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The Hill We Climb by Amanda Gorman #inauguration, #amandagorman

The Hill We Climb (copied from Los Angeles Magazine)
by Amanda Gorman
AmandaWhen day comes we ask ourselves where can we find light in this never-ending shade? The loss we carry, a sea we must wade, we’ve braved the belly of the beast, we’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace and the norms and notions of what just is, isn’t always justice. And yet the dawn is ours before we knew it, somehow we do it, somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken but simply unfinished.
We, the successors of a country and a time where a skinny black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president only to find herself reciting for one. And, yes, we are far from polished, far from pristine, but that doesn’t mean we are striving to form a union that is perfect, we are striving to forge a union with purpose, to compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and conditions of man.
So we lift our gazes not to what stands between us, but what stands before us. We close the divide because we know to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside. We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another, we seek harm to none and harmony for all.
Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true: that even as we grieved, we grew, even as we hurt, we hoped, that even as we tired, we tried, that we’ll forever be tied together victorious, not because we will never again know defeat but because we will never again sow division.
Scripture tells us to envision that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree and no one should make them afraid. If we’re to live up to our own time, then victory won’t lie in the blade, but in in all of the bridges we’ve made.
That is the promise to glade, the hill we climb if only we dare it because being American is more than a pride we inherit, it’s the past we step into and how we repair it. We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it. That would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy, and this effort very nearly succeeded. But while democracy can periodically be delayed, but it can never be permanently defeated.
In this truth, in this faith, we trust, for while we have our eyes on the future, history has its eyes on us, this is the era of just redemption we feared in its inception we did not feel prepared to be the heirs of such a terrifying hour but within it we found the power to author a new chapter, to offer hope and laughter to ourselves, so while once we asked how can we possibly prevail over catastrophe, now we assert how could catastrophe possibly prevail over us.
We will not march back to what was but move to what shall be, a country that is bruised but whole, benevolent but bold, fierce and free, we will not be turned around or interrupted by intimidation because we know our inaction and inertia will be the inheritance of the next generation, our blunders become their burden. But one thing is certain: if we merge mercy with might and might with right, then love becomes our legacy and change our children’s birthright.
So let us leave behind a country better than the one we were left, with every breath from my bronze, pounded chest, we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one, we will rise from the golden hills of the West, we will rise from the windswept Northeast where our forefathers first realized revolution, we will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the Midwestern states, we will rise from the sunbaked South, we will rebuild, reconcile, and recover in every known nook of our nation in every corner called our country our people diverse and beautiful will emerge battered and beautiful, when the day comes we step out of the shade aflame and unafraid, the new dawn blooms as we free it, for there is always light if only we’re brave enough to see it, if only we’re brave enough to be it.

The End of the World Club #hiroshima #nagasaki #leonardcohen

What would you do if you knew it was the end of the world? OK that's a dark way to start a blog post on a site about Joy. But, here me out.

In these days of heightened global anxiety, it's something that's crossed my mind occasionally. It seems like world leaders like to play 'chicken' with each other threatening annihilation if they don't get their way while the rest of us sit on the sidelines and engage in political discourse that wouldn't mean a thing if a couple of superpowers got in a Twitter war and ended up pushing a few buttons as they tried to prove to the other who is the 'bigger' man. Sure, in this country, we should vote them out, but there are times lately when I wonder if we'll even make it to those all important November 2020 elections. 

HiroshimablogFor me, this is a topic that gets real every year around now during the anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 

What would YOU do if you knew that the bombs were coming in 24 hours and there was no way to stop them? I know the military would have ways to divert them/shoot them down in that time, but let's just imagine - you know you have 24 hours to live - the bomb is coming for your town - how are you going to spend them? 

For me, living in New York, I'm competing with a few million other people who would be trying to get out of town and I don't realistically think that I could get far enough away in those hours to 'get away from' the devastation - not with a few million other people trying to do the same thing. 

I think that I might not try. I think that I might simply stay here and make my peace. 

I would certainly get mad at leaders who screwed it all up (this is not directed at only one political party, by the way). I would lament the things that I, like we say in Church, have done and things that I have left undone. (And I would throw the biggest "let me speak to the manager!" fit EVER. :) 

And then, once that was all finished? I would be sad. I would lament the waste and the missed opportunities we had to make a better world for ourselves and the generations to come. I would mourn how much beauty would be forever lost - souls, vegetation, culture, creatures, knowledge - and I would cry until I had no more tears left to shed. 

And then I think that I would party. I would take my laptop up to the roof of my building and I would throw a dance party for whomever wanted to join us - and we'd drink and do whatever else we wanted to do.  

I might try to skype with friends far away, I might try to see friends who live in other parts of town; I wouldn't want anyone I loved to spend their last moments alone.

Ultimately, I think, I'd want to spend the last few hours in peace in Central Park. I think there would be thousands of others there too. Those that would want their final moments to be in nature, surrounding by all that is green and good and full of life. We would certainly pray for a better world to replace the one that we, collectively, had messed up. 

I would miss all of you and our rantings - talking about our failures and our successes- and our jokes and our stories, and I would hope that everyone faced the end in a brave, humane manner doing exactly what you feel it is right for you. 

I would hang on for the last minute.. because, truly, a country that can send a nuke halfway around the world surely can have a way to divert at the last minute.... and wouldn't you want to be here for THAT moment? (I think I may have just created an HBO show... 'what happens the day after the bombs don't fall? What is the world like THEN?" I expect a 10% cut thankyouverymuch).

But, right here and now (and here's where, I think, the Joy part comes in), I hope that we can find a way out of our present circumstances; that we can retain the hope that most of us cling to for a better world and a better society; that we can see that we still have time to right the wrongs, fix the problems we face, and see the light at the end of the tunnel. There is such beauty in the world, there are so many things to be proud of; so much happiness to be had. So many wonderful things here for us to live for.

I know. This last bit sounds very Pollyanna-ish, but I can still find hope and that's given some things that I've been through in my life. And, if I can do it, so can you. I have to hold on to that.

As Kate McKinnon as Hillary said on SNL "I'm not giving up and neither should you". Those are pretty great words to live by -- as are the below. Peace. 

O, gather 'round the brokenness
Bring it to me now
The fragrance of those promises
You never dared to vow

The splinters that you carried
The cross you left behind
Come healing of the body
Come healing of the mind

And let the heavens hear it
The penitential hymn
Come healing of the spirit
Come healing of the limb

Behold the gates of mercy
In arbitrary space
And none of us deserving
Of cruelty or the grace

O, solitude of longing
Where love has been confined
Come healing of the body
Come healing of the mind

O, see the darkness yielding
That tore the light apart
Come healing of the reason
Come healing of the heart

O, troubledness concealing
An undivided love
The heart beneath is teaching
To the broken heart above

And let the heavens utter
Let the earth proclaim
Come healing of the altar
Come healing of the name

O, longing of the branches
To lift the little bird
O, longing of the arteries
To purify the blood

And let the heavens hear it
The penitential hymn
Come healing of the spirit
Come healing of the limb

O let the heavens hear it
The penitential hymn
Come healing of the spirit
Come healing of the limb

- Leonard Cohen

"Santa Is a Psychedelic Mushroom" #santaclause #shaman #mushrooms

SantamushroomsOK right off the bat, I should mention here that I don't consume or am encouraging anyone to consume mushrooms (although, full disclosure, I've tried twice and gotten sick both times, wah wahhhh) but this is a super cool video that I found from The New York times on the possible origins of the Santa Claus mythology. I find it fascinating and probable.

Embedded in the video (and stated explicitly towards the end) is the idea that that the gifts we should be giving ourselves and others, is the gift of spiritual reflection. That's not going to play very well with our corporate/Capitalistic culture, but it seems to me to be the real reason for the season. After all, it is the birth of Jesus and, other than on some very disturbing memes, Jesus tends to the poor and shares humble philosophy. Focusing so much on 'stuff' is a symptom of the illness that threatens to destroy our culture (and, by extension, the world). 

Anyway, the video is very interesting and will, at least, stimulate discussion. Enjoy! 



Santa Is a Psychedelic Mushroom from The New York Times - Video on Vimeo.


Election Day: What A Wonderful World Louis Armstrong #JumpingforJoy

LouisHope you've enjoyed all my postings today - after a horrible year and a half with this wretched election, I needed to re-set my own head and this helped tremendously, so thanks for indulging me today.

You know, we might be facing some very serious and challenging times no matter who leads us (but obviously I think that Hillary stands a better chance of meeting those challenges than that other guy), but we have to remain strong. And, although it doesn't feel like we've 'been in this together" during this election cycle (more often than not, it's been 'every person for themselves'), at the end of the day, this is the only world we have and it's up to us to figure out how to live together and appreciate what we have.

But there's someone who can say this ten times better than I can - and that's the great Louis Armstrong. Take it away, Louis.



Election Day: Jumping for Joy for Marriage Equality: Tarrell and Dayna #Marriage Equality #JumpingforJoy #IDo #RevAndrew

TarrellDaynaJ4jThe job at the bank got pretty busy in late 2014 and throughout 2015 so I didn't have much time to work on weddings unfortunately - I think you can tell from all of these posts how much I really enjoy officiating and planning them. And for the first half of 2016, after the position was eliminated, I did a lot of other things, like help shepherd a friend through his final days, work on my art, etc. But, now I'm back on the path towards working on weddings again and it feels pretty damn awesome.

My first wedding 'back' was in mid September to marry Tarrell and Dayna out at Austin's Ale House in Kew Gardens. It was a beautiful afternoon for an outdoor wedding and the bride and groom and their family couldn't have been nicer. Here's a photo from the day by Photographer Kelly Williams.

Election Day: Jumping for Joy for Marriage Equality: The Surprise Wedding of Rob and John #Marriage Equality #JumpingforJoy #IDo #RevAndrew

If I thought a burlesque wedding was a little out of the ordinary, then a surprise wedding was a piece of cake.

J4JRobJohnWedding2It was ostensibly a 50th birthday party for one of the grooms to be as the guests weren't told that they were about to attend a wedding. My friend Devin who is a wedding planner in Fort Lauderdale knew the guys and set this up. I was to pretend to be a party guest and reveal myself to be a licensed officiant at some point during the party.

It went something like this:

Crowd sings Happy Birthday to Rob

Rob: thank you all so much - I'm glad to be here with the love of my life, John, whom I've been with for 15 years...

Crowd: awwwww

Rob: and I'd like to take the opportunity while you're all here to ask him to marry me!

Crowd: (applause)

John: now if only we were able to get married here and now with everyone already here, that would be really great!

Crowd: (nervous chuckling)

Me: Excuse me! I'm a licensed officiant in New York state and I can marry you!

Crowd: (collective laughter and rolling eyes as they all realize they've been played)

Of course it was a year and a half ago and I'm paraphrasing, but you get the jist. The shot above is from photographer Steve Rosen whom I met at a wedding vendor fair sometime in 2014. He's openly gay and loves to take photos at same sex weddings - so if you need someone to shoot your wedding, I highly recommend Steve!

Election Day: Jumping for Joy for Marriage Equality: A Burlesque Wedding #Marriage Equality #JumpingforJoy #IDo #RevAndrew

MattCubbyOn May 10, 2014, I had what was probably the wildest officiant experience of my career (so far) - I officiated at a wedding of Matt and Scott, two gay male burlesque performers who were then joined by three dozen of their burlesque performer friends (straight, gay, male, female, etc) and emceed the middle part of a mutli-hour show dedicated to the happy couple. It was held in a performance space down in SoHo and was an all day extravaganza. Pure joy.. and then some!!