"Batman V Superman" review or...a warning against President Trump?

I read TK’s movie review on Pajiba titled, “I’ve never hated anything the way that I hate Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice” and I enjoyed it so much that I decided to spoof it.  For some reason, reading the review reminds me of something that might be written in the near future about a certain someone’s presidency.  I give all credit to TK for what is written below.  All I did was replace a few words here and there, i.e. “film” to “presidency,” "Zack Snyder" to "Republican Party." You get the drift. Enjoy.

 

“I’ve never hated anything the way that I hate

President Donald Trump”

not by Joe Hernandez-Kolski

 

I’m on record as enjoying President Obama’s presidency.  I genuinely enjoy a good bit of it, while also acknowledging that it has some deep flaws. As I headed into the onerously titled President Donald Trump, I kept that in my mind — that this was built on a foundation that, while flawed, had great potential.  I avoided advance polls, stayed mostly away from Twitter and other political sites in the days leading up to my voting. I wanted to be fresh and unbiased, because I wanted to give this presidency the chance it deserves. It’s the beginning of something potentially amazing, the birthing of a political version of Justice League. It features a terrific cast — Donald Trump reprising his role as Superman, Melania Trump returning as Lois Lane, and bringing in Ted Cruz as Batman, Sarah Palin as Wonder Woman, Bernie Sanders as Lex Luthor, and Chris Christie as Alfred. This could be the beginning of something wonderful.

 

Holy fucking shit, you guys.

 

President Donald Trump is shockingly bad. I mean, I am genuinely surprised at how absolutely, astronomically atrocious it is. I don’t have a great deal of faith in the Republican party, but I honestly didn’t think they were even capable of producing a presidency as wretched as this one. It’s not Obama or George W. bad, because those are garbage presidencies that never had a chance, candidacies made before this current golden age of superhero candidates and franchises (like Hillary and Jeb), candidacies that were never taken seriously by Congress in the first place. No, President Donald Trump is on a whole other level of terrible, and in no small part because of the money, effort, and faith put into this candidacy. This is a candidacy that cost an insane amount of money to create, something that is part of a massive, sprawling, long-term plan. People believed in this candidacy, and I simply don’t understand how that’s possible.

It’s a failure on every conceivable level. Whatever your expectations are going in, lower them. Actually, it doesn’t matter — however bad you think it may be, even after reading this review, it’s worse. I mean it.

 

The presidency is boring. It’s a hopeless, hapless grind, stumbling about like a wounded elephant, occasionally crashing into things, but never accomplishing anything. It takes forever for the story to develop, because Republicans can’t get out of their own ass and so they need to include countless exhausting expository scenes and speeches. The dialogue is horrendous — no one in this presidency just talks to each other. Instead, every single line is delivered as if it’s a moment of incredible weight and importance, with everyone glowering morosely at each other. It’s a banal, dull, joyless effort, with the two or three sad attempts at humor plummeting to their deaths amidst its relentless gloominess and undying awfulness. Despite its efforts to be dark and serious, nothing ever seems to matter, because you will be completely unable to sympathize with anyone. There’s nothing of merit to any of the characters, no defining trait that makes you want to cheer for them. There’s no fun, no love, no hope to the entire presidency. And those three things — fun, love, and hope, should be the hallmarks of a superhero presidency, especially the iconic ones like these. Instead, it’s a destitute, barren, soulless trash heap of a presidency, removing any semblance of heroism from its heroes, destroying any possibility of empathy and giving its audience nothing to root for at any point during this four year-long atrocity (please, only four years).

 

Even action can’t save it — the entire presidency is incomprehensibly dark, with every major action sequence taking place at night. It’s a murky mess, and the final battle, between the three heroes and Congress, feels like I watched it with a scarf wrapped around my face. It’s terribly edited, flashing from one cut to another without giving you any of the sense of size or scale that Obama gave us, and then compounding that lack of perspective by filming it in nothing but shadow and shades of blueish grays. That darkness is unrelenting, a constant throughout the presidency, giving you no chance to appreciate even the slightest detail.

 

President Donald Trump isn’t just bad, he’s hopelessly, artlessly, brutally awful. He’s an irredeemable, mawkish, maudlin nightmare. Am I using a lot of adjectives? Because I truly, truly don’t think I’ve adequately conveyed my thoughts. I came home last night and spent a solid fifteen minutes raving to my wife at how… not just disappointed or frustrated I was, but how angry I was with this president. It’s one thing to reach and to fail. But the staggering hubris and arrogance behind this president is actually infuriating. The Republican Party abandoned everything righteous and good and wondrous about their candidates, and instead made a dour, sullen pile of smoldering shit. And even if you have no history, no love for this iconic party, it’s still simply and objectively trash. I’ve seen any number of terrible presidencies in my eight years writing for this site, but I truly don’t believe I’ve ever hated a president as much as I hated this one. I’d rather watch someone melt kittens than sit through it again.

 

I walked out of the voting booth wanting to shout at those walking in, to beg them not to subject themselves to it. But I didn’t. Because my heart was full of hate, and I decided that the only way to dull the pain was for them to suffer as I suffered. Let them suffer. And that’s why you should see this president. All of you. Go forth, and endure it. And then spread the word to everyone you know. Let the world know your rage, so that we can hope to never see anything like this ever again.

My thoughts on "Chi-Raq"

I give it 3 out of 4 stars. 

First, name me another narrative film that’s even attempting to address gun violence in Chicago.  Is there one?  Is there another feature film giving voice to Fr. Pfleger, Purpose Over Pain and other members of the community, many of whom are seen in the film? This may not be the best film ever but, hell, give Spike mad props for even addressing the topic and attempting to do it through a satirical lens.  Like they say in gymnastics, that’s a “high degree of difficulty.”

Like I said before, I’m a big Spike Lee fan.  I love too many of his movies to list here.  So many incredible cinematic moments - The closing scene from “He Got Game,” where Denzel plays his son in a game of one-on-one basketball while Aaron Copland plays, Edward Norton’s monologue about New York in “25th Hour,” the closing shot of Mekhi Phifer on the train in “Clockers,” the closing shot of “School Daze,” the list goes on and on.  I’ve always thought his work is so unique and so enjoyable.  He’s like a mix of Wes Anderson and Martin Scorsese, stylized yet grounded.  In my opinion, he’d garner way more industry attention and respect if he was white. (But that's a whole other conversation to be continued.)  So I walked in to see “Chi-Raq” through that lens…

The positives – The performances.  Who knew that I’d like Nick Cannon?? He was great in this film.  Wonderful performance with a well-articulated arc. Teyonah Parris is fantastic as Lysistrata. I saw her struggle in her eyes.  I was impressed by John Cusack’s portrayal of the Fr Pfleger-inspired character.  He’s really tapped in.  But the highlight for me were THE REAL COMMUNITY MEMBERS…anytime real mothers are shown holding photos of their children, that’s when I got the most emotional.  That shit…man.  Or the character in the wheelchair who’s clearly a real member of the community.  I also loved the choreography – Spike’s stylized world is fun to watch.  He’s so original in his presentation, always has been.  The minute the film starts, you know you’re watching a Spike Lee film.  And strong female characters – his female characters have improved over the years and women are at the center of this story.

The negatives –  I can see why people could be upset.  If you view this film from the wrong angle, take it on a surface level, yes, it turns the African-American population into highly sexual and highly violent. But I personally believe that’s a reflection of the American culture in general.  I think there are three main problems with the film:

1)   This is a script that Spike and co-writer Kevin Willmott have been working on for over six years.  When the recent spate of shootings occurred, they decided to update the script to take place in Chicago.  That’s why the script feels a bit generic (which is one of the main criticisms from its detractors).  It definitely feels like a bit of a “lesson” film where the audience is hit over the head about what’s happening in Chicago but I feel like it’s a subject matter with which we need to be hit.

2)   Source material – I have a problem with modern adaptations of ancient Greek texts.  I think writing as an art form has changed way too much since 411 BC, when Aristophanes wrote the original “Lysistrata.”  Nowadays, most plays and films include deep character development and when a writer starts with something as old as Aristophanes, I think they’re painting themself into a corner that’s plot driven, not character driven.  The movie becomes about a series of events, some of which don’t make sense, some of which you don’t really care about because you don’t know enough about the characters or their relationships. 

3)   I LOVE the fact that he attempted to address gun violence in Chicago (and America) through a satirical lens but, let’s face it, some of it just wasn’t funny.  Some of it felt a bit awkward, like some jokes in the script had not been tested out before they were delivered for the camera.  That’s why comics test out their jokes over and over again in front of an audience, paying attention to every single syllable of every single word.  

Again, a high degree of difficulty.  It’s definitely worth seeing and we SHOULD be debating it, in fact, we’re not debating this film enough.  I was disappointed that so many people wrote it off so quickly (including me).  I’m upset that it took me so many weeks to see it.  But I bought into the criticism, including that of Chicago-based rapper Rhymefest who criticized the film after seeing only the trailer.  C’mon, seriously? Oh, and he read an early draft of the script?  I hate when people criticize art without ever seeing it.

Yes, I understand that people want to see a serious film be made about this topic.  I agree.  In some ways, it’s unfortunate that “Straight Outta Compton” came out the same year.  I feel like people want to see that type of film made about the current situation in Chicago. And if I may make a slight comparison, although I think “Straight Outta Compton” is the better film, it doesn’t come close to the number of strong female protagonists in “Chi-Raq.”

Spike Lee has always made “event” movies, movies worth debating and discussing.  Kudos to him for continuing to create art that addresses topics important to the Black community and, therefore, to America at large. 

Costa Rica Dive.

I sent this to my diving crew shortly after I dove for the first time after getting certified this past summer.

Guys!!!

I am on the plane back to the states. I have been dying to write this email to you, my Eco diving family! It's gonna be every little detail cuz I feel like I learned a helluva lot on this, my first dive without you guys. Also, cuz I'm just excited to share every little detail and hope you'll appreciate it!

After several days in the rain forest, we arrived in the beach town of Guanacaste. We checked in and I immediately went to Scuba Caribe, a PADI-certified diving center next to my hotel. I had to pay $100 for the trip which included equipment and two dives. Is that a normal price? Everything felt expensive down there. 

The next morning, I arrived at 8am and met my dive leader Kadir and Jose Luis, the boat man. I would be diving with two visiting Canadians named Jason and his 15 year old son, Ian. Jason said he'd be on about a thousand dives. Ooookay. 

I brought my fins, mask, snorkel, boots and gloves. They carried the tanks and gear. We got on a small boat which took us to the bigger boat. Once we got on, we drove out to an island, about a 15min ride. It was gorgeous! As we rode out, we saw dolphins literally jumping high in the air! I said, "You paid them to do that, right?"

Once we stopped, we started getting into our gear. The gear was almost identical. Not as nice as ours but good. Kadir went over the plan. He said we'd be going down to about 75ft. That freaked me out a bit. I didn't say anything though. I figured I'd be fine. And like you guys said, there's no police. You're on your own. 

As usual, before I knew it, they were geared up and in the water. I was still putting on my fins. That's my least favorite moment. When you feel like you're holding everyone up. I double checked everything and jumped in. The water was extra salty. I filled my BC but movement still felt tough. I heard some type of weird hiss. I figured it was fine. I got over to the rope down and my weight belt was loose. I was used to wearing the weights in my BC. Kadir came back up and tightened my belt. I was feeling something that I had never felt before. Panic. I looked down and saw nothing.  Everything was new. I tried going down and my mask was filling with water.  I rushed back to the top. I was hyperventilating. "Shit," I thought. "I can't believe I'm panicking like this." I was thinking about all of these elements combined. The weird sound I heard, going down further than I've ever gone and simply the unknown surroundings.  Kadir came back up. I told him, "I don't think I can do it. Can I wait for the second dive?" Maaaaan, thank god he was patient. He told me to breathe and we'd go down slowly. He told me, "just keep looking towards the bottom." I took a few deep breaths, double checked everything again, tightened my mask and started to descend. After a few feet, I could see the bottom and that actually worked at calming me. I was starting to feel like my old self again. Kadir kept checking and I kept giving him the okay sign. We started moving and just as I was starting to really feel present, my regulator was slowly breathing in more and more water. No matter what I did, I was breathing in water. I tapped Kadir, gave him the "something's not right with my regulator" sign and he helped me switch to my secondary. Totally breathing fine again. Phew. I was starting to panic right before and during the switch. But I'm ok now. And the dive was incredible! Although the it didn't feel like it, he says we dove to 75 feet. We saw an eagle ray, tons of fish, some eels and these really cool very thin and long fish. Considering how much air I used up, I had to go up before the others. That's when I had my highlight. I looked up and in front of me was this massive MASSIVE school of fish. They were like a wall. I slowly ascended, did my stop, then reached the top. Inflated my BC and paddled on my back over to the boat. They came up about ten minutes later. I gave Kadir a pound and thanked him. Kadir asked, "Which one of you was singing down there?" "That was me," I said.  I told them about my regulator and they switched it out. We waited an hour and moved. One spot was called Tortuga and one was called Argentina. 

The second dive...the second dive!!! Well, I was way more relaxed. We descended to about 50 feet. We started going across the bottom and Kadir stopped us. He put both of his hands on top of his head in a prayer position. Yes, the sign for "shark." And there, not too far away was a white tip shark. We settled on the bottom, staying very still and that's when I could see....there was a whole school of them. A couple swimming about but most just laying at the bottom. We sat and watched. Jason took some photos. Then, slowly, Kadir moved towards them, getting them to move out of our way. Seriously, it felt like we were swimming through their living room. I was literally saying, "Don't mind us. Just passing through." There was a small moment when Kadir was ahead of us and the sharks were circling back around us. In all honesty, I think they were just waiting for us to be gone so they could resettle but it kinda looked like they were circling us. I STAYED CLOSE TO KADIR AND SWAM AS FAST AS I COULD. Once we got past them, there was something massively dark ahead of us. Again, I wasn't sure what it was. My heart was racing a bit. It was a sunken boat. It was so cool!! There was something so strange about floating above a boat, as if I was flying. We then went back through the sharks on our way back. We had been down for about 45min. We checked my air. I was down to about 600.  Kadir gave me his secondary. I used his for a bit as we moved closer to the dive site. We did our stop. Then he switched me back to my regulator and sent me up. 

Guys, it was so incredible. I learned so much about staying calm. I learned about checking my equipment. Double checking. Asking questions. I saw amazing marine life. We saw an octopus, a massively long eel and did I mention the sharks?

I look forward to seeing you guys at the next dive center event. When is it again? First Tuesday of the month?

Have a great summer!

Love,

Joe

Just Dance

It's Christmas Eve. We arrive at my cousin Sue and her husband Tony’s house. Sue and Tony have a daughter named Samantha.  Samantha is ten years old. I also have three other little cousins named…I never remember their names so I have to check my phone as we’re walking in. That’s right. Chad 11, Madelyn 10, Garrett 8. And next to Garrett’s name I wrote in my phone, “the blonde one.”

We walk into this suburban home and all the kids are downstairs in the basement. I make my way upstairs. I’m not sure when I became an upstairs person but now I sit at the dining room table, I smile and I pray that I have recently booked some job or done some exciting gig that I can talk about. Cuz I’m the only artist and the only single person left in my family. And when they start talking about the frustrations of owning a home and having to attend PTA meetings…that’s when I sink into the background, casually make my way to the bathroom. I’m not sure if I fit here anymore.

But as I’m heading to the head, pun intended, I can hear that something’s going on downstairs. I make my way to the basement and it appears that the kids now own a Wii. You can use this video game device to play tennis, to box or to…just dance. What? This is awesome. And I sit and watch as my ten year-old cousin Samantha is wiping the floor with her opponents. Chad, Madelyn and the blond kid don’t have a chance. And none of them are sore losers. But Samantha is a sore winner. Oh, she just thinks she’s all that. She raises her arm and says, “Next!” and out of nowhere, I go “mmmhm.” And my brain is like, “Wait, what are you doing?” And I’m like, “I’m about to show this li’l girl what’s up. I’m about to give her the dance battle of her life.”

The kids scream “JOE’S GONNA DO IT!!” They give me that li’l controller and they tighten it around my wrist. Oh, yeah, I’m ready. Before I know it, my character on the screen is what looks like a female police officer in a mini-skirt. And Britney Spears is singing, “With a taste of your lips I’m on a ride.” And tiny little arrows start scrolling up the screen. Okay, just, wait, okay, go, okay, wait, now to the right, shit. I’m all in my head. Samantha is so far ahead of me. She’s getting so many stars. The word “Perfect” keeps coming up on her side of the screen. Perfect Perfect Perfect and she’s barely doing anything. Just small flicks of the wrist. Small little steps. And me? I am drenched in sweat. I’m not listening to the music. I’m trying so hard to get it right that I am a step behind every single time. And before I know it, “wait, it’s over?” The scores get compiled. Samantha’s score Skyrockets! Mine…sucks. Samantha turns to me, makes an "L" with her fingers on her forehead and exclaims “LOSER!”

And now all of the other cousins want to play me. And I get excited and then I realize, “Oh, its cuz they all know they can beat me.” But what they don’t realize is…I’m an adult. I know how this shit works. The more you play, the more you get beat, the more you learn, the better you get. And I’m just getting started. And, sure, they each beat me several more times…but the score gets a li’l closer every time. And now, Samantha steps back up. She runs through the songs, she says, “No, no, no, not that one. No no no.” And then, she says “YES” and presses select. Our character comes up. This time I am a MAN wearing what appears to be a Bill Cosby sweater and Hammer pants. I hear this...

EVERYBODY DANCE NOW!

I know this song. No, I KNOW this song. I’ve done these moves hundreds of times on hundreds of dance floors to impress at least two or three girls. Oh it gets better. Order another round. MY TEN YEAR OLD COUSIN? SHE’S ABOUT TO GO DOWN! EVERYBODY DANCE NOW!

Gold stars start streaking across the screen! My little cousins scream, “Joe just got three Perfects in a row!” I am going to win FINALLY! And I can see out of the corner of my eye, my cousin Samantha keeps hitting her controller and I keep thinking, “You silly little girl, stop blaming the controller! Let the music take control! Let the rhythm move you.” And then, before I know it, Samantha walks up to the console, says, “My wand isn’t working,” and she presses reset.

Now. At this moment, am I going to be the kid or the adult? I say, “Samantha, there are gonna be moments in your life when you’re gonna want to press reset, but that’s not how life works. You fall down, you get back up and no matter what, you keep dancing. You don’t pay attention to how many stars the other person is getting, who cares how many PERFECTS keep coming up on their side of the screen. It’s just a game so keep dancing. When you’re questioning if you've made your parents proud, you keep dancing. When you’re questioning if you’ve made the right college choices, career choices, life choices, you keep dancing. When you’re questioning why you’re taking this dance battle with your ten year-old cousin so seriously, you keep dancing. And I promise you, things get better. And, yes, sometimes, you’re just gonna have to accept…that you’re a LOSER!”

So now when I arrive at my cousin’s house, Samantha is at the door with a capital “L” on her forehead and a really big hug. I go upstairs for a bit and say hello. But there’s only so long I can keep the kids at bay. The battle in the basement awaits. I stretch out, I always bring a change of clothes and for the first time in a while, I feel like I'm home.

Ode to Dan Guerrero

Here’s the piece that I wrote for Dan Guerrero’s 75th birthday this past October! Thanks to Joshua Silverstein for always going with the flow.

Joe steps to the podium.

JOE:

Born without a dollar

You grew up blue collar

You are a true pioneer

You built your own career

You didn’t look to others for support

You put your hopes for a better life into sports

Back in the day

At UCLA

Started out—

Over the speaker, we hear the Stage Manager stop Joe. Joe looks up and out towards the back.

VO:

I’m sorry. Joe. Stop. Stop.

JOE:

What?

VO:

Joe, your poem is about the wrong Dan Guerrero.

JOE:

What?

VO:

That’s a different Dan Guerrero.

JOE:

This isn’t to pay tribute to Dan Guerrero, the UCLA athletic director?

VO:

No. This is for Dan Guerrero, the…well…he’s done a lot of things.

JOE:

Okay. No, that’s okay, I did a Facebook search too.

Joe pulls out binder.

JOE:

Oh, so is this Dan Guerrero, senior partner at the Law offices of Guerrero and Chan?

VO:

No.

JOE:

Danny Guerrero the pianist?

VO:

No.

JOE:

Daniela Guerrero, the cutie who lives in Monterrey, Mexico?

VO:

No.

JOE:

Oh…is this the Dan Guerrero who’s friends with Linda Ronstadt?

VO:

YES!

JOE:

Okay. Cool. Joshua, can you help me with this? Can you guys give a round of applause for my partner Joshua Silverstein?

Joshua walks out.

JOSHUA:

I told you you were wrong.

Joshua starts beatboxing.

JOE:

Born in Tucson

Dad a musician

He follows his dreams

Like a politician

Your dad shakes hands

Writes many songs

Finds success

And you all come along

It’s the 1950s

There is no GLEE

They still think gay is somehow a disease

No out and proud on magazines

And you

You’re like

“Shit, that don’t phase me”

Your friends they say

You’re always cool

The most fabulous kid

Up in middle school

You stand strong

You stand with pride

The most glamorous man at Garfield High!

From the AZ

To East LA

Then you make your way east

Cuz you love Broadway

Non-stop

With Carlos

You never rest

Not a lot of chances

To prove you’re the best

Acting in the 60s

Lotta white dudes

Not a lotta room

For tall gay Chicano dudes!

So skinny

No belts worked

So you rock suspenders

And tight-ass shirts

You look good!

Head’s on straight

And you somehow survive

On $5 a day!

Up state

Summer stock

Rock the cape cod

But you’re so broke

You’ve gotta take a job

You become an agent

You’re rising fast

You represent ALL

Chorus line to Cats

The years go by

New York’s a ride

You have a good time

But you say goodbye

In LA

The sky’s so bright

Your condo’s way bigger than your spot in Brooklyn Heights

You never stop

It’s a new phase

You start casting, writing, producing

All in three days

From NBC to HBO

Univision’s

Paul Rodriguez show

You embrace our life

Make Latinos stars

Rock PBS with your girl Vikki Carr!

You’ve put so much art into motion

You’ve survived every Latino explosion!

And where does a youthful producer go?

Hell, it’s time to write my solo show!

35 years later

Back on stage

There’s just no way

We can keep you away

So many years

You’ve done your best

So many years

Each a success!

You’ve worked so hard

You grab a hold

At 75

Baby…you’re gold!

You’re just getting warm

While others may leave

You’ve got one more title up your sleeve

Your values you hold strong like a python

Cuz you’re Dan Guerrero

A mother fuckin’ ICON!

A letter from God to Kim Davis

I wrote this September 9, 2015...

Hey, Kim. It’s me, God. We need to talk.

I was trying to be a good parent, I was trying to give you your space. That's why I created "free will," right? So you guys can make mistakes, figure out these things on your own and feel a sense of accomplishment.  Contrary to what most rappers believe, they don’t need to thank me when they win an award. Sure, it's a very sweet gesture but I’ve got nothing to do with that. I stay as far away from the Grammy’s as possible. I’m just not the target audience for Taylor Swift anymore. And I definitely have nothing to do with Kanye. That’s all him.

But when I heard that you were denying gay couples their marriage licenses and you said that you were doing it all under MY authority?

Kim. Just…NO.

You are being incredibly self-centered. And you’re clearly unable to accept those different than you?  Honey, you sound like a teenager and I know that you’re definitely a bit older than that. You clearly missed some important lessons in bible study.

I would never ever ever do anything to keep my children from getting married. Do you know how much I love weddings?  A LOT.  Weddings spread love.  Weddings get people into churches.  Weddings get people to turn off their phones.  Do you know how hard that is to do these days?

First off, I wanna figure out why you think you’re working on my behalf? Is it because of what you read in The Bible? You do know that I didn't exactly write The Bible, right?  Yes, it's the "Word of the Lord" but I had ghost writers. And you do know that it has changed dramatically over the years to fit the prejudices of the men of the time. It's like saying you live by the gospel of Tupac and then you quote Ja Rule. It's a copy of a copy. The main commandment I want you to remember is LOVE. “Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no greater commandment than these.” It's pretty simple, right?  I never said, "Love thy neighbor…except for…well...you know…THOSE people.” Oh, and speaking of things that I never said…

You and your friends always like to refer to 1 Timothy and the supposed words, “Those who practice homosexuality will not be welcome in the kingdom of God.” I never said that.  The term homosexual started getting included in Bibles only after 1946. In fact, the term “homosexual” didn’t even exist until 1800 years AFTER that passage was supposedly written. But for argument’s sake, let’s say I did write it. (Which I didn’t.) According to other passages from the exact same text, YOU, a woman, would not be allowed to speak. AT ALL.  And you’re not allowed to wear pearls or gold. You’re not allowed to be a teacher. You are definitely not allowed to be County Clerk. We should stone you right away for being a woman in a position of authority. And if you ask, “Are you sure?” Um, yeah, I’m sure. While 1 Timothy vaguely (and I mean VAGUELY) mentions homosexuality once, it mentions the shortcomings and subjugation of women six times. Does that mean that women should stay subservient to men? Of course not. The only thing constant in our world is change. You should know that by now, considering you’ve changed husbands several times. But we’ll get to that later.

Honestly, and I’m not making excuses, but the Bible is one of my early works. Kinda like the dinosaurs. I was working some stuff out. I look back and I’m amazed at some of the crazy stuff I said. The thing about eating shellfish and wearing clothes from two different threads and stoning your daughter to death for having her period? I take responsibility but, c’mon, you can’t take everything literally. The Bible is like Howard Zinn’s “People’s History of the United States.” There are some great ideas in it but you can’t just read it alone. I mean, sure, it’s still my best seller, I’ll always hold a special place for it in my universe but I’m an artist and, like all other artists, I’ve grown so much since then.

We’ve grown so much since then. Overall, I’m proud of my kids. My kids all over the world have endured so many famines, so many wars, so much prejudice and they always come back to the tenet of love. My kids always get back up.   My kids take their pain and turn it into something beautiful.

I’d love to see you grow from this experience, Kim. Cuz, right now, I’m very disappointed in you. I know your supporters think you’re some kind of hero. Like your stance is some major civil rights cause that you’re leading. Trust me, I knew Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. You, mam, are no MLK. You’re more like Bull Connor, turning on the firehoses, keeping your gay brothers and sisters from what they rightfully deserve. But I want to believe that there’s still the chance that you can shed the Bull Connor attitude and become the Governor George Wallace of your story. He was just as bigoted but he realized the error of his ways and apologized. I’d love to see that.

Now, back to your marriages. These really should have nothing to do with your ability to love your gay brothers and sisters. It definitely should have nothing to do with your ability to do your job but let’s address it anyway. I’m fascinated by why you would choose this as your cause. A great Facebook meme once said, “If homosexuality can affect your marriage, then one of you is gay.” I can’t help but think, “What if she found out that one of her ex-husbands was gay?”   Out of anger and disappointment, you might just pursue something as crazy and inhumane as this. And when you see people applauding your defense of hetero marriage? That tells you that you’re right and your ex is wrong. That must feel great.

Kim, my authority that you are supposedly representing, will never be used to hurt any of my children. Do you understand that? NEVER. It will only be used to spread love and happiness. FOREVER. I hope you think about that. And I want to remind you, no matter what, like any good parent, I will always love you. You will always be my daughter. Just stop trying my patience.

Love,

God

Sweet home Chicago?

I wrote this on October 21, 2014...

WOW. My childhood home was sold today.

My sister Christina has done a tremendous job dealing with it while my dad and I live in California.

We lived there, as a family, for thirty-one years.

2745 N. Mango. Just south of Diversey. Across the alley from a carpet store.

Ugh. That alley. So annoying. So loud. Cars would come through and beep cuz they were just too busy to slow down. Even in the middle of the night, always in a rush. On two occasions, cars were driving so fast, they tried to turn into the alley and landed on our front steps.  TWICE.

We got broken into too many times to count. Once, when my sister was alone, once when my dad was alone. Several mornings, after my dad left for work, I remember him coming back into the house, throwing his keys on to the dining room table, cursing under his breath, "The car got broken into again." Two of my bikes got stolen out of the garage. Our lawn mower even got stolen! By the time I left for college, I was so on edge, I slept with my pull-up bar underneath my bed. I even scared the paper delivery man one morning cuz I thought he was trying to rob us.

But I also remember those nights when the family was all together, attempting to eat thin-crust double sausage pizza on my parent’s waterbed. I remember the small tape player in the bathroom that I would use to play my mix tapes while I got ready for my dates, cuz, ya know, it takes time to make a mullet look good.

As a small kid, I would set up shop in the basement on Friday night, bring my frosted flakes and the milk downstairs and put them in the basement refrigerator. I would watch “Misfits of Science,” “V” and “Miami Vice” and then go to bed early so I could wake up early for Saturday morning cartoons. I’d attach a string to the TV set “on” button and stay put in that fold-out bed ‘til around noon. That basement is where my VHS collection lived, perfectly itemized and categorized. I remember trying to watch “Citizen Kane” down there as a child, cuz I heard that it was an important film. Yeah, I was like, "He's upset cuz he lost his sled??" I was a bit too young to understand. I remember cheering for Ripley while watching “Aliens” with my dad. When she gave the iconic line, “Get away from her, you BITCH!” I almost fell off the couch. I remember watching “Nightmare on Elm Street” down there. ALONE. And the light switch was in the middle of the room, far away from the stairs. I took a deep breath, turned it off and HAULED ASS up those stairs, knowing very well what was behind me.

That basement. From the sleepovers that we had when I was in grade school, to all of the games of pool with Joe & Enz, to the parties where I would ask a cute girl to dance cuz Ready for the World’s “Love You Down” came on.

Those parties!! All of the parties that I threw when my parents were out of town. I fondly remember the Friday afternoon when my buddies and I were arriving back to the house, after buying all of the party supplies, and my parent's car was still there. Huh? We walked in and my mom calmly asked, "So, what are you guys up to this weekend?" I played it coooool. "Oh, nothing. Probably just gonna go see a movie." "Oh, great," my mom replied, "cuz your friend Flo called and left a message. She won't be able to make it to your party." Yeaaaah. They may have caught me for that one but, don’t worry, I got away with several more.

And then there was my room in the attic. I remember how creeky and beat up the stairs were to get up there. It made it impossible for me to sneak girls up to my bedroom. But I still tried. Only to have my mom knock on my door. “Is your girlfriend in there? Please take her home. Now.” I remember how cold it got during the winter and how hot it got during the summer. Covered in Van Halen, Living Colour, Guns n Roses, Bill & Ted’s, Harrison Ford, random buxom women, Dark Knight Returns, Chicago Bears and Michael Jordan posters.

I remember numerous late nights studying. I remember pacing the room when I made that first call to that girl. You know, THAT girl. And how I jumped up and danced after we got off. And how all of our future conversations lasted for HOURS, always starting with those immortal words, “I GOT IT! I SAID I GOT IT!! HANG UP!!”

That room was mine and that house was ours. At least for that moment, it was ours.

But it was only a moment. A critical one. A thirty-one year long one. But not the only one.

So many new moments have been created outside of that house. And although my mom, the linchpin of the family, has passed, our family has grown even larger. For the first time in about fifteen years, now that the house is gone and my dad lives in northern California, we’re gonna have Thanksgiving in sunny LA this year. And we’re gonna watch the Fighting Irish beat up USC. And, afterwards, we will all return to our separate homes, miles and miles apart.

That house was one of the main things that helped me still think of Chicago as my home. Now that it’s gone, I just have to dig deeper. Dig deeper into my Chicago roots while I dig deeper into my love for LA.

That house, that neighborhood, that city helped me become who I am.

But it’s not all that I am or all that I will become.

I hope that doesn't sound too cheesy. But give me a break, they just sold my childhood home.

Shoveling Snow - a short essay

I originally wrote this March 21, 2014...

I got emotional shoveling snow.  I can’t believe it.  I got emotional shoveling snow.

I’m a grown-ass man and I got emotional shoveling snow.  Now, if I explain what’s currently happening with my family, you’ll go, “Oh, no wonder he got emotional shoveling snow.”  But, honestly, I don’t think any of that stuff is why I got emotional shoveling snow.

My dad is moving out of my childhood home.  After thirty-one years, my dad is leaving this house behind and moving to Northern California for a new job and an exciting new chapter in his life.  I couldn’t be happier.  I think it’s going to be a great opportunity for him.  And this house carries so many memories, a lot of which we’d all like to leave behind.  This house has been burglarized more times than you can count on two hands.  A combination of tough neighborhood stuff as well as personal anger towards my family.  That’s what happens when your mother used to run a gang intervention program.  Some kids fall through the cracks and end up defecating on your sister’s bedroom floor.

But that’s not why I got emotional shoveling snow.

The fourth anniversary of my mother’s death is coming up.

But that’s not why I got emotional shoveling snow.

Okay.

Maybe both of those reasons have something to do with why I got emotional shoveling snow but it’s deeper than that.  (Pun intended.)

I’m getting dressed to go outside and shovel the sidewalk and memories of my childhood are already flooding in. I remember the process it always took to prepare to shovel the walk…

I’d get home from school, eat some Jay’s BBQ potato chips, watch some cartoons on WGN, do my homework, look outside and realize, “It’s snowing AGAIN?!”  I’d take a deep breath.  I should shovel the walk before mom and dad get home.  I put my multi-striped tube socks on FIRST and then my long johns over them.  You can't let ANY skin show underneath your jeans.  That Chicago wind LOVES uncovered skin.  Then I put my long john shirt underneath my Ozzy t-shirt or my Anthrax t-shirt or my Van Halen t-shirt or my Living Colour t-shirt or my Poison t-shirt.  (Yes, Poison.)  I thought the long john shirt underneath my t-shirt was the coolest fashion statement EVER.  It showed that I was tough…in my Poison t-shirt.  I make sure to tuck in my under shirt (please see previous statement about uncovered skin).  Then, as I walk to the living room, I say a prayer: “Dear Lord,please let me have remembered to put my jacket, gloves, scarf, hat and boots by the radiator so they’ll be dry and warm when I put them on.”  Oh, thank God, I remembered!  I put everything on and lastly, before I go out, here comes the hardest part.  I have to choose which tape to listen to!  I choose Ratt’s “Out of the Cellar.”  I put my headphones on, press play and head outside.

Now, today, I press shuffle on my iPhone and head out.  No Ratt in my playlist anymore (although I still love that album).  I head to the back porch, looking for a shovel and…wait, dad, THIS is the shovel that you use?  He’s got this plastic thing that looks like he bought it at the 99 Cent Store.  No.  This is not MY shovel.  I go out to the garage, push some things aside and I find my baby.  It’s an old metal shovel that I think we got when my grandparents passed away.  THIS is the shovel that I used as a kid.  Sure, it’s a little heavier, sure it takes a little extra bending of the knees but it’s worth it.  This baby takes no prisoners.  I love hearing the sound of the shovel scrape against pavement.  That’s when you know that you’re really getting all of the snow.  And that’s when I start to get emotional.  I used to LOVE shoveling snow.  If I was gonna be in charge of shoveling the sidewalk for my family, if that was my responsibility, then I was gonna do it to the best of my ability.  When I shoveled my walk, I not only made a small path, I shoveled the whole damn sidewalk.  From edge to edge, only stopping when I hit grass.  It always took at least 2 ½ passes to clear the whole thing.  And I cleared all of the steps from one end to the other.  That was when I felt alive.  I never settled for anything less than everything.  I didn’t get wrapped up in how much time I spent out there.  I didn’t whine about the cold.  I didn’t wonder, “Is this the best use of my time?”  I never looked at how my neighbors were doing it, how good theirs looked.  Or the fact that it was already dark out and they were already inside.  I put my music on and started shoveling.  A little at a time.  And when Side A of my tape was done, I took a small break.  I pulled the scarf off my face and took a deep breath. I pulled off my gloves to flip the tape in my Walkman.  I’d look back behind me and see how much snow I had removed.  I imagined how easy it was gonna be for my parents to get to their cars the next morning.  I took great pride in my work.  Then I’d press play, put my gloves and scarf back on and finish what I had started.  And sometimes, if it wasn’t too cold out, I’d shovel a few houses down as well, clearing the snow from my neighbors’ sidewalks.  It was the least that I could do.  My neighbors were a bit older and I knew they’d appreciate it in the morning. And then, after that was done, I’d spread the salt.  That meant that I was almost done and, if I hurried, I could still catch “Family Ties.”

Some twenty years later, I’m standing here, with the same shovel in my hand, and tears are freezing to my face.  I’m still that same damn kid.  I forget that sometimes.  Some days, I start to doubt myself and I stop doing the work.  As a kid, how would that have looked: “What if I’m shoveling this snow the wrong way?  Maybe I should take a class.  Maybe I should watch videos of others shoveling snow.  What if this isn’t the best use of my time?  Why am I the only one still shoveling?!  I bet they're all inside having so much fun!  I didn’t make any money shoveling my neighbor’s snow.  That was a mistake.  I’ve gotta start asking for what I’m worth.  Maybe I should hire a publicist so everyone notices how good I am at shoveling my sidewalk? What if I’m just no good at shoveling snow?”

I still love shoveling snow.  I love the quiet outside.  I love this moment in time.  Just me and my shovel.  I wipe the tears away and I shovel as hard as I can so the movers can get up the stairs the next morning.  I shovel my neighbor’s walk because, hell, that’s what we do in my neighborhood.  I create a path so others can walk a bit easier.  And after I have my little cry, and I'm enjoying the crisp Chicago air, just when I think I'm done, I realize, "Shoot.  Dad's car is in the garage.  I've still gotta shovel the back.  I don't know if I have the energy."  Yes.  You can do this, Joe.  Stop worrying, just keep shoveling.