no air conditioning in either vehicle presently. This has been a bitter bone of contention in our relationship. The heat in general is wearing us out. We have lived in South Florida for three years now. It has been quite a learning experience.

On a positive note, I am quite pleased with our stamina. I recall the summer of 2008 when in the thrusts of another Presidential campaign, much of the nation took a dip into a financial death spiral. Some called it a crash — others term it a blackout period. Whatever your language, it was not good times for many.

Eight years later, we have cautiously taken steps to prevent such a repeat disaster. David continues to guide me in the right direction and my editors and publishers seem happy with the stories. The campaign has been outrageous, brutal and the news cycle never fails to produce a day of violence and mishap. The Trump phenomenon appears to have played itself out. Anyone who has followed from the beginning must be a cynical mess. I worry about the mental health of those subjected to daily stories of death, despair, doom and gloom.

In South Florida, with its large population, there are many stories involving crime. There are certain neighborhoods which are considered off limits to white boys like me, so I’ve been told.

But I’m not a boy anymore.

Thinking back to France and my last solo trip into Paris gives me hope for the future. At the hostel, I bunked with a Romanian, Frenchman and a man who would not reveal his country. He gave me several guesses and even the region (Middle East) but I still could not detect his origin.

“Saudi Arabia?,” I asked at one point.

“If I was from Saudi Arabia do you think I would be staying here?,” he responded.

It was a good point. The hostel was by no means a five diamond hotel. The man, dressed in all dark blue, never left the room during my time at the hostel. I found this rather strange and so did the Romanian but he was not aggressive so we left him be. On one night he split his can of sardines with me. He was very hairy and did not speak much. I do hope he was able to enjoy Paris.

As the campaign in America moves into the autumn season, I am hopeful a kinder, gentler narrative will surface. Americans have been subjected to a series of horror stories at home — from mass shootings in nightclubs to fears of viruses infecting women and children. When, we must ask, is enough…enough??

American In Paris

American In Paris

 

 

 

 





Celebrating Summer’s Dog Days

25 07 2015
Standing up Lady Gaga at Palm Beach Pride

Standing up Lady Gaga at Palm Beach Pride

The Dog Days of Summer are upon us. My first in Florida in quite a while. For Miami, the premier journey.

The political apparatus is beginning to churn and campaigns are assembling. My editors are asking for more notice and copy is examined with a fine tooth comb. I continue to be blessed with opportunities and grateful for the work while finally seeing the strength of my northwest Florida roots in the midst of tough and tumble southeast Florida trials.

It’s hardball down here, no doubt. The Democratic Party — while a small, yet cohesive minority in panhandle towns of Apalachicola, Port St. Joe and Panama City — is a large dragon-like beast in Miami, and particularly, Broward County — home to 1.8 million people and that’s just the ones willingly to be counted.

There’s a lot of people here. Immigration, not a topic one can turn a blind eye to in places like Little Havana or Liberty City. It’s also a topic not for the weak of heart or shrill to discuss either. These are lives. Black, brown, red, yellow and white. They all matter and they all are chasing the same sun.

In Miami summers the sun rises early and shines bright. The heat is intense and I have spent much of my hard earned money on upgrades to the Jeep, most importantly, the air conditioner. I can no longer get by with just rolled down windows in the intracities of South Florida driving. One could broil stopped in traffic with no cooling or cover. Additionally, my mechanic recommended tinting the windows to further help with the sun’s effect, but I have yet to take that step so it’s still life in the fish bowl for me.

And it is quite a warm experience. It’s a sauna down here during the day and many of the region’s older population do not dare venture outside during peak daylight hours. But, I digress and try not to complain too much.

Professionally, I have entertained thoughts of returning to the campaign trail, although my editor says I can make a bigger difference as a journalist. The interviews I have attained have been real coups for my career (see http://www.sfgn.com.) Miami’s media market is an A level stop for the stars and I have benefited greatly. Trading, the panhandle’s folksy charm for the New York influence of South Beach has not been an easy transition, but it is working. Interviewing celebrities is becoming a nice diversion from governmental affairs, as well.

David Bromstad, Lance Bass, Steve Grand are some of the celebs I have been privileged to interview. For a gay boy growing up in the South, this is a dream come true. David is back on the television making sure everyone’s house looks great. Lance just married his hot Jewish boyfriend on the beach in Fort Lauderdale and Steve is traveling the globe as the self proclaimed “Pride King.”

Meanwhile, I do miss the calming effects of nature and find myself often, late at night before bed, checking out friends’ posts from their respective National Parks. I have learned to cherish wide open spaces and long for return to the wild, but first certain projects must be completed and seen through.

Last week, I landed one of the most important interviews to date. A celebrated screen guild legend who suffered blacklisting for his political actions. At 85, he is ready to unload his demons.

To El Salvador we go.