Saturday, July 21, 2007

Nomad: The Path Continues

Back in April, I posted the first chapter to a book I’ve been writing, which is basically auto-biographical. I’ve been working on the book steadily, and I think that it’s been as therapeutic a process as it has been a labor of love. To be frank, I think it’s coming along pretty well, and a couple hundred pages in, I think that the story line really moves, and that it will keep people interested.

Anyway, yesterday I met a friend of my best friend, named Faith, and she indicated that she really wanted to read more of the book. I promised that, while I wouldn’t publish the whole book on line, at least I would print a couple chapters here, to satisfy the curiosity.

Now I didn’t want to provide too much at once, so I am just posting chapter 2 of the book. More will follow in a couple days or a week or whenever I feel like it. In the mean time, I hope you enjoy this portion of my book, titled, like my blog, “Perspectives of a Nomad”.

Chapter 2: Nomadic Beginnings

It all began for me in Philadelphia in the early 1970s. Philadelphia was a rough city at that point, to be sure, but it was also a great city, and an amazing place to grow up. One word defined the city, and pervaded all the events that took place there: passion!

Philadelphia had a beat all its own. This beat pervaded the whole city. It seemed like everyone walked to that beat when I was a kid, bouncing along to a rhythm no one could hear. It was the rhythm of passion, and it was contagious. It was the beat of the heart, and we all moved to it. It made Philly this electric place, a place where people thrived or died, but never just survived. Philly was my home: it created me, hook, line, sinker, and I became addicted to the energy that made Philly great.

Outsiders who came into the city just heard noise, the deafening noise of millions of voices and screams in the night. The bullets of mafia drive-byes, the pounding of hundreds of kids pushing over cop vans on South Street on a Friday night, the beating of the kid who walked into the wrong neighborhood at the wrong time, even the clickety clack of the typewriters that fueled one of the largest commercial districts in the country.

The noise was also the fiercest sports fans in the country, cheering on the Eagles, Flyers, Phillies, and 76ers, throwing snowballs at Santa and cheering injured opponents. It was the hundred people lined up around the block at Pat’s cheese steak, waiting for the best sandwich in the world. It was the clanking of the nightsticks of the mob thugs hired as cops to keep order in the crazy city, and the boom of the thermonuclear “entrance device” that burnt a city block to the ground when residents took on the law.

And it was the music! Great music was coming out of Philly in the 70s and 80s. Philadelphia International Studios was producing some of the best R&B in the country, with acts like The O’Jays, Teddy Pendergrass, The Whitehead Brothers, and a ton of other bands that made up the traditional Philly sound. Plus, there were the rockers: Bruce Springsteen was right across the bridge, George Thoroughgood was playing clubs every weekend night, even Hall and Oats were producing awesome music before they sold out.

Yeah, visitors thought it all made up a deafening noise, but anyone from the city heard the rhythm, bounced to it, grooved to it, felt it in their bones. The city was electric with that beat, ready to explode from it at any moment. It charged the whole city, amped it up like crazy, and supercharged anyone who spent any time in the City of Brotherly Love.

It was passion, no doubt about it. To a Philadelphian, winning was important, but not as important as showing heart in whatever you were doing. I still believe that Mike Schmidt was the best 3rd baseman ever to play the game of baseball, but if he wasn’t giving an all-out effort, the city would boo him mercilessly. The first time I saw The Who in concert, Santana and the Clash played before them; Santana was amazing, but The Clash played a fairly lackluster show, with no enthusiasm whatsoever for the 110,000 fans. They were booed off the stage, and their tour bus was pelted by bottles after the show.

The city created a type of passion that pervaded every person I knew and everything they did. The passion is contagious! It was all about heart; the city would embrace anyone who showed that heart, and would never forgive anyone who lacked it. From the lowliest janitor to the athletes that played for our teams and the musicians who graced our stages, a little bit of heart went a long way in Philly, and I was brought up valuing heart more than anything else.

Ever wonder why Rocky has always been considered Philly’s favorite son? It’s because of the passion he showed against such amazing odds. People forget that, in the first Rocky film, he lost, just as he did in the last one. But Philly embraced this fictional character because he never gave up, despite being beaten, bloody, and overmatched. He lasted, not on talent, but all on heart, and that is exactly what being from Philadelphia is all about. Passion and heart, Philly style, is simply a way of life.

I certainly felt the passion, and lived it. As a kid, before Rocky ever graced the screen, I was a fighter myself. Now don’t have any illusions, I wasn’t that great. I simply lived in an area that was in the process of changing, of transitioning from a traditionally Jewish neighborhood to a racially mixed neighborhood. A low cost housing project called Lynnewood Gardens was developed down the street from me, and the kids were bussed to my school. Suddenly my group went from being a majority to a minority, and what’s more, the kids in the majority were bigger, stronger, and tougher than my group, by a long ways. As a result, I was often targeted by the new kids to fight.

Most of the time, I got my butt kicked. In fight after fight, I would get my nose bloodied, my eye blackened, and my clothes torn. But no matter what, I never went down. It was totally a thing of pride for me; I could take a bigger beating that just about anyone in the school, and no matter what I would always get up and take some more. Plus, I always dished out a beating of my own. No kid, no matter how big, got through with a fight with me without some bruises and cuts; I would keep fighting when there was no strength left in me, just to prove I wasn’t a wimp, and that was my victory, my passion.

As time went on, I gained respect for this. In my school, kids would sort of work their way up the fighting ladder, fighting progressively tougher kids in an effort to show that they belonged amongst the toughest kids. I was surprised to find that I was in this ladder, and that tougher and tougher kids wanted to fight me. I never instigated a fight, but never backed down from one either.

In 5th grade, the toughest kid in the school, Shawn Dailey, decided he had to face me. He was captain of the football team, playing both offensive and defensive line, and he was well over 6 feet tall even at that early age. He punched me in the face repeatedly, and I was getting mauled. But I kept coming back, punching him in the ribs to get him to bend down, and then nailing him in the face. In the end, my face was pretty bloody, but he was banged up too. As the principal was walking us to the office, Shawn turned to me, and shook my hand, as if saying I had won his respect. From that point on, no one picked fights with me.

Meanwhile, a few of the tougher and more popular kids, though very few, started hanging out with me. Among this small group of early friends were two brothers, Matt and Ronnie Garland. They were from the Gardens, both adopted, and always getting into trouble. Matt was in my grade, Ronnie was a year younger, and we would get into trouble together. It was the entire basis of our friendship.

The three of us shared a passion for the Phillies, who were amazing at that point. It was 1976, the year of the bicentennial, and our Phils were on the verge of greatness. With Steve Carlton and Tug McGraw on the mound, a stellar infield that included Schmidty, Larry Bowa and Manny Trillo, and an outfield with Greg “the bull” Luszinsky and Garry Maddux, this was a tough team. We added Pete Rose as our first baseman in 1977, and this put us over the top, but he really fit in with everyone else on the team; he was known for his hustle and his heart, and that’s what made him special. Philly loved him!

Matt and I were 9 years old, Ronnie was 8, and we realized we needed to be seeing Phillies games in person. At the time, you could go down to Veterans Stadium and purchase a seat in the nosebleed section (called the 700 level) for $.50 if you were younger than 16. So we started going to games, often cutting school to watch our team. We would leave during lunch, when we could escape pretty easily, take the C bus to the subway, and head down to the Vet. Then, we would check out the game, share a cheese steak, and take the subway and a bus home.

Inside the stadium, it was mayhem. The 700 level was the cheapest of seats, and since most games were day games at this point, the people at the stadium were normally out of work. There was a ton of drinking and a ton of fighting up there. Fans of our opponents were scared to venture up to the 700 level, and one time a Mets fan got thrown over a balcony. Looking back, it was crazy for three young kids to have been there alone and unsupervised, but we had to go see our heroes on the diamond making Philly proud.

The trip home was no less scary. As it got later in the day, the subway became a very dangerous place. We tried to act tough, like we weren’t nervous about our surroundings, but some things you just can’t hide. And as the old men would make sure to stand right next to us so we would fall into them when the subway would lurch to a stop, or as we had to hold on tight to our wallets to avoid the pickpockets moving through the subway car, we would just look at each other, making sure none of us showed outward signs of the fear we all felt.

The three of us were supposed to stop hanging out together after we had all gotten busted in the Cedarbrook mall stealing school supplies and baseball cards. I had these big pockets, and we were going in, filling my pockets, and walking out, emptying, and going back for more again, all afternoon long. We were so dumb; they had been watching us all afternoon, and when we were saying it was time to call it a day, the security guard grabbed us and called our parents.

But we decided we still were going to hang out together, and went down to the Vet a week later to catch the Phillies-Dodgers game. This would wind up being the last time we hung out. It was an amazing game, and Schmidty hit 3 home runs. We hit Pat’s cheese steaks after the game, and then went to wait for the bus.

Now South Philly is almost all row houses, and each row house has a stoop. They are stairs that go down, and have a brick wall in front of them. People will hang out on the stoop all day long, talking with neighbors and being part of the community. We were sitting on one of these stoops, our heads unable to see over the brick wall, waiting for the bus with about 20 other people.

We heard the car’s tires screech as he took the corner at high speed, and raced down 9th street towards the bus stop, but we paid no attention. Then we heard it, the cracking of gun shots in rapid succession. We ducked down, making sure we were behind the wall, but we could hear the pandemonium not more than 5 feet away from us. A few bullets hit the wall, and one knocked off part of a brick, which landed on Ronnie’s head and left a nasty gash. And then it was all over.

As we heard the car streaking away, we looked up, and saw the dead body. It had been a drive-by shooting, mob related. The victim I learned later was part of Nicky Scarfo’s gang, and had been taken down as part of an ongoing turf war. Philly has always been mobbed up, and turf wars have always been more the norm than the exception. But this was my first view of one of the casualties up close.

On that day, the posturing stopped, and we all admitted we were scared. That was the last time we headed down to the Vet unattended, and the end of our friendship as well. Maybe it had been too embarrassing to be that honest with the brothers, or maybe we didn’t want to see our shame at having been so afraid that day. But our friendship was just never the same, and I have no idea what happened to either of them.

And perhaps some of my innocence washed down the drain with the river of blood coming from the dead mobster. For the first time, I was seeing life in a new way, through eyes a bit more knowledgeable, and a bit wiser. Perhaps that incident changed the way I looked at life, and thus made me better able to deal with my tumultuous 12th year. But regardless I know that, from that moment on, I was never the same.


Posted by Scottage at 10:40 AM / | |  

Friday, July 20, 2007

Finally Learning to Get My Needs Met

I was reading a passage defining co-dependency, and it referred to anger as “the unwanted and unwelcome guest”. Certainly this is the role anger has played in my life. I hate my anger, and fear it, trying to suppress it. Still it’s always around, shows its face at the most inconvenient times, and embarrasses everyone in the room, especially me. I avoid it at all times, and yet it keeps coming back to haunt me.

Lately, I’ve been learning about acceptance and expectations. The fewer my expectations, the less I am disappointed. The better I’m able to accept the different situations I face, the happier I am, and the less anger I feel naturally. Perfect solution, right? Only problem is, I, like everybody, have needs that have to be met, and no one will advocate for those needs to be met if I don’t.

The key is balance, I discover. And this is hard, because in the past when sticking up for my needs, I have always resorted to anger. Today I’m learning a whole new way to deal with the people around me, and with expressing my wants and needs. I have to admit, it’s a bit scary. But I suspect that this is a very important growth process, and that I’ll come out on the other end with a real ability to handle the key issues I face.

In my group, I had a major test of this discipline yesterday. I have been going through a rough patch recently, and needed some time to discuss what I’ve been going through. However, one member of my group decided to monopolize the time, first with her own issues, and then pushing another person to speak. I had mentioned a couple times I needed time, but it just didn’t happen as this woman took control of the group.

I became increasing frustrated as the group went on, and my needs weren’t met, and finally said how upset I was that there was no time for me. I tried to keep it factual, and to use I statements to indicate my feelings from the group. I tried not to get too angry, and felt uncomfortable the whole time, but I got through it and expressed my needs.

After, I felt embarrassed about having gotten angry. But when talking with the group facilitator, she said that I had been totally appropriate, and had not been overly angry. She said I had really shown some balance, and that, on that occasion, I had handled the situation as well as possible.

I guess I’ll know next week if that’s really true, when I go into group and see if people resent me, or if I get the time I need. But I accepted the complement, and was given an assignment: to write about what I had done, and what it felt like to stick up for my own needs. So I wrote this post. You know what, I think it was pretty therapeutic. And I think if I keep working at it, I might find the balance that has eluded me all my life.


Posted by Scottage at 12:50 AM / | |  

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Accepting the Difficult Day

I don’t know why, exactly, but today was a hard day for me. All the sudden, without warning, all the sadness and disappointment from the past few weeks just built up on me, and caved in my world. I can’t put my finger on how this feeling came upon me, and so I have trouble knowing how to get rid of it. All I know is that this feeling of happiness that has been prevalent in my life most of the time lately escaped me today, and I want it back.

In general, I’ve been trying to accept things more and more these days, and to realize that things will happen as they’re meant to happen. I have no control over most of what happens in my life, and the more I can take events in stride, the happier I am, and the happier I’ll be. Crazily enough, as I accept more, I have to practice acceptance less, as it just becomes natural to accept situations as they are.

So why now, when my life has improved so much over the past number of months, am I suddenly so down? Why all the sudden do I feel like isolating myself, and holing up in my apartment, preventing the worries of the world from getting in? Why do I suddenly find myself wanting a drink again, after nearly 8 months sober?

I think it’s because I’m beginning to look for my own will to be done again. And that is always a recipe for failure!

For example, my sponsee has been drinking again, and seems suicidal and very depressed. It’s hard to see, after such a long period where he really seemed healthier. I wanted him to stay sober, and to see where his own behavior was bringing about his unhappiness. I thought I could help him see the issues he was having trouble with, and to fix these problems. But that’s my will, and perhaps it’s not his time yet.

I went into my group today, and we dealt with an issue that is particularly troubling for me. I tried to get some time, and to address how the issue made me feel, and got shut out by another member of my group who first spoke for a long time, and then took time to convince another woman, who is new in the group, to talk. This is a common occurrence in this new group, and it really got to me. But maybe I’m not supposed to talk, maybe I just need to listen.

There’s a woman I’m crazy about, someone so special I am continually amazed by her. We have been close since we met, but she’s always maintained she couldn’t get into a real relationship with me. Yesterday she changed her mind, and said she was ready to start a real relationship, only to change her mind later in the day and decide that a relationship wasn’t in her best interest. Perhaps I’m not meant to be with her, but after having gotten my hopes up, they came crashing down.

These situations, and many others, have become a major part of my life. Perhaps they’re meant to be, perhaps I need to live through these situations, and learn how to deal with them, to grow as a person. But as it stands, I wind up feeling exhausted and hurt. I know that I need to accept the situations as they are, but lately my desires and my will have also been gaining a voice in my head, and that is leading me towards disappointment.

I know the dangers of pushing for my will, and in all of the situations mentioned before and the others I’ve faced recently, I’ve made a point to be as accepting as possible, and to not get outwardly upset. But what I really need to do is redouble my efforts to accept God’s will over my own, and to know that things will turn out the way they are meant to, and with good reason. That includes having the occasional bad day. Only then can I be truly happy with the events that take place in my life.

Image courtesy of Everyday People Cartoons


Posted by Scottage at 12:21 AM / | |  

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Al-Aqsa Television Teaches Hatred to Children with Nahoul the Killer Bee

In May I wrote about Farfour the Mouse, a cartoon character on Hamas’ Al-Aqsa television used to teach hatred to Palestinian children. Farfour, twin to Disney’s beloved Mickey Mouse, spoke about hatred of the Jewish people, Israel, and the occupation of Palestine. Now Al-Aqsa has a new cartoon character: Nahoul the Killer Bee.

After international condemnation of Al-Aqsa’s children’s show, “Pioneers of Tomorrow”, the writers decided to kill off Farfour, as he was beaten to death on screen by an Israeli over a land dispute. Most people thought this was the end of the blatant teaching of hatred to kids through the Hamas-sponsored television show, but they were wrong.

Nahoul the Killer Bee is Farfour’s cousin, and has come to the Gaza Strip to avenge the death of Farfour. The bee is quoted as saying "I want to continue in the path of Farfour, the path of Islam, of heroism, of martyrdom and of the mujahedeen. … We will take revenge of the enemies of Allah."

Two things are clear from this latest move: first, that Al-Aqsa will not bow to international pressure, and second, that teaching hatred to Palestinian children is a primary objective for their sponsor, Hamas.

This is precisely why Israel and the US are striving so hard to support Abbas’ government over a Hamas-based government. The promotion of hatred to Palestinian children, threatens any possibility of long-term peace between the Israeli and Palestinian people.


Posted by Scottage at 12:58 AM / | |  

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Support for the Abbas Government – Has Hamas Achieved Their Goals?

When Mahmoud Abbas was elected chairman of the Palestinian Authority, I was extremely excited. Abbas represents, to my knowledge, the will of the people for an independent state, for freedom, and for a better life. I looked at the government and saw a real potential partner for peace, and felt that things were looking up in the Middle East.

Unfortunately, Israel saw Abbas as weak, and was unwilling to enter into meaningful negotiations. When Israel would not offer borders that were even remotely acceptable, they imposed their own borders with the creation of the wall. When Israel proposed rather shabby compensation for Palestine’s losses, Israel refused to provide any compensation. And on issues such as the return of prisoners of war, Israel wouldn’t even bother to negotiate.

When Hamas ran for control of Israel, they claimed publicly that they were doing it to provide a position of strength in bargaining with the Israelis. Israel and the world all claimed this was a farce, that Hamas had never believed in Israel’s right to exist, they are a terrorist organization, and they cannot be trusted. Yet, Palestinian friends all indicated they would vote for Hamas because the Abbas government appeared so weak in the negotiations with Israel. Israel had created the need for a Hamas government.

Today, there is mayhem in Palestine, and to some extent the mayhem has spilled over onto Israeli soil. Hamas controls Gaza while Abbas governs over the West Bank. Violence prevails in the West Bank, and a high degree of lawlessness as well. There is true economic hardship, and poverty is the rule rather than the exception. The past several months have seen the firing of missiles into Israel, and while Hamas may not be directly responsible for these missiles, they certainly are not doing anything to stop them.

So both the US and Israel is taking the obvious steps: they are supporting the Abbas government with hopes that the whole of Palestine will support them as well. Massive amounts of funds have been released to the Abbas government, helping to stave off the economic crisis seen by most Palestinians. Israel has removed 178 militants from its watch list in exchange for declarations of amnesty from these militants, allowing these people to live a free life again.

Israel is talking about the release of many prisoners from their jails, provided they don’t have Israeli blood on their hands. These are the people who supported the Palestinian cause, but never actually killed Israelis. Bush is now calling for a Middle East peace accord with all countries believing in a two state solution as well as the Abbas government. Israel is willing to sit down with these countries, even though many don’t recognize Israel’s right to exist. Plus, the US has offered $190 million in direct assistance to the Palestinian people.

Folks, don’t look now, but if all these promises were kept, and a peaceful agreement were reached under these terms, all of the goals Hamas claimed during the election will have been met. I won’t like how they achieved them, but I can’t help but realize that they have, in fact, achieved them, but presenting a position of strength to the Israeli government. I think the ends don’t justify the means, but then again, I am not living the life of a Palestinian, a hard life indeed.

Perhaps it’s time for me to recognize that, while I hate Hamas as an organization and their actions rooted in terror and hatred, they have served their people well, and continue to do so. I am told I cannot judge you until I have walked a mile in your shoes, and perhaps it’s time for me to state I cannot judge Hamas. Because in the end of the day, they may have accomplished what no Palestinian government has been able to accomplish: a free, independent Palestinian state.

Cartoon courtesy of


Posted by Scottage at 11:08 AM / | |  

Caravan Radio Comes To Life

I love it when a plan comes together! I must admit that I was nervous when I left BigDawgRadio, essentially finishing the BDR year-long run. I felt that, to grow, the station needed to eliminate some of the people who weren’t contributing to the station. But could I do this alone? Could I build a station on my own, from the ground up, and make it a success?

Well guess what, I didn’t have to. For some strange reason, the best people from BigDawg followed me to the new project, and have reaffirmed my faith in the potential of this project. The truth is I could never have built the station as it should be on my own, but each person has brought their own skills and enthusiasm to the project, and signs of greatness are already visible.

The new station is named Caravan Radio, and this is a real team project, every person contributing to make something better than any one of us could have accomplished. Plus, the teamwork has inspired me. It’s a truly special feeling.

HippieChick is the leader of this new endeavor, and a better leader I couldn’t imagine. She has an amazing grasp of the big picture, of what will define the station, and has really put us on a track to success. Rogue is in charge of the business end and spreading the word, a perfect match for his fearless demeanor. And this leaves space for me to deal with the day to day operations, and the details that can trip up any small business.

Already, Luna has designed our site, which looks, to my eye, better than the BigDawg site ever looked. The site feels like it should be home, and I would love to ride one of those camels. Meanwhile, Val is working on the more technical aspects of the station, providing the features that will make Caravan Radio the best station on the net.

We also are adding new DJs into the mix. Already Foxe and Ragnellah have joined the team, and will help provide music to the European market. And with any luck we’ll have a new Jazz and World Music DJ coming on board soon, someone with years as a professional Jazz saxophonist, playing with some of the best names in the industry.

We’re adding new shows, too. I am hoping to do a political show, talking to a variety of politicians over issues of the day. Another person is looking to do a show with live Grateful Dead music, including some of the best shows from their illustrious career. Yet another person aims to do an album show, playing and talking about one album every week.

The truth is that the sky is the limit. We are open to any ideas, to any new DJs, and to anyone who is willing to contribute to the team. We hope to have the radio broadcasting later this week, and to have the website fully functional by sometime next week. The weekend of August 3rd we’ll have the launch party, and celebrate the new station in appropriate fashion.

It’s really exciting, to be honest, and it’s all coming together. Yeah, I was nervous about leaving BigDawgRadio at first, but now I’m so glad I did. Soon, we’ll have the music flowing again, and we’ll provide a far better service then BigDawg ever did. Hopefully, we’ll be providing you with hours of the greatest gift I know, music! That’s why the station is a labor of love for me, and while I’m so glad Caravan Radio is coming to life.

If you get a chance, take a look at the new site, and provide some feedback. You know, even a suggestion makes you a part of the Caravan family. So come aboard, grab a camel, and get ready to tune in. Any day now, the Caravan is coming to a computer near you. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I do.


Posted by Scottage at 1:50 AM / | |  

Monday, July 16, 2007

Latest Obama Girl Video Has Me Dancing

So much to write about today, and so little time. So I think I’ll start with a fun one.

As a self-proclaimed student of the political process, I worry that Barack Obama does not have enough experience to lead a superpower like the US. As a member of the Illinois senate, and even the US senate, Obama has not had to make the truly difficult decisions that define the success or failure of a presidency. He’s book-smart, but how will he perform under pressure?

Perhaps the biggest asset I see Obama bringing to the table is his understanding of the challenges facing the modern world. But again, this is book-smarts, and he has little experience dealing with these issues. As a result, Obama’s greatest appeal is probably to the younger generation of voters, who seem to be less politically aware, and who tend to value understanding of present-day issues over the experience to handle tough issues.

As a result, we are seeing a very effective marketing strategy coming out of the Obama camp: The Obama Girls. These women have created three videos so far, using modern music, scantily clad women, and a political theme, promoting their presidential candidate. Before you scoff at it, let me say I think it’s a brilliant idea. It targets Obama’s primary demographic, it shows a hip, fresh attitude, and shows a marked change from our present leadership.

Let’s be frank, no marketing campaign is going to win a presidential election. But with a catchy tune and some realistic political messages, perhaps the video will serve to make the younger generation rethink the possibility of electing Barack Obama to our highest office. And considering the past apathy seen from this demographic, if the result is a high voter turnout from young people, it may very well make a difference in the election.

Anyway, whether it has any political weight or not, the video has a great tune, is catchy, and ends with a very cool pillow fight. So check out the latest video from the Obama Girls, “Obama Girl vs. Guiliani Girl”. I hope you enjoy it!


Posted by Scottage at 10:14 AM / | |