Letter to my Teenager

I know you do not understand why I yell sometimes
To you, it comes out of nowhere when all you did was...
Please understand that rage is but a manifestation of fear
When I yell, I am experiencing this fear and sharing it with you
Not in the best way, but how I experience it in that unloosed moment
when I do not know what or how or when and why is an unthinkable reality I do not want to manifest.

When I yell, I am saying to you in a new way because calmly didn't work – you must know when to be respectful. I have threatened to kill you but we both know I will not. When you disrespect me, I still love you. If you carry that behavior with you outside of home, you may be killed.
When I yell, I am pleading with you to not be killed when it can be avoided.

When I yell, I am frustrated that your hormonal response to moving into adulthood may too easily be misconstrued. You must have more control over these biological changes than other teenagers whose skin burns in the sun while yours blossoms. You must not stomp away or demand to know why the officer has asked you so many questions when all you are doing is walking home from school laughing loudly with your friends while all of you wear hoodies and carry skateboards or basketballs or --god forbid--baseball bats and gloves.
When I yell, I am pleading with you not to be killed because even a wallet in your hand is a weapon.

When I yell, I am entreating you to understand that no matter what transpired before, this time may be different. Be they friend or foe, so few people can be trusted; you have to magically balance this reality with openness so that you do not close the door to opportunity. Be open and watchful and kind and aware that your kindness may be taken for weakness. Live peacefully and sleep with one eye open and, when someone shows you who they really are, when their deeds reveal their true selves, believe.
When I yell, I am pleading with you to be careful who you trust or they may set you up to be killed.

When I yell, I am shouting that I love you too much to sit back and let you fail without trying to catch you, help you, stop you and you won't listen to reason. I have every reason to want to see you succeed and sometimes, when I can see you on that opposite path and rational discussion has yielded no results, I choose to yell. Every action and inaction is a choice. We all choose the path with obstacles and pain sometimes but, because we have the freedom of choice, we can choose to turn to a different path.
When I yell, I am pleading with you to learn from your mistakes; you can still be successful if you learn and grow from them but if you choose stubbornness instead, you may help yourself be killed.

When I yell, I am screaming I love you, please do not be killed! Please do not let yourself be killed! Please do not help others kill you! Please live! PLEASE LIVE! PLEASE LIVE!


48 LIVE - The Nationwide Odyssey of a Storyteller

Woodrow Landfair
A 24-year-old spends a little over a year motorcycling across the 48 contiguous states on a journey "to discover America."  This occasionally over-emotional, largely levelheaded, “confused young man,” Woodrow Landfair, finds his way and finds himself in the process.  The story is told to a live audience whose reactions add ambience and complete the interaction. It would have felt less real without them. 
Prosaic moments and melodious lines appear in this tale and enrapture, like when Woodrow describes stars as "rebel cut outs of the sun" and his description of a place “where the waves come crashing violently against these stones."
It’s on the cusp of political but just shy in a good way that leaves room for the listener to think.
Acoustic interludes performed by Dave McKeon and Chris Aaron Behrmann carry the emotion and speak what Woodrow probably shouldn't.  Yet he doesn’t evade the difficult; among other harsh realities, his narrator-self shares of New Orleans in ruins two years after Hurricane Katrina at one point and men in entry lines of New York City homeless shelters while the affluent scoff at another.
During the high moments, he plays a little with the audience and ego, bringing levity and balance in this nearly hour-long telling.  As with any good production, it was exciting and emotional, thought provoking, and left me feeling good. I mean, how many storytellers can you listen to at the gym?

48 LIVE is available on iTunes and on the author's website,




Say what?   It's November (in an hour or so) so it's NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month.  Sign up at the NaNoWriMo website and write your 50k length tome.  The idea is to get you writing and keep you writing so that, in 30 days, you'll have a first draft of substantial writing from which to edit. One longtime user summarized it quite well in a forum post,

"A writer doing NaNo has a first draft at the end of the month. A first draft is *not* polished; in fact the point of NaNo is that you let go of the worries of writing something beautiful in the first draft and just write *something* The attitude I take, and my usual signature on the forums is "Nanowrimo: because you can't improve what isn't there." NaNo is not about producing a finished product. It's about producing a story, that, if you want to, you can improve later. It's a brain dump, it's an exploration, it's for fun."

There are plenty of forums for ideas, feedback, and encouragement so you'll stay busy and motivated.  You can even find writing buddies in your genre for a more personalized interaction.

Ready, set, go!

(Yes, it's ok to get started early.  Although, it's now 45 minutes to the official start time.)


Music: The New Flesh by Top $ Raz


The New Flesh is a platform through which we experience facets of a man.  From the opening track, Mountains, New York native Top $ Raz informs the listener that this endeavor is serious business. Not a game.  Not practice. His philosophical lyrics and vigorous flow confirm this notion, "Mountains may crumble/but I will never break/I pick the world up, it's heavy/breathe but my knees will never shake." This is the grownest young man I know. His project exudes musical maturity not often present in a man of so few years. 

The New Flesh is both physical and spiritual.  In So Beautiful and Don't Mind, Raz makes his fleshly desires plain. The Man is a change in vibe with in your face swagger and fun.   Jack and Coke Flow is unfair in that it grabs the hell out of you, shakes you, and drops you in midair.  No, your track didn’t skip.  Yes, he did accomplish that much in so little space.  Whether he chooses to punchline you drunk or to weave a tale, you feel the generations of compressed wisdom as Raz’s “literary mind drops bombs that’ll blow like they’re literally mines.” 

The features are unexpectedly pleasant, bringing a verve that matches the artist's own lyrical strength and tremolo. Check Don't Mind ft. Cyph Diggy for a verse with lines so funky "the smell will fester." If they overwhelm you, just “spray some pine air freshener.”  Alvietron, Scienze, YC the Cynic, Mic Blaque, Cavalier, and Grace Kalambay also bring their verbal dexterity to the assembly.  Nine producers, including Thinker, Coole High, and J. Monopoly contributed to this effort, bringing heavy hitting and melodic tracks that serve as a sturdy platform for Raz’s emotion-laden delivery.  The synergy of music and lyrics is apparent in The Plague with J57’s thrilling, back alley vibrations and in War and Peace with Thinker’s heart-pounding turned heartwarming intonations.

Not every moment is perfect, there’s some repetition and a few moments challenge my aesthetic.  The low tones of the chorus of Love Me No More beg for some height, which would have been a solid juxtaposition to Raz’s voice and rounded out the track.  There's a hint of it, but it's too far in the background to enjoy.   Also, I’m not a fan of the sexually explicit stuff.  Lyricists, take a lesson from a master, Prince, and grind a metaphor ‘til you wear out the gears.  Overall, the New Flesh delivers.  Top $ Raz is comfortable in his skin.  No delusions of grandeur, he knows how little he is in the universe and how large a presence he is nonetheless.  This artist pursues his destiny fully aware of the difficulties and pain that accompany his journey; he recognizes the grit and grime of life― The Holy Ghost, The Plague ― but does not let these difficulties thwart his movements ― Cold Fresh, The New Flesh.   When his pursuits take him to blend the gutter and the futuristic, he is a force with which few can reckon ― The Man, The One.

Listen to The New Flesh in your best headphones to experience the depths of emotional vibrations reached through the melding of voice and track, especially prevalent in Mountains, War and Peace, and Golden, raw, gritty songs that scream with the positive and the powerful.   

If the next generation of hip-hop is bringing this much vigor, then I’m a supporter.

The New Flesh is available on iTunes



Filmmakers Will Hoffman and Daniel Mercadante  have made an intriguing video that is a play on words (all puns intended). It's been on NPR, blogged, and reblogged but so interesting it's worth repeating.  There are additional videos on their website,

I haven't shared many words recently so I owe you some.


Bird by Bird - Anne Lamott

Bird by Bird is a collected reflection on the writing process. Author Anne Lamott begins with a vignette on the origin of the writer within, then discusses writing styles while adeptly weaving in examples, writing in different instances as a child, for a child, and as an adult reflecting on childhood so her students, er, readers experience the affects of character and narrator on a story. One can appreciate the candor with which the author reveals the realities of a writer's life (although it seems more specific, perhaps a middle-class, sufficiently connected writer's life): the bumps, trips, jealousy, depressions and near breakthroughs and almost made its and little acclaim for all that effort. Though the book attempts to defy categorization, this writer has labeled it a narrative lesson plan for a writer’s workshop with real life illustrations. Perhaps Lamott is a sweet but determined gangsta issuing a thinly veiled warning to aspiring writers that this is tough work and her turf. Maybe she's a writer with a deadline and a drawer full of notes (on writing?) jotted on index cards that, with her insistence, arranged themselves into this book.  Peruse the collection and draw your own conclusions.


What Dr. Spock Didn't Tell Us by B.M. Atkinson

What Dr. Spock Didn't Tell Us or A Survival Kit for Parents by B.M. Atkinson, Jr. is an entertaining list of afflictions parents and their children acquire quite naturally in the course of living. The book, replete with illustrations (by Whitney Darrow, Jr.) of the bedevilments parents can at best mentally prepare for, succinctly describes these ailments; most are a paragraph long but a few of the more complicated dis-eases take a page to fully explain. Soon-to-be parents, nervous Nellies that they sometimes are, may miss a few hours of sleep over the adroitly named memories most veterans will laugh and cry about. If any of this bedlam is in the traditional parenting books, it surely isn’t presented in such a seriously funny manner. Parents, sit down and enjoy What Dr. Spock Didn't Tell Us, you'll need all the help (and rest and laughter) you can get. If nothing else convinces you, consider the author’s explanation and the remainder of the book’s title: An encyclopedic guide to hitherto uncatalogued afflictions, aberrations, exotic diseases of the American Child. Told ya.

How to repurpose this enjoyable read for the classroom?
These encyclopedic explanations of children's supposed afflictions can serve as an entertaining example of a typical summary assignment.  In a reading/writing class, students could create comical letter entries for a chosen topic; in a class of 26, each student could be assigned to one letter of the alphabet.  In a sociology class, students could create new humorous (or ridiculous) definitions of standard terminology.  Imagine the hilarity of the students' responses and the extensive discussions that would follow as the students presented their entries to the class.  Now, go make it happen!