Monday, September 29, 2008


I spent the evening with my dad tonight. We celebrated his 82nd birthday. I can't believe I drew this picture some 20 years ago - but truthfully, he hasn't changed all that much. Maybe just a little grayer. My dad was a first generation American whose parents came over with next to nothing. One of our most favorite thing, as one of six children, was for all of us to climb into my mom and his bed on a Saturday morning and listen to his stories of him and his big brother collecting scraps of wood from back allies to burn back at their home and stay warm. He would tell us with quite a belly laugh about how they would walk into movie theaters backwards, while the crowd was coming out so they could see a movie. 1926 - boom and bust and war, and peace and war and boom and bust and boom, boom, boom, bust - funny, the more things change, the more they stay the same. I remember in high school, or even earlier, he taught me how to change the spark plugs in a car - he drew out the engine for me in the sand, along with the cylinders and explained how his first model A was made - he now has more sophisticated parts in his hip. Talking with him tonight about the market, I marveled at how he just looked at the television and smiled - today, on his birthday - the market fell an historical amount, I think 1.3 trillion. He smiled. Not mockingly or with malice, just a calm confidence that he's had it all and had nothing and wasn't too sure when was most fun. When we were little, all six of us, and he made fifty dollars a week - he'd have to decide to feed us, or heat the house - we had blankets, so he'd make his homemade pancakes (from scratch), the ones I make my kids now - and we'd watch our breath while we ate, but still, we ate. Dad grew up with very little, and gave all six of us everything. He got all of us who wanted, through college somehow. But I think, more importantly, taught me that there is always a way. Tonight it was rather beautiful to see my little six year old Meg laugh and smile with him when they blew out his candles together. Happy Birthday Dad! I love you.

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Political Party

Anyone who knows me well, knows I LOVE politics.  I was thinking last night I'd like to have a political party.  You know, a party where you're expected to talk politics - but everyone is encouraged to have fun with the other persons opinion.  Even try it on for size in a playful, party like way.  Tim Russert predicted that this election would actually end in an electoral tie. Whether it does or not, I have a theory about the country being 'deeply divided.'  I think most people in this country think very similarly, from a basic value point of view - but have varying views of how to get where we want to go.  Sort of like a map - everyone agrees they want to get to a beautiful destination but some want to take the scenic route, some the direct, no-nonsense way.   I do think one of the most distracting things about politics is that people can get too invested in the idea that their own particular success at achieving dreams and goals is based on whoever wins an election or whether a bank fails or not.  Part of my 'mission' of this blog - and my art - is to try and create a visual and written body of work focused on the idea that most all barriers are more a product of how we think about the things happening around us - rather than the actual things happening around us.  Some of the greatest 'obstacles' are really opportunities to grow in many ways.  In the next several days and months - it will be more important than ever, to try and remember that.  

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

My Voice, Your Voice

I think often, in the bustle of life - we can feel engulfed in things - events, deadlines, desires, dreams - and maybe feel invisible to the world racing around.  There is another reality that you can make yourself immediately aware of.  You are uniquely you.  This sounds very simple - but the precious point of it is that no one says what you say, the way you say it.  No one does, what you do, the way you do it.  Your voice is unique, and people are watching - each of us impacts the other in a unique and special way - like a snowflake, leaving a gossamer trace upon the world.  

Fear is the Mind Killer

For those of you who like to read science fiction - the title of this post is from Frank Herbert's Dune. I was just thinking this morning about FDR's 'We have nothing to fear but fear itself.' What does that mean, really? For me it means, when you have one or more options to a future state - the emotion of fear is usually trying to keep you from your true power. If you have a vision of something you would like to achieve, and the courage to act towards that goal - you can and will succeed, provided you don't let fear drive.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Sculpture for a New Dad

One of the things I LOVE about being an artist is that people allow me to come into their lives and 'speak' for them in a way.  I experienced this, again,  recently when a friend of mine commissioned me to make a sculpture of her and her new father.  I really never imagined that I would be a sculptor - except for the strange reality that I grew up with a mentor who was primarily a sculptor - while I painted.  Now, I use the same clay he used, the clay he gave me, and it has been 'magic' in the way it continues to touch the lives of those around me.  Recently a friend of mine learned that her mom's husband wanted to adopt her.  She and I have sons, both 10.  I mention this to paint the picture that she is not a little girl but a grown woman.  There is a special love that I can't explain in words - I had to 'feel' it when I made the sculpture for the firefighters - or for the fiance who wanted a sculpture of her weightlifter husband - and now the sculpture of a young woman and her new dad.  When I think of it, I think of how each moment is new and renewing and it is never too late to reach out to someone and express your love.  

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Never Forget

One of the things 'Never Forget' means to me:

There are far more people in the world willing to save, than there are willing to destroy.

Share what you think 'Never Forget' means ---

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We Draw Strength From Each Other
Engine 6 Memorial
September 11, 2001

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

We Draw Strength From Each Other

I gave this speech on October 15, 2006 at a dedication ceremony in NYC - honoring four firefighters from Engine 6 who died in the North Tower on 9/11.

A person is what they do, no more and no less
A person can become what they admire.

I was at work on that day, I heard the towers had collapsed
and I ran home.

I was eighty miles away from the danger, and I ran home.

I put on the television. I watched as my head swam.
Fear, confusion, anger, frustration and sadness.
I waited impatiently for my family to come home.
And when they did, we hugged, cried.
And we watched the television to see if other, braver men and women would make things right in the world again.

We're here to honor four such men.

Lt. Thomas O'Hagan
FF William Johnston
FF Thomas Holohan
FF Paul Beyer

All of the 343 active duty firefighters who lost their lives that day. And all of the men and women who chose to put fear aside and CHOSE to make things right again. I deeply admire you.

In order to create this piece, I listened to the stories of the men of Engine 6. I read the letters their loved ones wrote. I watched that day unfold again, and again.

Amidst the cloud of pulverized concrete and glass, an image emerged.

I saw fallen heroes and the walking wounded.

I saw men and women who spent their days hoping and praying, digging, searching, thinking, tearing, praying and more hoping, praying.

I saw lives ruined and families rocked and whole communities wracked with sorrow.

And I saw men and women who CHOSE to do something about it.

I asked Billy Green, the only man from Engine 6 to have made it out of the the North Tower, "What were you most proud of that day?" and he said -

"We stood fast."

In the face of overwhelming destruction
when a nation sat in dumbstruck fear,
these men stood fast, and then,
proceeded up those stairs,
to put out "that fire."

Over thirty flights of stairs,
Turnout coats,
Soaring temperatures,
I asked Billy, "How did you guys go on?" and he said,

"Well, we kind of drew strength from each other."

These men may not have been perfect, but they became perfect at that moment and in that hour. And it was this strength that transcended the darkness and the evil that was transpiring above them. I have read of firefighters despairing that they themselves did not save enough, or very little. To you, my brothers, I must say, your mere presence brought comfort to those in the final moments of their lives. You inspire in the minds and hearts in those around you an idea. The idea that you might not be perfect, but you will try to be. That you may not be able to save, but you will try to save. For in the end, all of the men and women who CHOSE to save.

And these four men.

Lt. Tom O'Hagan
FF Billy Johnston
FF Tommy Holohan
FF Paulie Beyer

You bring the promise of hope.
You draw strength from each other.
May we draw on that strength,
so that we might have the courage to do
what we should do
in the hour
of our calling.

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Friday, September 5, 2008

Crow's Epistemology

There was an experiment done on crows.  This is a true statement.  Someone somewhere wanted to know how much a crow could count up to.  This all might seem very silly - but, as the experiment went - there were a lot of crows in a field, and the experimenters sent one person in, the crows scattered and flew to the trees, hid there and watched until that person left.  When one person left, the crows returned.  Then the experimenters sent in two people - again the crows scattered.  When two people left, the crows returned.   Three went in, crows scattered, returned when three left.  Four went in - same thing, when four left, the crows returned.  Then an interesting thing happened - five went in, and then left - the crows never returned.  Why?  The crows couldn't conceive beyond five.  To them, it was one, two, three, four, many.  This, to me, is the hardest thing to realize about 'abundance' - we become so used to having so much that we mentally lose track of how much we have.  So much is pouring in at this very second that we are much like the crow - we've lost count - we don't know.  


I love my dog.   His name is Marshal.  Actually, my wife picked him out from a rescue shelter - and he is sweet and kind and a teacher in his own way.  In the abundance of life, if you are looking, watching, caring - life's lessons are everywhere.  My sweet dog has learned to love his kennel.  He sleeps there all night and in the morning when we let him out, he takes care of business, maybe runs a bit - sometimes he chases a ball and is excited by the beauty around him - but often times he looks longingly at his kennel and then walks slowly towards it without any prompting - and then looks back as if to ask, please, open the door so I may 'kennel up.'  I watched this the other morning and wondered how many times does it cross my mind to 'kennel up' - to not take that chance to reach for the things that matter most, to take a moment to tell someone they are amazing, or draw a picture of my child, or tell someone close to me I love them.  To engage in the whole of life while I have the chance instead of 'kenneling up' - that is the lesson I learned from my sweet Marshal just the other morning.

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