Before You Go

Dear Kevin,

When you were little you didn’t like when we over explained things to you. You were an extremely curious kid. (You still are.) Like a detective you’d ask a lot of questions to get at the truth, or at least your understanding of it. But once your curiosity had been satisfied, you wanted us to stop talking. You had no patience for anything that sounded preachy. When you sensed a lecture or sermon coming on, you’d interrupt and say, “I don’t want to know. And I don’t want you to tell me.” So please forgive us for writing this letter of unsolicited advice.

What follows are things we have come to believe and value about life and the human experience. Much of it we learned from you, by being your dads. All of the sentiments expressed below have been said or written by others, and with more eloquence than us. And our thoughts are repetitive, disjointed, and scattered. One passage may contradict another—sometimes in the same sentence—but that’s life: a complicated, repetitive, disjointed, random, beautiful mess. The route is seldom a direct express.

The tone below veers into commencement speech territory, including generalizations and nauseating clichés commonly heard at graduations. But since neither of us are likely to ever deliver a graduation commencement speech, this is our attempt at passing on what we’d like to believe is wisdom, all of which you are free to ignore. (Skip past the dotted lines if “you don’t want us to tell you.”)

So from us to you, in no particular order, here goes.

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Red Carpet and MeToo

It’s that time of year again. Seems like every week there’s a televised awards show, and with each one, an additional preshow for red carpet fashion coverage. On some networks (E!), the red carpet coverage is longer than the actual telecast. Then, the following day, as if all the preshow coverage wasn’t enough, many networks, local and national, troll out more panels to discuss who wore who and how it looked. Is all of this necessary? And in the era of #MeToo, why is it still okay to comment on how celebrities, mostly women, look?

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2018: Songs In Rotation

I spent most of 2018 listening to Brandi Carlile, so this list will include many of her songs. Some tracks below were released prior to 2018—some way prior—but captured my ears or imagination for one reason or another this past year. I heard some in coffee shops, some from YouTube binges on sleepless mornings, some on the radio, and some from streaming stations. I hope you like the list, or in the very least, discover a new song/artist or rediscover an old favorite.

In no particular order, here are the songs I listened to the most for the past twelve months.

The Joke

Brandi Carlile

From the Album of the Year, By The Way, I Forgive You, I first heard “The Joke” listening to Radio Woodstock on a cold Hudson Valley February morning, still in my PJs and in front of my friend Mark’s fireplace.

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Poetry Without Motion

Over the past few months, I’ve been sifting through and purging old photos, memorabilia, books, games, and anything I saved in a shoebox, wine box, or folder.

I had a couple of binders of newspaper clippings alone. Stories, opinions pieces, or articles I must have felt I couldn’t live without. I kept letters and cards that mattered to me at the time, which meant almost every one I ever received. A few of these letters came from people I now don’t remember. There are several letters from a guy who lived in Colorado. I have no memory of this person. But we must have exchanged a half-dozen letters. And since the letters were handwritten and mailed, I don’t have any of my replies, which is so different than seeing entire conversations in an email thread. The smell of the old letters, and the tactile experience of sliding them out of their envelopes, then unfolding and holding the pages of ink felt like a relic from a bygone era. And I loved every second of it. This is something my son will most likely never experience. I doubt he or anyone his age is stashing away emails in a wooden Mouton-Cadet wine box.

This morning, I began sifting through my computer files. Tucked away in a folder within a folder of a main folder called “Writing,” I found a bunch of poetry. In my teens and twenties, I used to free write and free associate—with a pen and notebook—ideas for poems, stories, characters, or just random lines I might want to include in a play or story one day. At some point, I must have transcribed these ideas and “poems”—quotes because I’m not sure they can actually quality as such—into Word documents.

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Joan Osborne: Late For The Sky

My two favorite cover songs are sung by Joan Osborne. One is Dolly Parton’s “Do I Ever Cross Your Mind?” and the other is this song by Jackson Browne. From Looking Into You: A Tribute To Jackson Browne.

Now the words had all been spoken
and somehow the feeling still wasn’t right
and still we continued on through the night
Tracing our steps from the beginning
until they vanished into the air
trying to understand
how our lives has lead us there

How long have I been sleeping
How long have I been drifting alone through the night
How long have I been dreaming I could make it right
If I closed my eyes and tried with all my might
to be the one you need

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Sensible Gun Control

The quickest way to get meaningful gun control would be to allow anyone to open-carry guns anywhere—airports, schools, churches, and especially in all government buildings and offices. If guns were allowed in the Capitol, White House, and Supreme Court, we’d have reasonable gun control tomorrow.

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Unfixable Crimes

Dear media, you are being used. You are playing right into the hands of a dangerous madman. You are disseminating propaganda and terror by giving too much oxygen to a lying fascist and white supremacist. For the sake of your own credibility and a fragile democracy, please stop playing video clips of the president. You can report on what he says and does without incessantly showing clips of him lying. It doesn’t matter if you tell us before and/or after showing the clips that it’s a lie—the clip is more powerful. And he knows it. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video clip is worth a million.

He is using you to spread hate and distract. Stop playing along.

Here’s a more important scoop for you: more Americans just voted for Democrats (57%) than Republicans (42%) in Senate races, yet the Republicans picked up seats and will control the body (especially women’s bodies). A majority of Americans support progressive ideas and beliefs, but because the system is rigged they will be ruled by a radical and oppressive minority. Our constitutional crisis is the constitution itself. It’s the undemocratic Senate and antiquated Electoral College. As Lawrence O’Donnell recently said, “the Senate is an unfixable crime against democracy.”

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Bothsidesism

Part of me wants to turn off all television news and live a happily ignorant existence. Another part of me needs to scream. At Chris Matthews. At Chris Cuomo. At Chris Hayes. It’s not the name Chris that bothers me. My confirmation name is Chris. No, it’s how the Chrises and others in the television news business are once again doing their best to sway and blow another election for Democrats.

After the terrorist murders in Pittsburgh, almost every news show had on good ol’ folksy John Kasich. He’s been making the rounds. What he says in all of these appearances is appealing: we need to have more empathy, stop putting up walls, reach out to others, and Trump is incapable of being a unifier. All of it sounds good. Common sense. But just as he criticizes Trump in one breath, he then invokes bothsidesism in another.

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The Rhetoric Blame Game

False equivalency strikes again.

Yesterday pipe bombs were sent to political opponents and vocal critics of Donald Trump. Specifically, the targets of the bombs were people he has called out by name at his cult shows.

Today the media has bent over backwards to show how both sides need to cool down on the rhetoric. For example, CBS This Morning showed several clips in an attempt at being “fair.” One clip was an interview with a Trump supporter—it looked like she was in the lobby of his rally last night—who said both sides need to take a step back. This was followed by another clip of past Trump cult shows (aka rallies) where he whipped up the flock into frenzied chants of “lock her up.”  Then, to be “fair,” CBS showed a clip of Eric Holder saying, “when they go low, we kick them.”

How are these things even remotely equivalent?

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Brandi Carlile: Party of One

From the album of the year (perhaps decade), By the Way, I Forgive You, here are couple of videos of Brandi Carlile’s Party of One.

For me, Party of One is about being so in love with your partner or spouse, but despite that love, also having times of feeling so alone, wishing and fantasizing for something more, something less, or something else—wanting to run—yet still knowing where you belong and who you belong with. It reminds me of certain times in my relationship with Danny, particularly after we became responsible for keeping another human being alive. Also, in many ways Party of One distills the theme of my play Two Spoons down into a 5:47 song.

She closed the show with this when we saw her at the Beacon. And I wept.

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The Warren Condition

Typical Democrat: Bringing a biological DNA test result to a chemical weapons fight.

Dear Elizabeth Warren, your response to Donald Trump should be, “Fuck off, you sleazy snake oil salesman and fat, ugly, disgusting, misogynist pig!”

I don’t believe Democrats need to take the low road to beat Trump, but we do need a quick-striking and forceful fighter who can offer hope and firmly rebuke Trump at the same time. It’s possible and the media will love it.

I like Elizabeth Warren. A lot. I support everything she stands for. But if she is nominated, she and her Fact Squad will get obliterated. The media doesn’t pay attention to facts. Facts are boring. Facts get no oxygen. They want drama. They want ratings. They want a candidate trying to stand in a category 5 with debris flying around.

I will still vote for her if she wins the nomination, but we will lose. And so will the country.

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