We Don’t Say Goodbye Around Here

I imagine the worst day in a traveling circus is always closing night. Whatever friends were made must be left behind at that last show. The audience is ready to forget you. Maybe in a couple of weeks, someone will ask if they caught the circus while it was in town. Otherwise, it will all be forgotten except in the faces of the little ones when they look out at bright lights in the night and think about the high wire act.

I’ll have to roll my suitcase down the street to catch a bus. I almost can’t pack because of the hatred of that moment tomorrow. The suitcase will be obscenely heavy for having almost none of my life in it.

Of all the personal items we keep, the suitcase is the least romantic. If you ever see someone trying to make a suitcase nostalgic, you can bet they dressed it up. It’s never a suitcase you’d get off a carousel at O’Hare. It’s a backpack or an exotic canvas bag that is completely impractical. It’s a giant chest that you carried on your back through Europe and now sits at the end of the bed holding all of your quilts.

I just have a key to drop off and I will wave to a couple of friends. We don’t say goodbye around here. We try not to feel much in these in between moments. Things will settle again because who could live like this for too long?

Someday, I want you to feel a goodbye. I want you to understand the emotion when you look in her eyes as she sets sail and contemplate the odds you will run into each other again. I want this to be tough for you because emotions will be the string that brings you back together, that leads to a grand hello.

Is it worth remembering after the truck pulls away? Should we always forget the baggage of our past? What about the suitcases tossed under the stairs with broken zippers and tags that say Milwaukee? Although, you’re sure no one has ever flown from Milwaukee. What can these reminders give you? Pictures fade, even in a digital age, and forgetting is better than this feeling.

To talk now of things that might have been seems like the worst solution. Let’s talk about things that never were. Let’s create our alternative futures. Let’s add a spark.

Let’s find joy now. After the show, the tent must be packed and the elephants must fall in line. The clown shoes must fit in my suitcase. Although not in a tidy way because we’re not going to be sentimental.

I Write This for Them, For Her, and For You.





After we’re knocked out of our place in time
It drags forward when we reset the rotation.
It offers sympathies only in the changing wind.

I write this for them, for her, and for you.

A strict clock’s ticking away another night’s sleep;
I’m looking for more in fractured light,
Than settled memories of whispering caves.

I write this for them, for her, and for you.

We shouldn’t have to stare down fate.
The canvas in front of the screen
Was all the luck we have in tortured moments.

I write this for them, for her, and for you.

I pledge to fight past the objections ahead.
I vow to take on fear and doubt and scrutiny,
Straying from broken branches, I failed to repair.

I write this for them, for her, and for you.

The verdicts of wisdom, office and wealth
Leak inaccurate histories and false narratives
As prophets without scripture or seeds of truth.

I write this for them, for her, and for you.

I hope to heal a small wound with my song.
I offer gratitude to torch bearer ahead
Start writing now; if I cannot find the light, you will.

I write this for them, for her, and for you.

Between Rock and a Home Base

If he were back in his hometown of Springhill, Alexander would know where he belonged. Surrounded by friends, he would be running the family restaurant by now, setting up his guitar in the back storage room on Friday’s and playing his music at the local festival.

On the road, he felt lost. His adoring fans told him he was changing the industry. To them he sounded fresh and edgy, although secretly Alexander still thought he was rough-cut and figuring himself out.

He thought a lot about the big picture. Alexander talked about it at his show in between numbers. Apart from his rough-voiced ballads and guitar solos, Alexander was best known for wearing a blue boxing robe that he would take off when he felt like he landed a knockout punch with his performance. It drove the crowd wild.

Alexander felt isolated off the stage. He was the leader of Alexander’s Drag Time Band, but his band mates were distant. Whenever he went out, he felt compelled to hold court and validate his existence to strangers.

Alexander wanted to be remembered for his brilliant ideas—a savior to the music industry. People would write books about him, and maybe he would have his own line of maple syrup. One day Springhill High School would rename itself after him. He was going to be someone in the world—even if he became someone in solitude.

After an 18-month tour, he retuned to Springhill. He felt riled up coming home from a tour. When he was home, all he thought about was going back out there, but when he was out there, he thought about when he the tours would end. He knew that sounded cliché, but that’s how he thought. Then he worried if he was a cliché.

For her own amusement Alexander’s high school girlfriend, Cassie, kept up with him. She worked at a law office that was gaining credibility. She loved her team and built a life Springhill. She invited Alexander out with them one day after work. He wore a disguise, as he always did in public—although, in Springhill, they mostly left him alone.

The law team talked about the day in minute detail. Alexander could not believe how little happened in their stories. He was dying to tell a story about his recent experience on a late night show or when some famous person came backstage to congratulate him. He tried not to do that. Cassie told him that he sounded pretentious whenever he did

He wanted to have day-to-day moments that were worth capturing. He wanted to feel like his days weren’t a waste in between performances. He worried for so long about the monotony of normal and now he realized that it was the thing that was out of grasp. Not the fame or the fortune, but for daily moments of peace.

He felt isolated in Springhill. He left Cassie and the bar and walked to the family restaurant. His Mom would make dinner before he went home to start writing songs for his next album and tour. Home was hidden between guitar strings. Soon he could put on his blue robe and become someone aspiring to have a line of maple syrups.

Joe Sakic, the Captain by Example

There’s one important lesson that I learned from years of watching ice hockey. Well, not all ice hockey—specifically from observation of my favorite player. In all the hours I’ve watched sports , Joe Sakic of the Colorado Avalanche is the only player that captivated my attention—every shift—for over a decade.

Other players like Peter Forsberg possessed more talent, but Joe Sakic was more than just a hockey player. He was a figure in the hockey world who understood something that eludes many people in business and politics. When you lead by example, you will stand out.

Other players received airtime by talking a lot, exuding confidence and jumping into the middle of tussles. However, when you lead by example, the attention of the fans and the respect of the community find you. Joe Sakic did that, winning MVP awards at every level and scoring more playoff overtime goals (8) than any player in the history of the game.

If you Google “Joe Sakic quotes”, you won’t come up with much. If you Google “Joe Sakic Leadership”, you’ll find some articles. If you Google, “Quoteless Joe Sakic”, you’ll find the secret to such success.

I was reminded of Sakic’s brilliance at the end February. Stuck in another frustrating period of this year, I was home to see Sakic return to the ice.

I was at Sakic’s last game in the NHL in the closing months of 2008. I don’t remember him leaving the ice with an injury, but his absence was noticeable after several minutes. It set off a string of injuries that forced his retirement after the brief prospect of a comeback late in the season. I was never able to say goodbye to Sakic until he returned for an alumni game in my second home for years, Coors Field.

How memorable it was to be able to see Joe Sakic in the stadium where I squeezed 50,000 lemons over the summers at Colorado Rockies games. Despite lingering injuries, Sakic played with class against his old rivals, the Detroit Red Wings. When ‘number 19” was on the ice, I was a mesmerized 5-year-old again, and this time, I understood his significance.

Few people have such heroes to look up to. I remember crying the year I thought Joe Sakic was leaving for the New York Rangers. I was all set to become a Rangers fan for the rest of my life, but Sakic stayed and finished his time in Colorado. He won the Stanley Cup again and flooded my memory with great moments. I always rooted for Canada over the U.S. when Sakic was playing—he won the Olympic MVP in 2002.

Leading by example is something I work on a lot. I try to help people find solutions instead of telling them how to do things. I consistently work at a high level because that’s what a leader by example should do. The key, I realize now, is that the attention doesn’t have to fall on you because you’re doing great work. You do great work because that’s your discipline and let people make their own judgments. Eventually, hard work shows up on the stats line, and if it doesn’t, at least you left everything on the ice.

When Do I Become a Poet?

When do I become a poet?

The stamp hit the metal with a pop that rang out every few seconds. It took a few minutes, but then Joy got the hang of it. Joy created a beat, hitting the ink pad, placing the paper accurately and moving the press so the design became defined. Then she would reload the stamp with ink as she moved the postcard to the finished pile. The process took about five seconds.

Every five or six stamps Joy sighed heavily before recommitting to stamping a few more postcards. This was all helping an artist friend. This design, abstract as it was, was hanging in a museum. The friend was paying Joy 10 cents for every stamp she completed so she could make about a dollar a minute if she stayed focused. This was a small satisfaction. Still, Joy lost herself in the process.

Joy stared at a postcard for a long moment trying to see what was so great about this design. Sure, the ink seemed to move in curves off the page, but Joy knew she could have created the same thing. However, her friend was the artist, and Joy was the friend who had to stamp the postcards so that they looked more authentic. If only they didn’t keep running out of postcards. Most people weren’t mailing these things—they were framing them.

Joy, the stamp girl, she thought between beats of the rhythm of stamping. When did she get to be Joy the poet?

Of course, no one saw her poetry. When she managed the courage to send her poetry somewhere it never amounted to anything. She didn’t dare show her friends who were just as creative and driven as this artist. Her words never flowed off the pages in curvy lines—they just sat there mocking her.

Joy had one other friend trying to be a poet. Every Tuesday they met at a coffee shop and talked about how neither one was a poet. They never showed each other any work. If they talked about actual poetry pieces at all, it was just to mock the fame of some other poet.

Joy despised any praise she saw for contemporary poets. In her mind, these poets did nothing but use short sentences with big words. It was all art without substance, created by accident.  She recently read a line of poetry she really liked, but when she looked up the author, he admitted that he put no intention in his poetry—he sat around and wrote things down quickly in an elevated state under the influence and when he woke up the next morning, he had a poem. Art without intention, in Joy’s mind, was child’s play.


The postcard in front of her bled together with Joy’s suddenly furious action. The ink streaking like blood and pooling on the page. She thought she could almost make out a jester’s face mocking her.

She got an idea and suddenly took her next postcard and began to write furiously.

The Jester’s smile mapped out from years of critique.

She liked it. This was going to leave a mark on the world—a stamp where she would lay claim on the culture. People would stand up at poetry readings in 200 years and begin:

The Jester’s smile mapped out from years of critique.

She knew it was the kind of line that they would debate on CNN with a breaking news banner. Joy had cracked the cultural code with this line. Fame and riches would come, and it took her only a few seconds.

She stared at the line for a few moments. Her smile slipped. She readied her ink on the stamp and pressed hard over her lines of poetry, it disappeared with only a couple letters peeking out.

Joy sighed. It was Tuesday. She had a question.

When do I become a poet?

I Don’t Want to Face the World Tonight

I don’t want to face this world tonight. I don’t have the answers and each path seems laced with unknown failures.

I don’t want to face this world tonight. I’m unable to seem authentic or likable or interesting. Charisma seems false to me, but tempts those around me.

I don’t want to face this world tonight. People don’t take the time to understand me. They give me cheap pennies of advice. They dish out answers before waiting on the next table.

I don’t want to face this world tonight. It’s hard to listen to the problems around me and know what problems are out there. I can’t reconcile my place as a mere man on this Earth with my desire to make it better.

I don’t want to face this world tonight. I feel the unhappiness around me or perhaps it’s inside me. Does it cloud what’s around me? It hurts to see too much light or too much darkness, and I feel the weight of grief closing in.

I don’t want to face this world tonight. I don’t want to be someone who must rely on the kindness of strangers and the opinions of critics. I’m caught on the edge of a sword between being true to myself and compelling to an audience.

I don’t want to face this world tonight. I’ll have to admit that all these trends and fads are the truth and I am fooling myself. I don’t want to succumb to that version of the world. I don’t want to lose the hope I cling to in the city lights.

I don’t want to face this world tonight. I want to be someone else. I want to release myself from the tethers on my mind and spirit. I want to face the unknown with virtue.

I don’t want to face this world tonight. Knowing that I am not the man I pretend to be. I am not brave or virtuous or incorruptible. I’m afraid of my own shadow and where my footsteps will lead.

I don’t want to face this world tonight. I want my path to be true. I want it all to work out. Tonight, I can’t see that. I can’t release myself. I’m in a trance.

I don’t want to face this world tonight. Tonight, let me hide. Tomorrow, I’ll go out and face this world again.

The Collector (Orbs and Stories)

It used to be a bookstore—one story and a balcony that looked into the main room. In the middle of the room was a dead chandelier dangling from the ceiling over the Collector’s head. He sat in the chair, illuminated only by moonlight coming from the windows and the glowing occupants of the shelves.

The shelves were filled with smoky lit orbs of different colors. A scan of the room showed shelves grouped with orbs of similar colors. There were lime green orbs closest to the Collector and then they spanned out around the room: orange, pink, blue, yellow and red. The whole balcony was filled of purple orbs.

If you watched an orb, you would see that the colors swirled slightly. The interesting ones were caught between two colors or changed tints quickly. Many of the orbs repeated a similar pattern of color changes—with cycles ranging from 20 seconds to several days.

The Collector sat staring at two orbs on a table in front of him. The orbs were floating on silver stands and the Collector focused intently, sometimes putting his hands on them. The textured orbs felt cool to his skin, but had to be carried carefully as they vibrated sporadically.

The two orbs in front of the Collector changed colors at the same speed. They were running through a pattern that cycled every 10 seconds—starting at white, to a yellow, and then they held on a red for several seconds before fading to purple. The Collector nervously looked every few seconds at a staff that stood in place next to the chair. It had an orb atop it that let off a faint blue hue. He then returned his gaze to the orbs on the table.

The Collector could see into these orbs beyond the colors and every few seconds he muttered, “Not again.” The colors were speeding up now and the Collector closed his eyes and placed a hand on both spheres. His head jerked and he had a hard time holding onto the two of them. Suddenly his whole body jolted and he withdrew his hands.

He panted for some seconds before finally opening his eyes and confirming that both orb’s lights were now out. He sighed and grabbed his own staff. The now pink color of the orb swirled with deep red tints.

The Collector was suddenly in danger, which meant this event was no accident. These two orbs’ stories had collided.

He looked up to the second floor; the orbs were no longer all purple, but began changing to other colors. He was going back out there, again. He had a job to do.

Laugh Loud and Long and Clear

I’d like to create a new fitness monitor. Instead of measuring pulse or steps, it would measure laughter. I’m not even talking laughter throughout the day, but the first time each day that you laugh out loud.

I know there are sometimes streaks of days where I don’t laugh or think about laughing. In New York, I went and saw Billy Crystal. The first time I laughed it felt foreign for just a moment before relief swept over me. It had been four days since I laughed out loud.

I am someone who thrives on laughter. It’s why I have an encyclopedic knowledge of Seinfeld and a nostalgic fondness for Popsicle stick jokes (this is made up).

Tangent: Does anyone remember Stick Stickly, the former Nick in the Afternoon summer host in the 90’s? He was a popsicle stick, and his big gag was being dipped in an unknown substance with a blindfold on. One time they had a special where he found his long-lost brother, who could have been Chris Elliot, but turned out to be another Popsicle stick. They had a thing with oddly formed people between Hey Arnold and the giant Face that hosted Nick Jr…Okay, back to words on laughter.

The internet, it seems, has been created for the entire purpose of mining laughs. Most internet content (tweets, memes, YouTube videos) is garbage, but every now and then it causes you to laugh out loud in the office when you’re supposed to be working.

We could all live a little lighter if we knew where our next laugh was coming from. We would be happier if we addressed misunderstandings with shared humor instead of anger—if laughter were praise, apology, greeting, romance and encouragement.

I am pretty good at laughing with others. I try to laugh at myself, but then people who don’t understand self-deprecating humor think I’m down on myself. In my best times, I see life with a tinted with laughs, never taking it too seriously.

I would like to create a podcast and the entire goal is to make the listener laugh out loud in the first ten minutes of his or her day. I think it would be more powerful than meditation and coffee. However, laughter is hard to capture and even harder to execute.

Have any ideas on where I can get my next laugh-fix? I mean my LOL fix (first time I’ve ever typed that in a piece).

Why Journalism Needs to Be Worth It

The oath for journalists should be plucked from the last lines of the Declaration of Independence. To defend the rights of the press and the people, “we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.” How many American journalists do you know that follow such a creed?

If the journalism of the past 100 years dies, it deserves to die. It is not dying because the public wants to hide from the truth and shun good reporting. It is dying because the mainstream media seeks advertising dollars through click bait, slow websites, scare tactics and poor reporting.

Journalism, as an institution, has often chased trends. Journalism would benefit from looking back on its own history and realizing that the public evolves. Catchy headlines have lost their effectiveness. Similarly, Walter Cronkite eventually moved beyond news shows with a puppet lion named Charlemagne, and the Hearst Newspapers left their days of yellow journalism for better practices, eventually.

How did journalism miss the fact that the public outgrows trends? The institution missed the decline of westerns, disco and Who Wants to be a Millionaire. What’s true yesterday will not be true tomorrow. Looking for shortcuts, instead of reconnecting with the audience, has run organizations off the rails.

Quality became a luxury rather than a necessity. The strategy failed. Journalism entities, tied to corporate interests, found the first pieces of plywood to stay afloat when the ship started to sink, and now they realize that the wood is rotting.

Journalists need to be the loudest advocates for the importance of free press. They must go into classrooms and seminars to educate the public. Journalists must connect with their neighbors and find ways to make stories relevant to people’s lives. Journalism insulated to an office in a high tower in New York is as effective as writing a doctoral thesis with Wikipedia. If a story doesn’t resonate with the public, a journalist must find out why.

Journalists need to connect with the public and find the stories that matter to everyone. If a piece is so important, journalists need to present it in a way that makes the audience care. Those who hold power and operate in the dark should fear journalists. Journalism must see past the headlines in front of them to uncover buried facts.

Journalists need to stop breaking stories into two fractured sides—left and right, black and white, and right and wrong. Stories with only two sides fit into a couple of paragraphs or a sound bite, but lack authenticity. Journalism is about the unification of ideals.

The journalist must be the most vulnerable person in the piece. They must be willing to let their hearts bleed on the page when they cover a murder and let tears flow on the air when they hear about a tragedy. They must uncover stories of joy that matter and outduel those who wish to control the media.

I know so many people committed to the practice of quality journalism. I am optimistic that they will all find a platform to help keep the public educated. Treat the news as it exists in life, ongoing and evolving. Leave the audience with questions and the need for further exploration.

The lessons learned from the past century can be used as a gateway into new avenues for quality reporting and storytelling. The media matters far beyond a profit amount. Journalism is not a product to sell on a square screen; it’s everything that happens beyond our field of vision.


Toto, I Don’t Think We’re in College Anymore

I followed the yellow brick road. It was lined with rite-of-passage road markers. I lost my first tooth. I sat in the front seat of a car. I started high school. I had my first kiss. I moved out of the freshman dorm. All these stops led me to the Emerald City.

In the Emerald City, I was another scarecrow in search of knowledge. I graduated college in four years. I was given a piece of paper to prove that I had a brain and ushered across the stage.

I was then led out back. They opened a door and all I could see, in every direction, were yellow bricks. There was no road, but a grand patio that covered the Earth. From my position, I saw the dirt of previous footprints lead off on different paths, but nothing concrete. I knew I would find no more road markers, but also had no path to stray from.

I picked a few sets of footprints going in one direction and I begin to walk. I quickly come across enclaves of people all working by pushing buttons and stopped to talk to them. Some people told me they had stopped at this first group because they wanted the security; others had the pressure of obligations. Few were happy with the decision to stay and they talked longingly about moving onward, someday…

I continued on and found another group that seemed oblivious to my presence in the middle of their grand party. They were distracting themselves with light and music and drink and memory lapses.

I set out again, walking for a while with a girl searching for her big break. We quickly noticed objects thrown at us as we walked. She said that the objects were clues to people’s dreams. There were lots of paintbrushes, guitars and cameras. She pointed out some larger items—an empty family photo album and a Superman cape. We came across a path full of loose-leaf pages from old scripts, and she left me to pursue that path. I continued toward the horizon.

Every chance I could, I talked to people I came across in this yellow brick desert. I started to understand some themes.
A lot of people were trying to follow specific paths. They stumbled across the inklings of a famous person they recognized—a musician or an entrepreneur—and they would begin to follow that path. Yet each time, they found the road broken or blocked.

One guy who was lying on the side of the road, looked up at me in disbelief when I asked him why all his paths were broken. Finally, he said, “I guess you can’t copy someone else’s journey, man.”

At one point I came across a large park fountain. It was surrounded by desks full of people scribbling furiously and then dashing to the fountain to dip the papers in the water. The papers disintegrated into ash each time one was submerged in the fountain, causing the writer to dejectedly return to his or her desk. Then, I saw a man run to the front, dip his paper, pull his hand out and reveal a gold star. He ran back to his desk and placed it next to several other gold stars before beginning to scribble again. I walked over to him.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“Collecting gold stars,” he said, without looking up.


He paused for a moment and then said, “If I don’t get gold stars, how will I know if I’m creating meaningful work?”

I left the desks and the fountain. I knew that I wanted more than simple approval in my life.

I found a field that was full of holes. I looked down and saw people inside each one. I called down to one person that seemed to be zoning out.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“I’m working. I have to work,” she said, jumping to attention.

“Wouldn’t you rather work with other people?”

“No, other people distract me. I must work first and then I can have people in my life when I make my first million.”

I left her in her hole, knowing I wanted more out of life than to work in solitude with no one to share my day-to-day journey. So I continued to walk.

One of the great themes in stories is the journey. Stories draw us in when characters take a path to learn something about themselves, but in truth, life goes on whether we take a journey or not. The journeys just find us. Even outside the confines of the Emerald City, the people I know who are the happiest find ways to continue to learn and grow and explore. For now, I will continue to wander the Yellow Brick world and learn what I can from the journey.