Category Archives: Public Life

Crickets

20160829_223119I spent the better part of last week in New York City, a very special place I consider my spiritual home. About five years ago I made a decision I wanted to try to get there annually, until I can find a way to spend a season there (life goals). Years before that, I went there the first time as a wide-eyed 24 year-old and it grabbed a hold of me, frozen early-March weather notwithstanding. My first awareness of New York came straight from the Daryl Hannah/Tom Hanks Little Mermaid-inspired (the HCA fairytale, not Disney) romance Splash, set in early-80’s Manhattan. And of course the film where The Muppets take it.

New York loomed large in my imagination, the American center of grit and cool, of massive proportions. Continue reading

Public Life In The Parks

20160813_133957I visited Carlsbad Caverns over an August weekend, and there’s nothing like exploring our National Parks system for instilling a sense of wonder, history and gratitude. Just when I think we’ve destroyed all of nature, that we’ve polluted the entire world, slashed and burned and dumped and drilled the environment into oblivion, I get outside and see we haven’t quite. Not quite yet. Which makes me realize that for my strong identification as an urbanite–Manhattan being my spiritual home, the place I feel most alive and centered–I need to sense the natural world. I crave the astonishing beauty of Mother Nature, and the feeling of integration with the environment, my place in it, and the humility it brings. I feel so connected and astonished and shriek! Tommy, stop that right now! Shriek! Well, nothing ruins a moment in the park like people who don’t know how to act in public.  Continue reading

We’ll Flip You

2016-07-21 09.04.12My buddy Sam and I have this thing where we like to flip people’s attitudes from negative to positive in our attempts to usher society into the high vibe era. It’s become a game, really, and we enjoy sharing our success stories with each other. The tougher the nut, the more satisfying the crack. When we worked in the dress department at Nordstrom together and one of us had a difficult customer, we’d rub our hands together in anticipation, knowing the tough customer was totally screwed, about to be reduced to a puddle of vulnerability by our manipulative kindness. You see, people want to be seen, and validated, and told where the boundaries are. Sam and I inherently understand this, and use these truths to make the worst act their best. It’s fun for us. Continue reading

The Positivity Committee

facebook_1468681560021Nicki and I ran the back office of the organization, but our shared work station was situated in the front office. We were a crew of 25 crammed into 3,000 square feet on one level, pretty much working at bunk desks and feeling like sardines in a can. While the others had cubicles (though tight) or offices (though shared), we worked at a ramshackle amalgam of used particle board and dusty padded fabric that had been dropped in the middle of the building lobby. If Nicki backed her chair out too fast, she ran the risk of slamming into my legs, positioned four feet away at my stand-up desk. If I leaned too hard on my computer platform, the whole works creaked and threatened to collapse. We each faced a building entrance, and all day long visitors and colleagues streamed through the doors, constantly interrupting and disrupting our space. Our work station sucked, and we had the worst of a bad situation. Yet we were consistently the most positive people on staff. We chose to own that public space and create a welcoming, friendly, upbeat vibe we hoped would radiate through the office and change the culture. We called ourselves “The Positivity Committee” and formalized our program through targeted, strategic acts of kindness. Continue reading

Taking Advantage Of The Situation

facebook_1466977878801When I was a kid I was accused of taking advantage of the situation on a frequent basis, usually by my dad, who was at times desperate to polish his only child’s impulse control flaws right out of what he saw as her diamond soul. At the time, however, I was unaware of his parental longings, understanding only that I was constantly in trouble for behaviors that felt fluid and natural. We’d come home from a camping trip, and as my parents were busy unloading gear, I’d furtively grab a marker and write the cheer “Woooo!” on the kitchen counter, heart pounding from my daring indiscretion. It was OK, because the washable ink beaded right up upon contact with the gold-flecked 1950s formica, and rubbed right off without a trace at the slightest touch. Scrawl, rub, scrawl, rub. I did it over and over, testing the limits, until I cut it too close and my dad walked in the back door with an armload of REI, catching me in the act. Face tightening into the disapproving scowl I sought to avoid at all costs, while directly courting it with my impulsive behavior, (what an exhausting paradox for an eight year-old psyche to bear), he took my arm, saying through angrily pursed lips, you’re taking advantage of the situation! And I was in trouble again. Continue reading

If Not Now, When?

20151221_210233…continued from Tuesday

A few weeks ago I published a post called A Direct Appeal where I called on men and boys to fight systemic sexism and shift rape culture out of existence. I asked men and boys to get involved on a micro level, to challenge other men and boys, to change the conversation, to call out bad behavior, and support women and girls. I asked them to leverage the power afforded them by their gender to put an end to violence against women. But if I’m not working the same angles for other oppressed groups, what am I? If I am not leveraging the power afforded me by my skin color to put an end to violence against people of color, what am I? Continue reading

If I Am Not For Others, What Am I?

20151221_210233It’s a horrifying, gut-wrenching time to be human. I suppose it always is, and always has been, and maybe none of the staggering hate-motivated events are new, just our ubiquitous recording capabilities and 24-hour news cycle are. We’re sick with hate. Sick from hate. I’m starting to hate humanity. But before I seek refuge in my dark feeling that the sooner humanity is wiped off the planet, the better, I return to an adaptation of a Hillel quote I once saw on the front of a Seattle synagogue that makes me do the work. Continue reading

Rugged Individualism

20160619_152022I’ve been doing things the hard way for as long as I can remember. As an only child who grew up to be a lone wolf, rugged individualism was but a way of life. I did not question that my life, my plans, my love, my struggle were all of me and for me, a perfect vacuum. I was responsible for 100% of what went on, and I was proud to grab my bootstraps over and over to grind it out and get it done, whatever it was. Continue reading

Sorry, Not Sorry

20160204_192937Do you find yourself often apologizing, as a matter of course? Is “sorry” a word you deploy throughout the day, throughout your life? Is it how you often begin or end your sentences? Is it how you open or close interactions with strangers? Is it the platform from which you move through the world? Well, I’m sorry, but it’s time to stop using apology as your method of social conveyance. See what I did there? Continue reading

If This Isn’t The Line, What Is?

gunI’ve posed this question both to myself and others, usually when harm has been done. It’s important to draw the line and hold it, otherwise we run the risk of allowing others to damage us, entering into a cycle of abuse. Now I’m posing this question to the nation, as we face the worst mass shooting in recent history.  Continue reading