When the Cavs Won It All

Sunday, 19 June 2016

What will I remember about today,
in this city
that takes every punch,
unflinching, on our chins;
that rises up from every blow,
standing tall, cut-mouthed
against the world?

I'll remember
that this day is like
every other day
this city working doubles
while you slept on it
this city skipping vacation
to get the job done
this city, laconic, intractable
where we bow to no king
no, not even our own
this city of redemption
where we always welcome our sons home

Today, today
is for 
to remember:

this city can always say it left it all on the floor
this city where every stand is a last stand
this city where we pull for each other, exchange 
blood-stained grins
and sing loudest for the unsung.

You had forgotten
what we've always known
Cleveland is the city
filled with champions
and tomorrow, 
we get back to work.

Father’s Day

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

So hey, it’s nearly Father’s Day again. A day that is fraught for me — I know what stirs up the anx­i­ety and it’s mainly ig­no­rance at how well I’m do­ing my job.

I’ve cer­tainly writ­ten about it enough:

Being a dad is my fa­vorite thing and be­ing a sin­gle dad is a pretty tough job. I don’t know how much eas­ier it would be with a part­ner, so I don’t know how hard it is to be a dad in a nuclear/​whole fam­ily for­mat. The times I’ve had a part­ner that got to spend qual­ity time with my child, That third di­men­sion added a no­tice­able and healthy level of com­plex­ity to our lives. So I of­ten feel that that my father/​son dy­namic is two-di­men­sional in com­par­ison. We miss out on a lot to­gether be­cause I have to work, and main­tain a clean home, provide healthy meals, and struc­ture and adult in­struc­tion he doesn’t get else­where. I have a bit of guilt over this — I feel like the added level — that part­ner, that nu­clear fam­ily, is some­thing I should be able to provide to him.

Being a sin­gle dad is tough in weird ways. I’m not as self-con­scious as I was a few years ago about be­ing a sin­gle dad out with his kid. I don’t care — but I do no­tice the other sin­gle dads, and help out when I can by tak­ing pho­tos. I know those in­ter­nal mo­ments of cha­grin when you take a pic­ture of your kid do­ing some­thing mem­o­rable with no way to show that yes, you were there, you were the one to make it hap­pen. There also isn’t an emoji for sin­gle par­ents.

I also worry about him when he’s with his mom. We have di­a­met­ri­cally op­posed views on 99% of what is in his best in­ter­est. The only way to mit­i­gate is to lit­i­gate and I don’t make that kind of cash. I do my best to teach my son the skills he is not learn­ing else­where, and I must also keep rein on my­self so that I don’t try to over­com­pen­sate to solve for his other life.

I’m 20+ years out from hav­ing had any mean­ing­ful, non-far­ci­cal in­ter­ac­tion with my dad. I only have a sense of him from a 14 year old boy’s per­spec­tive — I’ve learned to be a man by trial and er­ror, and learned to be a fa­ther by be­ing not-my-fa­ther. Yet I’m smart enough to re­al­ize that “not-my-fa­ther” is a 14 year old’s shal­low un­der­stand­ing of fa­ther­hood. The only ways that I know I’m act­ing like my fa­ther are the only ways I knew my fa­ther acted when I was 14. I know I was a dis­ap­point­ment to him. I do not know if he was proud of me. I do not know if he had wis­dom to im­part to a grown son. I do not know the ways I am a re­flec­tion of him. I’ve asked fam­ily mem­bers to tell me how he was — or what they see of him in me, and haven’t got­ten the best an­swers.

My mom tried and failed to an­swer that ques­tion, no fault there — how does one an­swer it? But sweetly and clev­erly ap­proached it this year by send­ing me a photo al­bum of pic­tures of me and my dad — the most re­cent one over 25 years old. The al­bum is more than half empty. I can’t look at the pho­tos with­out cry­ing — and they are fa­mil­iar tears — they are the ones I get when­ever I’m ter­ri­fied that I’m not be­ing a best par­ent — when I lose my con­cep­tion of what it means to be a best par­ent — when I don’t know what to do to help my son grow into some­one brave, in­de­pen­dent, em­pa­thetic, lov­ing, and ca­pa­ble. The pic­tures show love, but what hap­pened to it? Where did it go? Being a fa­ther is high fuck­ing stakes, and I’ve al­ways hated sec­ond-rate, and not know­ing when the rules change.

I want to know these things about my fa­ther be­cause I have no fa­ther fig­ure to seek ad­vice from. I have three won­der­ful un­cles who each provide their own ex­cel­lent ex­am­ples of how to be a good fa­ther, but I don’t feel close enough, or safe enough, or like they un­der­stand me like a fa­ther would in or­der to ask for ad­vice. I’ve been per­fect­ing bravado since I gave up on my fa­ther at 14. I don’t know how an adult son ap­proaches a fa­ther. I’ve had no prac­tice be­ing the son in a healthy re­la­tion­ship, or hav­ing a healthy fa­ther. I feel bad that my son and I have to fig­ure this out to­gether. I don’t know, is it like that for every fa­ther?

Most of the peo­ple who tell me I’m a good fa­ther have had crummy fa­thers. I don’t know if that means any­thing, or if I’m just be­ing an ass.

Father’s Day is fraught be­cause my son has no one to teach him to honor his fa­ther. A fa­ther can’t do it — that’s nar­cis­sis­tic. He’s missed the prepa­ra­tions for sev­eral Father’s Days — all I want is a hand­made card and a candy bar — but I don’t blame him. Someone else should be teach­ing him to take care of that busi­ness. He’s only 8. There is zero fault for him in this — but it shows me that there are some things I can’t teach him, and that he won’t learn at all un­less there is some­one else to teach him. When my mom was up here a cou­ple of week ago I asked her to get him to work on a card while I ran er­rands. That’s the kind of stuff a sin­gle dad has to do.

He says he’s go­ing to be a sin­gle fa­ther, and adopt a daugh­ter and a son. They are go­ing to live on an ex­o­planet and I can come visit on a rocket when­ever I want. I know what all of that means, and I know the mean­ing of none of it.

The point that comes from all of this, if there is one, ap­pears to be a chronic, low-grade fever feel­ing that I am not giv­ing my son the best life that he de­serves. I doubt, I grope for tools I never saw used, and don’t know the name of. I work the skills I do have, but don’t have enough time to give him every­thing I want him to have. A healthy meal and emo­tional sup­port solve a lot, but not every­thing. I have him half of the time and that is just not enough for me to give him all he needs. I’m ef­fi­cient, but he’s a boy, not a process.

So there is it. I feel my best isn’t good enough — and I hate sec­ond-rate. What do I tell my­self?

Who cares? It doesn’t mat­ter. I don’t do this for glory, renown, or my own sat­is­fac­tion. I love my son. I do it for him.

So fresh and so clean clean.

A photo posted by Adam Harvey (@adamincle) on


Friday, 13 May 2016

About a year ago I wrote about giv­ing up, and pro­ceeded to live a rel­a­tively monas­tic life for a the rest of 2015. My kith and kin were con­cerned that I was de­pressed. I don’t think I was, but I do think I might have been a bit bleak in my fram­ing. As I sat on my porch tonight, I lis­tened to Ali Farka Touré’s wan­der­ing gui­tar, drank some scotch, and pet my dog.

The only thing I missed was my son. Having him every day would be a dream come true, but 50% is the best I can hope for. I get a lot of sat­is­fac­tion from striv­ing to do well as a fa­ther and at my job. The rest of the things that I’d like but don’t have are no big deal — and that’s what gave me a thought that hap­pi­ness isn’t hav­ing every­thing you want — it’s ap­pre­ci­at­ing what you have in com­par­ison to what you don’t. It’s a round­about way of reach­ing a cliché, but it’s some­thing I needed to re­learn.

I don’t think it’s pos­si­ble to be happy un­less you’re miss­ing at least one big thing from your life. There’s no shape to what you have if you have every­thing — and try­ing to have every­thing usu­ally means that you cut cor­ners.

Happiness is pay­ing at­ten­tion to the shape of what you have, not the empti­ness around it.

Satiety is hav­ing enough, not hav­ing it all.

Food tastes bet­ter when you know you’ll be hun­gry to­mor­row.

I still miss my son.

I’m an Old Brooklyn Social Media Ambassador

Thursday, 28 April 2016

I met with some neigh­bors at the Old Brooklyn Community Development Corporation tonight to learn about their #what­sy­ourold­brook­lyn so­cial me­dia cam­paign. I signed up to be one of their lo­cal so­cial me­dia am­bas­sadors, was se­lected, and have now been ori­ented.

Having spent 4 years (mostly thank­less) pro­mot­ing Tremont out of good­will via Tremonter (I have no idea what the hell it is now, or who owns the do­main), I’m glad to be out of the driver’s seat and happy to help out do­ing — quite frankly — ex­actly what I’d be do­ing any­way. I also have more pow­er­ful tools in my pocket than were avail­able from 2004 – 2008.

I’ve only lived in Old Brooklyn since August 2015, but I like it here. It’s too big to be­come $450k con­dos sur­round­ing a street of $40-per-plate restau­rants like Tremont — and if there are fac­tions fight­ing over what “Old Brooklyn” means or should be, I am com­pletely obliv­i­ous to them. People keep their yards tidy, shop lo­cal, and chat with each other. I don’t feel like this neigh­bor­hood is try­ing to be a des­ti­na­tion. I feel, rather, as if it wants to be the place you come home to.

What I value in a neigh­bor­hood has changed, es­pe­cially now that I’m a dad. There’s a lot of au­then­tic­ity in this part of Cleveland, and a lot of his­tory, and I look for­ward to help­ing peo­ple dis­cover it. For the next 6 months, I’ll be do­ing so via Twitter (& Periscope), Instagram, Google+, and to a lesser ex­tent, Facebook and Snapchat (sci­u­rus). There might even be a lit­tle Poetry 4 Free ac­tion as well. And, of course, post­ing here on my weblog.

Feeling kind of nos­tal­gic. Should be good.

When Your Son Invents A Panopticon

Friday, 22 April 2016

My son asked me to teach him how to code to­day. Why? Because he wants to hack his MacBook into a ro­bot that will au­to­mat­i­cally keep a pub­lic tally of every person’s good and bad ac­tions. It will plug into a big box that has a list of all the ac­tions a per­son might do so we can see if a per­son is good or not.

I gen­er­al­ized the ethics of the re­quire­ments he gave me, and I think I talked him out of it.

My son’s school uses an app called ClassDojo to mi­cro­man­age stu­dent be­hav­ior. I get mul­ti­ple up­dates daily on how my kid is do­ing. Each stu­dent gets points added for good be­hav­ioral choices and points re­moved for poor ones. At first I thought this was cool, but now I think it is ter­ri­ble.

  1. It makes chil­dren think it is just fine for some­one to mon­i­tor their every ac­tion.
  2. It makes chil­dren think it is just fine for their every ac­tion to be as­signed a pos­i­tive or neg­a­tive value.
  3. It makes chil­dren think it is just fine for oth­ers to be able to see a list of the mer­its and de­mer­its they’ve re­ceived.
  4. It en­cour­ages con­fir­ma­tion bias.
  5. It treats sub­jec­tiv­ity as ob­jec­tive data.

I started to mi­cro­man­age him and ask him about his de­mer­its. I want him to suc­ceed — so I want to help. To er­ror-cor­rect. I’d praise for mer­its too, but the time spent on praise was not eq­ui­table. No one needs to mi­cro­man­age a sec­ond-grader. Elementary school chil­dren shouldn’t think that it’s okay for their every er­ror or suc­cess to be recorded and dis­trib­uted. They’re young, but they’re not too young to feel re­sent­ment to a sys­tem that seems ar­bi­trary and un­fair.

And then, de­cide to re­tal­i­ate by in­vent­ing their own panop­ti­con.

Yelling at Clouds

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

I’ve been “Old Man Yells at Cloud” a bit more than usual lately.

That was my re­ac­tion to see­ing a photo of a $30 plate of ribs, coleslaw, pick­les & bread at Michael Symon’s new restau­rant, Mabel’s BBQ. It was the thin slice of white bread in par­tic­u­lar that drove me to such heroic lengths. My beef is, I think, le­git­i­mate. Foods that have been tra­di­tion­ally val­ued for their sim­plic­ity, tra­di­tion, & nos­tal­gia have been hi­jacked by haute cuisine and pa­raded around in gar­ish cos­tume.

I feel like the ex­pe­ri­ence of a cul­tural, re­gional, or eth­nic cuisine is en­hanced by en­joy­ment of it in con­text. I’m an an­thro­pol­o­gist; I want the cul­tural ex­pe­ri­ence of get­ting amaz­ing, noth­ing-fancy ribs from a guy cook­ing them in a con­verted steel drum at an aban­doned gas sta­tion on East 131st Street. I want to buy pou­tine in sub-zero temps from a food truck in Kingston, ON that has been park­ing in the same spot and serv­ing the same lunch to the same group of peo­ple for years. I want black-pep­pered grits, ei­ther plain or cooked in pot­likker. I want to go into a restau­rant in Little Arabia or Ukrainian Village or Asia Town where English is a sec­ond or third lan­guage and take my chances.

I’ve iden­ti­fied two things about this that drive me crazy, and a pretty solid rea­son why I’m be­ing un­fair, which I’ll get to in a min­ute.

  1. Branding/​Marketing. The suc­cess­ful haute cuisine is so ag­gres­sively mar­keted and gran­u­larly branded that the ex­pe­ri­ence be­comes less about the food and more about the ex­clu­siv­ity of it. Everything is sold as if it is ar­che­typal — post­mod­ernist ed­i­bles.
  2. Safety. The suc­cess­ful restau­ran­teur these days seems to be a white guy who ap­pro­pri­ates a non-white cul­tural cuisine and ad­ju­di­cates its pre­sen­ta­tion in such a way that the sur­round­ings feel safe and com­fort­able to other white folks. That’s not an ad­ven­ture to me.

When I say haute cuisine, I’m talk­ing about a kitchen that mansplains food. “You ple­beians, here’s how you should be mak­ing your poor-folk food.”

I took a course called Crucial Conversations a few weeks ago, and one of the things we learned is when to iden­tify sit­u­a­tions where you’re telling your­self a story be­cause you lack enough in­for­ma­tion to re­ally know what’s go­ing on. So I tried to come up with an al­ter­na­tive story to why some­one might do things to foods that I love that I find com­pletely un­con­scionable. The eas­i­est em­pathic path I was able to come up with is think­ing of a restau­ran­teur as an artist. The stuff they are do­ing to food is their art. I can at least un­der­stand that mo­tive, even if I think there’s a met­ric butt-ton of priv­i­lege in the im­ple­men­ta­tion. An artist would, can, and some­times should ig­nore cul­tural con­text if they are remix­ing an­other art. This al­lows a food artist to ig­nore the fact that Wonder Bread is nap­kins and gravy-sop for poor Southern folks and cre­ate an ar­ti­sanal hand-ground, preser­v­a­tive and HFCS-free white bread to go with the $30 lamb BBQ. The thing be­ing val­ued is the ex­clu­siv­ity and remix, not the au­then­tic­ity. Damien Hirst as chef.

I can at least un­der­stand that, even if I think it’s dumb.

Most folks I know don’t think of me as par­tic­u­larly con­ser­v­a­tive, but on the whole I tend to value the ver­nac­u­lar — craft over art, things that re­main rather than things rein­vented. Maybe I’m a mis­an­thro­pol­o­gist.

Tangentially, I read an ar­ti­cle to­day about co-sleep­ing and whether it’s good or bad. This is such a silly ar­gu­ment to me — like ar­gu­ing whether cir­cum­ci­sion is good or bad. (If it wasn’t meant to be there, it wouldn’t be). It wasn’t that long ago that women were com­pletely knocked out when they went into labor and “med­ical pro­fes­sion­als” took de­liv­ery on from there be­cause that was con­sid­ered bet­ter than nat­u­ral child­birth. It wasn’t that long ago that for­mula was con­sid­ered a bet­ter op­tion than nat­u­ral nurs­ing. Currently, peo­ple in Western coun­tries think it is bet­ter to leave a new­born in­fant alone, in a quiet room, for most of the day or night and to keep track of them via an elec­tronic mon­i­tor than keep them close for com­fort. Forget the fact that pri­mates have been:

  1. hav­ing nat­u­ral birth for mil­lions of years
  2. nurs­ing their off­spring for mil­lions of years
  3. not let­ting new­born off­spring out of their sight for mil­lions of years

By all means, keep the in­fant in a dark, quiet, sep­a­rate room, com­pletely cut off from warmth, com­fort, and sta­bi­liz­ing in­flu­ence of their par­ents. I’d cry too.

Yeah, def­i­nitely a mis­an­thro­pol­o­gist.

Leadership & Humility Training

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

This week my work hours are filled with train­ing. I spent the first two days learn­ing how to con­duct fa­cil­ity as­sess­ments for ADA stan­dards — in iso­la­tion, this not typ­i­cally some­thing that an IT guy would be ex­pected to learn — but there are good or­ga­ni­za­tional rea­sons for me to be in­volved at this level of de­tail. Two days down, two more to go for next week. Today and to­mor­row I’m tak­ing Crucial Conversations — learn­ing tech­niques to ap­ply rea­son and tact in im­por­tant sit­u­a­tions where our lizard hind­brains make it dif­fi­cult to be rea­son­able or tact­ful.

I have been to quite a few lead­er­ship acad­e­mies, soft skills, and sundry other train­ings since I was in high school — there’s al­ways some­thing new to learn — and that’s the main point I have here. There’s al­ways some­thing new to learn.

We’re so­cial pri­mates, so en­forc­ing sta­tus through si­lence or vi­o­lence is the evo­lu­tion­ary rule. Culture, dif­fer­ent cul­tures, and cul­tural be­hav­iors in this con­text are tools just as much as a knap­ping stone is a tool — things we use to solve prob­lems. Keeping that in mind en­forces a kind of hu­mil­ity. Status is pride-bound. A chain of bosses pulled from a bar­rel of mon­keys. Leadership is hum­ble, it aims at the goal, not the sta­tus. The type of or­ga­ni­za­tion (a group of so­cial pri­mates with dif­fer­ent roles and dif­fer­ent sta­tuses united around com­mon goals) that leads is one that makes a com­mit­ment to be a cer­tain way, rec­og­nizes its weak­nesses with hu­mil­ity, and de­ter­mi­nes the work to meet those com­mon goals.

Following ADA stan­dards (and sec­tion 508 stan­dards to tie it in to my own work) re­quires the abil­ity to step out of one’s own sta­tus in or­der to un­der­stand how we can be mind­ful of the needs of oth­ers. It’s an on­go­ing hum­bling, be­cause lead­er­ship is about ad­mit­ting your ig­no­rance and ac­cept­ing that there is al­ways some­thing new to learn.